Skip to main content

Running the Gauntlet by Mark Hatmaker

Any serious survey of battle-preparation amongst warrior cultures will find a similar practice reoccurring that we will blanketly term “Running the Gauntlet.”

Running the Gauntlet has manifested in many forms with the running theme [apologies for that verb use] being the warrior [or captive in many cases] being tested/tortured/trained [depending on circumstances] to either:

A] Run/move through a dual row of warriors who are punching, kicking, slapping, abusing the runner as they move from one end of the gauntlet to the other or…

B] The weaponless runner is given a small head-start after which weapons-wielding pursuers follow in waves [sometimes en masse] to hunt down the prey.

Cinephiles can see two film representations of the B-form of the practice in Samuel Fuller’s Western Run of the Arrow, where Rod Steiger is pursued by the Sioux, or in Cornel Wilde’s grittier The Naked Prey where the star/director is subjected to a grueling chase in Zimbabwe.

[Trivia Time: Although the second film is set in Africa, the story was based on John Colter’s actual experience in the Old West where he was subjected to a Running of the Gauntlet by the Blackfoot tribe in Wyoming in 1808.

Trivia Time, Part Two: Cornel Wilde is stripped naked save a loin cloth and remains thusly clothed throughout much of the film. He performed his own stunts. The athletic Wilde was a world class fencer and qualified for the Olympic Games in 1936.

Wilde was over 52 years-old at the time of filming.]

A kinder version of the B-version of running the gauntlet shows up in many tribes where blunted arrows are used to train brother warriors to keep on the move and we also see a form of this in modern military training where soldiers/operators are taught to cross open ground that is subject to sniper fire with a series of prone-start runs.

In both the tribal and modern versions, the warriors starts out in concealment in a prone position, then rapidly gets to the feet and sprints hard and fast then hits the ground in prone position again. Open-ground is covered in this up-down manner to prevent target acquisition.

Another commonality is the amount of time spent on the feet. Whether it be arrows or rifle it seems a skilled armed opponent needs an approximate three-seconds of sighting time to get a clean shot on a moving target.

With that in mind, we will see an action of: Prone-On the feet to a three-second sprint—to prone. Repeat as needed for open ground.

This three-second rule seems to have persisted over time. In the Comanche practice, warriors were taught to say to the self “Tabo nukhiti tukhati!” [“Run rabbit—Down!”]

In modern military practice three-second phrases such as repeating “Full Metal Jacket!” or “I’m up! I’m down! He sees me!” are used to provide the warrior a mnemonic to lock onto to provide timing for the bursts over open ground.

Mr. Bronson looking a wee bit fit.
To grab a bit of this ancient and modern pragmatic training and use it to provide variety in our own practice I’ve provided the following drill to spice up your training day.


·        Set your ½ mile course.

·        Start from prone.

·        Burst to your feet and repeat your three-second phrase of choice.

·        At the end of the phrase hit the ground FAST!

·        Hold position for approximately five-seconds.

·        Rinse-Wash-Repeat.

If you are hitting this with intent anaerobic demand kicks in fast.

If we add to it the emotional color of fully envisioning pros with rifle or bows in hand, we get an extra-charge out of the practice.

God forbid we ever need this practice in our actual lives, but if that horrid eventuality is ever met, well, as Special Forces warriors everywhere say “Never do anything for the first time in combat.” Or as the Comanche brave is advised “Wumet’u.” [“We must prepare.”]

[For more Old School training practices subscribe to this blog, the RAW Subscription Service and our upcoming book Rough & Tumble Conditioning.]


Popular posts from this blog

Warrior Awareness Drills by Mark Hatmaker

THE Primary Factor in self-protection/self-defense is situational awareness. Keeping in mind that crime is, more often than not, a product of opportunity, if we take steps to reduce opportunity to as close to nil as we can manage we have gone a long way to rendering our physical tactical training needless [that’s a good thing.]
Yes, having defensive tactical skills in the back-pocket is a great ace to carry day-to-day but all the more useful to saving your life or the lives of loved ones is a honed awareness, a ready alertness to what is occurring around you every single day.
Here’s the problem, maintaining such awareness is a Tough job with a capital T as most of our daily lives are safe and mundane [also a good thing] and this very safety allows us to backslide in good awareness practices. Without daily danger-stressors we easily fall into default comfort mode.
A useful practice to return awareness/alertness to the fore is to gamify your awareness, that is, to use a series of specific…

Apache Running by Mark Hatmaker

Of the many Native American tribes of the southwest United States and Mexico the various bands of Apache carry a reputation for fierceness, resourcefulness, and an almost superhuman stamina. The name “Apache” is perhaps a misnomer as it refers to several different tribes that are loosely and collectively referred to as Apache, which is actually a variant of a Zuni word Apachu that this pueblo tribe applied to the collective bands. Apachu in Zuni translates roughly to “enemy” which is a telling detail that shines a light on the warrior nature of these collective tribes.
Among the various Apache tribes you will find the Kiowa, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Chiricahua (or “Cherry-Cows” as early Texas settlers called them), and the Lipan. These bands sustained themselves by conducting raids on the various settled pueblo tribes, Mexican villages, and the encroaching American settlers. These American settlers were often immigrants of all nationalities with a strong contingent of German, Polish, and …

Awareness Drill: The Top-Down Scan by Mark Hatmaker

American Indians, scouts, and indigenous trackers the world over have been observed to survey terrain/territory in the following manner.
A scan of the sky overhead, then towards the horizon, and then finally moving slowly towards the ground.
The reason being that outdoors, what is overhead-the clouds, flying birds, monkeys in trees, the perched jaguar—these overhead conditions change more rapidly than what is at ground level.
It has been observed by sociologists that Western man whether on a hike outdoors or in an urban environment seldom looks up from the ground or above eye-level. [I would wager that today, he seldom looks up from his phone.]
For the next week I suggest, whether indoors or out, we adopt this native tracker habit. As you step into each new environment [or familiar ones for that matter] scan from the top down.
I find that this grounds me in the awareness mindset. For example, I step into my local Wal-Mart [or an unfamiliar box store while travelling] starting at the top, t…