History of the Survival Sport
Survival is an Anglo-Saxon word for being able to stay alive in a life or death situation. For our ancestors, survival was simply a full-time job. It took their maximum effort not only to collect food but not to be served as food. Not only were they the hunters but also the hunted. This amazing effort to survive was always a test of endurance.
There were a lot of difficult circumstances they had to overcome in a hostile environment.
It might have been very warm or very cold, wet or dry. The rugged terrain challenged them to develop tools to simplify not only the hunt but to better be able to escape from hungry animals. So they had to develop their own tools for protection, hunting and carrying heavy loads.
Survival Sport is an attempt to recreate the life and death struggles of our ancestors.
Origin of the sport.
More recently, hunters began to use horses to gain an advantage on their prey and later domesticated dogs to follow the tracks of the animals. The fox hunt imitated this hunting strategy. In the eastern Dutch village of Beltrum in the late 1980’s , a pair of enthusiastic men would run through the rural landscape dragging a fox urine soaked towel for the horsemen’s dogs to track.
Jan Maarse and Stef Beunk would create fox scent trails with many challenges, twists and turns. Of course, weather conditions made the track tricky and variable. The run would typically be from 25 to 30 km through meadows, corn fields, creeks and woods. The men would do anything to make the trail as difficult as possible for the dogs to follow. After all, they were imitating the survival instincts of the clever fox. Speed, not only endurance, was a factor for it was a necessity for the men to reach the finish without being caught by the dogs who may have been following the scent of the sweaty men rather than the fox urine towel at the end.
Something was missing for the two survivalists from Holland. After viewing a television show called “Survival of the Fittest”, Jan and Stef got the idea to combine the fox hunt with human endurance and attract more people to this new, hard core sport.
Since the terrain of Holland is extremely flat, they had to modify the environment by creating man-made obstacles. Ropes, nets, waterways, trees…..whatever they could find and modify were incorporated into the course to make it more challenging. Obstacles were spaced at varied distances so the participants could not get in to a running rhythm thus increasing the difficulty.
An organization was formed shortly after and since then every year the village of Beltrum hosts a competition. Each year, more obstacles are created to challenge the athlete in an attempt to see who is the best that day at “survival”.
Because of the popularity of this unique sport with men, women and children, other centres in eastern Holland particularly have begun to showcase their community with events such as this. Thousands of people participate as athletes or viewers in each of these events. Belgium, as well, has developed a number of events to challenge survivalists. The Dutch Survival Association (Survival bond) is an association which oversees the many events hosted in Holland.
Like most sports, the evolution of Survival Sport continues with complex obstacles such as nets, rope climbs, swings, bridge jumps, monkeyhangs and a variety of others set to challenge the competitor.
The demanding courses require a complex mixture of endurance, power, balance and technique as well as a strong mental outlook. This sport will most certainly test all the survival instincts from absolute insensibility for, and resistance against all weather circumstances. Extreme frost, rain, black ice, hail, wind, cold or heat nothing brakes the present survival sportsman. It strengthens the mind against unforeseen disappointments also in daily life.