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 https://www.medindia.net/news/your-aggressive-tone-can-reflect-your-size-and-strength-to-others-180619-1.htm 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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Pavel Tsatsouline

Today, I wish to take a moment to offer you all some good advice: if you are into physical fitness, and especially if you are a martial artist, you need to check out the works of Pavel Tsatsouline. The Evil Russian, as he is known, is hands down the most knowledgeable and effective trainer for fighting fitness and general fitness I have ever run across. As a former fitness trainer for the Spetsnaz, he should be! Following his advice, I went from being a guy who had serious back and neck problems and got winded after a minute of intense activity to being a guy who is the winner of numerous amateur mixed martial arts tournaments and has defeated SEALs and marines in them as often as they have defeated me. Everything the Evil Russian has ever written is well worth buying.

And just in case Mr. Tsatsouline ever chances to read this: thank you, Comrade!