Skip to main content

A Lesson in Shadow Warfare by Mark Hatmaker

The evocative painting “Ambush” by the excellent artist Dan Nance conjures images of the French and Indian War[s], the Revolutionary War, Roger’s Rangers, Simon Girty, James Fenimore Cooper novels, and Mel Gibson at his vengeful best in The Patriot.

The dramatic incident portrayed in the painting is romanticized but myriad such skirmishes did indeed occur, are well-documented and the ingenuity, and let’s face it, brutality are front and center of these accounts.

Let’s use Nance’s painting as a jumping off point regarding an aspect of American Indian skulking warfare, and like tactics adopted by white settlers who adopted “savage” ways.

First, the talented Mr. Nance portrays our ambushing warrior attacking from high and above with tomahawk in hand. This aspect of the painting hews close to many accounts of “from above” ambushes.

What does not hold true is the direction of the attack.

First, let’s absolve the artist-Mr. Nance is displaying creative license in his use of lighting. But we use the inaccurate painting for our lesson all the same.

Native warriors and woodsmen who went native were skilled and schooled in the ways of skulking, that is, stealthy movement. Positioning themselves high with the sun to their backs would allow their shadow to fall upon the trail giving away their position. If not their shadow at least a tell-tale break in the foliage shadow or unforeseen movement in the shadow ruining the ambush.

The “high and above” ambush on sunny days would always be executed from the opposite side of the trail where the sun would not give away the awaiting warrior.

To a large degree this is an opposite tactic to low-ambushes where we place the sun to our backs when we are not sky-lined on a distant horizon giving away our position. The sun to the back position is viable when one is low and plans on engaging in open warfare and desires placing harsh light in the enemies’ eyes, but for quick ambush less effective.

The “high and above” ambush with sun at the back would be noticed by avid woodsmen as the ability to read “sign” was front and center of any woodsman’s education. Reading sign is not only about tracks, and tell-tale broken twigs, but myriad other often un-considered aspects of our environment including shadow-reading.

For example-The Penumbra Effect.

The wha?

The Penumbra Effect is demonstrated by the fact that shadows are crisper at their base and become fuzzier, less distinct as we move along the shadow’s “height.”

Let’s use a simple test to illustrate and illuminate: Stand with your back to the sun on a bright sunny day with your hand extended to your side at hip level, fingers splayed-look at the shadow; it will be somewhat distinct, you will be able to see each individual finger spread out. Now, raise this same hand above your head and the shadow becomes fuzzier and indistinct with the hand becoming blobbier the more we move it into the main trajectory of the sun’s disc.

We see the same thing daily on commutes when we look at the shadows of vehicles travelling next to us, the vehicle shadow is crisp towards the bottom and becomes fuzzier towards the top.

Whereas most of us have to have such an “every single day of your life” observable fact pointed out to us, to Native Warriors and woodsmen “gone savage” this obvious fact would have been part and parcel of how the warrior sees the world.

I thank Mr. Nance for the gorgeous painting and inspiring the ever-present lesson that the warrior must not merely look at everything, he must see everything.


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…