Of the many skills that man cultivated and mastered in his rise to Apex Predator, the ability to track both man and beast is perhaps the most elemental. The skill to follow ground spoor and sign gave man the ability to pursue game and enemy in order to survive. Conversely, man’s knowledge of tracking gave him increased and heightened situational awareness – thus making him harder to kill and more tuned in to the environment around him. Notable mantrackers include Tom Tobin and his apprehension of the Espinoza Brothers, Frank Hamer in his pursuit of Bonnie and Clyde, and perhaps the finest trackers of all, the legendary Selous Scouts in the African Bush Wars of the 1970s.
Tracking brings the professional to a higher overall combative awareness level due to the demands of “locking in” to a quarry during pursuit. While moving and visually scanning, the tracker must also stalk and prepare to close with an enemy who is on the run – but also very likely looking to ambush or at least harass the entity following him. This type of hunting is at the zenith of engagement; it is the true find-fix-finish scenario. Many of the elite units of today – including military, law enforcement, and first responder – train and execute tracking missions in the dynamic world we live in. It remains a core skill that has changed very little in application from ancient times.
In the high-tech dominated modern world, many navigational aids allow for fluid travel from A to B. In the world of the mantracker, navigation is based on the “I am here and he is going somewhere…. and I am going to track him down.” For many years, the motto of the Texas Rangers was “ride the man down” – and many a Texas desperado said he felt the “shadow on the trail” behind him. This continuum of engagement spans finding the initial point of departure, maneuver through the quarry’s lines of movement, to closing the time/distance gap, to visual sighting, to immobilization – a complete traverse of the hunting process. The tracker is in reality executing a primal endeavor devoid of age, terrain, or equipment.
The most declarative reality of the trained tracker is the fact that the actual physical fighting engagement is a small part of the process. Legendary Marine Raider Tony “Cold Steel” Walker defined this phenomena as “an 8 hour movement for a 20 second fight.” He added that “you need the ‘stick-to-it-ness’ for the movement and the ‘take ’em out-edness’ for the fight.” Truer words have never been uttered.
Much of today’s modern combative training has exponents driving up to training, warming up, and then “engaging” with an opponent who got dressed with you and is right next to you. There is nothing wrong with this for expedience and time management. However, for a glimpse into man’s combative origins, take the path less traveled – the path of the mantracker and the truest engagement in any martial realm: the TRACKDOWN.