Episode 6

Bow Drill Fire with Eric Beck


Bow Drill Fire

Featuring Eric Beck

Primitive skills were the common ground upon which Eric Beck and I crossed paths. In the case of our first meeting, he’d signed up for a survival course that I was teaching. But it didn’t take us much time to learn that we shared a common philosophy in our commitment to being perpetual students. We shared the understanding that no matter how much we’d learned, or come to excel at, the most important thing was keeping ourselves in a position that saw us always open to receiving new information that kept us continually improving.

We became friends when he invited me out to his home in the Colorado Rockies, where I met his wife Rachel and their six sons. I spent the time eating fantastic food, discussing ideas, and getting my ass OUTRIGHT handed to me in some Call of Duty style video game by his sons. We even briefly tried to spot the mountain lion who regularly laid tracks across his property, while paying close attention to anything that might suggest as though we’d given the cat a chance to get behind us.

From thereon, our contact was often sporadic based on the nature of our different lives, and the demands of our ambitions. Yet the quality of our conversation when we would connect simply picked up where we’d last left off, and never left me feeling anything short of truly motivated by speaking with someone who was out there not so much trying to know it all, as he was ever seeking a new way to better what he’d already built.

When Embrace the Animal was born, the idea of Eric and I getting together for something bushcrafty with the cameras rolling was never an if, but simply a when.

When I’d invited Eric out to the east coast to shoot an episode together, he’d called me back a few days later with the idea that we demonstrate primitive fire starting with a bow drill. He’d shared in the past that his father had died before he was born. But I hadn’t realized that his father had been a firefighter who’d died fighting a fire. Eric had articulated that as a result, he’d always found a tough but ultimately empowering relationship with the idea of fire.

It was some of our original technology as a species, in countless ways, and now something we’d often come to regard as simply a danger, or take for granted all together, primarily on account of the ease with which we could now control it. Along with that current reality there lay the understanding that fire could give life, by providing cooked food, drinkable water, warmth, light, and protection, and that unchecked could run rampant and destroy all in its path. There has always been both a humbling and empowering aspect to mastering the old ways our species would access fire.

Eric had taken his insights from practicing survival, primitive skills, martial arts, and most recently Spartan Races, and applied them to further improve the insights of his professional specialty. As an entrepreneur, he helps empower by bridging communication gaps between the different generations across their varied business settings.

The ancient knowledge passed down between the generations of our ancestors occurred in a world that often remained fairly unchanged, and had the central structure of being unavoidably necessary for the practitioner’s survival. Amongst the drastic differences in our modern world, one is that by the time each new generation comes to enter the business world, the differences in their experience growing up has since heavily affected the values of each generation, and in many cases their ability to communicate. As our technology advances rapidly, so does the gap widen between the experiences of our generation and the previous. Eric bridges that gap by going back to the lessons of the original technology in order to inform the world run by the modern technology.

All across the world, there are endless different atmospheres, cultures, people, and experiences. Across those places there were surely many different approaches, but the basic technology of the primitive skills that we once used to thrive carry the same universal threads.

If primitive skills can teach us anything, it is surely that for all our differences, we are closer as humans than we realize.