July 2014

It is about to be a busy summer so rather than wait until I’m swamped with travel and training, I am posting this now.

July 2014 


Back in 1994 or 1995 when I first started kayaking, I was in the process of learning the Eskimo roll for self-rescue. After a rolling clinic at Mainstream Canoe and Kayak, I had the basics and the feeling but I couldn’t quite put it all together. I remember watching a VHS (remember those?) called “The Bombproof Roll and Beyond” and the instructor recommended visualizing the process. Well, I had a pool session and to my amazement I had a much stronger (eventually bombproof) roll without any physical practice. The secret was visualization. If you run mental repetitions of the ideal, the body will remember and follow through.

Now before you go and try mentally flying, realize visualization works with the possible. Don’t try to defy gravity or laws of nature. I was reminded of this important training tool recently while attending BLADE show in Atlanta, GA. Ernest Emerson of Emerson Knives held a presentation about what it takes to survive a deadly encounter. Ernie Emerson is the real deal when it comes to training and I absolutely respect the man’s dedication to training hard, training like it’s real and his approach to combatives and preparedness. Mr. Emerson described a professor who took two separate groups of research subjects and told them they are to learn to shoot basketball free throws. One group was given more time to practice, the other less physical time but the remaining time was to be used for visualizing the shots. In the end, the results of the two were remarkably similar and amazingly the group with the visualized shots was even better as they imagined perfect shots with swishes each time. Mr. Emerson related this mental training to the idea of running mental scenarios and preparing for an encounter before it happens. When it does, the body will remember what the mind already experienced.

Kevin and Ernie

Kevin Estela and Ernie Emerson of Emerson Knives. Mr. Emerson gave an insightful presentation on combative mindset which Kevin attended.

Think about how this relates to wilderness and survival skills. When I have down time (ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I’m a restless ass so suspend disbelief) I run mental drills of various skills. From how to quickly draw a blade or firearm to how to position myself properly for friction fires to that early skill of Eskimo rolling, I fill my mind with valuable training thoughts. I visualize what I want to do and how it will look. In Sayoc Kali, we learn how we are in charge of whatever story we are in. We describe how it plays out and how it will end. This mindset can be applied to other aspects of our lives. Especially in a survival situation and long before in the preparation for expeditions, extended stays in the outdoors or the casual jaunt into the woods. If you visualize the perfect trip, you can’t help but visualize a list of what it takes to follow through. Pair this visualization with note taking and you begin to establish a system which will not fail you. As the old Chinese proverb states, “the faintest ink is better than the strongest memory.” Don’t forget your visualization and write what you visualize down.

Of course, don’t make the mistake of visualizing the incorrect. Keep a positive outlook. I remember this quote from studying “Hamlet” in high school, “for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” If we visualize the bad therefore, we manufacture our own misery. in other words, positive mental attitude is the correct logical first step in resolving any problem. Don’t waste your time thinking how horrible your condition is. Visualize your solution or seek out others to help you find your vision and then work toward it. God, I sound like a motivational speaker but I’m fine with that. If this helps motivate you though, I’m fine with that. If I can help you visualize becoming a better survival skills practitioner or outdoorsman, then I’m doing my job. Hopefully you’ll visualize me teaching you even more in person on a course after reading this. After all, teaching is what I do and I would love to have you sign up for a course.

In sum, think positively. Visualize the means to an end and then physically follow through with the appropriate actions. Don’t let any barriers prevent you from training. Even when you are stuck at an airport or doctor’s office waiting room, you can visualize yourself elsewhere running perfect repetitions of an elusive task. Think of all the components in the perfect Eskimo roll, draw stroke of your pistol, the posture and motions of the bow drill and when those skills are called upon, your body will remember. There is never an excuse for not training when you know how to train.