One special lesson, which is potentially very useful but which even anti-terrorist squads rarely practise in training, is the immersion of a car in water. The pupils' calm and speed of reaction are tried to the utmost in this lesson, during which the students show both their fear and give evidence of their personal courage.
I don't like anyone talking to me about the "day after", or wearing para-military uniforms. I prefer the students to wear jeans and t-shirts. A yellow or even a pink singlet is more suitable than combat jackets and trousers, especially here where people might see and hear us. The students do not need to act like soldiers. They use what breath I leave them to laugh noisily. Generally speaking they are pleasant and helpful. The best of them help the weaker ones, the ones with the most guts go first, the more timid need not try if they do not wish to. The school wants to create neither heroes nor martyrs, even if, by the end of the course, nobody is hanging back. Once we had strung two ropes across the the river Brenta and everybody crossed over this makeshift bridge at a quite considerable height. The water was glinting in the pale March sun, but it was still icy cold. One woman pupil was left to make the crossing, torn between her caution and her sense of challenge. Then, with sudden decision, she took off her sweater so that "it wouldn't get wet if I fell". She added, "I'm 40 years old, and if I don't do it now, I never shall. I'll be left with the regret for the rest of my days. I should never forgive myself." She didn't fall. Actually, she was better than many of the men, and I was happy because she had understood the School's spirit: the desire to find out what she could do had welled up in her and I knew that she would remember this moment and find in herself the strength to overcome other difficult moments of any kind. This is the element of the School's training which is novel and important. It is a testing ground where you can win the battle against yourself before you go on to challenge other people.
There is always the possibility that we may be catapulted into a desert or some other hostile place where we need to know the skills of our ancestors. More usually, however, we are called upon to face daily difficulties, unforseen banal occurences which undermine our will-power and day by day make us bow down.
Respond! That is our obligation. This doesn't mean being aggressive or resorting to violence, but self-awareness, a sense of your own value, knowledge of your capabilities, the spirit of initiative and the will-power to keep fighting are vital.
It is a school where one learns all this as well as one where the students toughen up their muscles and catch some of the breath they have lost by smoking too many cigarettes. Above all, however, it is a school where students can learn how to acquire self-confidence, to face new challenges with enthusiasm, to feel able to take quick decisions objectively and realistically, at the same time as they apprehend the importance of collaborating with others, of working in a team to ensure the success of a mission.
The instructors are always at hand in case of need, but otherwise act only as observers, as the students bivouack in the open in isolated areas, learn how to find their way about in the dark, how to be self-reliant with limited with limited technical resources and how to cope with the overturning of all normal timetables for sleeping and eating.
One of the courses started in a completely different manner from usual. One of the students was Enrico Montesano, the well-known Italian actor, who wanted to get himself into shape before acting in the film "Hard Men" with Renato Pozzetto, a film which was inspired by the School for Adventure and Survival. "There are a lot of interesting things to learn here", he observed with enthusiasm. "I'm a keen mountaineer and consider myself athletic. I've been going climbing for years, but there are many other disciplines to learn here. Building a Tibetan bridge, for instance, was a real achievement! The instructors know how to keep everyone's attention and they give you confidence by communicating their own experience to you. I'd like to come back with my son".
All my students, enthused by my adventures, wish to come with me to the parts of the world which you can't visit with the aid of a travel agency. As a result, a new organization, "World Expeditions" has been formed. The journeys undertaken by this organization follow in the footsteps of great explorers such as Livingstone, Humboldt and Jack London; its explorers ride Mongolian ponies across the freezing wastes of the Gobi desert or voyage "by boat down the rivers of the far east", as in Clark's book.
Nor should the human aspect of these expeditions, which are not necessarily great exploits, be neglected. The aim is always to remain as near as possible to those native cultures which are slowly dying out of the world, leaving no lasting trace. One is likely to think that these expeditions are all wonderful and fulfilling experiences. For those who want to know the world and themselves, they are. They may be difficult at times, but you can be sure that all the hardships are worth it.