Run of the Arrow
Any serious survey of battle preparation in the warrior cultures of the past will find frequent mention of a practice that’s often called “running the gauntlet.”
Running the gauntlet has manifested in many forms with the running theme (sorry) being the warrior — or, in many cases, the captive — being tested, tortured and/or trained by:
Forcing him or her to move through a dual row of warriors who are punching, kicking, slapping and otherwise abusing the person as he or she progresses from one end of the gauntlet to the other.
Giving the weaponless runner a small head start, after which weaponwielding pursuers follow in waves, and sometimes en masse, to hunt down their prey.
CINEPHILES READILY CAN SEE two representations of the latter form of running the gauntlet in Samuel Fuller’s Run of the Arrow, in which Rod Steiger is pursued by the Sioux, and in Cornel Wilde’s grittier The
Naked Prey, in which the star/director is subjected to a grueling chase in the country of Zimbabwe.
TRIVIA TIME! Although the second movie is set in Africa, the story is based on John Colter’s real-life experiences in the Old West, where the Blackfoot tribe forced him to run the gauntlet in Wyoming in 1808.
TRIVIA TIME, PART TWO: In The Naked Prey, Wilde was stripped of all his clothing except a loincloth, and he remained thusly clad throughout much of the film. He also performed his own stunts. Perhaps aiding him in this effort of cinematic physicality was his athletic background: He was a world-class fencer who managed to qualify for the Olympic Games in 1936. He was 52 years old when the movie was filmed.
A kinder interpretation of the same version of running the gauntlet shows up in many Native American tribes in which blunted arrows are used to train brother warriors to keep moving. We see a similar form of this in modern military training, in which soldiers are taught to cross open ground that’s subject to sniper fire. IN BOTH THE TRIBAL AND MODERN versions of running the gauntlet, the warriors start in relative concealment in the prone position, then rapidly get to their feet and sprint hard and fast until they need to go prone again for defensive reasons. Open ground is covered in this up-down manner to prevent the enemy from acquiring a lock on the target.
Another commonality is the amount of time warriors spend on their feet. Whether they’re using arrows or bullets, the average person needs three seconds to spot, track and put the “crosshairs” on target to get a clean shot if the person is moving.
With that in mind, we often see a sequence: Prone — scramble to the feet — sprint for three seconds — drop to the prone position. It repeats as needed until the stretch of ground is traversed.
Interestingly, this three-second rule also existed in warrior cultures of the past. For example, among the Comanche, warriors were taught to silently repeat “Tabo nukhiti
tukhati!” to keep track of their safe time. It roughly translates as “Run rabbit — down!”
In the modern military, one finds a variety of such three-second phrases, including “Full metal jacket!” and “I’m up! I’m down! He sees me!” They’re used to provide a mnemonic during bursts over open ground.
TO USE THIS ANCIENT and honorable training method in our modern martial arts practice, I created a drill that’s guaranteed to spice up your workouts. I call it the “run of the arrow ½ mile.”
1. Set your ½-mile course.
2. Assume a prone position.
3. Jump up and start running while you recite your threesecond phrase of choice.
4. As soon as you finish, hit the ground.
5. Hold that position for approximately five seconds.
6. Repeat until you’ve gone the distance.
If you do this with intent, the aerobic demand escalates quickly. Want to up the ante even more? Envision enemies with rifles or bows in hand, targeting you. It will give an extra reason to move with a purpose.
God forbid any of us ever needs to use our resultant running-the-gauntlet skills in real life, but if one day we find ourselves in such a situation — perhaps one that’s precipitated by an active shooter at a public event — well, as Special Forces operators everywhere are fond of saying, “Never do anything for the first time in combat.”
That, too, has a historical connection. The Comanche used to say,
“Wumet’u.” “We must prepare.”