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.

Effective Berserker Technique against Traditional Styles

Today I’m going to share a technique for a berserker fighting mundane opponents. This involves a combination of trickery, brute strength, and speed.

It is best done after a phrase or two. (For those of you who don’t know, in a fight a phrase is a period when you close and exchange blows or grapple for a bit before breaking apart again.) When you are at a distance and both trying to catch your breath, pant a little harder than you need to. Lower your guard a bit. Stand far enough off that you are obviously out of distance. Well, what would be out of distance for a mundane fighter, at any event. (Out of distance, for the beginners in the audience, means further apart than can be covered in a single lunge.)

Keep your energy low on the outside. This will give your body language a relaxed, tired, not-ready look. On the inside, raise your wod as high as you can. Pups may find this difficult but, with practice, it can be done.

Keep shifting your stance. Change up which hand is leading. Look like you’re trying to psych him out with a fake charge or two. In other words, keep his eyes on your face and hands. When your energy is high, put one foot back and plant it, and sink your weight on it. “Load the spring,” as it were. Observe your opponent carefully. When he exhales, or is distracted, spike your wod, go as hamrammr as you can, and LUNGE. (A little baritus here is a good idea.) The extra strength the gangr will give you should mean that you are actually in distance, and can cover it and strike from inside his guard before he is even aware of what you are doing.

(For you pups who have not been doing you vocab homework, hamrammr is an ancient word, meaning “shape-strong,” that refers to the strength boost you get from massive doses of adrenaline as hyper-oxygenation of the blood.)

If you do this trick correctly, it can easily be a fight ender. Remember, if you combine cleverness with the extra edge the gangr gives you that most opponents don’t expect you to have, you can defeat even an opponent with superior strength and training. This technique requires some good gangr control and experience judging distance and exploding off the mark, though. Practice it!

somaferans and doctors


I have recently found myself dealing with an unusual medical issue, and my maenadic partner suggested that I share it with everyone, because some of us might need to know it.

For a few weeks I had periodically been feeling minor symptoms of illness. I’d get a bit of a headache, nausea, sore throat, and an earache. I was getting winded a little more easily than usual. None of it would be very bad, or last very long, but this kept happening. I went in to see my doctor, as I had a checkup scheduled, and she was of the opinion that I could not be sick in that way, especially not with an ear infection.

I tried using elevation rituals to help myself heal and feel better, as is a common practice among modern somaferans. The night I did that, my symptoms returned and got much worse, and I was acutely ill for two days, then I felt better. The odd symptoms from before were gone.

I am just guessing as to what happened here. I think it’s clear the doctor was wrong about my not being sick. I tend to have a strong immune system, boosted by regular elevations during training. I suspect that I had been sick, but my immune system was mostly fighting it off. Not quite managing to beat it, though, and it kept surging back. When I turned my attention to my health in an elevated state, my body “found” the rest of the infection, and brought to bear its full resources on it. This produced the worsened symptoms. Most of the bad effects of being sick are actually the effects of your immune system trying to fight off the infection.

I bring this all up because, as my partner said, the close somaferan mind-body connection means we have physiologies that function a little differently than normal, and doctors are trained to diagnose things based on the average model. Like my doctor here, they may not be acquainted with how things work for you, and may therefore ignore some things and misinterpret others. Please understand – I am not saying you should not see a doctor for health problems. You should. Just understand that they might not understand. If you feel there is something going on with your health issues that your doctor does not see, do not just dismiss it.

Wod and Ond: Using Breath Work

Wod is the power of fury and inspiration. It is the fuel source that all somaferans use. It is created by many things, but the most important mover of wod is ond, the breath. This is analogous to many other systems of internal martial art, in which such terms as “chi” refer to both the breath and to spiritual power. One of the most important things that a berserker can learn is how to raise and direct the wod with the breath. This technique is also invaluable to many other somaferans, because wod control can be used to aid healing and even help psychological problems.

The most basic form of wod breathing is the “breath of surprise”. This is the kind of breath you take when you are deeply surprised: a deep breath, with a great expansion of the lungs, all in an instant. When you do this, your wod spikes sharply. If you do something immediately after taking such a breath, it will be powered by that elevated wod. If you do this before making an attack, the attack will be incredibly powerful. If you do this before doing something taking precision, your aim and coordination will be superior. If you do this before uttering a meditative mantra, the result will be pure and strong.

There are other forms of breathing too, of course. The “big exhale” is kind of the inverse of the breath of surprise. It involves forcefully yet steadily exhaling most of the air in your lung. You use this one to steady your mind, calm your jitters, and collect your scattered thoughts. One good use for it is to use it while striking, shooting, or doing anything else that requires precision, because it will steady your mind and keep it focused. Another good use for it is to get rid of unwanted thoughts and worries. When these thoughts seize your mind, do not react to tem. Just give a big exhale, and let them wind down naturally. This latter use works especially well with an exceptionally long exhale.

Hyperventilation will raise the wod too, although not by spiking it. It will instead build it a little more slowly, but it will also last a little longer. Breathing more or less deeply, and more or less rapidly, will change how quickly you accumulate it.

Long, shallow breathing keeps your wod low. This is ideal for when you really need to center yourself. If you do it well, it may sharpen your senses a little.

If you are a martial artist, understanding breath control has another use as well. Observing your opponent’s breathing allows you to make attacks that have a much greater than usual chance of working, if you are a close observer with fast reactions. You see, exhalation runs the mind down a bit, momentarily. After your opponent has exhaled, there will be a moment, but only a moment, when his attention is scattered, his reflexes slow, and his mind dulled. Strike, or otherwise move, during this moment and there is a good chance that he won’t see it coming.

An Update for the Old Pack

OK, this one will not mean a lot to a lot of people. It is meant for the core group of the old somafera Pack, who were into exploring the advanced elements of the gangr. Though the Pack is scattered to the four winds, still do I owe my old kin an update on important discoveries.

Brothers and sisters, I believe I have at long last found the key to the zero wod elevation technique we sought. As most of you know, the problem with elevation rituals is twofold:

  • They use a LOT of energy.
  • They involve false thoughts, or thoughts that are discriminatory (this and not that). Such thoughts are always approximations, thus they always generate errors that end the gangr state, and worse.

I had long believed that any deliberate attempt to raise or control wod would result in false thoughts, so I searched for a zero wod elevation technique. Many of us suspected that the right combination of thoughts could effortlessly result in effortless and instantaneous gangr, without all the ritual and revving up. Several of us experienced states in which some great power came to us unbidden, while some other force seemed to control our physical actions. Not unlike when a car suddenly swerves into your lane, and you suddenly drive with much more skill than ever before, and Something Else seems to move you. We suspected this was the result of hitting some of the right thoughts for a zero wod state.

Yet such states were random, and did not last long. Also, they tended to ultimately achieve less than a good focused ritual could.

Of course, we said, the last time we discussed this matter. It takes a lot more to go from zero to sixty, as the zero wod thing requires. A ritual is more like shifting slowly up through the gears.

I believe recent experiences of mine have shown a way past this paradigm. The key to the zero wod elevation is in the following sequence of steps, I believe:

  • Get VERY familiar with an elevation technique. Use it all the time, for everything. Become very, very good with it. This takes years and years.
  • Once you reach the point where you have spontaneous elevation responses on a daily basis, for long periods of time, with no effort or intent, stop using the ritual. Forever.
  • The key here is to use an obscure technique some of you know: canned meditation, as some of us called it. If you perform a meditation ritual, and leave out a key element, and DO NOT REACT TO THE RITUAL IN ANY WAY, then you have left a certain potential energy in your memory, your subconscious mind. Later, by performing the missing element, you get in an instant something like the benefit of the whole prolonged meditation. I used this technique to great benefit in the tournament. So, by experiencing spontaneous gangr flashes, and doing things like listening to music that kicks in the elevation response, if you get into a deep meditative calm and do not react to it, you will have “canned the meditation” for later use.
  • Doing this constantly, until it becomes reflex, should eventually solve the zero to sixty problem. Your natural habit of thought will then generate tons of potential mental and emotional energy that, when you need to elevate, can be tapped by reflex, without effort. Zero to sixty in an instant. Zero wod elevation. No ritual, full strength.

The benefit of this is that none of this will be the result of false thoughts. No errors generated = no limit to the time you can stay elevated? At any rate, it’s the most credible path forward, and past The Wall, that I have found in years of research. I hope you are all well, my siblings.

Weighted Badminton Training

Today I will share with you all one of the best training exercises I ever developed in my days as a fighting berserker: weighted badminton. That is to say, I played badminton while wearing ten pound weights on each ankle, five pound weights on each wrist, and a thirty pound weight vest.

Badminton is a game of precision and delicacy. It is easy to hit the lightweight shuttlecock out of bounds. It also involves a lot of speed, in getting across the court in time. Doing this in weights, while your opponent wears none, is a ridiculous challenge. It requires berserking to move yourself that fast, and to position your racket just right. Trouble is, if you’re berserk enough to move that quickly with that much weight, you are using so much strength that the tiniest twitch of your wrist will send the shuttlecock not only out of bounds, but probably also over any nearby buildings.

Therein lies the value of this sort of training. Any pup can get stronger in a gangr. No art to that. Trouble is, in that state you waste a ton of energy, and you tend to overbalance and waste movements. You are also dangerous to your partner, if you are only sparring or sport fighting. True mastery of the gangr as a fighting art requires control and finesse. Weighted badminton training taught me how to be very berserk while simultaneously reining my energy in, and wasting none. It taught me to only flash into strength spikes when needed, and to instantly drop back into “floating the suspension” afterward. It taught me to instinctively trigger psychetachia in the moment of a strike, so that I could take advantage of the insane speed to get me where I needed to be, then perceive everything slow down so much that I could reposition or pull back as needed, and strike with precision and with not an ounce more force than necessary.

These lessons made me a much better fighter, one who wasted less energy, lasted longer, and did fewer stupid things. It also made me safe to spar and sport fight with. I heartily recommend this training technique.