Survivability for the Common Man – The Pathfinder System by Dave Canterbury

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This book was written and self published by Dave Canterbury, former co-star of Dual Survival on the Discovery Channel. There is no copyright date on the book but I believe it was written circa 2009. The book was originally only available on Canterbury’s website and sold for around $30. The last time I checked the book was out of print but an ebook version could be purchased for under $10.

The book was written to showcase the Pathfinder school and it’s Pathfinder System, a term and philosophy coined by Dave Canterbury. The Pathfinder school still offers classes, dvd’s and a virtual classroom. Dave Canterbury’s website states that anyone other than a certified pathfinder instructor is neither endorsed nor qualified to teach the Pathfinder System. So evidently just reading the book is not going to make you an expert.

When you first open the book there is a table of contents, but no chapters or even sections, just topics with page numbers listed. There is a short paragraph about the author where Canterbury doesn’t spend much time talking about his achievements. After that there is a disclaimer statement where he discusses what this book is and is not. He states that it is NOT a disaster preparedness book nor is it a urban grid down survival manual. However, he does state that it was written as a basic survival skills manual for hikers, campers, and outdoor types.

The book then begins with the coverage of his Pathfinder Philosophy. He spends a large amount of the readers time discussing his 10 C’s of survivability. Which you can find on either Canterbury’s youtube page or through google. So I won’t spend any time here discussing those. The book in general is a great overview for basic survival needs. There are several pages in the book where Canterbury shows a black and white photo of a given task and then prints a very brief description below the photo of what is going on in the picture. It leaves some questions though. It doesn’t get in depth about what you should be doing or even any instruction about how to accomplish these tasks. However, I think that this was deliberate because Canterbury probably wanted the reader to take the Pathfinder course and not just be able to learn everything from his book.

Although I enjoyed reading the book and learning the 10 C’s of survivability there were parts of it I didn’t care for. Throughout the book there were grammatical errors, such as, run on sentences, misspelled words and also organizational issues.  After reading the book, it lead me to think that the book was just thrown together without much review or editing. While I appreciate the notion that the book was written to accommodate common men, I thought it would have been better if certain care had been given to the writings and editing of the information presented. For example, when you start reading the book the first topic is a knife and the importance of it. This is the first item on the list of the 10 C’s (i.e., cutting tool). However at this point there has been no mention of the 10 C’s. Then as you move on, the list of 10 C’s is presented and the first thing that is discussed is about clothing, which says 1) Clothing. However, it’s not #1, cutting tool is #1.  So it leaves the reader a bit confused as to why Canterbury jumps around and doesn’t list his 10 C’s at the start and then cover them one after the other.  Perhaps there is a reason he presented it this way, but I think most readers would agree, it doesn’t flow well.

In conclusion, I think the concepts and training you could receive from an instructor like Canterbury would be invaluable. Especially if you had next to nothing in terms of education in the outdoors. The book does show some innovation in terms of mental preparedness and thinking outside the box when you are putting items together to survive with. But I don’t think that this book should be on your survival bookshelf. It leaves a lot to be desired in terms of instruction and “how-to” knowledge.

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The Book of Five Rings – Miyamoto Musashi by D.E. Tarver

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The book of Five rings is a classic text on strategy. This particular version is written by D.E. Tarver about a Japanese warrior from the 15th century named Miyamoto Musashi.  You may be thinking that you don’t need to read this because it’s just like “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. But in fact it is very different. Sun Tzu was a chinese general while Musashi was Japanese and considered a true master of the sword.  So you might consider that on the ground the best strategist for fighting hand to hand would be Musashi, whereas the best person to lead an army might be considered Sun Tzu. So the schools of thought while somewhat similar are on different levels of strategy.

The book of five rings consists of an introduction by the author about Miyamoto Musashi, how he grew up, what caused him to turn towards being a warrior and what materialized as he gained experience in the art of killing other men.

After some history about Musashi, the author provides a section where Musashi speaks and talks about his life, his trials and achievements and what brought him to write the book of five rings, which he originally wrote in 1645 when he was 60 years old. The Book of Five Rings consists of Chapters or sections which are titled by the Book of each of the Five Rings. These “Rings” are comprised of the Book of Earth, Book of Water, Book of Fire, Book of Wind, and the Book of Emptiness.

The Book of Earth

This book is where Musashi lays his ground work or foundation for his school of thought. He describes how you must think like a warrior and gain the warrior mindset in order to understand any of the other concepts in the books.

The Book of Water

This book is where Musashi compares the active mind to the fluidity of water. He describes that water is clear and blue and thus his strategy must be clear to those who seek understanding.  He states in his writings that ” water can appear in a drop or the ocean, so the strategist must be able to use small things to create great things”. His philosophy here was to try and get the reader to come to the conclusion that if you truly understand one thing you will understand the nature of everything.

The Book of Fire

In this book, the Book of Fire, Musashi describes that Fire, whether small or large is extremely fierce and combat is the same way. You must fight with the same fierceness as fire in all of the battles, not just the big ones.  Because fire, large and small is unpredictable, it can abruptly change it’s course and with no warning. You as the warrior must also remain unpredictable to your enemies.

The Book of Wind

In this book, the Book of Wind, Musashi teaches that wind, is meant to indicate old traditions, modern teachings and teachings brought down through families. Unless you understand what other schools of thought are teaching you will have a tough time figuring out what is the truth and what is false schools of thought.  In combat strategies, you will not know if you are right or wrong in most cases until you kill the opponent or he kills you. You must know what the truth is in order to win.

The Book of Emptiness

This is the fifth book (or ring). Emptiness, is where Musashi considered nature and the warriors proper state of mind. Musashi taught that emptiness has no beginning, no end and no stopping point. You must learn all of the techniques and principles of strategy and then forget them and let your instincts take over. You should be able to move with the rhythm of any situation and adapt to that new environment. Sort of like the Military’s old adage “Adapt and Overcome”.

Overall, this book is an excellent read. The author D.E. Tarver provides you with an excellent translation of the Book of Five Rings where Musashi not only gives the reader a strategy to use in modern times but also how to think like a warrior and how to win like one as well.  This book is certainly worth picking up and it is relatively short as well.

Check it out.

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The Survival Bookshelf Introduction

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This blog has been created to share my thoughts on certain books related to survival, military operations, wilderness expeditions, scouting, outdoors, primitive skills, medicine, homesteading, gardening, hiking, backpacking, etc. I will try to update this blog as often as possible with various resources and links to other pages that provide you with knowledge to survive whatever crisis or disaster that comes along. My philosophy is that knowledge is power and we need as much of it as we can get.

On occasion there are books that do not fit the format for my youtube reviews but they are still noteworthy recommendations. When those times arise I will write a review on this blog for those books in a more informal format.

If you are interested in viewing some of my book reviews on youtube, please visit http://www.youtube.com/thesurvivalbookshelf

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