Becoming a Sheepdog
An Inside Look at our Sheepdog Level 1 Course
Part 2 of 3: Saturday
“Going into the training I was very confident. Within about an hour into the first day, I had a serious reality check. The course was like no other I have previously taken over my 12 years as a law enforcement officer. I thought I was very well prepared, but I quickly realized I wasn’t.” — Kyle D., a corrections officer and response squad leader.
Learning fighting skills
Saturday morning starts with five hours of combative tactics training. There are no fancy moves or secret one-finger death punches. Instructors stress the basics and only teach tactics they have used against real people in real life situations. “We want students to execute the basics better than anyone else,” Jones said. “We bring them up to the redline, so they feel that fight or flight sensation. Then help them work through what they’re feeling and why.” In a safe and structured environment with instructors talking students through the movements, they know what it’s like to have someone in their personal space and be uncomfortable yet still be able to think. Can you move your arms? Can you get your car keys? How are your fine motor skills when your heart is racing?
“You think you are secured until you have Tim Kennedy or Dennis Jones disarming you and pummeling you,” said Richard S., a former infantryman in the Israeli Defense Forces. “After rolling with these men, I kept running the question through my head ‘What if they were not the good guys?’ Since then, I have been working to improve my hand-to-hand fighting and defensive shooting skills.”
Fitness is also discussed in the course and students are encouraged to have a basic level of conditioning. No one is expected to spend hours in the gym or every night after work rolling on the mat practicing their jiu-jitsu. At the end of the self-defense and striking skills block, students will have a better understanding of where their current fitness and skill levels are and where they need to be. Instructors will then talk to the students and help them develop individualized plans to help them achieve their goals.
“You should always be asking if you are an asset or a liability and what you’re going to do to constantly better yourself,” Jones said.
Taking fighting to the range
The afternoon session focuses on the fundamentals of marksmanship. Once their gear is sorted, students are given a basic shooting skills test. “It’s a no bullshit assessment,” Jones said. Instructors cover basics weapons handling and perform right next to the students to show them it’s trainable. No matter where a student starts, everyone can improve.
“I learned quickly that a lack of consistent range time severely affects my shooting performance, said Pat M., a 21-year Canadian military veteran. “While I felt more comfortable during movement and stress drills, I found that my accuracy and precision shooting in a static position was not as good as I thought it was. The combative and shooting fundamentals are exactly what is needed in this industry.”
Instructors have worked with a wide range of students. Some students have never fired a weapon before the class. Others have years of competitive or professional experience. Regardless of the student’s background, the curriculum and the student-to-instructor ratio is designed to maximize learning and skill development, as well as to point out areas for improvement. The path to becoming a Sheepdog doesn’t happen in one day. It’s a forging process between the student and the teacher. The instructor cadre is comprised of experienced trainers who are flexible in addressing each student’s individual needs.
“Our job is to show the students what real violence can be like,” Jones said. “It’s messy. By the end of the first day, they have a better understanding of their liabilities. But they are also on the path to increasing their assets.” Those assets will continue to be honed when the pressure and stress are taken to new levels on Sunday. Part 3: Next Monday