100 Deadly Skills – is Clint Emerson a Fraud?

This post is a follow up to a Youtube video I recently wrote on the subject. The video is somewhat long so I’ll link it here and then quickly summarize the issue I’m calling out in it.

Clint Emerson’s book “100 Deadly Skills” is marketed as a book which will teach you a number of “skills”. These skills are offered with explanations to the basics of the skill as well as a breakdown into various “steps” showing how the skill is performed. These aren’t basic cookie recipes either. They are “deadly skills” as taught by Clint Emerson. Clint’s biographical information appears in various places throughout – and it’s important to note that Clint’s experience in the military/intelligence community is clearly marketed as being the source of his knowledge. That is, Clint presumably knows all of these skills from his time in the DOD. There is no other explanation as to what is going on with this book. It is very clear that the intended message is that “Clint Emerson – former expert Navy Seal – is going to teach you 100 deadly skills.”

Now definitely not all of the skills are taught in this book in the way they might be in a hands on training course. Each skill has about two pages dedicated to it, and so you can understand that a lot of detail might be left out. So it would be understandable if you walked away from reading about any given skill without knowing that skill to a level of expertise that might only be available to someone with significant training. However there is an expectation that you will understand the skill at least from a high level when you are finished reading about it. This expectation again is built on Clint’s experience as a Navy Seal.

What this expectation precludes, is inaccurate information. You would not expect to see anything in the book which is inaccurate. If you did see something inaccurate, it might be off putting for you because Clint Emerson – has marketed himself as an expert on these things. See, I don’t know if you knew this – but Clint used to be a Navy Seal. It is the focus of the book on Clint’s experience as a Navy Seal, and the way in which his experience is used to sell this content to you that makes what I found in this book so dishonorable.

Between when I bought this book and today, I’ve become an experienced skydiver. Now Navy Seals are also usually taught how to jump out of airplanes – at least that is my understanding. So you would expect a Navy Seal to understand the basics of skydiving/Military Freefall (MFF). If they didn’t understand those basics, you would think at least they wouldn’t claim to be an expert in these things – and then write about them.

Well, Clint has clearly made this mistake. In his book 100 Deadly Skills he describes a technique for how to cross a border by air. He makes a number of mistakes in this section. The mistakes are all quite basic, and are frankly deeply embarrassing to read. There are many 18 year old civilian skydivers that would not make these same mistakes in a Facebook comment – and yet here the supposed expert Navy Seal makes them in the writing he is planning to send out to the world. These mistakes include:

  • Inverting the values in wingsuit glide ratios (rookie error)
  • Stating that you should deploy your canopy as low as possible
  • Completely leaving out the concept of an ADIZ
  • Implying it’s easy to skydive out of a Cessna 152 without a jump door
  • Making no note of gear carry or how carrying gear interacts with a wingsuit
  • Nit: Calling it a ‘chute’ term commonly used by non-jumpers / round jumpers.
  • Implying that flying a wingsuit is an activity that can be taught through pictures (hence in the book)

The list of errors is compelling and embarrassing. If Clint was being graded on this work he would not pass the test let alone be offered a chance to teach others. It is reasonable to assume from reading his work – that Clint does not have any skydiving/MFF training. Perhaps Clint has jumped round canopies at Airborne school. This type of jumping involves having your parachute open automatically as soon as you leave the airplane, and includes no use of ram-air canopies, wingsuits, or freefall. I have attempted to contact Clint on Twitter to see if he would be willing to step up and show that he actually does know how to jump, but so far he appears to simply be ignoring my tweets.

At the end of the day, it’s totally okay to not skydive. Many people don’t – and this is probably what is happening with Clint. What’s very uncool however, is that Clint appears to be attempting to make money selling himself as an expert in all of these topics – and it’s clear that when it comes to skydiving, he is a poser at best, and potentially, a malicious fraud at worst. If Clint wants to clear his name, he needs to show a video of him flying a wingsuit – or even just at a bare minimum, him in freefall. Clint, if you’re reading this – please note any video of you jumping you do post will be judged to assess how talented you are. I hope you’re the expert you claim to be.

About the author

Professional hacker & security engineer. Currently at Google, opinions all my own. On Twitter as @zaeyx. Skydiver, snowboarder, writer, weightlifter, runner, energetic to the point of being a bit crazy.

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