Let’s take the concept of “Running the Gauntlet” as covered previously and apply it to the aquatic environment. Any serious reading of the historical record [ancient or modern] will be hard-pressed to find warrior cultures ignoring the ability of warriors to maneuver when in water. I’m not talking naval action whether it be a ship-of-the-line under full sail or small SEAL teams operating in a Zodiac boat.
I am talking the ability of the individual warrior to maneuver, attack, and survive in the water itself on a solo basis. The solitary warrior’s ability to swim both on the surface and beneath the water, to do so with stealth or evasive action, to do so underload carrying or towing weapons, to efficiently assault beaches, to wisely and efficiently abandon sinking craft, to be able to resort to hand-to-hand close-quarter battle in a water-treading environment.
All of these skills and tactics have been and are valued by warrior cultures. From today’s Navy SEALs to yesteryear’s Navy Frogmen, to Ramses II rout of the Hittites on the Orontes River, to the Franconians crossing the Rhine on their shields. To various stales of Algonquin tribes making stealth assaults via river during the bloody French and Indian Wars.
We have tales of great warriors who valued aquatic ability in their warriors and possessed this ability themselves such as Charlemagne, Barbarossa, Carl the Great, Otto II, and my Viking forebear Olaf Trygvesson.
We know the value of individual water-tactics in a martial sense from the Sagas of the Northlanders, to ancient Persian warriors who were expected to swim strong and well with weapons held aloft. The Spartans considered good watermanship a must, the Romans trained legionnaires to swim both with and without armor.
Such stories abound regarding martial aquatic skills and yet today we see the esteem for water warriorship compartmentalized to “Oh, the SEALs are good swimmers” with nary hide nor hair of other contemporary schools of thought embracing the practice in a warrior’s sense.
Admittedly, most of us will not be storming beaches at Guadalcanal, or expected to cross the Danube in full armor, but many of us do train for other unlikely eventualities, why is it that this one is given such short shrift?
Any of us could be expected a to survive a car plunging from a bridge into a river. Many of us might experience the necessity of fording or surviving our new era of storm surge and flooding where we can see even land-locked Texans needing some water ability.
Increasing our confidence in water, improving our survival in water, adding to our conditioning via water-training is simply one more wise feather to add to our training cap, let alone a refreshing and invigorating way to capture another aspect of our historical warrior forebears.
With all of this in mind I offer the following drill/training exercise/conditioning challenge [one of many from our upcoming work on Water Warriorship.]
Swimming the Gauntlet: Aquatic Evasion
· Get yourself to your water of choice, open water is ideal, but if a pool is all you have…
· Warm-up with 5-minutes of treading water.
· Extra Credit if you hold one hand aloft as if holding a weapon.
· Extra Extra Credit if you hold a mock weapon aloft for the 5-minutes.
· Next, choose a distance or time that is comfortable for your swimming ability and begin a long swim—it is ideal if you use stealth-strokes, splashes alert the enemy, splashing signals sharks there is injured prey in the water.
· Approximately every 10 strokes [or you can have a partner call “Down!”] surface dive or bob beneath the water and swim for 5-strokes before emerging.
· We are attempting to evade/obscure strafing fire from shore or the air.
· Continue the drill for your designated distance or time.
· To move beneath the surface, feel free to use a tuck dive, pike-dive, or sculled bob.
· Extra-Credit if you execute a 90 degree turn once beneath the surface.
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, or one of the Divine Emperor’s Zeroes strafing from above, 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.]