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.


Wod / Qi

Today’s post is promoted from the comments section, because it raises a good point. The comment was

“According to the internal martial arts, they say that when you focus your attention on a bodypart, qi will go there, but the qi is followed by the blood, and blood is followed by strength. When I concentrate on a bodypart, I notice that part will get a little warmer and I feel some kind of pressure and pins and needles. Is this something that berserkers will use to elevate their wod/qi by concentrating on their whole body?”

That is a very good exercise, yes. Concentrate on the whole body, or concentrate this on your hara, in the middle of your body a couple inches below your navel, and once you build it up there, start circulating it. In time, you will learn to raise such high levels of wod that the full elevation becomes possible.