Disguise in Fieldcraft

Disguise in Fieldcraft
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My woman tells me that I have too many clothes. (Of course, with her wearing my stuff more than I do, I need extra clothes.) Although I’ve gotten rid of a lot, it’s long been a habit to keep extra clothes, for quick change of appearance.
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I started using such tactics back when gangs were a threat. My father had taught me the basic method, but I still remember that one summer when I was trying to lay low from one gang, he left me to “hide out” in an unfamiliar project area. The idea was to simply stay inside, chill and “fade the heat” for a week or so. Unfortunately, he underestimated the curiosity of the natives, who viewed strangers — especially those obviously avoiding social contact — with suspicion and animosity. “Unknown is unfriendly, and unfriendly is dead.”
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Ninjutsu teaches us this idea of shichihode (“seven ways of going”) as a simplified method of disguise, suggesting that we can change appearance by adopting the clothing of certain common vocations of the time. The book “Modern Ninjutsu: A Definitive Guide…” gave us more modern occupations and ruses to use. I used it quite a bit, supporting surveilling private detective agencies in Texas and California before struggling with my own for two years in Kentucky.
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We see this idea all the time in movies. But, it actually has a factual basis. So, let’s go over it quickly.
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Under normal circumstances, your image should be that of a “gray man, but there are occasions wherein this rule can be the bent or broken. You see, people intent on following you will subconsciously pick something about your person to focus on, called a “lock-on marker.”
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Now, of course, theatrical disguise is much more obvious about this. It teaches that a bright shock of hair, a big bulbous nose or a noticeable limb in a soft cast are used to intentionally draw the attention of a pursuer, who is then eluded by dropping the marker and moving on.
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I’m not suggesting for even one moment that you use prosthetic features or dye your hair some outlandish color. There are, however, more subtle applications you can use. A distinctive jacket, hat, backpack or even a colorful magazine can be employed; it could also be a well-practiced way of moving that seems distinctive when observed. You use such regularly, enough for your watchers to notice it and start using it as a consistent marker, then drop it when you need to “lose a tail.”
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Reversible jackets are good for this, and easily obtained. (Reversible hats and caps are available also.) Switching a jacket’s view while dropping or donning a hat allows you to quickly change your look within seconds. Afterward, modify your gait and posture and speech from what you’ve been using and move on casually, like someone focused on going forward or distracted on the phone, while looking away from the direction of your pursuers.
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The timing is important here. The change must be done only after you’re certain that pursuers have picked your chosen marker. Once done, one can make the switch after entering a crowd, a busy place or a large building with many exits. (Think college or shopping mall.)
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Again, the goal is to be casual and not run. Few things draw attention quite a running figure. So, unless there’s a whole crowd of people jogging across a busy street, don’t run.
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Now, there are two main functions for which this type of disguise application is used: when being watched, or when watching others (which is typical for investigations). Contrary to the Hollywood image of sitting in an unmarked police car, one doesn’t typically want to sit in one place for long. Even if you’re using a vehicle and have a partner like portrayed in film, it’s better for the two observers to watch from different angles, with one of them in relative concealment close to the car.
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Note: The reality is, a team of about six is ideal for watching and following others, with two pairs in cars and two others moving individually to cover multiple angles. This is why detective agencies tend to charge hundreds of dollars per hour, because it’s a laborious and time-consuming task for so many people.
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Returning to the traditional shichihode, we see how this same idea might have been applied in historical Ninjutsu. A sabotage act or attack committed in the guise of a komuso (think basket-hat monk) or soto (begger-monk, wide conical hat) after days of maintaining that guise, his posture perfect, can quickly disappear into a crowd by simply dropping his guise as he turns a building corner. Stripping layers as he moves, and picking up items he’s left behind for his escape, he can come back out of the opposite corner of that building looking completely different. By changing his posture and gait, he could quickly shift from monk to overworked heimin peasant-farmer… lost in a crowd.
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Puts the old ninja claim “able to walk among men without being seen” in a new light.
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What do you think?
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