Category Archives: Writing

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?

Book Review — Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief

Chapter 1 is entitled, “A Photograph of God? An Introduction to the Biology of Belief.” When you open up a book and you see those words, you understand immediately that you are dealing with authors who are willing to trade in hyperbole and unafraid of laying iron traps of materiality for God. Reading on, you find that what the chapter describes is the manner in which the authors scanned the brain of a subject named Robert, a Tibetan Buddhist, at the height of a meditative experience of oneness.

While the story is interesting, it is obvious that the authors have not taken a photograph of God.   They have taken a photograph of Robert’s brain.

Serious scientists and theologians, and in fact anyone with a teaspoon of common sense, knows this.  What exactly are the authors trying to prove?  For whom is this book written?

To tease that out, let’s begin with the observation that most people who believe in God understand that God is the ground of being. As a result, there’s no mystery or internal conflict in the observation that the experience of mind is inextricably linked with the vehicle called the brain.  As a Christian, this issue has already been fully explained and illuminated for me.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God;  all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1: 1-5 (RSV).

This passage is eloquently describes the relationship between God, conscousness and matter.  Religious people, who have wisdom literature like this at their disposal, don’t need to see scans of the brains of other believers to know that the experience of deity is real.  Hard scientists and unswerving atheists aren’t likely to be even mildly intrigued by Robert’s brain scans.  That leaves the floundering middle — neither reasoned believers nor scientific atheists — as the target of the book.  And I suspect that is also the camp to which the authors themselves belong.

That’s not to say that Why God Won’t Go Away doesn’t contain some entertaining and valuable insights.  I was impressed by its exploration of how myth and ritual are in fact practical survival instincts.  They do a wonderful job of explaining how the brain works in layman’s terms.  They provide a convincing scientific argument for the integrity of mind and brain, and this might be an eye-opening realization for someone looking for an escape hatch from the iron box of materialism.

And I think that’s the authors’ ultimate goal.  In the final chapters they finally come out and say it.

“We believe neurotheology provides the best source for developing satisfying mega- and metatheologies.”  (p. 176).

They are essentially positing the need to create some kind of new, common-denominator religion by starting with the brain and its chemistry.  Why would anybody want to do that?  Because the authors have bought into pop-culture history, atheist tropes, and all of the common snares and traps that snag the naive and hapless and seal them off from a universe filled with God’s wonder and beauty.  The final chapters are peppered with all of the old saws — that the church persecuted Galileo and is the enemy of science, that religion causes wars and strife, and so on. [If you believe this sort of foolishness, please read this.]

The authors believe we need a new religion that doesn’t do what the old ones do.  For those who are floundering in the same manner as the authors, this book may be a ray of light.  But once the light is seen, God awaits us in the great faiths of the world.  We do not need to reinvent the wheel, for in them we will see wheels withing wheels.

If you liked this article, there’s a good chance you’d like one of my books.  They’re available pretty much everywhere, but you can get most any of them in eBook format here.

Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief is by Andrew Newberg, M.D. Eugene D’Aquill, M.D., Ph.D., and Vince Rause.


QUANTUS a poem


Embodied in you, my skin
So into you, my mind
Burns in my skull, your bone
Is my bone and my home

Cry out to you, my friend
So long ago, I saw
The dark and still, the warm
Where we were first born

I can’t but you will, I know
Let be and let go, please show
Me the way, my stone
To rejoin and atone

There is a place, it’s there
Where we will go, someday
One heart and one mind, rewind
Released and unblind

“Hey Mitch, what’s this poetry thing all about?” I want to collaborate with Blue Öyster Cult and I’m hoping the Öyster Boys will think this would make a good lyric.

Did you know I wrote a paranormal/mystery/romance book inspired by Blue Öyster Cult’s lyrical themes?  Click here to download it here for free!

The cover to my book “Chatters on the Tide” inspired by the music of Blue Öyster Cult

Book Review: “What’s So Great About Christianity” by Dinesh D’Souza

I don’t follow the news and I’m not plugged into current events.   So when I was assigned What’s So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D’Souza for a seminary class, I had no idea that the author had been convicted of a crime, pardoned by the president, and was shrouded in controversy.  It wasn’t until half-way through his book that I found out any of that.  I was enjoying the book so much that I decided to search the web for more his work to put into my reading queue.  Then the internet split open and his tangled history spilled into my lap.

One of the most pervasive evils of the present day is the “blame-splaining” phenomenon.  Instead of engaging with someone’s ideas, the tendency these days is to sidestep them entirely and point to a personal failure or professional blemish.  Or, even more commonly, to mine their work, dig up an old quote from years ago, and trot it out with no context.  This requires the intellectual acumen of a ten-year-old brat. 

There was a kid in elementary school who just couldn’t stand anybody getting a complement of any kind. He’d point out some flaw in the person or the product, no matter how minor.   I can still remember his freckled ten-year-old face saying “Well, it’s not perfect.”  

It is not a brilliant intellectual insight that nothing and nobody is perfect.  A nasty little ten-year-old kid knows that.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was a drunk, but The Great Gatsby is one of the world’s greatest novels.  Louis Pasteur — who saved millions of lives by pioneering vaccination and pasteurization — performed clinical trials without a medical license and may have experimented on humans with inadequate scientific rigor. Sure, you can argue character and motives, but you can’t refute the quality of Fitzgerald’s prose or Pasteur’s science.  

Likewise, Dinesh D’Souza is not a perfect person, nor is he the cultural equivalent of Fitzgerald or Pasteur.  But his arguments in this book are generally sound.  He points out that Christianity is the source of:

  • Separation of church and state (“Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” Matt. 22:21)
  • Functional atheism (the search for logical/scientific solutions before resorting to the supernatural)
  • Public service (“the last shall be first and the first shall be last” Matt. 20:16)
  • The quest for objective truth through science (Fr. Georges Lemaître first posited the Big Bang Theory which was strenuously resisted by atheist scientists who desperately wanted to support the steady state theory)

But I think he’s at his best when he’s myth-busting.  It was very refreshing to see a popular book refute the often-touted “fact” that Christianity is a source of strife, war and death.  He stresses that the real killer isn’t Christianity but atheism.

The three crimes most often alleged against Christianity, D’Souza points out, are the Crusades, the witch trials and the Spanish inquisition.  But the Crusades were a series of wars against the Turks who had invaded the Holy Land, which had previously held by the Byzantine Empire. Losses were great on all sides. This wasn’t a “Christian” war — it was just a war.  The European witch trials, from 1450 to 1750, claimed 35,000 lives over 300 years. At Salem only 19 were executed. From 1478 to 1834 the Spanish inquisition resulted in no more than 5,000 dead over 350 years.   The grand total for these tragedies: 40,000.  

Atheist regimes, on the other hand, were responsible for millions of lost lives in a single century.  Mao killed about 65 million, Stalin 20 million, Hitler 6 million, and Pol Pot another 2 million.  Grand total: 93 million.  Christians aren’t perfect. Fair enough — and about as valuable as any ten-year-old’s observation goes. But Christianity, through its charity, philanthropy and peace-making work, has clearly saved a thousands times more lives than it may have taken.

I enjoyed his book a great deal.  It was smoothly written, engaging, and well-constructed.  As for D’Souza’s personality, his character, politics, criminal record, and other works, I’ll leave those evaluations to other reviewers.

Creature Teacher: Martial Arts Training Involution #176

Continuing the theme this month, this week’s T.I. is an excerpt from a forthcoming module of my Frontier Rough & Tumble martial arts program on animal teachers.

We learned from Frog that there is a great lesson in sitting still, and we received the gift of contemplation which literally means to watch something — from the Latin  contemplārī meaning “to observe.”

From Dog we learned that there is great utility — and an evolutionary imperative — for not just hiding our suffering but learning to be happy and loving even when we are suffering.

From Hawk we learned that the ability to assume the thousand-foot view, and to keep our eye on the grand scheme, is essential to success.

And from the cave paintings of our ancestors we learned that what is truly unique to the human animal is our ability to visualize and to mythologize — to examine past failures, pre-test schemes and plans, and rehearse our strategies in the flesh-and-blood virtual reality environment of the brain.

From these four animal teachers we can distill four powerful tactics for fighting stress that you can use every day — not just during a self-defense situation, but at work, at home, or any time.  The problem is that when you’re stressed your tendency is going to be toward panic.  So you’ll need to practice this sequence often enough that it becomes second nature.

When you find yourself extremely stressed:

  1. Be like Dog.  Pretend to be perfectly calm and relaxed even when your thoughts are in disarray.  In the same way that water assumes the shape of the vessel in which it is placed, your mind will begin to conform to the attitude of your body if you buy it some time.
  2. Be like Hawk.  Breathe, soar, and gain some distance.  Take slow, deep breaths making sure that your airways remain open at all times.  Make a conscious effort to hesitate for a few beats between inhaling and exhaling phases, but never hold or clamp down on your breath.
  3. Be like your ancestors and go to the cave — the cave of your mind.  Regain your comfort zone by calling up a mental picture of either of a familiar and related training simulation or of an actual previous success during similar circumstances.  You’ve been here before and you’re going to be fine.
  4. Be like Frog.  Go on auto-pilot.  Just be in the present moment.

Creature Teacher: Martial Arts Training Involution #176

These weekly T.I.s can be very physically demanding —  especially if you’re doing them on the weekend in addition to another training program.  This week we’re going to take it a little break and do some head work.  Practice the above drill.  Run through all the steps one by one.  Then make a note in your planner, or set a reminder on your phone, to run through them every day for the next week or so until you have them memorized.  Then take a nice long sit, at least ten minutes.  Try to practice your contemplation for double your usual daily length (but not more than an hour).  Daily internal work — contemplation, meditation and prayer — are essential to the health of the human body, mind and spirit.  If you’re not doing daily internal work there’s no way you’re maximizing your health and potential.  So get started!

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!

Frontier Martial Arts Research Continues

Research for my Frontier Rough & Tumble (FRT) martial arts program continues hot and heavy.  Here’s a rundown of what I’ve been doing over the last month or so along with some pictures.

Onward and upward!

Field Research

  • This weekend I will be attending the 68th Annual Chickahominy Indian Pow-Wow.  I hope to learn more about indigenous culture and connect with fellow locals interested in both FRT and Powhatan Indian language revival.  Wingapo!
  • Last weekend I visited the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton Virginia (see photo set below).  I took numerous notes and photos and spoke with management about FRT teaching opportunities at the property.  Ms. Vaughn showed interest and we are going to try and put some demonstrations together.
  • Back in August I visited Crockett Tavern in Morristown, TN.  More about that trip here.
  • Camping.  Making an effort to get as much outdoor adventure time worked into my busy schedule as possible.

Books Read

Physical and experimental Studies

  • Movement experimentation, both armed and unarmed.  Including but not limited to obstacle clearing, safety rolling, vaulting, scrambling, running, and quad running.
  • Applications of traditional chores for strength building.  Repetitive hauling, lifting, digging, ramming, chopping, hammering, etc.
  • Meditation, contemplation and prayer practice.  Increased time commitment and added new emphasis on practical postures, less-than-ideal conditions, and lack of predictability.
  • Practical spirituality studies.  Exploring the places where Christian ideas, indigenous myths and stories, prehistoric art, and practical hunting, fighting, and observation skills all overlap.  Big discoveries here folks — big, Big, BIG.
  • Mark Hatmaker’s RAW Program.  And of course I am enrolled in Hatmaker’s distance learning program which includes, boxing, wrestling and FRT.  Mark is the man.

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Draco Aqua

Swirling whirling compass spins
The circle squared breaks its frame
Hits the deck its cross is maimed
Up is fouled, down is laimed
When chaos reigns the Dragon wins

Lifeboats down and time is up
Who will run for ropes and rails
And flee the darted poison tail?
Who will steer and dare to fail
Whelming death and drink the cup?

Storm-clouds break, the Dragon dives
Many the man who floats alone
Lost at sea, wandering gone
Stalwart few with spirits honed
Sailing on preserved alive

In vain we plot, as Graves decried
The Dragon’s death, or seeking proof
Denounce his scales and saw-edged tooth
Material man, here’s your truth
The Dragon flaunts an unpierced hide

“Hey Mitch, what’s this poetry thing all about?” I want to collaborate with Blue Öyster Cult and I’m hoping the Öyster Boys will think this would make a good lyric.

Did you know I wrote a paranormal/mystery/romance book inspired by Blue Öyster Cult’s lyrical themes?  Click here to download it here for free!

The cover to my book “Chatters on the Tide” inspired by the music of Blue Öyster Cult