Wildwood Tracking website

Tracks & Sign
Sign tracking
Limb/Eye Dominance
Search & Rescue
Way of the Scout
Algonquin Winter
About this site
Use of material
Privacy Policy
HomeLimb/Eye Dominance

Limb Dominance discussion

Page 2


One Flare

well the reason you go to one side when blindfolded is that you loose your balance enough in each step and you don't have a focal point to adjust to. when you aren't blindfolded. why don't we walk in circles if our strides are different? well its balance and adjustment and has nothing to do with stride. tom m at the school has done tests with this and that is what he came up with. i tested his test and it seems proper. test example: walk taking a short step with one foot and then a longer step with the opposite . see if you can walk in a straight line or if it makes you go in a circle. 


You believe that the reason we deter from our straight course is because of a compensation in balance (understood) and adjustments (I am guessing navigational).
You've stated that "the reason you go to one side when blindfolded is that you loose your balance enough in each step and you don't have a focal point to adjust to"

Do you believe that the directional difference is one of balance and not limb dominance?

Question: Since a blindfold (in the football field test)  does not negate balance compensations, can the path deviation be credited wholly to limb domination?


yes. it's like drawing concentric circles. yer making a short stride  and a long stride. the short stride is gonna trace the inside (smaller)  circle and the long stride is gonna trace the outer (larger) circle. if  you look at the soles of yer shoes, you'll see they wear differently.  this is because you have to constantly compensate your direction by  pushing off slightly to one direction or the other (left or right) to  keep from drawing these circles. it even means sometimes twisting the  foot slightly to stay on course.

also the heels, you'll notice, hit at different angles, one is shallower than the other. one also hits harder and is more worn, even if  slightly.

John Fisher

"What does stride length indicate?" Anyway, sure SL will change depending on the type on injury. Use other clues. Does the track indicate an abnormal twisting motion, thus indicating an injury, and resultant lack of flexion? (Uh oh, sound like a medico-type there... so much for clear text.) One of the most useful exercises is to get on your hands and knees in the dirt next to your track and figure out exactly what caused the movement you see. What caused those ridges and peaks? And that little spiral on the floor? Is there evidence of secondary motion? Was the foot planted and then twisted? Why? What did the body have to do to get the track to look like that?

One Flare

it is balance do to limb dominance. the dominant side is strong there fore you lose you balance on the non dom side when blind folded. Thus compensating with a shortstep and a slight turn, while blindfolded, not having a focal point. now when some one is lost in the woods and making a circle is due to not having any focal point or direction thus LIKE being blindfolded. i did this in our shelter location and went for a walk ,no blind fold, with no particular way to go and ended up 50 yards from our shelter after making a circle to the right and me being right dominant.


Flare stated that balance control accounts for some navigational control: "well the reason you go to one side when blindfolded is that you loose your balance enough in each step and you don't have a focal point to adjust to.

I'll restate my question:
If balance is one of the factors that dictates direction of travel ... how can we be sure of the amount that limb dominance controls the DOT? How does one take the balance issuse out of the navigation equation (out of the limb dominance test)?

I believe (unless someone can provide more information outside of TB's Books or classes) that direction of travel (even blindfolded) is a complex assortment of balance control which is dictated by the bodies COG (center of gravity), terrain features, routes of easy travel, footwear, lower body aches/pains/ailments, and mental maps that we use when we travel... corrected by visual "dead reckoning"  toward landmarks or intentional steering (twisted turns) around obstacles It is not controlled by a "dominant" leg even over a long haul, the farther your subject travels the more variables are introduced that are not dominant limb related. Lost people do not always travel in circles until they die, this has been proven by record keeping of actual cases. . The concept that people will always turn to a
dominate side is fallacy and has led to many searches for these lost people to be driven in the wrong direction. This is what I have seen to be true.


I have taken people (friends and family) blindfolded them on a cloudy day, level ground, told them nothing, set them on a course to follow and recorded the action. Rinsed and repeated 5 times without ever telling them what I was up to nor what was expected of them. The results were all over the place.

John inquired as to my personal tracking background ... he sensed that I was not wholly sold on the teachings (theories) of Tom Brown Jr. 


Yes I am in SAR and have been for the past 15 years. Studied mantracking from/with Ab Taylor for all of 14 years (a mere wink in the time that he has been mantracking ...pushing 50 years) . During the last 10 years, I have been teaching basic and advanced human tracking to ours and the surrounding units. My studies have taken me into the world of soil analysis, Biomechanics, and has included the tracking that was done by Native Americans (including the Apache). I have read all of Tom's Books and frankly think that they are good stories but they have not inspired me to take any of his classes. I find that a lot of what TB states as facts ... well, just are not ... it doesn't matter whether he had "Grandfather" to guide him or not. Tracking as a skill is learnable by anyone that wishes to pursue it and can progressively get better with practice. 

Having said that .... In my heart of hearts, I hope that what TB has to offer is true and achievable (think of the lives it could save). The reality is that there are very few TB students out there that are using any tracking skills to find lost people and I think that is a damn shame. Maybe in my small way... I can help them see that there are other trackers out there besides TB.

My approach to opening topics on this list have changed through the months. I have offered views in the past and been slammed without any discussion. I have found the "stupid question" approach seems to at least retrieve some statements of personal opinion without generating the all encompassing "Tom says" or in such-n-such book Tom writes ... answer. Oh and my favorite is that "spiritually" I am not ready to learn this.

My mind is as open as the next guys and I want to learn. My students could tell you how many changes we have evolved through as we learn something new ... try it ... change it ...use it ... or discard it. Hell, 5 years ago I never looked twice at an animal track ... because "I track humans" ... now we cover animal tracks in my class (not to the degree that makes them expert). Most of our time is spent in the humanoid sign category.


After reading over (the 20 pages) of exchange about leg dominance, ignoring all of the cheap shots and innuendoes, let me attempt my little ASCII drawing again. Because I am even more convinced that a stronger leg or even different step lengths does not result in a turn. Turns are negotiated by way of an even more complex biomechanical flow.

If we were more machine like with each pivot from our hips being straight and true.   If we were able to walk with identical step lengths Left Leg ALWAYS out 20 inches and our Right Leg ALWAYS 25 inches. If we were able to isolate ALL variables; sight, sounds, wind, sunlight, terrain features ... and send this ‘robot’ of a human on a walking course, this result would be as drawn below ... a straight line.

Turns result from the planting of a foot off course, the twisting of the hips or back, or the pivot of the toe on push off not because our step lengths are different.

Notice this is a straight line----->
                     |-One Gait Cycle--|-Two Gait Cycles-|---3Gait Cycles---|
Left FOOT ->|_L 20_|                |_L 20_|                |_L20_|
Right FOOT -->        |__R 25 __|          |__R 25 __|          |__R 25 __|
                     |-One Gait Cycle--|-Two Gait Cycles-|---3Gait Cycles---|
Notice this is a straight line----->


turning is (to me ) more of a spinal turn than a hip thing but if you lean more to one side for what ever reason you slowly turn just like you would on a
bike soo you learn to not lean unless you need to turn when we walk we favor one side by taking a longer step with that side which makes up lean towards
that side this shortens us on one side (leaning) to balance out our posture and to keep us from falling on our butts this is my take on take it or leave
it and hopefully i made some sense as i wrote this too -


i have follo0wed people through the woods fer miles knowing what their  dominance was and at almost every opportunity they took that side to go
around an obstacle, even if the other side was SLIGHTLY easier. i have looked at soles of shoes of people of various dominance and have watched
them walk and looked at their tracks.

your results are obviously different than mine but from what i can see it consists largely of drawing on paper and i really don't understand the drawings you made cuz human tracks to me usually look something lik this:
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ Note: I am not sure how these step diagrams lined up ... this is how my program gave them to me.


observe how the left foot (top) moves four spaces with each step while the right foot moves five spaces. it is a straight line cuz that's how computers type: in lines. but now consider these steps as wheels that are turning. the left foot is a slightly smaller wheel. there fore it  will make a smaller circle than the right and the right will therefore turn around it. thus, yer robot would walk in a circle. though i concede yer point, and in fact have never denied, that there are more  factors than simply stride length that enter into it, which include  visual information and slight foot pivotings to stay on course. it is  these foot pivots your robot will not make that will cause it to go in a  circle.

how do i know this? i have had robots. and as the parts wear the stride length varies and they go in circles as one stride becomes shorter. i am not theorizing. i have seen it.

now do this experiment: take a little step with one foot, eyes closed.  now take a much larger step with the other foot eyes closed. repeat this  alternating pattern several, like 20 times and see where you end up. before you start, place a target dead ahead as if you were gonna walk  toward it. now if you consciously try to compensate because you know  the experiment, you may not see dominance but you will see something  very messed up. if you don't consciously try to compensate, you will move in an arc.

now if my observations start revealing anything different i will reconsider the issue of dominance, but so far it has appeared to be a
very basic and fundamental issue in tracking. until i observe otherwise i will continue to hold that view. however, i appreciate your input on
the topic and your vigorous exploration of your view. nevertheless, i am forced to disagree. and ya know what? it doesn't matter.

Barry Brodeur

Del I'm not so sure a person could walk straight if he had a 20'' stride on their left side and 25'' on their right.

[left] [left] [left] [left] [left]
[rite] [rite] [rite] [rite] [rite] Note: I am not sure how these step diagrams lined up ... this is how my program gave them to me. Del

So this person would soon trip or have to adjust or the left foot would be left behind! If the person adjusts that would mean a left turn. The right
would pull him around the left side because of the larger circumference. As you can see in my step pattern the person is starting to face to their left.

It is clear to me the semantics issue is a big problem.
I say potatoes you say .....   :  )


Try this take 2 popsicle sticks and break them in half.  These will represent your Left Step Length.

Take 4 full size popsicle sticks. These will represent your Right Step Length.  Draw two lines on a piece of paper. One straight and one curved.
These lines will represent two different Lines Of Travel.

Understand that for you to walk/run you must put down a left foot and then a right foot. Other wise you are standing still. 

Start with a left foot (short stick) on the left hand side of one of the lines (either one) ... now place a right foot (long stick) on the right hand side of the stick beginning just off of the tip of the previously laid left foot (stick)
then repeat with another left foot off of the tip of that right foot .... and so on.   Do this along both lines.  See you can walk a straight line with two different lengths
of steps and you can walk a turn with two different lengths of steps ... without tripping. 

I am saying here is that TURNING is NOT relational to step length or DOMINANT LIMB. It has some other source... and this is what I would like to discuss. 

Where does turning begin ... ? Between your ears? Then a head turn? Then a spine twist? Then a hip shift? Then an ankle pivot?

Or maybe it is just a different reach out with your foot toward a different direction?

John Wall

The robot test is no good, though, because people don't walk like robots. If I remember right, and I might not, the test that was suggested to show the turning
motion was to start someone at one end of a football field, blindfold them, then send them to the other side and watch them turn. (We were even told that we
could counter the effect by holding a weight in our non-dominant hand.) But I don't know if that's a valid test, either, since it involves blindfolding someone, which in itself would probably affect the result in ways that could be explained as having nothing to do with dominance or stride length.

Tom told us a story about using dominance evidence to predict where a little girl would exit the woods, and how he was right. But maybe he was right, not
just because of the dominance, but because of something else he either consciously knew or intuited.   Bingo

Pam and I were measuring our own tracks at the beach the other day, and I was trying to think of a valid way to test dominance (or even truly determine it),
but then I wondered: hasn't there been enough SAR work done over the years to have made a pretty good determination about what people do when they're lost??
Do they really circle if there is an absence of striking terrain or distant landmarks to gauge with? I spent a night walking through the woods where I
couldn't see distant landmarks, but I could still tell I wasn't circling simply because of the mountainous, river-hewn terrain. Maybe the circling thing only
happens in very specialized country such as flat, "featureless" (i.e. to someone lacking native eyes) terrain.


Yes they have ... they have statistical data that relates to the type of person that they are and how far they have traveled either up hill or down hill from a place last seen.  The statisticians have NOT offered any data on circling left or right.

>Do they really circle if there is an absence of striking terrain or distant landmarks to gauge with?

The Army, through the University of Minnesota, did extensive studies on the human navigational abilities and they found that even the type that they assumed would do well (going straight) navigating a blindfolded course did poorly and then inversely some of the ones that they thought would do poorly surprised them. There was no explanation determined by the study. This is how I remember the report, I have not been able to find it and I read it years ago.


Previous      Next