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Birth of a Survivalist

I can feel every drip of water as it soaks my pant leg. No matter how I move I can’t escape it. I am cramped in a tiny space virtually stacked on top of my teammates as all seven of us try to fit in an inadequately sized lean to shelter to escape the rainstorm. The other guys seem to be sleeping well. They all seemed to be made for this out door stuff. Me I was growing to love it but up to this point I had not done any long-term survival training to this extent. I was still out of my element. A Jersey boy who other than the beginning levels of my Ninja Outdoor training I received from my teacher Steven K. Hayes and basic training in the Army I had never really spent much time out doors. However, I was not unlike many others from my African American Culture. It seemed that the great outdoors was not the common escape for African American’s at least were I came from. The outdoors I came from had cars instead of elephants, dogs instead of wolves, multi story buildings instead of trees. Other than a park here or there, and a zoo there was no real outdoors. Even on occasion I would go visit family that lived in what we called the “Country,” there still was no real sense of outdoor living. No one knew how to start a fire, find water, build shelter, and live off the land. Therefore everyone would avoid it. The concrete jungle is what we called our living habitat. To know how to navigate it was considered survival. However, lying drenched in this natural shelter; this was a different animal. It was evident on so many levels that it was a uniquely different level of survival. One aspect that could not be avoided is the fact that out of 100 participants in this program all separated into about 15 teams, there was myself and one other African American who no doubt was feeling the same way I was at that time; extremely unprepared as we lay surround by young Caucasian guys who where comfortable enough to sleep in these shelters. I did not know where he was but I was sure he was feeling the same way. Now don’t get the wrong idea this is not about color it was about the realization of cultural difference from my perspective at this moment in my life.

I was in the Army’s S.E.R.E (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) program. This program would teach me much about wilderness survival and in this small moment Mother Nature was showing me her butt. I was now hungry, sleepy, wet, cold and cramped with nowhere to go. I was in charge of setting up the hide site/lean to, and I grossly underestimated the size. It was not long enough, nor wide enough. I was sure the other guys were not comfortable but they seemed to be sleeping fine. I looked at my watch and it was 3 in the morning. It had been raining since the following day and we would be on the move again in 2 hours. I began to feel frustrated. The discomfort was one aspect but my lack of proper preparation was another. Lack of life preparation and survival preparation were my weaknesses. It made me think more about why African American’s did not get outdoors for more wilderness experience. It seemed as though Mother Nature had intimidated many of us into hiding from her. Or maybe it was modern comforts that kept us from experiencing her. With a linage stemming back to Africa it would seem that outdoor living would be in our blood. I stewed for a few more minutes and began to get extremely frustrated. I loved rainy days as long as I was in the comforts of a warm dry bed. Something I could have had if I took the proper precautions when building this shelter. In a fit of rage I decided I was going to fight back. I would show Mother Nature that even in my lack of experience, I would beat her as I did my whole life by ignoring her and hiding from her. I knew I had a dry pair of cloths in my bag. So in a ludicrous moment I slide out of the shelter. Stood up in the pouring rain reached into my bag and began to put on dry cloths. Which of course became wet immediately. What a ridiculous thing but when you are deprived of comfort you will be amazed how you react. I was mindless doing something with no purpose. Once dressed I sat on the ground up against my rucksack. I had nowhere to go and nothing but time. I was still, wet cold and hungry. The only thing I managed to do was get another pair of cloths drenched. So many thoughts raced through my head. It was to dark and wet to make another shelter. I could not use light on the account that we where evading. I also could not move a lot as to avoid creating a lot of noise. Thus I just sat there helpless and miserable. I hated this feeling; I hated everything about this moment. In my self-pity I dropped my head back and stared up at the sky as the rapidly falling water hit my face it was a half moon and it caught my attention immediately. It was breath taking in these dark woods outside of Ft. Bragg and it screamed to me a reminder about how insignificant I was in comparison to nature. I exhaled as I realized I had been fighting a fight I could not win. My cultural upbringing had not prepared me for this I had never learned to respect nature. I was never truly aware of her power. My ignorance made me angry. However as I stared at the moon I realized that I did not have to fight. I did not have to be angry with my lack of experience or my cultural inheritance. I could change, I could adapt, I could embrace this moment and ride this dragon, not fight it. I could smile at the fact that Mother Nature was winning and in that winning I was learning how to truly survive. Not by fighting her but by accepting her, learning how to exist within her womb and becoming a master of her secrets. I smiled at the moon and had forgotten all about my disposition. I had transcend the “suck!,” for a moment, when suddenly I heard my team leader whisper “Who the F@$k is that sitting in the dark? Is that you Isler?” “Yes,” I replied. He smirked and said, “you’re as crazy as they come.” He had no idea of the enlightening moment I had and I never mentioned it but from that morning on mother nature and I had an understanding. I would plan not to fight her, instead I would plan to work with her and she has taken care of me ever since. I was reborn on that day. It was then I became a survivalist.


Naked and Afraid

Naked Confessions: After India

Go behind-the-scenes with the Naked and Afraid survivalists as they share all the details about surviving naked for 21 days. Check in every Sunday night following new episodes of Naked and Afraid for the cast’s post-challenge Naked Confessions!


Fayetteville martial arts instructor Hakim Isler will be on ‘Naked and Afraid’ Aug. 17

Hakim Isler’s friends call him “the Black MacGyver.”

Isler says it’s a nod to his inventive personality and ability to think outside the box.

Those qualities served Isler well during his stint on “Naked and Afraid,” the Discovery Channel show about men and women trying to survive in the wilderness in the most basic conditions – literally naked.

Isler spent a few weeks in April in the wilds of India. Like the other participants, he was paired with someone of the opposite sex. Clothes were not part of the experience.

The episode in which Isler participated is scheduled to air Sunday at 10 p.m. The episode is titled “Himalayan Hell,” according to the Discovery Channel website.

Isler is well known among Fayetteville fitness and martial arts enthusiasts. The 37-year-old Iraq war veteran owns Elevo Dynamics (formerly the Elite Training Center) on Person Street.

Isler is skilled in survival techniques and refers to himself as a “trained Ninja.” His web site,, touts his “warrior philosophy” and notes expertise in knife, stick and hand combat.

So when a friend mentioned the “Naked and Afraid” show, Isler figured he’d be a natural.

“They said, ‘You’d be good on that,'” Isler said. “That just sparked it. I had to do it after that.”

Isler applied to be on the show last year and was accepted. Filming commenced in April.

“It was a long process,” Isler said. “They have to make sure you have survival skills. They have to make sure you’re ready.”

According to the Discovery Channel website, “Naked and Afraid” takes “survival of the fittest” to the extreme.

“Each week, a new pair of complete and total strangers – one man and one woman – will find themselves stranded in and, quite literally, exposed to some of the world’s most extreme weather environments,” the show’s synopsis reads. “Each duo will be left high and dry with no food, no water – and no clothes. They must survive on their own for a full 21 days, with nothing but one personal item each and the knowledge that the only prize is their pride and sense of accomplishment.”

The participants are trailed by camera crews that record their efforts. Private parts are blurred.

Isler is the second Fayetteville resident to take part on the show. Army veteran E.J. Snyder has appeared twice on the show.

For Isler, choosing what item to bring to India wasn’t a problem. He took his “tengu,” a multipurpose, hatchet-like tool he designed himself.

The device includes a saw, a hook, a hole puncher and a sharp edge Isler said is good for skinning animals.

“It’s a versatile, do-it-all type tool,” Isler said, holding up the device at Elevo Dynamics last week. “When the show heard about it, they said, you definitely have to use it.”

Given his background, Isler said he didn’t really doubt he could survive the three-week ordeal. However, the fact that participants don’t meet their partner until filming starts brought uncertainty to the experience.

“You don’t get to meet them beforehand,” Isler said of his partner. “You don’t get to know what skills they have.”

Although Isler said he was about as prepared as he could be, the experience was still grueling. He said he lost “tons of weight” surviving on whatever food he and his partner were able to scrounge or catch.

On some days, Isler said, it came down to a choice of whether to concentrate on building a fire or finding shelter.

“Weather was a huge deal. We were in the mountains,” Isler said. “There was a lot of rain, there was a lot of coldness. It was very challenging because there was no protective layer.”

One time, Isler said, he found a snail and debated whether to eat it or use it as bait to capture bigger game.

He opted to use the snail as bait and placed in a handmade trap. The plan was foiled when a bird made off with the snail without being caught.

While Isler was naked in the wilderness for three weeks with a woman, he said intimacy was the last thing on anyone’s mind.

“People ask me, ‘Is there romance involved?'” Isler said. “I say, ‘Romance? You’re out there trying to survive. There’s no romance involved.'”

While Isler said he can’t reveal details about how his “Naked and Afraid” experience panned out, he’s hoping folks tune in to the show to find out for themselves. He’s hosting a viewing party Sunday starting at 9 p.m. at Beef O’Brady’s in downtown Fayetteville.

If nothing else, Isler said he hopes folks learn a little about survival skills. The self-styled “Black MacGyver” said he especially wants African-Americans to heed his message of self-sufficiency and survival.

Isler said he has family members who endured hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and thinks they and others would benefit from some basic survival knowledge.

“Why don’t African-Americans do more of this stuff?” Isler said. “That was my drive.”

Image by Johnny Horne.

Written by Rodger Mullen can be reached at or 486-3561.


Art of Ninjanuity


The Ninja has one rule; one driving force; one reason for existence. That reason is to “Never Quit!” The word Ninja actually means “a person – (Ja),” “that endures – (Nin)”. People have come to know the term as meaning “stealth.” This is indeed another meaning of the word but it is not in the way that people understand it. People imagine a person, clothed in black, running around at night hiding from the enemy in the shadows. However, this is not the essence of the meaning behind the stealth. On the contrary, stealth refers to the Ninja’s ability to both avoid danger and to find ways to endure and overcome danger if it enters their life. The Ninja does this, not through opposition, but through adaptation and change.

The Ninja would morph into what was needed for the time. The stealth does not refer to basic camouflage; it refers to invisibility based on a lack of proper identification. The enemy thinks he is looking at a patch of grass when instead he is looking at a man in a gully suit (camouflage suit). It is the state of who you become that eludes the danger or obstacles that seek to disrupt your life. The situation loses sight of you because you have adapted. This concept is where Ninjanuity comes in.

The ability to use strategy, experience, knowledge and connections to overcome weakness and danger is Ninjanuity. Adaptation in mind, body and spirit. Create what you need to render helpless the obstacles that interrupt your beautiful life. Whether people or situations, you create success where failure seems like the only way. There is no limit to your inventiveness and cunning because you engineer what you need. However, more than ingenuity you have Ninjanuity because you don’t just invent, you become!


The Shadow of Brightness

Every night, when I let my dog out, I am attacked by a swarm of moths, mosquitoes and other creepy, winged pest that are drawn to the light at night. For this reason, I dread opening my back door at night, yet I still keep the light on.

To me, the security that the light brings by piercing through the darkness of my huge backyard is more important than turning it off at night.  A few pesky bugs are not a huge deal, if I keep it in perspective.

Even the security of sitting in my living room and being able to look out my window and see that there is no one in my yard is enough to never turn off that light; however, there are many people who would just turn off the light until they need it. Some would even stop using the light altogether, succumbing to the overwhelming intrusion of pests.

There Is Something Important About Being Able To See Through The Darkness Of Life…


his reminds me of a deeper issue. At my school our goal is to inspire, teach and help others become warrior protectors. We are constantly integrating lessons of how to grow strong and use that strength as a way to help others…

…however, the lesson of how to share strength and protect would not be complete without the lesson of understanding that when you do good, the recipient or those around the recipient might not always accept your sharing.

A teacher and friend once told me, “With some people, you can do everything right to help and still be seen by others as wrong.”

To some, that is a foreign concept, but to a great number of individuals, this is a common occurrence….and that brings me to this question:  Where would our nation be if every instance of doing right became too tough, and great individuals gave up out of fear of bodily harm, slander, oppression, etc?

In This Often-Dark World, We Need To Continually Aim For The Light!


I had a student whose sister was being bullied at school by a boy, so the student taught his sister to get into a strong defensive stance and use her voice assertively to yell, “Stay back!  Leave me alone!”  He told her that the next time this boy bothers her, she was to do this.

A few days later, the boy went to bully her again, and she followed her bother’s guidance. Her performance was so powerful that the bully began to cry.  The boy was so hysterical that the teachers first thought the girl had hit him, but when the truth came out, they where all amazed and inspired by her non-violent display of strength.

Their original impression, however, was that she had been the one in the wrong.

I had another student who saw a girl being bullied at school by three, other girls.  While everyone was watching this young victim being pushed around by three aggressors, my student stood up and positioned her self between the victim and her attackers.

The attackers threatened her and told her to move out of the way, but my student refused to move.  The aggressors eventually backed down, but the truth is that this could have turned out bad in many ways.  It is always encouraged that youth get an adult involved as soon as possible.

Ultimately, these girls now look at my student as a person to heckle and she bears that weight because of her choice.  When her parents told me the story in her presence, I asked if she was okay with these girls now seeing her as an issue?  Her response was, “It’s not fun, but I did the right thing.”

Light Burns Away Darkness, And The Darkness Does Not Appreciate It – At All…


There are forces in the world that search for brightness, but they do not get inspired by it or seek to become part of it.  Instead, these forces seek to attack and extinguish that light.

When you are a good person doing great things in the world, if you choose to be a warrior protector, you must alwaysrealize that everyone won’t see the truth of your brightness.

Some will heckle you, and some will even try to quench your light.  Just like me and the light on my porch, we have three main choices – and these are not the only choices!  First, we can let the bugs win and shut of the light

Second, we can go through the hassle of moving the light elsewhere so that it’s not so inconvenient to us…

…or we can simply and finally accept the bugs’ existence and find a way to insulate ourselves from them so that they don’t interrupt our lives as much.  This third option is the best one because it allows our light to stay on and shine, properly positioned for maximum effect.

Will you turn off that light and give in to the will of those forces that may swarm you, or will you shine even when it is not convenient? The path of the warrior is tough but it has great benefit of self.  The path of the warrior protector is an arduous one but it is for the benefit of others.


Be the Ninja

Over the last few years I have talked to several of my fellow Ninjutsu practitioners who have become frustrated with their studies in the ninja art. For one reason or another, they feel they are missing something in their training and consider leaving behind the study of our amazing art.

It is always a shock to me to hear this – not so much from the newer Ninjutsu practitioners, but from some who have been in it for years. Don’t get me wrong, people are supposed to grow and change, and maybe they just outgrow their desire to study modern Ninjutsu as a self-protection method.

Years Ago, Even I Was Not ImmuneTo Complacency In Ninjutsu…
Even I had a similar experience when I was just in my second year of studying the art; however, after making it over that hump in my road, I realize now, 9 years later, that the true issue was that I felt the art – or someone in it – owed me something.

I felt that I needed something special to make my experience better and missed the entire point, altogether.

The journey is the destination in Ninjutsu…


In my instance, I wanted my teachers Mr and Mrs. Hayes to give me specific specialized training. Mrs. Hayes’s response was, “Remember why you came here.” First, I did not understand and I almost left Ninjutsu for good. Lucky for me, after a month of meditating on that phrase I got my answer.

I had left my friends and family in New Jersey and moved 600 miles to Ohio just to study Ninjutsu with my teacher. The reason that I did this was because Ninjutsu, as an art for self-protection and personal development and growth, had everything I felt a true warrior needed.

Now, years later, this did not suddenly change.

Here Is What I Think Happens To People Who Study Ninjutsu For A While…
In my opinion, people forget that Ninjutsu translates into the “Art of Perseverance; Endurance; Stealth; Success.”

Traditionally, ninja had to be proficient in 18 methods of study which were to help the ninja survive and succeed against the odds; furthermore, if what the ninja needed was something not encompassed in these 18 methods, then he or she would simply go out and get it.

No one can accomplish success if he or she does not have the knowledge to apply it to their particular situation.

Today, this is no different. I believe this is the greatest lesson of Ninjutsu. The name does not translate into a collection of techniques to find out who can throw the fastest punch, choke out the most people, or hide from others the best.

Ninjutsu is the Art of Success. Thus, the truth is that seeking, receiving and applying Be The Ninja – 2what you need to be successful is true Ninjutsu.


Too often, I hear practitioners saying that they aren’t getting from Ninjutsu what they need, and I challenge them with this: You are not growing in Ninjutsu. The point of Ninjutsu is NOT to overcome another human being. The goal is to become the best YOU possible!

Ninjutsu is designed to force you to dig deep and find out what is inside of you!

Whatever You Are Missing Is Actually Your Training: It’s Your Job To Learn How To Find What You Need In Order To Grow

Be-The-Ninja-3-300x234If something is missing from your Ninjutsu training, then you need to go and get it. Next time you doubt your study or your teacher, remember no man knows all the answers. Ninjutsu takes this into account and tells you to be the change you want to see.

Don’t forget that getting what we need to feel accomplished and successful is one of the goals of the ninja. The challenge is to NOT get it and keep it to ourselves. Others in our circle may be able to benefit from it.

They may be looking for that which you have sought. This is why Ninjutsu has survived and grown over the ages. My teacher did it, his teacher did it, I will do it, and you should, too!

Be the Change you want; be the growth we need.

Be the Ninja.