FS - Mike Mercer - FAST Part 2; The Gauntlet

We were in Colorado for four days. The first two were an instructor tune-up. It might not make sense that we would head out to a tune-up only weeks after receiving certification to teach FAST Defense basics, but the first two days proved essential.

Gathered were instructors from all over the U.S. and Canada along with a handful who came from overseas. Some of the instructors have been teaching FAST for most of the time since Master Bill Kipp inherited the program more than 20 years ago. They wear the old “Bullet Man” suits and will likely never upgrade to the “Predator Armor” because it is all they have ever known.

In the evening of the second day the 48 Hours of Adrenaline began with those who attended the tune-up serving as staff to a crowd of students also coming from all over to take in the ultimate FAST experience.

Two things make it “ultimate:” 1) The fact that it is two FULL days of training including FAST basics, ground defense, and defense against and disarming of armed assailants, and; 2) The Gauntlet!

The gauntlet is a series of three chambers where you face multiple defense scenarios AND multiple Predators and/or Bullet Men. The first day was a test of FAST basic defense and ground defense. The second was defense against weapons.

My experience was as follows. It is a composite of what I remember and what we viewed on video at the end of the evening. At that, I know that I have some of it wrong. To this day, I cannot remember a single thing that anyone has said to me when "woofing." The adrenaline seems to cloud that part of my hard drive. So, I know for sure that I'm not remembering everything in the account below. Here is my first day Gauntlet experience.

I was scared. When I get scared, I get quiet. I don’t talk. I don’t emote. I just get alone. I sat on the grassy slope outside the gauntlet for about 45 minutes with my headphones in as loud as they could go. I was trying to remember all of the pieces of the training but realized that I would be adrenalized when I got in and would either have it in my emotional brain or I wouldn’t. I wasn’t going to get it installed now while sitting in solitude. I decided that U2's Zoo Station seemed like the appropriate song to be listening to.

I'm ready, I'm ready for the laughin' gas
I'm ready, I'm ready for what's next
I'm ready to duck, I'm ready to dive
I'm ready to say, I'm glad to be alive
I'm ready, I'm ready for the push

In the cool of the night
In the warmth of the breeze
I'll be crawlin' 'round
On my hands and knees

I'm ready, I'm ready for the gridlock
I'm ready to take it to the street
I'm ready for the shuffle, ready for the deal
Ready to let go of the steering wheel
I'm ready, ready for the crush

They took us in groups of eight. We would walk past the barn that housed the gauntlet and were asked not to look to our right so that we wouldn’t compromise the purity of our experience. I didn’t look. From there we stood outside until it was our turn. I could hear each of the chambers in action and was timing them in my head. Some were as short as 15 seconds with up to a 90 second break in between for a breather. Paying attention to this detail did not help me as my session turned out to be quite long.

Upon entry my coach had me turn my back to the longest of the chambers. She said that I would either feel something or hear something and that I was to engage at that point. I was already so amped and expecting an attack from behind that I couldn’t hear what was going on. I had to be told to turn around. Two Predators! I went to HIGH ORANGE immediately, hands up, strong stance, yelling at him to back off. He didn’t. He charged at me and I palm struck solidly. This drew some oohs at the viewing. From there it was a long exchange between both the first and second Predator, all elements included: Eyes, knees, and the kicks to the head. Even after watching the video, I don’t have a clear and full memory of the specifics of the fights, just that they did finish and I put my hands up and scanned the room from the exit door. I was pretty winded but ready for more.

The second chamber was smaller and I was led in and told to close my eyes. It was another double. I remember even less about this one. I just know that they wouldn’t quit and it took everything that I had. When I exited, I was completely spent and still had one chamber left to go. I took a little extra time to try to catch my breath but it was a fruitless effort. Time to just get into the third and final chamber and finish it.

The third chamber was the hardest by far, especially because I was so winded. Before entering the room they put a t-shirt over my head and made me lay face down with my arms out to wait for the attack. All at once, I felt the shirt pulled, water poured on the back of my head, and a Predator’s weight on my back. He grabbed my head and before he could start striking I began my struggle to escape. I have to say, I didn’t do well here. Had I slowed down a bit, I would have had better success. I was underneath him for too long and by the time I got to the place where I could slide out, land some knees and ultimately a kick in the head, there was another one right there. I was on the ground forever.

When it was done, I felt horrible. I was frustrated, in part, because I tried to stay limited to the FAST  techniques when, really, I should have done anything and everything i could to get through. I was also frustrated because I didn’t feel like I did very well. Watching the video in the evening helped quell that feeling. Mostly, I was gassed. I was breathing hard for 20-30 minutes after it was over. I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t feel good at all. That said, when I finally got myself back down to a regular heart rate, I started thinking about the next day’s gauntlet.

Indeed, my session was longer than normal. As I watched later, they didn't go as hard on me in the final chamber as they did Danny. For his double, once the predator jumped on his back, Maria T., also in a predator suit, jumped down and held his feet. That took away his legs and feet for escape. Both during the fight and in the evening viewing, there were a lot of "oohs" because of how mean they were to him. Be assured, the "oohs" were also accompanied by a good amount of laughter.

Next post, I'll give a short view of the weapons gauntlet.


Posted on July 18, 2014 .