Category Archives: Martial arts

Ice and Fire: Martial Arts Training Involution #181

Rountree’s “The Powhatan Indians of Virginia” contains a wealth of information and is surprisingly fun to read for a scholarly work of its kind.

My frontier lifeways research continues to pay dividends for both the Bobcat Frontier Rough ‘n’ Tumble program and for Cabal Fang martial arts.

A Powhatan warrior, I’ve discovered, was expected to be silent and taciturn when beaten for a criminal offense and, if tortured, his only outcry should be insults directed at his captors.

The Powhatan began at a very early age to inure themselves to discomfort.  In Rountree’s The Powhatan Indians of Virginia, I read that they took  daily, early morning baths in the nearest natural body of water, regardless of the season — men, women and children alike.  They told the English that they did it for two reasons – both to keep them clean and to harden them to the cold.

More indigenous training methods will appear in future Bobcat training modules — but some of them are so brutal that they will have to be modified, adapted, or even replaced with alternative analogs to make them compatible with modern sensibilities.

Stoicism — indifference to pain and discomfort — is an often-neglected martial skill.  It’s difficult to train safely and there’s a fine line between pain tolerance training and masochism or torture. Traditional martial artists use body toughening techniques like shin rolling, makiwara and wooden dummy training to instill pain tolerance. This is why in Cabal Fang we stress the importance of the forging post.

All of this leads us nicely to ice method of pain tolerance training — the “ice” in this week’s “Ice and Fire” training involution.

Ice and Fire: Martial Arts Training Involution #181

  • Ice.  Half fill a large pitcher with water and ice.  Set timer for 3 mins and plunge your open hand into it to test pain tolerance.  Do not squirm, make faces, or utter a sound.  If you can’t go the full 3 mins, practice daily until you can. Note: As shown in Mythbusters episode #142, holding a hand in ice water for ≤ 3 minutes is safe for people with no precluding health issues.
  • Fire.  Complete the following martial calisthenics: 50 Lunges (Drop Duck-under-style), 50 Reverses (Back Bridge to roll over), 25 Sit-out Push-ups, 25 Bear Walks (5 yards each), 50 Shots, 50 Sprawls, and 50 Sit-ups (from Bottom Scissors while thigh-squeezing a floor bag).  Beginners, do half.
  • Extra credit.  3 minute cold bath or shower.  Set timer and get in.  Do not squirm, make faces, or utter a sound. Tip: Meditate, contemplate, pray, or do what I do to pass the time: recite wisdom literature in your head.  My favorites are Matthew 6: 1-4, Philippians 4:4-9, The Lord’s Prayer, and the Emerald Tablet.

If you enjoyed his training involution you’d probably enjoy my books.  Why not check one out?

Martial Arts Compliant Calisthenics

Click here to download!

I haven’t always done a perfect job of practicing my calisthenics in a”martial arts compliant” fashion.  I just sort of trusted that if I did my calisthenics I’d stay fit.  And to some extent that’s true.  From Sparta to Parris Island, calisthenics have always been the way to get human beings fit to fight.

But as I get older I simply cannot afford to throw sweat at the wall and see what sticks.  I just don’t bounce back after high volume training sessions like a used to.   To stay powerful and healthy I need to maintain intensity while cutting total volume.

That means I need to get maximum bang for every drop of sweat expended. That’s called efficiency.  And there’s nothing wrong with you being efficient either.

So what I’ve started doing with much more consistently is making my calisthenics “martial arts compliant.”  See video below.

Hatmaker’s Readiness Test — Part 5

Click here to see Mark’s entire post

If you missed Parts 1 through 4 in this series, click here.  In a nutshell, author and martial arts coach Mark Hatmaker recently posted The Self-Resilient Readiness Test  and I worked my way through them to assess my ability to self-rescue.



This week I faced the following tests:

#1: Swim half a mile.  To my utter shock and surprise I was actually able to complete this challenge.  Sure, it took me a very long 20:17 to get there, but I finished it without putting my feet on the bottom of the pool or hanging on the edge.  I loved this challenge because it pushed me outside my comfort zone.  I have not swum laps in over 20 years and, because I don’t have a pool membership, I had to get my daughter Morgan to guest-pass me into her pool, which ended up being a fun evening for everyone.  Learned a ton from this one.  1 point.

#8: Carry 45 lbs 1 mile in under 12 minutes.  I was able to make the whole mile without putting down the weight (I used a sloshy sand bag) but I was way over the 12-minute mark at 16:50.  Without the weight I could’ve walked it in 18 mins.  So, as you can see, this was for me a pathetic slog rather than a run. 1/2 point.

#4: Fifteen Chin-ups, no breaks.  I was hoping my biceps tendinopathy would be sufficiently healed so as to allow me to attempt this one, but alas, no.  It’s going to be months before I can really try this.  Doesn’t matter that before I messed up my bicep I could do 15 chins with 15 lbs on a shoulder strap.  Old Man Used-To is dead and gone — I gotta take the zero.

At this “point” it’s important to “point” out that, just line in Whose Line Is It Anyway?  the points don’t matter.

It’s not about the points

It’s about self-assessing.  It’s about learning things about yourself, stepping outside your comfort zones, taking ownership of your capabilities, and so much more.  So when I talk about my scores, don’t think I’m trying to “win” or “score big” or any of that.  That ain’t what it is.

My “scores” So Far

#1: #1: Swim half a mile.  Done!  My time = 20:17.  1 point.
#2: Run at top speed for 200 yards.  I’m slow, but I did it. 1 point.
#3: Jump over waist high obstacles.  Close but no cigar.  1/2 point.
#4: 15 Chin-ups with no breaks.  Bicep tendinopathy.  0 points.
#5: 25 dips.  They were pathetic and I had to take breaks.  1/2 point.
#6: Drag a 100 lb. sandbag 50 years in under 30 seconds.  19 seconds.  1 point
#7: 25-yard buddy carry. 1 point
#8: Carry 45 lbs 1 mile in under 12 minutes.  16:50 is a fail. 1/2 point.
#9: One minute unprepared breath hold. Check.  1 point.
#10/11: Swim 25 yards underwater or walk 50 yards out/back on one breath. Picked the latter and failed.  1/2 point.
#12: Do you use drugs or alcohol to impairment?  No. 1 point.
#13: One minute shower on full cold. Check.  1 point.
#14: One day fast in plain sight of favorite foods.  Done.  1 point
#16: All day Tenderfoot Drill. Check.  1 point

Total Score so far: 11 points out of 14

What’s next?  Only one left to complete!

  • #15: Three nights in a row get up and keep a vigil for 15 minutes

Wanna play along?  Post your scores in the comments!

DID YOU KNOW…that I have an awesome shop where you can buy all kinds of cool stuff, like martial arts training materials, bespoke books, artwork, and so on?  Check it out!

New Videos Sundays and Wednesdays

As a deacon and seminarian looking forward to ordination — and trying to grow a little group into something more — I think it’s important to get in the habit of writing a Sunday sermon/homily.

As a martial artists trying to promote my nonprofit Cabal Fang group as well as my Frontier martial arts program, I think videos are a great way to do that.  So I’m setting a goal to publish two videos a week — a video with a religious theme on Sundays and a martial arts video on Wednesdays.

It’s a lot of work, but if you want to achieve the incredible you must attempt the impossible!  Here’s this week’s video for Sunday…

Update — Safari: Martial Arts Training Involution #180

My little suburban safari did not go as planned.  But that was the point — to go outside my comfort zone, to stretch my limitations, and to face the unexpected, the unknown, and the unplanned for.

The first thing that threw me for a loop was that, immediately after the first big turn, Hungary Creek transformed into a reedy, rivuleted flood plain covered in chest-high grass.  I had never previously navigated terrain like that, and it was more than a little nerve-racking.  That was a very, very long stretch for sure.  But I learned a little about nerve, and how to pick your way, and foot placement.  Proud to say I didn’t even once get myself sunk below the shoe tops.

Once I was back to woods and thickets I was alright.  It was easy walking for the most part, although circuitous because of fences and property lines.  Eventually however the creek ran through a narrow culvert.  When I emerged onto the road I found myself smack-dab in the middle of the Hoehns Lake gated community, surrounded by “No Trespassing” signs.  The creek was running straight down the middle, and they would’ve called the cops for sure if I had stuck to course.  Didn’t have much choice besides high-tailing it down the private road to the main road.

Of course, along the way I got barked at by several dogs and challenged by a frowning resident, but they weren’t anything I couldn’t handle with a few apologies, some raised hands, and some smiles.

Back on the main road I skirted the private property, regained the creek on the other side, and continued my adventure.  Eventually though I ran into an 8′ high chain link fence with barbed wire ontop — another community — Laurel Lakes this time.  See selfie at right.  It’s the only one I took during the trip, because that unfortunately the end.

I had covered roughly 5 miles at that point.  So I ambled over to Laurel Park, sat down in the shade of mighty pine, had a snack, and took a catnap.  Then I hiked the 3 miles home.

What did I learn this trip?

  • Don’t panic in high grass and start hurrying to get out — you might step in a hole and find yourself with a twisted ankle while up to your neck in mud.  Pick your way with your feet cock-eyed so you press the grass down ahead of you.  You can see where you’re headed quite a bit better,  you make a kind of mat that keeps your feet from sinking into the goop, and it gives the snakes more time to flee ahead of you.
  • As I’m getting older I have to slow down.  I am no longer as sure-footed as a billy goat.  If I was to stumble and jam my leg into a tangle of logs and flood debris, I’d spiral break a leg.
  • No matter how light you’re traveling, throw in a pair of dry socks.  I was lucky my feet didn’t get soaked.  If they had, I would’ve been miserable.
  • Old-fashioned blanket-covered canteens are twice as good as the modern kind.  They ride better and bounce less.  My 2-liter, pill-shaped canteen was more comfy that a 1-liter bullet-styled one.
  • Hemp-cotton blends dry almost as fast at poly-cotton blends.  My hemp-blend shirt kept me cool and dry.

Although I didn’t successfully walk the whole creek, it was still and fun and educational day!

Original Post from 10/26/19

At the time this post is scheduled to publish, I will be exploring the entire 6 mile length of Hungary Creek.  I’m only familiar with about a third of it, so this is going to be fun.

This suburban waterway runs through the  powerline easements of my neighborhood, between parks and housing developments, and winds its way in and out of dense thickets.

I’m calling it an suburban safari.

Once upon a time a safari was understood to be a trip to Africa to hunt large game.  Technically though, safari is a Swahili word that means “journey”  and that’s mostly what it means these days — a journey through unfamiliar territory.

Your assignment this week is to go on a safari.  Like me, you don’t need to go very far to find unexplored territory.

safari: Martial Arts Training Involution #180

Take a hike, go for a paddle or mountain bike ride, etc.  Carefully select an activity that will be challenging based on your experience level.   Beginners, seek the advice and help of friends and loved ones who know your skills and read my book The Wildwood Workbook: Nature Appreciation and Survival.  

At a bare minimum, tell at least two people where you’re going, take a fully stocked possibles bag, a fully charged cell phone, and plenty of water.  

If your situation won’t allow you to wander far from home, go out to your back yard or patio and climb a pyramid or ziggurat.   Now there’s an adventure of a slightly different kind!

If you enjoyed his training involution you’d probably enjoy my books.  Why not check one out?

The Holy Cross: Vervaeke, Exegesis, Truth, and the Hermetic Quaternary

In this video I examine the Cognitive Scientific idea of the Four Ways of Knowing (as expounded by John Vervaeke in Episode 1 of his video series Awakening from the Meaning Crisis) by the light of Hermetic and Christian concepts.

For a Google spreadsheet of all the Holy Cross associations I make in the video, click here.




Year Ten: Martial Arts Training Involution #179

I can’t believe that today we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of Cabal Fang martial arts.

It seems like just yesterday that I started this crazy project.  What’s amazing is that thousands of people have read the Cabal Fang books, watched our videos, and visited this blog to find out about what we’re up to.

What’s even more amazing to me is that so many people have invested their physical, material effort, their sweat and attention, by training with us.  All of these folks are now my friends, and all of them — everyone who has ever attended a Cabal Fang training session here in Richmond, VA — has been invited to a celebration and homecoming event at my house this afternoon.

So I kind of need to wrap up this week’s T.I. and start getting ready for guests!

Anyway, in honor of our anniversary, this week’s. T.I. is a flashback to our very first official constitutional.  If you’re new to my blog and/or to Cabal Fang, a constitutional is a calisthenics training routine made up of seven different calisthenics exercises done back-to-back as quickly as possible and while taking as few breaks as possible.  A new constitutional is created each month, and everyone in the club is expected to get through it twice a week.  To see a complete list of all our monthly constitutionals back to 2009, click here.

At Cabal Fang we believe that calisthenics are an essential component of functional fitness.  So, without further preamble I present our first official monthly constitutional.

Year Ten: Martial Arts Training Involution #179

* Warm-up.  Set a timer for 8 mins and warm up thoroughly until the timer beeps.
* Martial mobility.  Perform 4-rep sets of Shots, Leg Triangles, Inside leg kick with décollage, and Sit-Out Push-ups for another 8 mins.
* Constitutional.

Lunges (100)
Log Presses (50) (use a sandbag or heavy bag if you don’t have a log)
Ab Punches (1.5 mins)
Neck Crunches (100)
Bodybuilders (25)
Jack-knifes (25)
Wall Touches (100)

If you enjoyed his training involution you’d probably enjoy my books.  Why not check one out?