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A Conversation with Primitive Navigation Expert, Dr. John Huth, Part 2 by Mark Hatmaker

Dr. Huth is Donner Professor of Science in the Physics Department at Harvard University. He is also an historian and resurrector of primitive navigation skills. The below is part two of a lengthy and fascinating discussion on not just primitive navigational skills, but the consequences of allowing human skills or abilities to lie fallow. This conversation goes deep and is all the better for it. 


You provide one fascinating example after another of navigating abilities that would border on the supernatural if one were not aware of the method. Once the method is revealed, and the skill set begins to be developed one feels almost as if they are engaged in a Benedict Cumberbatch-Sherlockian observational game of immense proportions. Is that how you see the world to some degree? Where the “Oh, look at that pretty cloud” becomes “That cloud type and movement contrasted with the wind at ground level tells me to enjoy the picnic while you can because it’s about to turn cold in 3-4 hours.” The …

What is Your Warrior Pledge by Mark Hatmaker

Nea kaht’u mak’u meek’u,
Nea t’zare tubuniti,
Nea t’zare supikaahkat’u.
Scratching your head at that?
It’s OK, Comanche is a dying language and I’ll offer the translation in a moment; the video will provide the tonal qualities.
Warrior cultures the world over, past and present, make much of living ready, being ready.
It is not mere lip-service. Something to be scanned in an online article, nod assent to and then proceed to the next bit of trivia to scan and nod to.
Awareness, presence, aliveness is something to aspire to.
Something to strive for.
Something that must be worked for.
Warrior cultures have always recognized the easy temptation to make “eyes open, senses alive” go dead by distraction or being lost in one’s own thoughts.
Remember, lost in thought is lost in the world.
Sentries must be awake; you are the sentry of your own life.
Scouts must see sign, you are the pathfinder of your own life.
Warrior Cultures asked Warriors not for lip service, but for pledges, emphatic stated intentions…

Via Negativa #1 by Mark Hatmaker

Let another's wounds be your warning.” (Njal's Saga, c.37)
How wise is it to quest for or resurrect lost abilities/skills while allowing present skills to atrophy?
In the pursuit of excellence, we often overweight positive or how-to advice, i.e., via positiva, as opposed to looking just as hard for negative lessons, or how-not-to advice, i.e., via negativa.
Both roads, the Positive and Negative, have much to offer, but we are usually biased towards the “How to” road while failing to realize, often you can move faster down the positive road, and with fewer set-backs if we remove as many speed-bumps and hurdles as possible.
It is for this very reason the Viking wisdom from Njal’s Saga should be held at the fore:
Let another's wounds be your warning.”
With that out of the way, if you have a mind to, stick with me for an anecdote [a true one, but a single example does not a fact make], more than a little science from a learned man, and a speculation on cognitive canaries in coalmi…

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…

A Rough & Tumble Snapshot by Mark Hatmaker

This passage from Rex Lardner is a gorgeous glimpse into just how varied the combat scene was in the rough & tumble days of America’s frontier growth.
“Americans fought. They fought in saloons over party principles, religion, the favors of hostesses and national origin. They fought over business on the decks of barges, riverboats, flatboats, and canalboats. They fought for their lives in such bandit-ridden areas as the Natchez Trail, San Francisco’s Barbary Coast and New York City’s murderous Five Points and Bowery. They fought, for economic reasons, as butcherboys, longshoremen and runners soliciting trade for immigrant boarding houses (where there was intense competition for the privilege of fleecing greenhorns); as truckmen, cabmen and hostler. They were more apt, however, to use the tools of their trade than the naked fist. Rivermen afloat used boathooks and belaying pins. The axeman used his axe or hobnailed boots. Coopers used hammers; the woodsman, his double-edged, razor-sh…

Freddie Welsh's Pinpoint Jab by Mark Hatmaker

[Excerpted from the book Boxing Like the Champs.] We already know that the great Freddie Welsh had stamina to burn, but when it came to power, that was another story. Out of a 168 bout career he only scored 32 knockouts; even a ringside account of his decision victory over Willie Ritchie in 1914 to win the lightweight title gives tale to this lack of power, but also allows us to glimpse at what he was a master of. The following is from a ringside reporter’s view of the bout.
“[Welsh was able to] bounce three or four thousand light jabs off of the anatomy of Willie Ritchie and dance away. Satisfied to clinch, flop a right to the kidneys, grin, and do it all over again, his punches were harmless as the drop of a butterfly.”
Not a terribly inspiring account, unless one reads more into that three or four thousand jabs remark, and trust me, there is much to read.
Welsh, realizing his power deficit decided to make up for it with an active (very active) jab. What’s more he made a conscious effor…

A Conversation with Dr. John Huth author of The Lost Art of Finding Our Way, Part 1. w/ Mark Hatmaker

Dr. Huth is Donner Professor of Science in the Physics Department at Harvard University. He is also an historian and resurrector of primitive navigation skills. The below is the first part of a lengthy and fascinating discussion on not just primitive navigational skills, but the consequences of allowing human skills or abilities to lie fallow. This conversation goes deep and is all the better for it.  Dr. Huth, thanks for taking the time to have this talk, but first, I must ask, considering what your day-job is, how do you go from particle physicist to primitive wayfaring?
This comes from two incidents that happened in 2003.The first was in August. My wife and I had rented a house for a week on Little Cranberry Island off the coast of Maine.I’d rented a recreational kayak.I sort of knew the area from the year before when I’d also kayaked there.While I was crossing a two-mile wide embayment, a thick fog started to roll in.I realized I would be hosed if I couldn’t keep my bearings, so I h…