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!

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.

enhancing healing

As many berserkers in training soon discover, the berserker path necessitates a lot of healing. The same kind of enhancement that works for strength will work for healing. Just elevating will speed up the healing process, as long as you keep yourself well fed.

But we can do better than that.

The key is gestaltic visualization. Visualize the location of the injury. Concentrate on the feel of the injury. Try to picture the parts of your body that actually do the healing. Picture your body as a whole, coursing with power. Picture your elevated self. Picture yourself free of injury. Visualize every detail of the injured parts of your body from as many perspectives as possible. Visualize healing runes. Visualize them on your injury. Visualize yourself inhaling healing energy from the world around you, and directing it to the wound.

Keep switching from one image to another. Concentrate powerfully on each, but linger on none.

You are aiming to build up a powerful, complex, detailed image of your injury and your healing, one far more complex than you can manage just by concentrating on one thing. This will recruit and focus FAR more of your mind into the healing effort, and the speed with which you heal should improve.

New Book

I have published a new book about somafera. One thing I have noticed over the years I have been involved in the somafera community is that a lot of people do not process information well in the rather academic way I went about it in the previous book. Instead, they tend to understand things better when presented with examples. So I wrote a memoir, a narrative of my own story as a somaferan. I included, in brief, the stories of several others. It’s a short booklet, a little more than eighty pages, but I believe I included the important things. I go over what childhood can be like for a berserker, and how to gain control. I discuss the unique problems of a somaferan nature, and show some ways they can be dealt with. It can be purchased here.

(The title comes from something they always used to write on my report cards when I was a kid.)


Tendons, ligaments, and the gangr.

Recently I received the following question in the comments section, and thought it deserved wider attention:

“when someone enters the gangr and try to lift a very heavy weight that would normaly is to much for his tendons en joints to handle, will the enforced healing capability fix this problem? I mean when his tendons begin to slowly rip apart will this be healed so that he still can lift the weight?”

The answer is, unfortunately, no. Berserkers heal fast, but not that fast. One of the hard upper limits on enhanced strength is the tendons and ligaments. A berserker enhances his or her strength in a few ways. The primary source of it is adrenaline, combined with burning whatever fuel reserves the body is holding by for an emergency. Lowering the activity in the antagonist muscles is another, permitting more of the body’s inherent strength to be exercised. A reduction of the brain’s natural inhibitions, a lack of ability to feel fear, and an insensitivity to pain can also allow you to exert more of your strength than you normally would, because you aren’t thinking about the consequences. Finally, one of the odder effects of the berserker unitary state is the ability to very rapidly un-knot cramped muscles, which also ups the amount of strength you can effectively use by a bit.

None of that has any effect on the tendons. Let me relate an amusing story that should serve you all as a cautionary tale. I am a big man. 6’2”, large frame, decently muscled. Most fights I have been in, both in and out of the ring, have been against fighters who were, at most, as large as me, and often smaller. Several years ago, I was in my amped-up training phase to prepare for that year’s Shieldbiter’s Cup berserker tournament when I learned about another amateur MMA tournament in my area, not specifically a berserker thing. So I thought I would enter it as a warmup.

It was a decent warmup. I went through my first few bouts undefeated. Then I was confronted by an opponent who was significantly bigger than me, and who had far superior training in classic martial arts to me. This pushed me to my limits when fighting him. I was deeply berserk. In that state, well, you revert to instinctive behavior, not a lot of human level thinking going on. One of my fight-ending techniques, that had often served me well, was to bull-rush my opponent, drop low, and use my berserker strength to lift him over my head and throw him. I did that with this guy, though he was over 300 pounds. My wolfish self assessed that I had the strength, when berserk, to do it. I did, in fact, manage to lift him completely overhead.

Then my MCL tore. That’s one of the tendons in the knee. My muscle output was amplified. Tendon strength was the same as ever. I fell. My larger opponent fell on top of me, of course. I spent a year on crutches and walking with a cane. I am only recently getting something like my old shape back.

Gender Differences and Somafera

Somebody recently asked about female somaferans in one of the comment threads, and an important question like that should get a spotlight, so here goes.

There seem to be fewer female berserkers than male ones, in my experience. However, as far as I can tell, there are roughly equal numbers of male and female somaferans. I have noticed that female somaferans tend to more often be of one sort of madspace variety or another. Maenadism is a common form of female somaferan, but women who experience more intellectual types of madspace than spiritual types are just as common. In other words, female somaferans tend to have the kinds of somaferan natures that give them easy access to deep ecstatic spiritual trance states, such as those experienced during Vodoun rituals, or the kinds of intellectual eureka revelations that drive science and other forms of problem solving.

Insofar as female berserkers go, they can be just as dangerous as the male variety. Now, the gangr only enhances whatever strength is already present through changes in body chemistry and muscle use, so male berserkers tend to still be much stronger, even in a gangr. However, this strength difference does not matter as much as one might think.

There were two types of initiations that the berserkers of the old Pack used to use. Trial by fire was one, but trial by combat was another. One of our few female berserkers decided that she wanted to have an initiation ritual, and requested trial by combat, with me as her opponent. It went as most such experiences do, with me just playing with her enough to trigger fear and anger without putting her down. When she suddenly broke through, however, she put me down quickly. I may have been stronger, but her smaller size meant that the extra oomph the gangr state gave to her speed was greater than mine. She rushed in faster than I could react to. While I might have been strong enough still to clobber her even in her gangr rage, she struck with an adrenaline-enhanced power, well placed, that put me down so fast that my extra strength didn’t matter. She jumped on top of me to pin me long enough for a win. I was surprised. I have fought a great many opponents, and there have only ever been two I could not lift off of me. One was a 500 pound sumo. The other was her 160 pound frame. She kept pushing me down with great power and shifting her position so quickly that I could not effectively oppose her.

I will note also that, in the Poetic Edda, Thor boasts of having defeated women berserkers as if this was such a mighty undertaking that even a god might boast of it.