Mastering Psychetachia: A Practical Primer

I have recently been asked for some advice on mastering the art of psychetachia. That is not an easy request to answer. Trying to teach the art of psychetachia is somewhat like trying to teach someone how to wiggle their ears. It’s way too specific to each person. However, I will try.

First, for those of you who don’t know, psychetachia is a mental state in which your internal sense of time runs much faster than it usually does. This makes it seem like time in the outside world has slowed down. This gives you relatively more time to act and react than you have outside of this state. Police officers and the military are sometimes trained to learn how to enter this state at will. Its advantages for the fighting berserker should be obvious. It is an especially common technique for berserkers because the gangr makes us very prone to experiencing it. It can range from mild, in which things in the outside world seem a little slower than usual to extreme, in which dropped objects seem to float lazily to the ground, although the extreme states never last long.

There are three components, biologically speaking, that go into setting your body up for the psychetachia state. One is a massive amount of adrenaline in your bloodstream. The second is a raised electrical potential in your nervous system. The third is a deep meditative calm. The first two make signals travel through your brain and nervous system faster. The third one minimizes distractions and resistance to your natural reactions.

To put it in spiritual terms, you need a hel of a lot of wod in your system.

So that’s the first thing you need to develop: maximize the amount of wod you can raise. It doesn’t much matter how you do it, everyone’s got their own techniques, but you need to get to the point where everything in your field of vision seems to shine. (Note: a few people don’t see the shining effect, they hear a buzzing noise instead.) Amongst your wod raising techniques, I would recommend whipping your head around/headbanging. This stimulates blood flow to the brain. I would also recommend deep breathing exercises. Rhythmic movements help, too.

Once you get to this stage, psychetachia is much more likely to happen spontaneously. But that is not the same thing as reliably. If you want control, you need to take it further. This will involve learning to spike your wod even further, but there’s more to it than that. There has to be a need for you to be especially fast. In the deep meditative state that accompanies heightened levels of wod, a genuine need will cause your mind to reshape its function to fill that need. This is how you learn to trigger and control the psychetachia state.

Let me give you some examples. One of the exercises that taught me control of the state involves a little prep work. First I constructed a gallows-like structure, with the support pole sunk into the ground. From it I hung some strings of different lengths, each with a rock tied to the end. Then, underneath this all, I put in some short monkey poles, which are poles that stand at different heights. Each was just wide enough for me to balance on on the ball of one foot. Then, after raising my wod, I stood on the poles and set myself the task of keeping all of the rocks swinging by striking them, while standing only on the poles, not letting them get tangled up with each other, and not letting them hit me. This was all way too much to keep track of at the speed things were moving, and this pushed me into a psychetachia state often enough that I came to understand how it worked, and could replicate it through an effort of will.

This is the approach to training that the Rillway school, my old Pack’s style of the berserkergang, favored: cles. It was an approach used by some ancient berserkers, and it amounts to trying to do feats that require more out of you than you have, so that the need can bring out the ability.

If you do not have access to outdoor space where you can set something like that up, there is a lamer but still effective indoor version you can use. Tack or tape several strings of different lengths to the ceiling in a circle. Tie or tape a coin to the end of each. Standing only in the circle, keep all of the coins swinging without getting tangled up or hitting you.

The most valuable exercise for developing a deep understanding and control of psychetachia, I found, was badminton, wearing a 30lb weighted vest, 5lb weights on each wrist, and 10lb weights on each ankle. Moving fast enough to catch the shuttlecock in that much weight requires a LOT of wod. Controlling your shot when that wod-high so that it stays in bounds requires an insane level of awareness and self control. It pushed my development of psychetachia control like nothing else did.

That one is also a good exercise because it teaches you how to move really fast and then pull back at the last instant, so you get the benefit of speed but retain finesse and don’t overpower things. If you ever master psychetachia well enough to call on it reliably, then you have the potential to become really dangerous to your sparring partners and opponents. Let me share with you an example. During the time after my initiation, I was sparring regularly with an opponent who practiced the same sword style as me (17th century regimental basket hilted broadsword). I suddenly got into a powerful psychetachia state and struck him three times in the time it took for him to raise his sword 1/4 of the way toward blocking my first attack. The third strike shattered my wooden sparring sword. Against his body. It left him with a nasty two foot bruise and an inability to stand. I could easily have broken his ribs if I had hit a little higher. Moving fast means hitting hard. So part of your learning psychetachia must be learning control.

And speaking of the sword martial arts, they also make for excellent psychetachia training. The tip of a sword moves between 200 and 300 mph. If that doesn’t push you into psychetachia then nothing will.

Hmm, I would also recommend the antique video game Breakout. Deceptively simple, it requires reflexes of lightning and a wide awareness when it gets going.

There is also one more thing you can learn to help you get into the psychetachia state. It is what my sensei referred to as a stored meditation. Up to 24 hours before your training, perform some sort of meditative ritual designed to boost your wod. Use a series of mantras or mudras or yantras or something. Intone a series of runes. Whatever works for you. The point is to get into a powerful ritual, and then stop before carrying out the last step. Immediately put it out of your mind and go and do something else. Once you are in the midst of your training, say the last mantra, intone the final rune, or whatever, and if you have done it right, you get the benefit of a long ritual all in an instant.

That is a part of the strategy of using everything you can to get your foot in the door. Eat a candy bar before training. Have some coffee. Heightened blood sugar and caffeine will also make you more prone to psychetachia. The idea is to use every trick you can to experience it a few times, so you can learn enough to access the state without the tricks.


P.S. Of course, once you really get a handle on psychetachia, then you are set to begin studying the warfetter, the berserkers’ most advanced technique.

Meditation and Rage Issues: A Primer for Berserkers on the Edge

It is all too common for somaferans, especially the berserker variety, to have rage issues. This can range from mildly bad tempered to violently out of control. There are a number of things that need to be done to address these problems including, in most cases, therapy. However, one of the most important things a berserker with rage issues can do is start meditating.

Meditation has a calming, centering effect. This is its primary benefit for such berserkers. Spending some time each day in quiet, seated meditation will help most people feel a little more balanced and at ease. There is also the secondary benefit of insight.

When your mind is calm, it becomes easier for you to hear faint, distant signals from your subconscious. Some of these signals are things you need to hear. Some of them will have to do with the reasons why you get angry, with the things that make you upset. So, when you suddenly get a flash of insight while you are meditating, or afterward, pay attention to it.

One thing that can help with these issues is to spend ten minutes or so sitting comfortably in a quiet, dark place, meditating. This can help you calm and center yourself, and take you a bit further away from the edge of snapping.

A second thing you can do is to sometimes, after you have finished meditating, picture yourself in the kind of situations that make you lose your temper. Imagine yourself responding by laughing at the thing that angered you and walking away. Even if it is hard to do, even if you can’t do it very well, this exercise will have value. The meditative state makes your mind more receptive to instruction. By doing this visualization after meditating, you are priming your mind to learn this new habit of response. It may take awhile for this technique to work, but in time it will work.

It is also a good idea to spend some time each day trying to briefly touch upon the meditative state throughout the day as you go about your business. No sitting, no ritual, no quiet place, just try to do the mental part. This will help you keep calm and balanced throughout the day.

if you do not know how to meditate, then try these instructions, one of the simplest and most effective beginner’s techniques I have ever come across.

With your eyes closed, try to picture a white wall off in the distance. Really visualize it as strongly as you can. It should be plain, featureless white. Then, in your mind’s eye, get closer to the wall, like you are walking up to it. Once you are standing right in front of it, it should fill up your vision. All that you can see, even in your peripheral vision, is the wall. Once you have done this, take away the wall.

This is an excellent way of easing the mind up to a state of emptiness, which is not natural to it. My martial arts instructor taught it to me when I was nine, and I found it very effective, as did his other students.

In addition to meditation, there are a few other things that a berserker with rage issues can do to deal with it safely. One of the most important of these is finding a way to blow off steam. Having a heavy bag at home can do wonders. When you feel the anger building up, spending some time hitting the bag as hard as you can will usually work it out of your system safely. Another thing you can do is learn to play hard. Playing some kind of sport like football will help you bleed off some of the extra energy and aggression so that it never builds up. So can partying hard. (If you don’t have addiction issues.) Finally, I would also suggest getting a sponsor, kind of like in AA. Someone you can talk to when you need help, who can help you work through the issue of the moment.

Good luck.

I’m Back / Some Words on Meditation

For awhile now, I have been wondering if I was done with this blog. I have covered many of the topics I thought would be of use to other somaferans. My own work is not something I generally post about. I have, after all, been doing this for some 20 years now, and the things I am pursuing are not going to be a lot of use or interest to most. So, lacking a lot of interaction or questions from readers, I had been considering just closing the blog.

However, I have been contacted by an unusually large number of people just discovering their own somaferan natures recently, who have bemoaned the lack of a community, advice, and support. Some asked me to try to restart this blog. So, I will.

It occurs to me that I should say some things about the role of meditation in the development of control over the somafera state, as it is a question I have been asked about repeatedly in recent days. The “elevated” state of somafera, as it is often called, is something more than just a meditative state. However, it is based in a state of deep meditation. Essentially, elevation is a temporary mental and physical hypercompetence that arises from a special kind of meditative state.

To put it in the terms developed by Drs. Newberg, D’Aquili, and Rause in their study on transcendental meditation and neurobiology, very deep meditative states partially or fully shut off the posterior superior parietal lobe of the brain, causing the brain to start functioning in a very alien but temporarily more effective manner, which can also boost the body’s performance. To get the posterior superior parietal lobe to shut off requires a very deep meditative state. The kind of meditative state that can cause the meditator to completely lose awareness of the outside world.

More than this, though, the meditative state needs to be unusually stable. The sudden shift into the new way of functioning is EXTREMELY disorienting. It can easily make you ask “what the hel is that?” or otherwise lose the meditative state by focusing on self awareness. In other words, your meditative state needs to be so good that your world can literally turn upside down without distracting you or causing you to pay attention to it. This is not easy.

The deep, stable meditative state needed to effect the change is beyond any but the most advanced meditators. And that is why there is usually an element of danger in berserker rituals. Danger makes your mind focus in an unusually powerful way. All other concerns fall away in the face of the danger. This is a kind of advanced meditative state, sometimes known as “positive samadhi” or “single-pointed awareness.” It is a way of pulling off a feat that would otherwise require many years of devoted training.

However, to use this trick, the danger has to be pretty extreme. Ancient berserker initiations often involved a risk of the initiate’s life. They were, however, effective even for young, untrained, inexperienced people. Modern initiations tend to take a middle ground between extreme danger and many years of training. Moderate danger and a moderate degree of meditative skill is the preferred modern approach.

This is why modern pups need to prepare extensively before taking an initiation. It is why those who do not wish an initiation but want some measure of control practice meditation.

If you have no experience with meditation but want to come to terms with, or even master, your own somaferan nature, you need to start meditating on a daily basis. Spend at least ten minutes of seated, still meditation each day. Spend time also doing meditation while walking around and doing other things. Meditate before doing things requiring dexterity and coordination, like playing some video games, to learn how to use meditation to clear your mind and improve your reflexes. You must get to the point where you need no mantra, yantra, mudra, or anything else to empty your mind. If you want to gain control over the berserkergang to use it as a martial art, you must be able to keep this clear, empty mind even while being shaken and shouted at.

Meditation for pups with rage issues, to help them get some control, requires a whole separate post. This one seems to have run on longer than I expected. I will address that issue in the near future.

Total Tonnage Competition

Hello everyone, and happy Yule.

I have been talking recently to an old member of the Pack, who wants to reconnect to his alter after a more mundane period in his life. I suggested that we do one of the old total tonnage competitions we used to do in the old days on the forum as a way to start the process. To make it more interesting, I thought I would post the idea here, so that anyone who wants to can join in.

The idea is to lift weights of any size from the floor to over your head. At the end of the day, you multiply the weight you used by the number of lifts to get the total tons you lifted that day. We do this for a week, and the winner is the one with the highest total tonnage.

Obviously, we are using the honor system, here.

We all found this to be an excellent way of staying in shape, or getting back into it, and developing our relationships with our alters.

We figured we’d start the Monday after Christmas week and run until Sunday night. Anyone who wants to join, just post your lifts starting then.

The Stonewall Defense

Today, let me share with you a boxing technique that I learned back in my amateur fighting days. It served me well against other berserkers, but it is particularly useful for berserker versus mundane matches.

While prepping for the second Shieldbiter’s Cup tournament one year, I traveled to Bosnia to meet up with a fellow berserk fighter, one of my opponents in the upcoming tournament, who was stationed there with the UN. He had got his hands on some wonderful old books by a champion boxer from the early twentieth century: Champ Thomas. He had been a golden gloves champion several times, and fought in carnivals where, if he didn’t win, then he didn’t eat. In How to Be an Ass Whuppin’ Boxer, I believe it was, he described a defensive stance that he had developed himself that he attributed some of his victories to: the Stonewall defense.

In a traditional boxing stance, both hands are held a little way away from the body, so that they are a little closer to the opponent, but not so far out as to be too tiring. In Champ Thomas’ Stonewall defense, the rear forearm is held parallel to the waist, a little above waist level, touching the body. The lead forearm is held straight up with the elbow close to the other fist, and the fist next to the cheek. It, too, should be touching the body.

The idea here is that, by holding your arms in so close, you can hold the stance for a lot longer than most people can hold the traditional stance, because your arms don’t get tired so fast. With only the tiniest of movements, you can shift the position of one of your arms to block any attack, and because your arm is braced against your body, your defense is physically stronger.

A berserker can use it particularly well against a mundane opponent. The key to doing so is getting in really close to your opponent, which is easy because your arms are so close in. Use your heightened reflexes to fight comfortably in close. A lot of mundane opponents are not comfortable in close, shifting the advntage firmly to you.

Alternatively, use it to bolster your endurance. Stamina is many a berserker’s Achilles heel, because we burn through energy so fast. This stance can compensate a bit for that.

Be careful, though: your lower elbow will stick out a bit from your side. A clever opponent who is paying attention can target it and do some real damage.

BTW: Champ Thomas’ books are well worth a read for any fighter out there.

Baritus: The Berserker Kiai

Hello everyone. There was recently a post in the Comments section that I thought deserved a response here. This is the post:

I don’t know if its exactly ‘breathwork’ but all the old stories and reports of somaferan style heroes I’ve read suggest that a warriors ‘battle shout’ is one of his or her greatest weapons and I always laughed and thought it showed how limited they were in their knowledge. Now an article in iscience and referred to in New Scientist and shows that humans male and female can judge height and strength very accurately from aggressive shouting. If as we know somafera style training or ability can boost strength massively, then one way to put people off and slow them down would be to warn them that you were currently much stronger than you look and make them reluctant to fight at all. At the very least it explains why it was so highly regarded in the old stories. OH and I’m getting on fine although old and my 3 children are now adults, two of whom, the girls, have used their innate abilities to fight off much greater nos or sized opponents much to the others surprise. At least it made my kids stop laughing at me for reading your website and other sources of information and teaching them of their available resources in an emergency. As well it reassured me that like my family, my children are much more safe than people might imagine.

Actually, I believe that would be a form of breathwork, good point. It is also one of the few techniques that we actually know that the ancient berserkers used. Called “baritus,” it was traditionally used right before the battle was joined, although it could also be used to great effect in battle. It is pretty much a Western version of the kiai.

I have used it myself to great effect on a number of occasions. Once, during the year I spent fighting in the Broadsword League, I was up against a new swordsman who had only been training for six months, whereas I had been training over twenty years at that point. I found him to be a surprisingly tough opponent where I had expected an easy victory. Turns out he had been a professional dancer for some fifteen years or so before taking up the sword, and he had excellent control over his body, an excellent sense of distance, and truly superior stamina. His lack of experience also meant that he used strange and unanticipated moves that made him more difficult than usual to counter. So, when I judged him psychologically vulnerable for a moment, I used the technique. I am big anyway, and in a berserk state I can manage a good roar. Instantly he shifted from the aggressive approach he had been using to fighting a purely defensive fight. That is always a mistake, because no defense is flawless. To gain victory you need to attack, because sooner or later your opponent will get through your defense. At that point the fight was pretty much over, and I mopped the floor with him. Had he not lost his nerve, he might have been able to beat me, but baritus is a good way of getting inside your opponent’s head.

Let me take a moment here to describe how the technique is done. You see, this is not just loud yelling and a display of aggression. You need to tap into something truly primal to do this right. You have to be pretty berserk to start with, and then you have to really raise your wod as high as you can. You must, if only for a moment, feel truly enraged. As you are probably doing this in a fight, that feeling shouldn’t be too hard to manage. Tap in to all your repressed anger, your inner pain, all the sorrow you have ever felt, all the injustices ever done to you and then, when the tension within is so high that you feel like you will burst, look for your moment. When your opponent has just exhaled, or has finished a move, or looks winded or nervous, give voice to all that emotion in a roar like one of the Tyrannosaurs from Jurassic Park. You should do this in a way that sharply contracts your diaphragm and those muscles along your side, violently expelling the air from your lungs in a large volume.

Not only does this stand a good chance of unnerving your opponent (though beware, experienced fighters will be put off their balance for no more than a fraction of a second), it also will greatly strengthen your own fighting spirit.

Let me tell you something: back in the days of the Pack, I met a lot of fighters of all levels of experience. I fought some, studied under some, and trained some, and if there’s one thing I learned that predicted how well a fighter was going to do in the Shieldbiter’s Cup Tournament, it was whether or not they were able to use the baritus technique. Those who could get into touch with their primal selves and their fighting spirit enough to do it would at least probably make a respectable showing. Those who were too self conscious, or shy, or otherwise unable to tap into that part of themselves did not do well. I usually tried to talk them out of stepping into the ring. This kind of problem indicates some hangups about the more bestial and martial parts of yourself.

If you want to work on developing your fighting spirit and forging a closer connection with your primal self, then practice baritus.

traditional martial arts and the gangr

For today’s post, I am responding to one of the comments.

“Cambridge defines ‘traditional’ as: ‘following or belonging to the ways of behaving or beliefs that have been established for a long time.’ It’s obvious what you mean here when you say ‘traditional styles’; but doesn’t the style you profess ‘belong to ways of behaving [and] beliefs that have been established for a long time’? And don’t the styles you challenge belong to a back-engineered doctrine that has been categorically designed for the world of modernity? ‘Conventional’ styles they may be, sure–but traditional?”

Well, many modern martial arts have a tradition going back generations, however modified they may have been in modern times. There was an interregnum in the lineage of the berserkergang, though, one that lasted centuries. This is now therefore a reconstructed martial art, not a traditional one. It hasn’t even lasted a generation, so it can’t be called traditional when compared to any other martial art.

Also, I am not challenging any styles, traditional or otherwise. The berserkergang is not superior to other styles. It is merely a different kind of style, one that leans hard toward the internal arts rather than the external arts. A skilled traditionalist will easily curb stomp an untrained pup, however strong he or she is in the gangr. A skilled traditionalist is a match even for a skilled berserker, and such matches can go either way, in my experience.

Of course, the truly dangerous fighters are skilled in both traditional external forms and the gangr. I have sometimes managed to defeat such an opponent. More often, I get beat.

One of the members of the old Pack was a former Nay SEAL. He learned the elements of the berserker style very quickly. He said it was because SEAL training is designed to bring out any latent berserker skills a soldier had untapped, so he had already been trained in the arts, essentially. (Not all SEALs were berserkers, he said, but he bet you’d find a much higher percentage there than in the general population.) My point is, there are actually a lot of martial styles that incorporate both internal and external elements. All my approach will teach you is only half of what a truly superior fighter needs to know.