What initially made you interested in Survival and Bushcraft?
I did the beavers, the cubs the scouts as a young lad, and went on to the air cadets. I wanted to be a pilot, but then I found the Marine side of things which led me on wanting to be a commando. Training is where I fell in love with it.
It is a one-day survival course, Mountain Leaders, where they taught you the very basics of survival. All the guys in my troop were scared of these guys, big scary tattooed guys, but I was in awe of them. They were the ones I was looking up to, and they were who I aspired to be — teaching me how to light a fire and build a shelter.
Lighting fire with Potassium Manganate, I thought it was terrific, and I just knew that’s what I wanted to be, teaching survival skills.
I continued by myself with personal reading, self-study. I think that’s why I love my youtube channel because that’s where I first found all the information that and old survival manuals. Self-teaching until I found civilian survival school. I did an assessment which was a scary time because I thought “what if I don’t know as much as I think I do?”
But from then on, I knew definitely that this is what I wanted to do, to become an instructor. But obviously, you can’t just jump in and become an instructor. You have to learn everything first, that’s when I had to work my way up. To learn everything I needed to know to teach at the survival school.
I learned under Johnny Crocket, a former marine officer. He’s been doing the survival school for twenty years.
How challenging was the course? What was the toughest part for you?
(talking about learning) Well, when everyone thinks of survival course, they believe that they’ll be cold, wet, and hungry. But it’s far from it; it’s more of the admin and transport things, it’s the behind the scenes that’s the hardest bit.
What about teaching? What do you think was the hardest part?
Well, The very first time that I had to stand in front of paying students, I think there were sixteen of them. I was teaching natural navigation in the middle of a field. I’ll always remember it. It was the first lesson I was being assessed on, and I was bricking it with an instructor with many years of knowledge assessing how I was doing. That was the scariest thing not all about being cold wet or hungry.
Although, I did a survival scenario, a thirty-seven-hour situation. You get stripped down to the basics to test your skill set. The hardest thing was properly building a bed and getting off of that horrible cold, wet, and damp ground. I’ve now learned from that, but at the time I didn’t do it properly. I think that a lot of people can relate to that. It just saps the heat right out of your body. I’m there in Gore-tex pants and jacket, with a shelter and a fire going but that was the hardest when I tried to sleep, even with all that it still was cold.
So how did that affect you? How did that affect your performance for the rest of the test?
For a start you don’t sleep, that was a big thing. It’s a quixotic thing, you build up this big fire and build a shelter, but then if your bedding isn’t perfect it just drains all the heat out of you, and you can’t sleep. I could feel that heat being sucked straight away from my body. It takes all the energy out of you, for the whole time you’re there for that survival scenario. Even though in school, you’re in a pretty safe environment, you have instructors there if anything happens. They are there.
So what I learned from that mistake is that in a survival scenario, you need to build your shelter first. Then construct your bedding with a lot more on the bottom than at the top, that’s a big thing.
You teach kids and adults, right? What do you think that people come to the survival school for and what do you think that they take away from it?
If people come to survival school if it’s a family or just children, it’s an experience in the outdoor survival kind of thing. It brings families together when they come out to do this sort of thing.
But that’s the thing we teach lot’s of different people, and we show military personnel down to children.
They come for different reasons, when the military people come; it’s to learn 72-hour Survival. They don’t want to be in there(a survival situation) long. They want to get out of there as quickly as possible. You don’t get into the Bushcraft side of things.
We encompass all of the Survival, Bushcraft and wilderness living skills. So we teach you to thrive in that situation as well. In Bushcraft, we show you how to use all these different materials in nature, people are fascinated by it.
They come thinking that there’s going to be a survival scenario. They believe that they’ll be eating bugs and starving them. They might have the impression that they’ll be forced to drink their urine and things like that. We don’t make them drink their urine.
We feed them pretty well actually. There is no point in trying to teach them these skills if they’re cold, wet, and starving. We need them to be at the top of their game basically because there is a lot of information that we’re going to put into their brains. If they want to eat bugs and drink urine that is their choice. I would prefer that they eat the cooked game that we make for them.
It’s not a survival scenario, which we can do.
Do you think that the kids leave with a little more confidence or something?
Yeah, definitely, and that is a big part of why I love my job, is when you get children coming along on courses. I’ve done a couple of classes with “Young Carers,” and these are guys that 7-10 that look after parents or siblings regularly and they get sort of respite day. They come out on a course with me. At first, they’re a little sheepish, putting the wall up a bit, but when they learn that what I’m saying is good stuff to know they begin to trust me in what I’m saying and what I’m doing.
The big thing is when they light a fire. When they light a fire for the first time, the look on their faces, it just stays with you all the time. It’s incredible, and it’s what sets us apart from all the other animals. That’s our reason that we have civilization.
Children are amazed when lighting a fire by friction for the first time, even adults lighting a fire by friction for the first time. It’s a massive sense of accomplishment and pride for them. To see the confidence that grows from them being able to light a fire, teaching them how to build a shelter and that they can do that.
Their belief in their ability goes through the roof, and they can attach that to their everyday life. They can take that home and adapt it in a way in their daily life where they know that they can achieve anything that they set their mind to. I think that is a big part of why I love doing what I do really.
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