What follows is my review of the recent ROSS IDP camp. Although I was burdened with a touch of the flu and respiratory problems, I was able to participate in almost all of the activities. Let me begin by saying that I went into the camp, despite my best intentions, with some preconceived opinions about how training should be conducted. My background is very diverse, but is most highly influenced by my training under Tony Blauer and Stevan Plinck. My only concern for most of my martial life (which is just about all of my waking life) has been solely focused on surviving real-life violent encounters. Despite having taken many "less desirable" paths in my training, I have had the pleasure of training with the two men above who have taught me more than I can every explain or repay, except by continuing their work. All that having been said, it was somewhat difficult for me to come the IDP camp with a "beginner's mind." Thankfully, it was a fantastic experience despite that.
Let me state here, for the record, that the ROSS instructor cadre are a very highly disciplined, skilled, articulate and truly passionate bunch. They want their students to learn - quite possibly more than the students themselves. Of all that I experienced over the weekend, this fact stands out in my mind more than anything else. There were no pretensions, no ego-posturing, no power-tripping or mud-slinging. It was quite simply a very unique, professional and impressive group. Anyone seeking training would have to go a very long way to find a better cadre of trainers.
Also, of great interest to me was the group of students themselves. Many were from very diverse backgrounds, but all seem to be of the highest quality as people – another unusual and powerful testimony to the professional organization and structure of the ROSS system.
As to the content of the training, I could write for days... We covered concepts from 5 of the 8 schools of ROSS – biomechanics, CQC, Jacket Wrestling, Bayonet and Knife Fighting, and Russian Fisticuffs. The training was outdoors in realistic conditions and very "alive". The whole ROSS approach to training is built on the incremental addition of challenges to the training to more and more closely resemble the chaos and unpredictability of real-life combat. All of the attendant factors of rain, cold, mud, etc. make a dramatic difference in everything we do and can dramatically enhance a practical understanding and adaptation of the body to the requirements of combat.
If I can summarize the concepts of each of the schools, I would do so by always referring back to the first one mentioned – biomechanics. The whole training was really nothing more than an introduction to the human body and its attendant parts. Efficient movement through skeletal alignment, proper respiration and fear control is the bedrock foundation of the ROSS training system. As a result, it is applicable to everyone in everything that they do. Every individual, irregardless of his or her style or system, can benefit from refined movement and that is what ROSS is about. It is a layered system where each division of study lends itself to a mastery of another division – hence no techniques – just movement.
I left the camp very impressed (although very sick) but also with some questions. I left realizing that this camp was only able to scratch the surface of the system's whole approach. My main concern, as I mentioned above, is based in real-life survival skills. As a result of that and my involvement in Tony Blauer's work, I have a very strong emphasis in my teaching on the emotional/psychological arsenal that was just mentioned at the camp. When I was talking over this concern with one of the instructors, he noted just what I stated above – that we were only scratching the surface of all of the training of the ROSS system. He related a story of meeting a legend of the Spetsnatz – a man whose skills he described as "ROSS done by a pit bull." I hope to have further opportunity to explore this side of the system, but want to state emphatically that what was taught at the camp was in no way contradictory to my background but rather complimentary. I just want to know more...
Finally, a last observation. It has become my habit over the years to look at the viability of any given system by looking at its lowest "ranking" members. In other words, I believe that if a system is good or great, that will be reflected in the skills of even the youngest/least trained person there. I feel this way because a true system of study should allow rapid skill acquisition and the development of personal skill. I have unfortunately encountered very few systems that can make this claim. ROSS is one of them in my opinion. To see the fluidity, speed and powerful movement of those relatively new to the training is an outstanding testament to the system itself – not just the instructors.
Let me encourage you all to avail yourself of the ROSS system. As I said above, it has within it the possibility of revolutionizing you and your movement individually which is all that really counts.
Dr. Eric Cobb