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.”

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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.”

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