The Art of the Ritual

Does modern life ever feel excruciatingly flat to you? A bleak landscape devoid of layers, rhythm, interest, texture?

Are you ever haunted by the question “Is this all there is?”

Have you ever looked at an old photo and felt that the scene held such an inexplicable richness that it seemed you could practically step right into it?

The barren flatness of modern life is rooted in many things, including mindless consumerism, the absence of significant challenges, and the lack of shared values and norms, or even shared taboos to rebel against. But what is the solution?

Many would be quick to say faith, or philosophy, or relationships. All good answers.

But what is it that vivifies beliefs to the extent they can transform your perspective not simply for an hour on Sunday, but also in the mundane moments throughout your week? What can move an understanding of abstract truths from your mind into your very sinews? What can transform superficial ties with others into deep and meaningful bonds?

The answer I would suggest is ritual.

Our modern world is nearly devoid of rituals – at least in the way we traditionally think of them. Those that remain – such as ones that revolve around the holidays – have largely lost their transformative power and are often endured more than enjoyed, participated in as an obligatory going through of the motions. Ritual has today become associated with that which is rote, empty, meaningless.

Yet every culture, in every part of the world, in every era has engaged in rituals, suggesting they are a fundamental part of the human condition. Rituals have even been called our most basic form of technology – they are a mechanism that can change things, solve problems, perform certain functions, and accomplish tangible results. Necessity is the mother of invention, and rituals were born out of the clear-eyed perspective that life is inherently difficult and that unadulterated reality can paradoxically feel incredibly unreal. Rituals have for eons been the tools humans have used to release and express emotion, build their personal identity and the identity of their tribe, bring order to chaos, orient themselves in time and space, effect real transformations, and bring layers of meaning and texture to their lives. When rituals are stripped from our existence, and this fundamental human longing goes unsatisfied, restlessness, apathy, alienation, boredom, rootlessness, and anomie are the result.

Join next post as we dive into the historical meaning of a ritual.

Strength and Honor

Rules to Live By.

It was not long ago that men were born to be warriors and had no other obligations than to uphold the warrior code and to pass it on to their offspring. It was only during the past 500 years that man forgot this way of life and replaced it with a complacency seemingly suited for a new world of convenience. The time that has passed since we have forgotten our warrior days has been a mere fraction of the entire existence of humans, meaning that this warrior instinct is still entirely intact and awaiting to be awoken in the lives of all men.

A Warrior’s life was driven by his own survival instinct and his fear of death. It was this fear that drove him to persevere and constantly improve himself. After all, survival of the fittest was in full effect at this point. Without this fundamental understanding about life’s impermanence and an obligation to achieve greatness, we become complacent and unmotivated in life. If it is true that nothing defines manliness more than a motivated and inspired individual who lives with a quiet confidence and a zest for life, then the lessons we have to learn from warriors of the past will get us far on the path to Manhood.

It is only until after a life changing event that most of us have this warrior instinct woken within us. For many it is the call to overcome adversity through a circumstance in their lives that requires a warrior spirit. For Teddy Roosevelt it was his childhood illness that gave him his first mountain to conquer, as well as his first taste of success. For Lance Armstrong it was his battle with cancer that gave him the strength to achieve his unprecedented success. For Martin Luther King Jr. it was the racist, segregated world that he was born into that lead him to become a force for change in the civil rights movement.

It is through the understanding and application of the following ideas that you too can achieve true warrior status and get on the never-ending road to greatness. Realized Strength and Honor.

Master Your Body. Although most people associate being a warrior with fighting and hunting, these are the most basic principles through which a warrior’s strength is expressed. It is the mastering of your intention and strength to find discipline and power in every aspect of your life that distinguishes the warrior from the common man. The first conquest for any man should be the mastering of his body. For a warrior this was a necessity for survival due to the extreme physical demands placed upon him. Today’s man should always strive for this goal for a number of reasons. The cause and effect of hard work and muscle gains is a microcosm of the bigger picture in life in which hard work is the only catalyst to success. Another important reason to push your body to be its strongest is the long list of physical benefits such as hormonal regulation, mental clarity, and the general feeling of well-being that will all combine to improve your life physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Use Death as your Guide. We all could die at any moment. It could be today, tomorrow, or next week. You could go and visit your dying friend in the hospital and then get hit by a bus the next day. Whether or not you have an existing condition is of no importance in your actual mortality. If this was the common outlook of today’s man, do you think we would sit around watching cable TV and spending our time worrying about how to afford the next big thing in consumer electronics? Hell no! We would go out today and start doing the exact thing that we have always wanted to do (our purpose) while not wasting any of our time on the petty, pointless things. After all, there is no better a teacher in time management than having death knocking at your door.

Choose the Path with Heart. All paths are the same. They lead absolutely nowhere. At the end of your life you will be in the exact same position except you will be able to look back with either regret or satisfaction on the choices you made. It is the path that is important, not the destination. It is better to have a followed a path in your life that brought you happiness in the moment, than to have followed a path that promised happiness at your destination. Using death as your guide will promote a distinct change in your level of presence and naturally lead you to living in the moment and choosing the correct path. The warrior who chooses his highest calling is also the one to achieve the greatest success, further strengthening the chance of the survival of his bloodline.

Fight Every Battle as if it was Your Last. If you are using death as your guide and living in the present moment then you will naturally fight every battle in your life as if it was a defining moment to make or break everything you have worked for. When you have this mentality you are naturally doing your best at everything and your chances for success are greatly improved. This is the type of performance that we have come to expect from our great leaders and role models so why should we sell ourselves short of realizing such greatness? It is through this concept that you will truly be living to your full potential and increasing your likelihood of being the man that others look to for inspiration.

Through the practical application of these ideas into your everyday life, you will begin to see a change in the outcomes of your goals and experiences. You will also take on leadership qualities as you start to embody the very essence of what every man secretly strives to become. You will switch from being a victim of circumstance, into being a master of intention. By living with Strength and Honor you gain and power and confidence, and eventually you will begin to manifest the conditions that will transform yourself from weak to warrior.

Strength and Honor

CaveManFit and Functional Exercise!

Most times when I pass by a modern gym I peer into the window only to see shredded abs and super-sized muscles.  I think to myself are these guys really strong? I suppose they’re strong in one dimension, like a 2X4 is strong from one angle, but relatively easy to break in half from its opposite angle. Andre ArlovskiWhen the shit hits the fan how would their bodies adapt to a combat situation? I mean how in the world did the bench press become the marker from which one is judged as strong and not strong? It’s baffling when we observe the actual exercise and wonder how it can be applied in the real world.  Who is stronger, the guy who can bench-press 500 pounds or the guy who can do 100 push-ups non stop?

We’re pragmatists at Strength and Honor in the the sense that we take what works and leave behind what doesn’t.  The concept behind functional training is not a new one, it’s basically what man has been doing to survive since the beginning.

For most of human history, work has been a physically demanding activity.  Our cavemen ancestors chased down mastodons and hurled spears into their tough, but tasty flesh, American homesteaders tamed the wilderness into productive farms with nothing but grit and sweat, and just 60 years ago, the majority of men in America flexed their muscles on factory floors or construction sites.

Fast forward to today: It’s all about Vanity and not Value!

Physical education a hundred years ago was about developing physical competency for real life. Now fitness is degraded to padded machines and artificial movements patterns that are all about building vanity. It’s all about building “show” muscles instead of ‘go’ muscles.

Most fitness facilities have a variety of weight training machines which target and isolate specific muscles. As a result the movements do not necessarily bear any relationship to the movements people make in their regular activities or sports. So while you might look great in a V-neck T-shirt, you probably couldn’t carry your grandma out of a burning building. No offense grandma. We’re not trying to knock gym goers here, but this is a blog about functional strength and ability.

Most modern fitness programs focus on muscle-isolation and cardio-conditioning. But the body is not used in isolation. Even when there’s no saber-tooth tiger or woolly mammoth to hunt down, the goal of a functional work out should be to perform practical tasks, physical actions that you would perform in the real world, both in-day to-day and challenging situations.

To be healthy, you need to move frequently and ideally, you need a variety of movement patterns, like we do when we are young children. The more varied the movements, the better for health, fitness and resiliency.

Here are some basic tips from the guys at Strength and Honor to get you started.

1) Lift heavy things – rocks, firewood, bags of sand whatever. Not only will you be able to build lean muscle, but you will also get your hormones going for optimal fat loss and muscle building. Keep the weight heavy and the reps low (between 5-10).

2) Sprint often and walk a lot. We have all seem evidence that short bursts of high intensity can lead to more fat loss. It also releases the hormones needed to free up more fatty acids from our fat stores to be burned up.

3) Mix it up. Play, run and jump. Your body is designed to move. Find something you like doing that just so happens to get your heart rate up. Dance, take up a martial art, chase your dog, wax your car as fast as you can…just do something.

Stay tuned to the Strength and Honor team for the next installment, ” Cardio Cronicitis.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Etiquette.

The basic meaning of etiquette is to be quick at both the beginning and the end and tranquil in the middle.

A Case in Tribal Honor.

The Yanomamö and the Origins of Male Honor

In a Man’s Life.

In 1964, anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon arrived in an almost entirely unexplored region of the Amazon Basin to spend a year studying the Yanomamö: one of the last large, isolated, and virtually uncontacted tribes in the world.

Over the next 35 years, Chagnon returned to this area on the border between Venezuela and Brazil 25 times and lived among this primitive people for a total of 5 years. He spent his time there intimately and exhaustively detailing the lives of 25,000 Yanomamö who lived in 250 separate villages in a way nearly unchanged from how humans existed for tens of thousands of years before the modern era. His education in anthropology had not prepared him for what he would observe. While he had been taught that tribal peoples were mostly peaceful, Chagnon found that war was a nearly constant state of affairs for the Yanomamö that shaped every aspect of their lives and culture. While his textbooks and professors had said that when tribes did fight, the battles were rooted in conflicts over material resources, Chagnon found that the Yanomamö’s wars were almost entirely over women. And while Chagnon had believed that all tribal peoples were highly egalitarian, he found that Yanomamö men were in fact very concerned about status and that there were several ways for a man to elevate himself above his village peers.

Napoleon Chagnon and a Yanomamö tribesman

Chagnon describes these revelations and the controversy they caused in the anthropological world in his recent book, Noble Savages. While every tribe around the world and throughout history has had their own distinct culture, what Chagnon observed about the Yanomamö are traits that have been recorded in many other primitive peoples as well, and what I found most interesting about this quite fascinating book is the way many of his observations related tribal codes of honor (Quick review: classical honor is defined as a reputation worthy of respect and admiration.) In that series, we talked about the way the code of honor for men has evolved, from bravery and physical prowess to virtue and character, while its basic mechanisms for achievement and enforcement have remained the same. By taking a look at how honor operated among the Yanomamö, we can discover specific examples of some of the principles which we previously described in the abstract, as well as a possible explanation of how and why the basic masculine code of honor-as-courage developed in the first place. At the same time, it causes us to reflect on how this primitive code of honor still echoes faintly in the present. For while the lives of tribes like the Yanomamö can seem light years away from our own, in the long sweep of history, men lived like them far longer than they have lived like us; the many centuries the world has experienced modern civilization is really a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things. So how did men live and earn honor in, as Jared Diamond would put it, “the world as of yesterday?”

A State of War

Chagnon’s first big surprise when he arrived among the Yanomamö was that the tribe existed in a state of chronic war — their lives were overhung with the “ubiquity of terror.” Chagnon’s education in anthropology had largely presented him with an image of primitive tribesmen as Roussean “noble savages” – communal, peace-loving people who were one with nature and each other. Warfare, his fellow anthropologists argued, was largely the product of capitalist exploitation and colonization, and tribes had experienced very little conflict until disrupted by contact with industrialized nations. This academic image would collide sharply with what Chagnon found in the field. “While it is also true that tribesmen spend many happy hours hunting, fishing, gathering, and telling wonderful stories and myths around the campfire,” Chagnon writes, “one of the most salient features of their social environment is the threat of attack from neighbors.”

This fear of attack was not an unfounded worry; early morning raids by neighboring villages happened with some frequency and the results were often fatal. Through his meticulous research and data-keeping, Chagnon found that in 1988, “two-thirds of all living Yanomamö over the age of forty [had] lost one or more close genetic kinsman—a father, brother, husband, or son—to violence.” In comparison, around one-sixth of Britons lost a member of their immediate family in the famously bloody Great War. This of course means that the percentage of Yanomamö men who had killed another was also quite high; Chagnon discovered that 45% of these tribesmen had slain at least one other man.

Chagnon argues that other anthropologists had underestimated the violent nature of tribal cultures because their fieldwork had been done with tribes that had already changed their way of life due to contact with outsiders; there were very few uncontacted, “demographically intact” tribes left to study at the time – places “where populations of tribesmen were still growing by reproducing offspring faster than people were dying and were fighting with each other in complete independence of nation states that surrounded them.”

From his fieldwork, and looking at the history of other tribes around the world, Chagnon theorized that war, far from being the product of capitalist exploitation and colonization was in fact the true “state of nature.” He concluded that 1) “maximizing political and personal security was the overwhelming driving force in human social and cultural evolution,” and 2) “warfare has been the most important single force shaping the evolution of political society in our species.”

Fighting Over Women

If Chagnon was surprised to find that the Yanomamö were not the peace-loving noble savages he had expected, he was equally surprised to learn the cause of their constant conflict.

Chagnon’s education in anthropology had stressed that primitive peoples only went to war over material resources – land, food, oil, water, wealth, etc. – just like industrialized nations did. What Chagnon discovered in the field was the Yanomamö did indeed fight over a scarce resource, but it was one his contemporaries completely dismissed: women.

Chagnon argues that the Yanomamö were driven by a biological desire to pass on their genes just as other animals were, and that their conflicts were almost entirely rooted in reproductive competition. “The tokens of wealth that we civilized people covet are largely irrelevant to success and survival in the tribal world and were irrelevant during most of human history,” Chagnon writes. “But women have always been the most valuable single resource that men fight for and defend.”

 

Yet the Yanomamö’s desire to obtain a woman with which to sire progeny was not simply a biological imperative, but also related to the third surprise to come out of Chagnon’s fieldwork: the tribesmen’s desire for status and honor.

Because primitive tribes didn’t have much in the way of material wealth, Chagnon’s fellow anthropologists believed that their cultures were very egalitarian in nature. Which is to say, the only status differentiators were thought to come down to “automatic” designations rooted in sex or age; older people had higher status than younger folks, and men had higher status than women, but there was nothing individuals could do to elevate themselves above their peers in order to attain “vertical honor.”

In contrast, Chagnon found some Yanomamö men were more prominent and given more deference than others. These men attained a greater degree of honor in several ways. First, the men with the most kin and the largest patrilineage enjoyed higher status, and Chagnon observed “that the political leaders in all Yanomamö villages almost always have the largest number of genetic relatives within the group.” They were also at an advantage when it came to perpetuating this higher status; the more male relatives a young man had, the easier it was for him to successfully find a wife. A young man’s father and older male relatives would help him find a spouse, and other men in the village preferred to give their daughters in marriage to those who came from prominent lineages anyway. This, Chagnon argues, is in fact the main function of patrilineages: “What these Yanomamö descent groups control and defend are reproductive rights in nubile females and the male kin who give these women to you and take them from you.”

The Yanomamö, like most tribes in history, practiced polygamy (more accurately polygyny – only men could have multiple spouses), and every Yanomamö man hoped to have multiple wives. Yet this privilege was largely reserved for men of higher status. The problem with polygyny, of course, is that if some guys have six wives other guys will have none. Polygyny created a scarcity in women, which is why females – the key to reproductive success – became the one resource worth fighting over. A group of men from one village might raid another village to bring back some of their women; Chagnon found that 20% of the women in the villages he studied had been abducted from other villages. These raids could then set off a cycle of retaliatory violence; if the original raiding party killed someone during their abduction mission, men from the raided village would plan a counterattack to even the score. Back and forth it would go, creating the aforementioned conditions of constant “war” and fear of attack.

From his observations of the pervasiveness of female-rooted conflict, Chagnon theorized that “if we viewed the human ability to harness, control, and prudently deploy violence for reproductive advantage, we could consider this skill the most important of all strategic resources,” and that need to regulate the deployment of this resource is what gave birth to social as well as political rules and laws. He summarizes his conclusions thusly:

“Regardless of their marital status, most Yanomamö men are trying to copulate with available women most of the time, but are constrained from doing so by the rules of incest and the intervention of some other man with proprietary interests in the same women. This is why there is so much club fighting and why villages split into two or more groups so easily. Conflicts over the possession of nubile females have probably been the main reason for fights and killings throughout most of human history: the original human societal rules emerged, in all probability, to regulate male access to females and prevent the social chaos attendant on fighting over women. Males in this persistent kind of social environment sought the help of other related males—brothers, sons, cousins, uncles, nephews—and formed male coalitions to pursue their selfish reproductive goals as well as to minimize lethal conflicts within their own groups.”

Courage and Fierceness

At last we come to answering the question of how the most basic form of the male honor code came to revolve around prowess and courage. Here Chagnon’s observations are especially interesting, and we will make ample use of them.

The Yanomamö were interested both in maintaining the honorable reputation of their village as a whole, and as individual men within it.

Village-Wide Honor

As the Yanomamö lived in constant fear of an attack and the abduction of their women by a neighboring village, it was crucially important that not only were the men of each village prepared to fend off such an attack, but that the village as a whole had the kind of reputation that made other villages think twice about even attempting a raid. The maintenance of honor was thus a group project; each individual man in a village, if he wished to earn “horizontal honor,” had to do his part to project and demonstrate courage and fierceness (“The Fierce People” was a “phrase the Yanomamö themselves frequently used to emphasize their valor, braveness, and willingness to act aggressively on their own behalf.”) If individual men didn’t pull their weight, and evinced fear and timidity instead, this showed weakness, damaged the village’s reputation for strength, and essentially invited attack. Chagnon explains further:

“Let me emphasize the Yanomamö view that when members of a group acquire a reputation of timidity and cowardice, their neighbors take ruthless advantage of them, push them around, insult them publicly, and take their women. Thus it is strategically important to react decisively to any affront, no matter how trivial. If a group is small, the men try to make up for their numerical disadvantage by acting as if the group is bigger, nastier, more ferocious, and ready to fight on a moment’s notice. Feigning to be “larger than life” is a deception that is widespread in the animal world but is usually a characteristic displayed by individual combatants. The Yanomamö, however, engage in this masquerade as members of social groups. I often deliberately avoided visiting small villages because they were predictably very aggressive and unpleasant to be around in order to compensate for their actual military weaknesses.”

As Chagnon notes, since reputation-maintenance is so important, villages are quick to address any perceived insults as to their manliness, strength, and courage from other villages. Because they don’t want such “offensive rumors” spreading around, “they are immediately addressed by a ‘we’ll show you’ melee.” The Yanomamö have varying degrees of these honor-defending contests that correspond to the seriousness of the insult received.

If one village feels that another has been unfairly spreading gossip about their timidity and weakness, but the insults have not been too serious in nature, the two villages will agree to resolve the issue with a good-natured fight, often when one is visiting the other for a feast. These free-for-alls consist of the men slapping (using a closed fist is considered unfair) each other’s sides, pulling each other’s hair, and wrestling in the mud and dirt. The younger men participate while the older men circle around, waving their axes and machetes, yelling instructions to the fighters, and keeping the skirmish from developing into a more serious fight. The young men hurt each other, but generally avoid causing severe injuries, and after about 40 minutes the fight breaks up. Nobody is declared the winner but the intention of the melee is fulfilled:

The whole purpose of the fight just seems to be to set the record straight as far as rumors of cowardice or unwillingness to fight. When the young fighters regain their breath and composure, they quietly and unceremoniously get to their feet, go outside the shabono to clean up and wash their bodies, maybe even take a leisurely swim in the nearby creek. There seem to be no obvious hard feelings afterward and the more ceremonial events like eating, trading, chanting, and dancing proceed as though the fight had never happened. But they have now sized up each other and are better informed regarding just how far they can push or intimidate each other in the future without triggering an unanticipated and more serious reaction. And they usually learn the possible costs of spreading false rumors about people who are feasting with them.”

If a village feels it has been more seriously insulted, they may challenge the rumor-generating village to a more formal chest-pounding or side-slapping duel. In the former contest, two men face off. One agrees to take the first blows and offers his chest to his opponent as he gazes manfully into the distance. His opponent winds up like a baseball pitcher and delivers several powerful overhand blows to his pectoral muscles. The men then switch roles, and the guy who just got beaten can now deliver the same number of blows to his opponent’s chest. The goal is to bear the blows as stoically as possible and make your opponent cry “uncle” first. A side-slapping duel works much the same way, with the two fighters squatting and kneeling and brutally slapping each other “on the flanks between the rib cage and the pelvis, with an open hand.” In both kinds of duels, the fighters become deeply bruised and sore, and injuries to one’s internal organs can occur; lung tissue is damaged and kidneys tenderized. Occasionally duelists do die from their injuries, but the contests are designed to be a nonlethal means to address honor-impinging insults.

In response to the most serious kinds of slander, as well as things like tobacco and food theft or another man trying to seduce or abduct one’s wife, a club fight becomes the appropriate means of redress. Like in the aforementioned duels, two men square off, and one delivers the first blow — arcing the end of his club all the way from the ground, through the air, and square on top of his opponent’s head. The recipient of the wallop is tasked with bearing the blow stoically, and attempts to remain motionless while leaning on his own club for support. Now the recipient of the first blow, often with “large chunks of their scalp bashed loose, flapping up and down on their crania,” gets to deliver one in turn to his opponent. Club fighting matches start with two duelists, but may progress into all out melees where numerous men grab their clubs and start swinging them at each other with abandon.

Scars from club fighting.

“Many accomplished and persistent club fighters have scalps that are crisscrossed with as many as a dozen huge, protuberant, lumpy scars two or three inches long after their scalps are healed,” Chagnon observed. And they’re proud of these scars:

“Men with numerous club-fighting scars like these are not bashful about displaying them prominently. They shave the tops of their heads in a tonsure and then rub red pigment into their numerous deep scars, to exaggerate them. Such a man, if he lowers his face and head to you, is usually not showing deference: he is conspicuously advertising his fierceness.”

Despite that fact that death was sometimes the result of these different degrees of duels and melees, “none of the fighting…is intentionally lethal,” Chagnon explains, and should rather be classified as “deliberately sublethal ‘alternatives’ to warfare.” Just like the “affairs of honor” and “rough and tumbles” engaged in by men of the 19th century, the fights were not specifically designed to kill, but were a means for a man, or a group of men, to show they were unafraid to fight and bleed in order to maintain their honorable reputation.

Individual Honor

While individual Yanomamö men had a stake in maintaining their village’s reputation for courage and fierceness and thus minimizing the chance of being attacked, it was not an entirely altruistic effort.

First, protecting one’s relatives and their chances for finding a wife indirectly helped a man’s chances of passing on his own genes even if he himself didn’t have children, as Chagnon writes in explaining the “kin selection” theory:

“since related individuals share genes with each other, an individual could get copies of his or her genes into the next generation by favoring close kinsmen and not reproducing sexually at all. For example, individuals share on average half (50 percent) of their genes with their siblings, they share one-fourth (25 percent) with their half-siblings, an eighth (12.5 percent) with their full cousins, etc. Thus if they engage in certain kinds of “favors” that enhance a full cousin’s reproductive success, then, to the extent that those favors enabled that kinsman to find a mate and produce offspring, their favoring of that kinsman helped them to get some of their own genes into the next generation. As one theoretical geneticist, J. B. S. Haldane, is rumored to have said: ‘I’d lay down my life for eight cousins. . . .’ That’s because eight cousins would carry, on average, 100 percent of the genes that the person who laid down his life carried.”

More directly, a Yanomamö man’s level of courage and physical prowess during melees and battle could enhance or diminish his individual status within a village; those who showed timidity were “branded a coward, an accusation that tends to remain forever in the memories of others,” while fighting with fierceness usually led to an “increased ability to sway public opinion and public action.”

The male desire for honor was so strong that tribesmen would seek to demonstrate their fierceness even as they were dying; the idea of honor being more precious than life was not minted in the modern age. Even if a Yanomamö man knew he would not live to enjoy the benefits that displaying fierceness would bring, his legacy and the memory of his manliness was worth protecting right down to his dying breath, as Chagnon vividly illustrates:

“Valiant leaders like Ruwahiwä sometimes sustain what are apparently—or even certainly—lethal blows to their heads from heavy axes, but still rise, stagger forward, and somehow are able to keep on their feet despite being mortally wounded. My own Yanomamö informants, who were also eyewitnesses to Ruwahiwä’s death, described the first ax blow to his head as a fatal blow from which no man could possibly recover…Yet Ruwahiwä managed to stand up and fall down several times—all the while being shot multiple times with arrows to his face, neck, stomach, and chest. Many years later, one headman I knew—Matowä—was killed shortly after I arrived, as described earlier. He probably also sustained as many lethal arrow wounds as Ruwahiwä, but defiantly stood his ground and cursed his assailants until he could no longer stand. He, too, never acknowledged the pain—nor the terror of knowing that his wounds were fatal—but stoically taunted his assailants with defiant declarations of his valor and fearlessness until he fell, dead, from his many wounds. He died with many six-foot arrows stuck helter-skelter through or into his neck, chest, and stomach. One of my informants, who was part of the raiding party that killed him, told me in whispers that this valiant warrior Matowä bragged about his valor and ferocity even as the raiders continued to shoot arrow after arrow into his body.”

The clearest way to demonstrate one’s fierceness and the surest route to greater honor within a Yanomamö village, outside the size of one’s lineage, was earning the title of unokai – a man who has killed another man. Since “not all men were willing to endure the risks and expose themselves to the dangers that Yanomamö unokais did,” Chagnon explains, “unokais held a special, earned, and respected status that only some men achieved.”

The higher status of unokais is reflected in their greater success in attaining wives; Chagnon found that unokais had 2.5 times more wives and 3 times as many offspring as non-unokais.

Unokais received such honor (and enjoyed the benefits incumbent upon their status) because of the way their personal reputation enhanced a whole village’s reputation as one not to be messed with:

“Unokais are both respected and somewhat feared because they have demonstrated a willingness to kill people and are likely to kill again. In a political context, the military credibility and strength of a village can be measured by how many unokais it contains—with the caveat that village size is extremely important as well. But, if two equal-sized villages are compared, the one with the largest number of able-bodied unokais will be the stronger, the more feared, and the more formidable opponent.”

Chagnon’s observations of how unokais behave compared to men who have not killed is quite interesting, as is his theory that a man’s willingness to kill is ultimately what leads to his power, and from that power, laws and states:

“Many men acquire a reputation for being waiteri, fierce. But someone who is an unokai has demonstrated his willingness to inflict lethal harm on an opponent and to actually behave in an ultimately fierce manner. Publicly and socially, such men can be extremely placid and calm in their outward demeanor, and even very pleasant and charming. By contrast, many men who are not unokais seem to be compelled to behave in such way as to imply that they are killers of men. Such men can be very obnoxious and unpleasant in their public lives—ordering people around, intimidating them, threatening to hit them with their machetes or axes, even threatening to kill them. But if an unokai threatens to strike or to kill someone, he usually means what he says. When an unokai gives an order to some man in the village, that man had better do what is asked of him. That is how power, authority, and coercive force by leaders emerges, adds to, and goes beyond the kind of solidarity and cohesion that inheres in the lesser cohesiveness associated with kinship amity. This is the quality that leads ultimately to the power behind law: the odiousness of sanctions. Without law, political states cannot exist.”

Conclusion

This is not a post where there is a clear and immediate takeaway, but one which seeks to provide some hopefully interesting background information on some of the possible origins of masculine culture and honor. My own belief about manliness is that it involves both the harnessing of primal urges and the discipline to sometimes overcome those urges in pursuit of greater development and virtue. But in order to strike that balance in either direction you have to first understand what kinds of primal behaviors might have been ingrained in your psyche over thousands of years of human history. I think Chagnon’s observations provide a fascinating look at how and why the basic code of masculine honor, as defined by stoic courage, originally developed. And as I mentioned at the start, what stuck out to me is that the lives of Yanomamö men, while incredibly far removed from that of us moderns, still have faint echoes today. Learning about the Yanomamö gave me a dozen random insights that I feel relate to the state of modern men.

Train Like an Ancient Hindu Warrior:

 

Train Like an Ancient Hindu Warrior: The Steel Mace Workout

 

 

 

The Great Gama: undefeated wrestler, owner of a heroic mustache, and mace trainer.

Holding an Indian Mace

Holding an Indian Mace

Looking for a new workout? How about one that was used by Hindu warriors over 2,000 years ago and still used by Pehlwani wrestlers today?

The gada, or heavy mace, was the weapon of choice of Hindu soldiers as well as the Hindu deity Hanuman, an anthropomorphic monkey who can lift mountains with a single hand. According to the book Encyclopedia of Indian Physical Culture, warriors during the Puranic age would engage in mace training early in the morning along with wrestling, archery, and swordsmanship. Besides dueling one another with gadas, warriors would swing heavier versions — usually made with a bamboo stick with a heavy stone at one end — behind their backs in order to strengthen their backs, chests, shoulders, forearms, and fingers. Because of their rigorous physical and tactical training, Hindu warriors were some of the fiercest of the ancient world.

Today, the gada is used primarily by Pehlwani wrestlers in northern India and southern Pakistan. The most famous gada afficionado was the Great Gama (pictured above), the only undefeated Pehlwani wrestler in history. By the looks of it, his mustache also trained with a gada. That thing is a beast!

While the Indian Club enjoyed popular use among Western exercise enthusiasts as early as the 19th century, gada training for some reason didn’t catch on until very recently. Mixed martial artists in the West have taken up heavy mace training as a way to strengthen the muscles involved with throwing opponents to the mat. Functional fitness and natural movement practitioners have also taken to mace training because it provides such an amazing full-body workout.

If you’re ready to harness your inner Hindu warrior, read on. Below, Mr. Know Your Lifts showcases six different exercises that you can perform with a heavy mace.

Mace Grip Basics

 

Mace Grips

 

To make an exercise harder, grip both hands near the end of the handle. To make exercises easier, move at least one hand closer to the weighted end.

360

360

 

The 360 has been used by Hindu warriors and Pehlwani wrestlers for ages. It works the shoulders, chest, back, and forearms. Begin by holding the mace directly in front of you with your hands gripped closely together at the end of the handle. If your left hand is above your right hand, you’re going to push the mace ball over your right shoulder. The mace ball should swing behind your back. When it reaches your left shoulder, pull the mace over your left shoulder so that the mace is once again directly in front of you. Repeat several times. Switch up your hands so that your right hand is above your left, and push the mace ball over your left shoulder. Repeat swinging the mace in this direction several times.

To see this exercise in action, check out this video of Diesel Crew’s Jedd Johnson performing the 360.

Barbarian Squat

BarbarianSquat

 

The Barbarian Squat is a great full-body exercise. You’re working your upper as well as your lower body in a single movement. Begin in a standing position with the mace behind your neck. Start lowering your body into a squatting position while simultaneously bringing the mace to the front. You’ve successfully completed the exercise if you’re in a full squat and the mace is in front of you. Return to your starting position by standing while simultaneously bringing the mace back to its original position. Repeat.

Dynamic Curl

DynamicCurl

 

The Dynamic Curl works the forearms and biceps.

Hold the mace with a mixed grip — one hand overhand and one underhand — with the hand near the mace ball-end holding the handle with an underhand grip. Lift the ball end with the hand closest to the mace ball. When the ball reaches the middle of the arc, switch your hands up by sliding the hand that was near the ball down towards the end of the handle and bringing the hand that was near the handle up closer to the ball end. When you’ve finished, the ball end should be on your other side and your mixed grip should be reversed — the hand that was originally overhand should be underhand; the hand that was originally underhand should now be overhand. Swing the mace back and forth like this for several repetitions.

Spear Stab

SpearStab

 

Hold the mace like you would a spear. Thrust as if you were an ancient Pauravaian warrior stabbing an a member of Alexander the Great’s Macedonian army in the Battle of the Hydaspes River. The closer both hands are to the handle, the more difficult this exercise will be. Switch up your hands and your stance to work the other side of your body.

Grave Digger

SpearStab

It’s time to bury all those imaginary Macedonian soldiers you just killed. Hold the mace like you would a shovel and pretend like you’re digging a hole in the ground with the mace ball. Repeat for several repetitions. Switch up your hands to work the other side of your body.

Splitting Wood

SplittingWood

 

You’ll need a tire for this one. Just pretend like you’re splitting wood like a lumberjack. Start off with your non-dominant hand near the butt of the handle and your dominant hand placed near the mace’s head. Bring the mace head above your head. Swing down. As you swing, slide your dominant hand down the shaft of the mace for extra power. Switch up your hand placement to work the different sides of your body.

Who are we if not searching for meaning?

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Warrior Training

What does it mean to be a warrior? A warrior means many things to me. I have had the honor of knowing and working with many warriors in my life. They all share common traits.

Military organizations are made up of real warriors. Police and fire organizations are full of them. Many of todays martial artists would qualify for “warrior status”.

Even though it may seem that I am only equating fighting/military/police with a warrior I am not. Anyone regardless of profession can be one. It is a mindset.

First of all a true warrior is someone that stands by his/her principles and beliefs. It is someone that is committed to conquering his/her fears and self-limiting beliefs. It is not just about being positive but about waging the war against self-doubt and a negative mindset.

The combat soldiers that I have known have that mindset. They may feel fear bit it does not consume them or stop them from accomplishing their mission. A firefighter will go into a burning building, save a family, and then say “it was nothing”. A police officer will put his/her life on the line everyday without giving it a second thought. We take these people for granted, unless we share the same mindset.

I have been a warrior. I have also been the exact opposite. I am now on my way back from the abyss of fear, doubt and negativity. The difference is astounding.

Living like a warrior means conquering yourself. Being a master of yourself. Being a master of your own destiny and taking responsibility for it. Period.

Training like a warrior means taking on the challenge of working hard. Of pushing yourself to the limits. The methods should be integrated, functional and in many aspects, primitive.

Military-type training is designed for that. It is brilliant in its simplicity and awesome in it’s functionality(for obvious reasons). Anyone that ever goes through any type of basic training develops those qualities. It happens by overcoming challenges that seemed insurmountable at the onset. When you accomplish something that seemed impossible it changes you. The more you do that the “stronger” you become inside and out. You develop the habit. There is nothing like obstacle course training without sleep for making a person tough.

Martial arts training also develops these qualities. The work is hard, the attention to detail is exacting and the inherent danger keeps you focused. I can’t recommend martial arts training enough for anyone looking for a great workout and greater self-confidence. It is said that a man learns his true nature in combat. This is true whether you are in a combat sport or in the military.

Another question is whether or not warriors are born or made. I am not totally sure. Most people never see their true potential and are not willing to put themselves in situations that would force these qualities to emerge. I think that their is a warrior in all of us. The trick is in finding the motivation to find it, dust it off and put a shine on it.

This is why I have so much respect for anyone that serves others, thereby putting the greater good ahead of their own needs. Whether you are a pacifist or at the other end of the spectrum, we all owe so much to the brave men and women that serve their country. They deserve our thanks and gratitude.

Many of the training techniques and concepts that I am known for are based on martial arts training and are great whether you are a cop,an athlete or a stay at home mom. They will develop the mindset, the warrior spirit and the physical conditioning needed to survive the chaos of combat and the unpredictability of life. Everyone that has experienced this training has found something that “spoke”‘ to their inner warrior.

So are you a warrior? Are you ready to walk through life like a warrior? Are you ready to go through the tough training that it takes? If so I wish you luck and success on your journey. It will afford you a life time of happiness and pride.

Forged by Strength and Bound by Honor

Strength and Honor© is created in the Spirit of the Spartan Warrior code.

We treasure Tradition, we value Honor.

We demand Respect, we are loyal to the Brotherhood.

We live by the Code, we die by the Code.

We are the Warrior Spirit that cannot be broken.

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