E.3 – Surviving since 1986

Foundations for Sports & experimental survival
SUPERVIVITUR, SIC VIVITUR (‘Survive, therefore you live’)
Survival is an interdisciplinary practice aiming to the surviving mode for individuals, groups and human populations in multivariate ecosystems. It means living beyond the possibilities given by circumstances and it may be considered a ‘science of behaviour in danger’, i.e. research and experiments about the appropriate solutions to various pressures during the past, in the present and, in perspective, even in potential futures.
Today it is possible to pursue training and formation activities in numerous disciplines connected with survival strategies, developing a suitable Preventive Fitness for emergencies.
The International Survival Federation (FISSS) with its Consociate, the FEDERAZIONE ITALIANA SURVIVAL SPORTIVO E SPERIMENTALE (F.I.S.S.S.), is set up by the legal representatives of all the affiliated Associations and Bodies, and by all Instructors being qualified to the training and profession in the field.
Since 1986, the Federation has been training in Italy and abroad its Instructors, organising and managing multidisciplinary courses and tests for every environment, in the anthropologic area of Human Ecology and in the sports ambits of the best Outdoor Disciplines (see Appendix B) towards individual and group security and safety.
Notwithstanding its denomination, this combined effort activity is statistically considered one of the safest, given the implicit mechanisms to self-protection and the embedded preventive principles of caution. Up to now the FISSS activities have not registered any casualty or serious accident.
All practices of this ‘meta-discipline’ aim to the art and techniques of surviving; they teach to tackle any adversity, real, virtual or simulated; they reactivate ancestral ways and abilities by means of an overall adequate preparation, but not the specialised one that may lead to extinction.
Above all, the survivalist must Adapt, Improvise, Solve Complexities, and Achieve the Aim, but also put together and experiment all useful emergency disciplines in a holistic system able to make them interactive and dynamic (running, climbing, orienteering, throwing, swimming, defence skills etc.). On the other hand, the survivalist must be talented in adaptation, resistance, dexterity, emotion control, resilience and manual skills, psycho-physic first aid, environmental and technological knowledge, all to be used as ‘tactical’ resources.
This is not as difficult as it may seem: it is enough to tackle complexity giving up any specialised and ‘linear’ logic, to reduce the cognitive and training load, and to utilise all necessary practices and know-how in an ‘artistic’ mode – i.e. divergent and final-goal-oriented – that may be casual or incidental, not deriving from merit only. Survival is a partial (not martial) art, inspired by one imperative only: to guarantee one’s life by any means, proper or improper. Therefore it requires a Permanent Formation.
The numerous activities that surviving requires may be defined as eco-dynamic. Some of them look back to the past, proposing the reconstruction of utensils and artefacts with techniques, methods and tools of ‘primitive’ cultures; other activities tend to the present and to the future, supported by technologies and means that are increasingly advanced and sophisticated. All activities concur anyhow in strengthening the practitioner’s character, with the implicit aim of preparing him/her to overtake stress and discomfort in critical situations, and to enhance his/her Fitness and Resilience. To accomplish this we need: Psychology & behaviour Economy, Problem Solving, operative Autonomy & Confidence, Cooperation skills, creative Experimentation, individual and group Training, Motor Skills development, Economy in own and external resources (Adaptation) and, above all, Change of strategies, the alternative use or reconversion of available equipment (Ex-aptation).
According to the modern vocation to live hand-to-hand with extreme environments (natural or anthropic), this discipline is useful not only in the Outdoor field, but also in the domestic and work milieu, during holidays, travels and throughout the entire life. The Spirit of Adventure is therefore extended from its mythical and romantic sense to the one of research and knowledge of the ‘deep unknown’, as suggested by the ethimology ad ventura (‘to what is coming’)
The English term Survival defines all this. It doesn’t simply translate the generic word ‘to survive’ into a new sense, but classifies a new discipline that, at least in Italy, is nowadays distant from the original American-born form. The FISSS created in this field a unique format of excellence in the international arena, proposing new guidelines and, for distinction, a gerundive variation, so typical of the new Outdoor sports: Surviving.
Survival is the temporary and extreme context where an event is really menacing the physical outliving of one or more individuals, involved by chance or will (for instance, being left on a desert island after a shipwreck, or by own free choice, without outfit). Surviving constitutes instead the eco-sports and recreational side of Survival, being based on a safe training by means of courses, contests and simulations without risks (Survival Games).
This last variation is particularly useful to psycho-physical fitness, while developing positive behaviour dynamics and strengthening the immune system; it helps against depression and may be therapeutic in overtaking many phobias; it enhances metabolism, self-esteem, cognitive and decisional abilities, emotion control, procedural and perspective memory.
With a prevention goal, the simulated outliving tends to revive ancestral actions: escape, hunting, defence, transfer and orientation in various ecosystems, construction and use of simple shelters and tools, observation of all environments in order to retrieve their resources. The FISSS promotes only scientific, technical and recreational principles. It is not the Federation’s duty to inquire into cultural choices and intimate or ideological motivations of its members. FISSS is not suggesting which culture be preferable, but is only keen on rejecting problem-solving subcultures; it intends to get from any field only competence, not life lessons. Its actions are led only by the most effective or pragmatic choices; it tackles a primary target: the protection of human beings as main actors in safeguarding our planet; this is a basilar principle of precaution in the Anthropocene.
‘Being’ in the environment is therefore the most direct way to protect it and make it sustainable, outside any pseudo-science suggestions, fashions, popular misanthropies, unmotivated optimism or pessimism.
In the Western world, inactivity and virtual reality are compromising motor skills and mind attitudes: to do without them is unwise. Getting into the Survival game means to train for the worst scenario: by means of the Virtuality of Reality.

OUR ROUTE – The Federal Curricula in Brief

In Italy, Survival begins in August 1983 as a psycho-sports game with the successful event Monte Analogo, a 5 day-long extreme trekking in the National Park of Abruzzo.
The idea came from Enzo Maolucci (founder and President of I.S.A. – International Survival Association, and subsequently of the F.I.S.S.S.); hereafter, the activity was developed in increasingly regulated competitions: Antichipassi at Sestriere (1984-85-86-87), the Via del Sale in Limone Piemonte (1986-87), Survival Island at Elba island and Sardinia (1987-88) and others. These events, together with the forerunning courses by Jacek Palkiewicz, marked a custom in the Italy of the ‘80s, receiving positive feedback even by the media.
After the first games, in September 1986 the ISA promotes the foundation of the F.I.S.S.S., a Federation that united the most important Italian schools in the sector and established the first disciplinary regulations for federal games, courses and examinations.
In 1987, the C.O.N.I. (Italian Olympic Committee) welcomes the F.I.S.S.S. recreational and formative initiative and, during the National Meeting at the Sports Medicine Centre of Bologna, Survival wss ranked among the Combined Effort Activities, together with Decathlon, Pentathlon and other multidisciplinary sports. Survival loses its heretical status and becomes a synonym of ‘extreme’, but totally risk-free.
Today the FISSS (International Survival Federation since 2017) promotes in Italy and abroad training courses and examination sessions, recognised at a European level, for Outdoor & Survival Instructors, who are issued a specific patent according to the EQF levels; FISSS manages their activities and keeps an international Category Register.
Since 2001 the federation cooperates with the SUISM (interfaculty in Motor Sciences, University of Turin); here the F.I.S.S.S., via I.S.A., tutors the course Outdoor & Adventure Sports, about eco-dynamic disciplines and Surviving.
In 2000 an official manual was published: Dati per Vivi (‘Presumed alive’), written by Enzo Maolucci e Alberto Salza with contributions by various Federation’s members; it received patronage and sponsorship by national bodies such as Regione Piemonte, Regione Lazio and Provincia di Napoli.
By its Consociates, managers and Instructors, during more than 30 years FISSS organised in Italy the most important Survival games and contests; besides, it cooperated to important formation-science-divulgation initiatives throughout the education system in the fields of Archaeology, Anthropology and Human Ecology, aiming to experimenting new recreation-formation activities in various sectors of teaching and spare time. At the moment it maintains relations with relevant Public Bodies and with Culture, Education, Sports, Environment Assessorships of Italian Regions and Cities.
With various University Departments it organised and managed the scientific palaeo-anthropological expedition in Northern Kenya (Turkana, 1987-89), meant to verify not only the survival abilities and chances of the first Hominines, but also the psycho-somatic variations and immunological response of the organism in the hostile and semi-arid environment that has been called ‘the cradle of mankind’.
In 1989, it organised and built for schools the Human Ecology Experimental & Didactic Centre, with the denomination of Salgari Campus (being the permanent Federation’s field office); today the Campus may count on 30,000 attendants per year.
From 1990 to 2006 it has been planning and designing a precursory Anthropology Park, participating to the Anthropos Project by Regione Piemonte and Città di Torino.
In Turin, it gave contribution to the creation and management of the regional scientific exhibition Experimenta 2004, on the subject of SopraVVivere (surviving); it cooperated also in the successive 2005-06 editions about sports.
It held teaching and training sessions for the Master Catastrophe Medicine, c/o COREP, University of Turin.
In 2004-05 it collaborated in the Roma No Limits adventure marathon in the Italian capital.
For the Museum of the Alps – Bard Fort (Aosta), it built the reconstruction of a prehistoric habitat.
It was inside the Operative Teams for the Camel Trophy, Raid Gauloises, Defender Cup and Land Rover G4 Challengers selection tests.
It designed and built 2 Tibetan bridges (one 362 m long in Procida in 2001 and one in Torino, over the Po river, 374 m long) that were entered in the Guinness Book of Records.
It held Corporate training and psycho-pedagogy- or environment-oriented courses for important Italian and foreign societies. It cooperated in the shooting of important Italian TV shows: Survivors, L’isola dei famosi (Celebrity Island), La talpa, Ciao Darwin, Uomo e gentiluomo, Wild.
It organised events in many National Parks and cooperated with the local Civil Protection.
During the ‘80s it undertook in Africa and Italy some important researches to document and analyse innovative survival strategies for populations and environments at risk, in cooperation with main research Bodies and Institutes and a number of Italian and foreign Universities, shooting documentaries released by the main national networks.
In 2008 it laid the foundations for the Comitato Outdoor e Sport Ecodinamici (C.O.S.E.), as a cofounder with other institutional bodies and Federations in the sector.
During the event Torino capitale europea dei giovani 2010 it was involved in the Vertical City Race, building a 250-m-long manual zipline over the Po river.
From July to September 2010 it was partner and sponsor for the design of an ethno-museum school on the shores of Lake Turkana, Kenya, supported by the National Museums of Kenya and patronised by the Anthropology Workshop of the University of Turin.
Since 2011 it has yearly been organising Testages in Kenya for the training of Instructors; there it has logistic bases for courses and explorations in equatorial environments (by ISA-AIEA).
In 2012 it coordinated the Survival sector CSEN (E.P.S. CONI) and in 2014 the Survival & Outdoor sector for the EPS CONI A.S.I.
In 2014 it achieved the third Guinness Record at Baveno (lago Maggiore): a bridge made out of recycled plastic bottles (15×2 m).
In 2015 it hosted in its operative base the first national meeting for Prepping practitioners, whence the sector Consociated DPI was founded.
In 2016 it cooperated in various TV shows, to columns in national magazines and to courses for military reservists (UNUCI).
In 2017 the F.I.S.S.S. became the first SURVIVAL FEDERATION ACADEMY, credited at international level for sports & intercultural formation, entitled to issue professional qualifications (regisered EURethics-ETSIA as a maximum level Training Centre according to the European Qualification Framework EQF – ISO/IEC 17024 – 2012). Afterwards it became the INTERNATIONAL SURVIVAL FEDERATION (FISSS).


The FISSS tends to put the experience of its managers, experts and instructors at the service of the international community, education services and research bodies, above all in the field of Human Ecology and Anthropology. Its original nature – sports and adventure – is now evolving in various scientific, technical and formative sectors.
Education for schools of all grades and Universities in the fields of Human Ecology, Motor Sciences and Ethnology (‘primitive cultures’).
Courses, Training camps & Outdoor campuses preparatory for beginners and advanced for Survival Instructors.
Simulations, Initiations & Preparedness with experimental tests and contests of Outdoor and/or Urban Survival.
Contests, Competitions & Events being multi-sports, plus raids, marathons, trekking and generic Outdoor practices.
Outdoor training for corporate teams (Wildlife Training) aimed to anti-stress therapies and team building activities.
Testages in upgrading seminaries and workshops for Federal Instructors with examination sessions for the different qualifications.
Full immersion in extreme environments (itinerant or stationary) in Italy and abroad (Survival Experience and Adventure Travels).
Experimentations & Trials in different settings, among which Civil Protection, First aid, psycho-somatic and social psychology.
Design of eco-dynamic camps and courses, Outdoor facilities, exhibitions and theme-parks dealing with Human Ecology.
Organisation & Logistics for educational expeditions and travels with environmental and anthropological aims.
Marine Survival dealing with rescue and resistance at sea and water egress.
Palaeo-working, Bushcraft & Tracking with notions of experimental Archaeology and primitive or natural Survival
Prepping dealing with preventive logistics of catastrophes and urban Survival.
Mental Survival Training dealing with survival psychology and psychosomatic therapeutic support.
Specialised Publishing with numerous publications by its members, among which Maolucci E and Salza A, Dati per vivi, F.I.S.S.S. 1999 (2010); Maolucci E, Dalla Palma M and Salza A, Outdoor, Hoepli 2010; Maolucci E and Salza A, Surviving, Hoepli 2010 (2017), Lorenzani R, Guida completa al Survival, Hoepli 2014; Maolucci E and Salza A, Prepping, Hoepli 2016; Nannini F, Mental Survival, Hoepli 2016.


According to evolutionary biology, the survival of all living organisms consists in rapidly changing strategies and tactics, ad-aptive and ex-aptive, towards the adoption and reconversion of own or alien resources, thus benefitting natural selection. This applies above all to Homo sapiens. Nevertheless, for more than half a century, the Western culture has more fear to die than will to live. It is the moment for Prepping (being prepared for the worst), pursued by disenchanted new survivalists without the usual vocation for Outdoor activities, but prefer instead to make programs with their relatives and neighbours organising logistics meant to prevent any kind of emergency or catastrophe in their own habitat, above all urban or peri-urban; it consists in a group’s do-it-yourself, a game that is preventive and not only talismanic. This particular attention to Surviving is recently declined in many styles: extreme, leisure, social, cultural and across the media. Today’s outliving is linked to a logic that is not only adaptive, preventive and cognitive, but based on implementation too.
This trend is important in promoting the individual’s, group’s and species’ preservation in case of natural disasters, eco-bio-technologic catastrophes, terrorist attacks, nuclear incidents, extreme climatic or meteorological events: these are our epochal fears.
The Survival game is therefore a sort of pragmatic Problem solving, a formative Self-therapy, both physical and psychological, incrementing the immune system and Resilience to stress.
In the end, surviving means to ecologically succeed by action, that is to fill the operative void opened by negligence. We must understand and manage the environment, in order to engage in a dialogue with it, whatever its kind: natural, artificial or social. We have to act eco-dynamically, that is not in a naïve, dogmatic or predatory, but intelligent mode (interactive and cooperative). It is necessary to assertively give priority to the life of humans and adopt the precautionary principle so dear to traditional environmentalists towards other species. Lastly, we must study the economy & psychology of behaviour and optimise the cost-benefit ratio in our daily life, in order to change psycho-physical stress into a resource and not a limit.


Survival is a science of behaviour, both innate (or genetic) and learnt (or cultural); it is a Science of Danger. We sapiens are the animals who developed the most advanced inclination and method in outliving environmental and social pressures. Out of the African habitats of our origins, we did not get more physiologically specialised, but more adaptable to every environment, because of our cognitive and creative brain.
After 30 years of experimentations, disciplinary protocols and system-building in the FISSS and academic sphere, we are entitled to make a point: surviving is like sex and food, it is meant for our preservation – like mating is fundamental in reproduction and eating in nutrition – but it is not only for that reason we engage ourselves in those activities. Human beings have always interpreted these primary biological drives in an extended and complex way, making culture and even leisure out of them. Leaving aside the existential meaning of the term ‘surviving’, we consider at least four operative modes of its current holistic complexity:
1. The Extreme Mode: the less pursued but more exposed to the interest of media is Survival, that means risking one’s life for real, and we call this vocation ‘spirit of adventure’ or attraction for or the unknown and hazard.
2. The Protected Mode: we call it Surviving to distinguish it from the first mode; it deals with simulated sports or experimental activities for training and initiation (Prepping included).
3) The Cultural Mode: also defined eco-environmental, it deals with typical full-immersion explorations, in the Bushcraft or Depriving practices that require emotional, mystical or ideological attitude, choices or prerequisites.
4. The Technical Mode: also considered professional, it introduces to the craft and specific knowledge for Instructors; once left to the military, nowadays it may have civilian standards.
Looking for Autonomy and Self-sufficiency is the common denominator of every declension of these modes.
The activity may be individual or group’s; it may be practised in more or less extreme natural environments (Outdoor) or in urban and social contexts (Prepping); it may be set on Hi-Tech (advanced technological devices), or otherwise on Depriving, with zero equipment (everything in the head, nothing in the pocket); and/or on Mental Survival, engaging the dynamics of behaviour.


(but also amusing and healthy)

Survival and Surviving were involved in modernity since the first 80’s of the last century; in moments so critical like the one we are living in, they become even trendy and talismanic. The literature about them is nowadays enormous, including also our Federal manual Dati per vivi (‘Presumed Alive’, published by Hoepli as Survival). Nonetheless, we are facing a fundamental contradiction: there are more deaths inside homes or cars than into the wild. Therefore, in order to really survive, we should be trained above all in driving and domestic safety, and not in adaptation to extreme environments, almost non-existent nowadays. Correct, but by this we would not have many people registering for classes. If we simulate instead the survival in the exotic (Mars is popular as a future scenario) and play with imaginary risks, we feel interested and eventually satisfied. This means to be trained for reality, not looking for a virtual reality, but for the Virtuality of Reality; by means of a careful and gradual stress inoculation, we can push ourselves to the prevention of possible dangers (“what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”)
Even though real necessities appear out-fashioned, Survival has become a meta-discipline that, beyond the mere safeguard drive, acts in proximity with environments, people and situations that are rarer and rarer. It may engage primary emotions and reactions, even therapeutic (anti Stress & Depression), psychophysical ability (Fitness), and even Pleasure by positive feedback. Above all, it may be practiced everywhere, even in city neighbourhoods, in those patches of a non-anthropic environment we call ‘Interstitial Geography’ or shatter zones, places close by or included in civilisation, but mostly unknown and uninhabited.


The concept of ex-aptation (or pre-aptation) comes from the elaboration and extension of post-Darwin evolutionary theories by Stephen Jay Gould and Niels Eldredge at the end of the last century. Living organisms do not simply forcibly adapt utilising their physiological endowments but – under environmental or catastrophic pressures that bring a sudden drive to evolutionary ‘punctuated’ equilibria – they may genetically mutate and be fortuitously rewarded in their reproductive drive. Under certain conditions, they may reconvert their endowments in an improper and creative way, that is co-opting them for other functions. A classic example is that of birds’ plumage, in origin a development to thermal protection and then ex-apted to flight.
Therefore, Survival may be anthropologically understood as the Ex-aptation Potential in Multiple Contexts. We may give some examples where this discipline may play a useful reconversion role.01. Economy: reconversion of resources (no disposable objects: everything may be useful, even refuse)
02. Sensitivity: overtaking and reconversion of phobias (field of neuro-sciences)
03. Primary Drives: cultural reconversion of instincts (Survival like sex and nutrition)
04. Genetics: reconversion of genetic functions (epi-genetics, evolution during development)
05. Physiology: reconversion of potential (metabolic, immune and motor systems, other)
06. Technology: reconversion of abandoned inventions (stone flaking, fire making, bow use)
07. Sociology: reconversion of communities in cooperative and pragmatic ‘bands’ (not tribal or selective)
08. Ethics: reconversion of solidarity and proximity, to make a temporary bond of coexistence, reciprocity and protection with our neighbours and environments (a survivalist leaves no one behind)
09. Human Ecology: reconversion of hostile environments in innovative eco-dynamic theatres of operation
10. Psychosomatic Therapy: reconversion of the negative stress (distress) in positive (eustress) to retrieve fitness and resilience; reaction to alien pressures by new solutions (heuristic reactance)
11. Psychology: reconversion of productive behaviours to solve individual problems and social complexities
12. Sports: reconversion of primary skills to develop survival fitness and other abilities

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