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.

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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.

An Anti-Berserker Martial Art Style

I have fought extensively in amateur open-hand mixed martial arts tournaments, both against my fellow berserkers and against mundane opponents. I have had some fairly decent practice with a variety of guns. Yet the martial art that is closest to my heart is the sword. I have trained with the broadsword since I was eleven years old. I have had the privilege to fight against some talented swordsmen from many different styles, from all over the world. My very favorite fights have always been with a blade.

Some years ago, I fought an undefeated season in the Broadsword League, a New England organization dedicated to the practice of seventeenth century basket hilted broadsword and similar weapons. One opponent I kept running into over and over again. He had been training quite seriously for years, and had devoted his life to becoming a master of his martial art. Still, he was much younger and less experienced than I was, and I defeated him easily every time we crossed blades.

Years later, I heard that he had completed his training and had been acknowledged as a master by his tradition, and had opened his own school. I had always seen great potential in him, and hoped his graduation had made him a more worthy opponent. Since I knew his teacher, I asked him to arrange a duel for me. The man accepted. On the appointed day I went to a quiet park with my second, and my wooden dueling sword. I was hoping the fight would be more interesting than our old ones. I tell you what, I was NOT disappointed.

You see, he had been hoping to attract my attention. He had been training for years with the sole aim of defeating me. He had always had a difficult time with the berserker style, because it did not use any of the conventions of traditional swordsmanship. Many traditional techniques do not fare well against a berserker’s moves. So you know what he did?

He invented a whole, unique style of martial art specifically designed to be used by non-berserkers against the berserker style. And it worked! In every duel I had ever fought against him before, I had bested him in under five minutes. While I won this fight, it took forty five minutes of uninterrupted dueling before I could beat him. By the end I could barely stand, was sweating so much it looked like I had been swimming, and was gasping for air for what seemed like an eternity.

And this is why I am relating this story today, dear readers, to let the martial artists amongst you know what an anti-berserker martial arts style looks like, so you can be prepared for it if you ever encounter it.

He had accurately assessed what the strengths and weaknesses of the berserker style were. He knew berserkers eschew forms and kata, and count on insanely fast reactions and a good intuitive assessment of stance. The typical berserker techniques will include being in an open, receptive state of mind, what is sometimes referred to as the naïve mind, to see the possibilities inherent in the opponent’s stance at an intuitive level. Being able to anticipate the two or three most likely lines of attack and defense means that we can be ready for them, and this can give us the appearance of having an insanely fast reflexive response. This is boosted by the massive amounts of adrenaline in the bloodstream and electrical activity in the nervous system, which actually does give us insanely fast reflexes.

So he never took a stance. He never kept his blade in one position. He kept moving at all times. He kept shifting his stance. He wove his blade in a complex pattern, and kept shifting it up. He had trained his endurance to maintain this high energy output for quite awhile. In short, he kept me from getting a lock on his potential attacks and defenses. This reduced my apparent reaction speed, and cut down the attacks and defenses I could make. It was a GOOD FIGHT! His style worked very well. His tradition clearly made the right call, elevating him to the rank of master. Anyone who can fight a person a few times and then create a whole new style of swordsmanship capable of defeating his style is clearly a master.

This is probably what any talented mundane martial artist who wants to take on a berserker will do, no matter what the weapon or style used. It maximizes their strengths and our weaknesses. If he had been able to hold out just a little while longer, my endurance would have given out and then he would have had me. Our endurance is one of our biggest weaknesses, because we burn energy at an insane rate. He figured that out, and made a style that worked so well against my strengths that he had a damn good chance at leveraging my weakness against me.

As far as beating this anti-berserker martial art style, I can make a few recommendations. Don’t run too hot. Use a chi approach over a wod approach. Concentrate on maintaining a good meditative state and amp your senses up as much as possible. If you know how, try to lay a warfetter on your opponent after you have observed him or her long enough to pull it off. Try to stay just out of distance, or what seems like just out of distance to a normal fighter. Observe your opponent: just after he or she exhales, or is distracted, or is otherwise momentarily in a blind spot, spike your wod and rush in close and strike. If you do it right, you’ll beat his reflexive defense.

Good luck!

Somaferans and Social Interaction

Today’s post is a request from a fellow somaferan, on the topic of social interactions and somaferans. Asking me to give advice about social interactions is rather like asking Stephen Hawking for tips on how to play football, but I will share what I understand about this topic.

We are not good at it, in general, for a number of reasons. One is that we tend to get easily enthusiastic, and easily impatient, with things. Other people do not share our enthusiasms, or understand why we suddenly lose patience with things. Because of this, somaferan social interactions with other people go kind of like playing with musicians who are reading different sheet music.

Another reason is that we have a tendency to wear our hearts on our sleeves. Most people are used to concealing at least some part of their real feelings, and expect others to do the same. This often leads to misunderstandings. And to people taking advantage of you, when they realize they have the key to your heart.

Then there is the often regrettable tendency we somaferans have to be honest. Bluntly so. Rudely so, by most non-somaferans’ standards. Many somaferans tend to lack understanding of and patience for the little social graces, and also tend to lack any sort of filter between impulse and mouth. This does not make us popular.

There isn’t a lot of advice I can give for making social interactions for our kind any easier. I am extremely antisocial. I generally try to avoid social interactions, which solves these problems for me rather nicely. That is not always possible, though, and of course many somaferans are rather social creatures, despite being so bad at it. I would advise being very selective in who you associate with. If somebody is not willing to do the work and have the patience necessary to understand you, and to hear things the way you meant them rather than the way most people take them, then that person is not worth the effort involved in dealing with them.

Another thing I could advise is creating a social interaction persona. Create a character in your head, perhaps even with his or her own name. Give them the characteristics you think are needed for successful social interaction. Spend some time thinking about this persona. Then, when you need to, be it. A somaferan is used to being multiple people, it should not be difficult to become “possessed,” as it were, by the character you created. This can make things much smoother, though it gets exhausting after awhile.

With regards to Red Green, Good luck. I’m pulling for you. We’re all in this together.

Berserker Training for the Poor and Urban

It is not always easy to train as a berserker, or somaferan martial artist. We have no established schools. Our training methods are generally not welcome in most gyms. Many of us do not live in or near the woods. If you are in an area that is urban or suburban enough to not have any public space you could have a little privacy in, then you may be forced to train in your own home, for the most part, and on your own. Do not despair, though, there is still a lot you can do. I have used these techniques to train for more than one martial arts tournament, including some I won.

One of my favorite solo indoor exercises was hanging several coins or small rocks in a circle from the ceiling, using twine. I would stand amongst them and, using only my outstretched fingers, strike them all while standing in the middle. The key is to keep them all moving without letting any of them hit you, without leaving the circle. A good variant on this is blindfolding yourself first. This trains you to greater awareness of your other senses, and helps you develop a good spatial memory.

Bodyweight exercises are your friend! You know Charles Atlas’ work? This kind of exercise tends to build a lean, muscular fighter’s body without bulking up. Good for speed as well as strength.

Got a hallway? Use HIIT, or wind sprints. If you can, go jogging around the block a few times, on a regular basis. Developing endurance is the most important thing you can do as a fighter. Gentleman Jack Johnson, an old-time boxing champ, ONLY trained endurance, and simply outlasted all of his opponents.

Throw punches like in shadow boxing. Seriously. Doing thousands of punches, concentrating on your form, will do more for you as a fighter than almost anything else will. Aiming at your moving shadow will keep mixing it up, avoiding the problems that forms give.

Of course, this approach does require you to be able to elevate as a berserker inside, without bothering or freaking out your hosuemates, if any.

Good luck.

Gangr Amnesia

The following question was recently posted in the Comments section.

“I often hear berserkers saying they’ve blacked out during gangrs. That’s only happened to me a couple times for very brief periods. What’s more common for me is, in my gangr state, I’m aware of what’s happening and able to remember a some things, but it’s like I’m watching from the outside, almost out of body but that’s not quite the right way to explain. It’s like my mind is a passive obsever who is in no way controlling what the Beast is doing. And my memory of the event will be spotty. But I seldom have actual amnesia, just a loss of control and cant remember certain details after. Is that common?”

This is a matter of both luck and experience. Most berserkers start with complete blackouts and amnesia every time they berserk. With experience, foggy memories start to appear, and the kind of dissociated awareness that is described here. With even more experience, complete awareness and memory are retained.

Some few are just lucky enough to always be aware. That is rather rarer than what I described above, though.

This is all because the berserker state of mind is radically different than the normal human one. Its awareness is very different. The way it lays down memories and accesses them is different. The human mind has to become familiar enough with these differences for it to be able to access those memories, or latch onto the Beast’s awareness.