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

August 14, 2014

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.