Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Notes from the Director

Running a Wilderness Survival and Tracking School is not nearly as fun as learning and teaching at one. This blog is designed to help emergent skills schools avoid all of the mistakes we made and also to fill in some of the skills gaps that the other instructors aren't writing about. I know I should remain professional and detached when I share thoughts here, but that isn't possible. I have this thing bout being a human being and there is a certain degree of honesty in sharing thoughts and ideas that might challenge folks, including you. First, I want to address some "reality" shows and how they have impacted a lot of wilderness survival and nature education programs. I feel the show "Survivor" did more harm to the wilderness skills community than any other show. Instead of delving in to skills and community cooperation, or group survival strategies, it turned in to a soap opera. The newer "reality" type programs where one guy goes out with a camera and suffers by dragging himself out of the woods doesn't do a lot for the public either. Most of this is due to the producers obsession with having to get out of the situation instead of real techniques being demonstrated that could actually save lives. The shelters are usually haphazzard, the skills are barely touched upon with regard to water gathering, fire making, food procurement and real versus perceived hazzards. There is also a degree of "lack of knowledge" by those who advise and produce each show. One man slept in a metal aircraft on ice and wondered why he was so cold, the same guy harvested the aerial parts of Cattail in the fall and complained they were already past the time they could be eaten when the rich starchy tubers lay in the soft mud inches from his feet. On a similar show a man risked his life belaying off a cliff to get to a high way on parachute cord. The technique is well established, but completely unnecessary, and hardly worth the risk in a real situation. Either, might I add, is the need to squeeze moisture out of animal dung for water. This type of sensationalism is often impractical, inaccurate and at times, dangerous. There is no reason to point the finger at the host, or any one person for these productions and what they portray. Who knows what was edited and who made what decisions. The best one can do is take notes and test the skills presented on your own or against your own experiences. We are lucky here. I go out atleast once a month in a full or semi survival trip, and have instructors who do the same. We train as a staff four times a year and practice skills on our own at least twice a month related to survival, tracking and awareness. Every day I find myself learning or sharing new things within our staff and community of students and other schools. My only regret is that millions of viewers, having seen the "Survival Dude" type shows may actually believe they can whip out a bow drill fire from materials on the landscape any time they need to after seeing one episode. For more information, instructional videos, details about our staff, school, or courses, please visit


Dana said...
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Dana said...

I fully agree, people get the big machismo and dramatic affect,at the sacrifice of spiritual growth and true knowledge.TO DO something and see somthing done are too entirely different things,knowledge is only as good as the application of it.So i would not suggest trying these things seen on TV to far from home, you might get your(NUBBIN SKUN)or worse.I must say, I have watched a show or two of (servival dude)and servivor,for me they have a great commic effect.nothing like the real deal SO GET SOME!thanks for this great blog hopefully it will inspire more people go out and appreciate the beautiful world god gave us without fear.Hopefully my comment is appropreate, if not feel free to delete it,ANYWAY before I get to far off the subject,since the is a great shortage of teachers with any grade of true survival skills here or anywhere for that matter,the training I have gotten from mike and mal has been a priceless asset to me.Now with some base knowledge I have been able to content myself with the kamana program (tapes by Jon Young)and nature observation and tracking (by Tom Brown Jr.)bolth are great sources for things to practice,but it isnt as easy to learn than if you have a person instructing you and showing the techniques,but persistence is key and every little bit counts in survival.In closing,a few words of advice that i have learned during my training that may help the newer seeker,dont set to one idea/the rules of nature can change quickly,dont get frusterated/it makes a task next to impossible to complete,just relax and find an alternate route,dont waste time on one thing thats not working (unless
nessary,then again,try a different route or material)or you may find what you need while on a different task.The last piece of advice and one of the hardest society formed habbit to break(and i have a long way to go)take nothing for granted ,everything can be used,made by,or used by something eventually.(the stick you step over today could be the one that saves your life tomorrow)Thanks and hope to see you all again soon!LIVE REAL!

Mike Douglas said...

In the last 24 years I have had the honor and joy of learning and sharing skills in survival, tracking, awareness and primitive technologies. I have noticed how, unlike martial arts, public schools, out door adventure programs, or anythign else I have encountered, the vast realm of primitive technologies taps in to a person and deeply awakens things with in them. They become more confident, yet relaxed and aware. They feel a sense of inspiration, connectedness,and joy. I have shared these skills with members of the military and members of liberal arts colleges and universities, six year olds to seventy year olds, and the results have always been amazing. Every day I wake up as a new born, eager to learn and explore around and about the world I live in. My three children and I played like otters in the snow over the last few days, tumbling with our dogs as we jumped in to drifts, built snow forts, and tracked until we collapsed from exhuastion.

When I see folks condemn others as they practice these skills with their own "medicine" it breaks my heart. I work hard to learn from as many folks as I can. These skills are too important to let fall to the way side and too much fun to let divide folks from each other. There are many gifted trackers, flint knappers, story tellers, herbalists, and all around practitioners ou there to learn from and share with! It is the one common ground we all share. The tools of our collective ancestry are proving more valuable now then we could have ever imagined. Yet, there are some pitfalls to be aware of when you start dabbling in what will inevitably be a life long adventure. I've seen folks walk away from skills for many reasons, and most of them deal with the person and not the skills. Survival "experts", instant gratification expectations, and a host of other obstacles put up by our fast and modern mind set have got to be recognized and set aside if you want your skills and your life to be incredible. My next post, should this one be successfully posted, will be on how modern neural technologies and brain research have helped to explain the why's and how's of how playing in the woods and primitive skills actually increases your operational intelligence, as well as how we can address the pitfalls that are encountered when living in the modern world as we learn in the natural one.

Respect and Medicine,