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Aquatic Combat Tactics: Evasion

Become An Aquatic Warrior

Let’s take the concept of “Running the Gauntlet” as covered previously and apply it to aquatic environments. Any serious reading of the historical record (ancient or modern) will leave one hard-pressed to find examples of warrior cultures ignoring the ability of their warriors to maneuver in the water.

I’m not talking about naval action, whether it be a ship-of-the-line under full sail or small SEAL teams operating in a Zodiac boat. I am talking about the ability of individual warriors to maneuver, attack, and survive in the water itself on a solo basis.

The solitary warrior’s ability to swim — both on the surface and beneath the water — and to do so with stealth or evasive action under the load of carrying or towing weapons, to efficiently assault beaches, to wisely and efficiently abandon a sinking craft, to be able to resort to hand-to-hand/close-quarter battles in a water-treading environment…That is what I’m talking about.

Aquatic Combat In History

All of these skills and tactics have been and are valued by warrior cultures around the world. From today’s Navy SEALs to the Navy Frogmen of yesteryear, in Ramses II’s rout of the Hittites on the Orontes River, the Franconians crossing the Rhine on their shields, and various tales of Algonquin tribes making stealth assaults via rivers during the bloody French and Indian Wars, we have tales of great warriors who valued aquatic ability in their warriors and possessed this ability themselves; Warriors such as Charlemagne, Barbarossa, Carl the Great, Otto II, and my Viking forebear, Olaf Trygvesson.

We know the value of individual water tactics in a martial sense from the Sagas of the Northlanders and from the accounts of ancient Persian warriors who were expected to swim strong and well with weapons held aloft. The Spartans considered good watermanship a must and the Romans trained legionnaires to swim both with and without armor.

Stories such as these abound regarding martial aquatic prowess, and yet today we see the esteem for water warriorship reduced to “Oh, the SEALs are good swimmers” with nary hide nor hair of other contemporary schools of thought which embrace the practice in a warrior’s sense.

Why Aquatic Combat Training?

Admittedly, most of us will not be storming the beaches at Guadalcanal or be expected to cross the Danube in full armor, but many of us do train for other unlikely eventualities, so why is it that this one is given such short shrift?

Any of us could be expected to survive a car plunging from a bridge into a river. Many of us might experience the necessity of fording or surviving our new era of storm surge and flooding where we can even see landlocked Texans needing some aquatic ability.

Increasing our confidence in the water by improving our aquatic survival skills and adding aquatic training to our conditioning is simply one more wise feather to add to our training cap, not to mention a refreshing and invigorating way to capture another aspect of our historical warrior forebears.

With all of this in mind I offer the following drill/training exercise/conditioning challenge (one of many from our upcoming series on Water Warriorship).

The Challenge

Get yourself to the body of water of your choice (open water is ideal, but you can still follow along if a pool is all you have available to you) and do the following:

  • Warm up with 5-minutes of treading water. Extra credit if you hold one hand aloft as if holding a weapon. Extra, extra credit if you hold a mock weapon aloft for the 5-minutes.
  • Next, choose a distance or time that is comfortable for your swimming ability and begin a long swim. It is ideal if you use stealth strokes as splashing alerts the enemy and signals sharks there is injured prey in the water.
  • Approximately every 10 strokes (or you can have a partner call “Down!”), surface dive or bob beneath the water and swim for 5-strokes before emerging. We are attempting to evade/obscure strafing fire from shore or the air.
  • Continue the drill for your designated distance or time. To move beneath the surface, feel free to use a tuck dive, pike-dive, or sculled bob. Extra credit if you execute a 90 degree turn once beneath the surface.

Final Thoughts

If you are hitting this with intent, anaerobic demand kicks in fast. If we add to it the emotional color of fully envisioning pros with rifle or bows in hand, or one of the Divine Emperor’s Zeroes strafing from above, we get an extra charge out of the practice. So, what are you waiting for? Get to it.

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76 thoughts on “Aquatic Combat Tactics: Evasion”

  1. It would be good to also give some hand-to-hand aquatic combat tips. For example:
    1- Resist the envy of pulling your weapon too early, in an aquatic hand-to-hand: Because he who is left with only one hand to swim will loose 50% of mobility. So, the rule is: Position your self first, THEN draw your knife (to cut a breathing tube or stab your ennemy or whatever you plan to do).

    2- Don’t arrive facing your opponent: your body must be sideways, so that your left shoulder is closer to the opponent. As such, your left arm can protect from a strike, OR grab your opponent. while your right arm allows you to swim and position yourself. at the same time, it protects your right side, so that a) your opponent cannot access your weapon (knife, usually) and b) you are free to draw it when necessary.

  2. Training for cold water shock is also a good practice. So, don’t just do this when it’s nice and warm. Get used to getting into cold water, in clothing. Take it easy the first few times. If you can do it with others, so much the better. Learn to “embrace” the cold.. 🙂
    Great advice, Mark! Keep it coming.

  3. Excellent points, all are pertinent and timely. Add the actual fighting skills to one’s repertoire, and you have a much more complete example of the modern warrior skill set needed WTSHTF. Thank you for your time and effort.

  4. thank you very much for the time and effort in sharing this valuable information with us. One more great item to have in our bag of tricks; maybe the difference between wininng and losing the battle; or staying alive for another day. have a great holiday season.

  5. Dear Mr. Hatmaker:- Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience; your articles are always interesting and thought-provoking.

  6. Someone you guy’s are so good when explaining that you make it comfortable for your elders like me to understand. I love all that you guy’s are doing give good people a chance to survive during a incounter and be able to keep your family safe.
    Thank you and keep up the good work.

  7. I feel really enriched by even reading something concerning this topic of warfare training. A warrior must be well rounded and most people overlook such aspects of their training. Thank u so much for reminding me of how important it is to make sure and keep up with this type of training! You’ve added another jewel to my treasure box of skills.

  8. Awesome training tip! I was raised in a rural, multi-lake region, where swimming was a requirement of most summer days. To say the least, I was disturbed when I discovered during 5 years of service to our local AFB, that a regimen of rigorous swimming activity is No Longer accepted as adequate PT credits for their service requirements. Really!??! When did our illustrious DoD administrators miss the Physical Therapists’ memo, re.the overall physical & cardiac benefit of total body workout of aquatic exercise, has a greater, more balanced benefit to physical conditioning than isometrics & cardiac training obtained separately, due to extra load of the water resistance involved.

  9. Sir; It is quite a surprise to be betrayed by a trusted friend out or on the water. Would you be so kind as to alert your people to be prepared for this to happen? Thank you for this info.

  10. I never thought about water fighting I live in West Texas. We say water what is water. But ur right we all have to be prepared for any situation. I showed this to my kids they are grown they all agreed we need to get busy in the water. Thank you so much for this tip

  11. A good thought… although I would recommend,as part of the training session, to do something along those lines with workout weights that are rubber or plastic coated to simulate the weapons that are being carried to aid in the muscle memory

  12. As a 40 year veteran of combat training and teaching, I have to say I’ve learnt so much from all you’ve supplied. Keep it coming guys yours with respect and honour, Sifu Ian.

  13. Thanks for all the valuable information. Although I’m not up to that challenge, zI have shared the informstion with my grandson and other past police and military friends. You are correct to be prepared an land and in the water. Take care stay strong. Stacey

  14. I’ve learned so much from all the online video training, explaining the techniques in a way that the every day guy(in my case woman!) will understand it!!! Thanks for all the time and effort u guys put into this!!!!