I debated whether to title this section Mountain Austere Training or Wildereness Survival Training. Although each title connotates a different meaning. As I teach and practice these methods they are inseperable of each other. My decision to go with the first title was due to the simple fact that this was what came first in my life. But what is Mountain Austere Training?
My first introduction to mounatin austere training came when I was 12 years old. It all started when I read the book “This is Karate” by Mas Oyama. In his book Mas Oyama told of the Yamabushi or the “Warrior Monks” of Japan. These monks had a special practice they called Shugendo. In this practice the monks would test themselves by making long difficult pilgrimages to remote mountians. During these pilgrimages the monk’s would carry few possessions and live off the land for their daily nutrients. Life on the mountain trail was very harsh, especially during the winter months. Many monks were know have starved to death or were attacked and killed by wild animals. It was imperative that the Yamabushi learned to live in harmony with the mountain. For if they could survive Shugendo the monks were described as “having harnessed the power of the mountain.”
This tradition of traveling to and practicing martial arts in remote locations is not limited to the Yamabashi. History tells of this method of training being used by virtually all warrior societies throughout the world. Some cultures have even made mountain austere training a religous rite of passage. For others, training in secluded wilderness areas was simply done out of the need for secrecy.
For me mountain austere training started out pretty innocent. Living in the north woods of Massachusetts there was no problem finding secluded wilderness areas where I could camp out and practice martial arts. From the age of 12 until my late teens I spent as much time as I could training in the wilderness. I learned many lessons during these early days of wilderness training. Most importantly I learned to be self reliant and to never fear being alone in the wild.
As I got older and started to venture further into the wilderness I found the need to develop some basic skills that would make being in the wilderness easier and saver. Most people would refer to these skills as “Wilderness Survival Skills” but I prefer to call them “Wilderness Skills.” Although I admitt that over the years I attended a couple wilderness survival courses, I still consider my wilderness skills to be self taught. In fact, a majority of the wilderness skills that I know and practice were learned through reading books and trial & error. Now, when you add in mountain austere training, then it becomes a very intense mental and physical conditioning.
To this day I still practice mountain austere training as often as I can. There in nothing like strapping on your knife and canteen, grabbing you’re walking staff and headed off into the wilderness.