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January 3, 2017

(I hope, sincerely, that everyone had a happy holiday season, whether they celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, the Winter Solstice, or Yule. We’ve been exceedingly busy, working, taking care of the farm, and spending time with kith and kin. Among my New Year’s Resolutions, discussed in depth with HH6, is my commitment to writing more, and getting classes lined up and taught. More on that in a moment though…

It has come to my attention that a whole lot of people apparently view President-Elect Trump as damned near the Messiah, come again. As a result of this, much like in 2000, with the election of George W. Bush to the Presidency, large numbers of people who were preparing for the “Coming Collapse” decided suddenly that all was hunky-dory again, and went back to whatever they were doing, giving up on being prepared for emergencies in general, and the continued decline of imperial grandeur specifically.

While I willingly concede that pretty much anyone, including a half-trained ape, would have made a more desirable POTUS than Hillary Clinton, I do not now, nor have I ever, believed Donald Trump is going to actually change much of anything, for anyone in the US. Will there be some positive changes in some areas? Sure, it’s a given. As anyone who has read Forging the Hero can tell you, however, I can point to historical patterns and trends that pretty conclusively tell us, “shit just ain’t right,” and it isn’t going to get better in the long run. The root causes of our problems are still present (and if the choice of THREE career Goldman Sachs bankers to cabinet positions doesn’t tell you that, I hope you have someone nearby trained in CPR, to clear your airway, after they pull your head out of the sand).

Nevertheless, I suspect we, like much of the Preparedness and Shooting blogosphere, will lose a large percentage of casual readers, despite the fervent cries of the last decade about “being prepared for anything!” That is fine. If you believe Trump as POTUS is going to fix things, I bid you good luck, and genuinely, wish you the best.

For those readers with enough sense to recognize that, even if some things seem a little better, for a little while…I have talked about trying to make changes to the blog on a number of occasions, and have generally fallen short, due to mitigating circumstances, outside of my control (and as MANY, MANY students will gleefully inform you, I am a wholehearted believer in “control what you can control, and don’t sweat the rest”).

Our (myself and HH6) combined resolution is to allow me to commit more time to this, on the side of everything else we have going on. Some readers will have noticed that, in addition to writing for this blog, and Forward Observer, I have begun writing articles for I  am committed to an article a week (ish) for them. Sam and I have discussed moving my focus on articles for FO away from hard skills (shooting, etc) to more of the soft skills, along the lines of community-building, etc. Since I am actually getting paid by PGO (:-) ) this actually works out well. Hard skills articles will be posted there. Community Building skill articles will be at FO. This blog will continue to have a little of both, but will probably tend to focus more on the barbarian antecedents and the historical precursors and patterns we are living through, as well as a trend towards some of the non-gunfight related hard skills that are necessary for the Mountain Guerrilla to survive and thrive, that we are putting into practice ourself, such as raising food, teaching neighbors, building, small-scale, affordable off-grid power systems, etc.

We have also committed to doing more classes this year than last, since we really didn’t do very many, due to local obligations. I have at least one private coming up in February. We are working on scheduling a couple in Arizona in March, and in Idaho in April or May. If you have interest in hosting a class elsewhere, in summer or autumn, private or open-enrollment, please contact HH6 at as soon as possible.

In the meantime…as I sit down to start putting this new course-of-action into play…after my last article repost, one of the criticism I received was that I didn’t say much about HOW to develop a set of standards to strive for and adhere to, because most people don’t have any idea on what the standards should be. In light of that, very justified criticism, I decided to repost this article, describing what I have genuinely come to believe is the safest, sanest approach to developing training standards for anyone who does not have a professional obligation to meet a published performance metric.

Valkyries, Valhalla, and the Way of the Samurai (Originally published 17APR15)

Contrary to popular current mythology, and the History Channel’s Vikings television show, dying in battle was not a ticket to sex with Valkyries, getting drunk on mead, and partying with Odin in Valhalla, in pre-Christian Germanic belief. The most commonly accepted view of the mythos—amongst those scholars that accept that the belief system actually encompassed Valhalla as an afterlife destination, which is far from universal amongst historians and archeologists—is that the Valkyries, the “Choosers of the Slain,” would scour the battlefield dead, and select half of them to bring to Odin’s Hall. The other half went elsewhere (Freyja’s Hall, but that’s not actually germane to the conversation here).

Thus, in the ancient Germanic warrior culture, regardless of how brave you were, how hard you fought, and how well-trained you were, there was only a 50/50 chance that you would get to go to Valhalla. Ultimately, the choice was outside of your control. So, why would a warrior train for war, venture forth gladly to the battlefield, and then perform valorous acts that almost guaranteed death in the long run, if there was only a 50% chance of getting what you wanted?

In his classic treatise on the philosophy behind the Samurai code of “Bushido,” entitled Hagakure, and often billed as “The Book of the Samurai,” retired Samurai-turned-monk Yamamoto Tsunetomo, wrote that “the way of the samurai is found in death.” He admonished young warriors to calmly accept that death would occur on the battlefield, regardless of the efforts of the individual. Despite this, the samurai trained in earnest for battlefield effectiveness from youth onward. It didn’t matter that you calmly accepted that you were going to die, you still trained hard to be as lethal as humanly possible.

There is a school of philosophy that was originated in ancient Greece, and codified by Roman philosophers like Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca. That school was called “Stoicism.” It was probably not what you think.

In modern colloquialism, “stoic” has a meaning that is not congruent with the origins of the word within that school of philosophy. In our use, stoic is defined as enduring pain or hardship without showing emotions or complaining. When we read the ancient philosophers like Aurelius though, we see that he—by many considered the definitive writer of the school of Stoicism—greatly mourned the deaths of his sons. He grew angry with poor performance by his subordinate military commanders. Bereavement and anger are contrary to the modern use of the word stoic, but the greatest writer on the school of philosophy that gave us that word was more than willing to admit that he felt both emotions. How does that work?

More importantly, what do northern European tribal warriors, Japanese samurai, and ancient Roman philosophers, have to do with modern survivalism, preparedness, and training? Pretty much every-fucking-thing.

Whether we use the Roman term “stoicism,” or we discuss Germanic warlords, or Japanese samurai, we’re talking about the same thing. Stoicism is the calm acceptance of responsibility. It is the acceptance that I am responsible for what I am capable of controlling. I cannot control what anyone else does or does not do. I cannot control the outcome of events, after I’ve done the work.

Retired Delta Sergeant-Major Pat McNamara writes about this when he recommends performance-based training, rather than outcome-based training. We don’t worry about the outcome. We focus our efforts on what we are responsible for. It doesn’t matter if I hit a Master classification on the IDPA Classifier. What matters is whether I take responsibility for the actions—the training—that will allow me to achieve that. It doesn’t matter if I hit a sub-1:00 second draw to first shot break with my Glock. I cannot control that.

Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

It makes sense though, when you stop trying to control anything except yourself. Rather than trying to hit a 1:00 second draw to first shot, focus on executing the draw, sight alignment, and trigger press as fast as you are capable of, while still performing each step of the process as correctly as you are capable of. If you get a 1:00 second draw to first shot, great. If you don’t, but you did everything as fast as you were capable of, but still did it as perfect as you are capable of, great.

When the bell tolls for you, and you are in a gunfight, you have exactly zero control of the outcome. You have zero control over who you will be fighting. You have zero control over what training he has had. You have zero control over his speed and accuracy. You have zero control over whether he moves at the moment you break your shot, causing you to miss. You are not in control over anything that you are not in control of. Accept it. Embrace it. Accept responsibility for what you are responsible for.

So, what are you responsible for, that will make a difference? Why bother training, if we don’t have control anyway?

You are responsible for you. You are responsible for your actions. You do have control over who your enemy will be fighting. You have control over the training you will have had. You have control over what speed and accuracy you will be able to achieve. You have control over whether you are fit enough to move, fast enough. You are in control of everything that you are in control of. Accept that responsibility.

The Germanic warrior trained hard, to be better than his foe, so that he could perform valorous acts on the battlefield, and hoped that the Valkyries noticed, and took him, if it turned out that his foe was better than him. The Samurai trained hard so that he could perform well, so that hopefully, his ancestors would recognize his honor in the afterlife.

We can set performance standards. “You need to be able to achieve X in XX:XX seconds, and then you are qualified.” That’s fine. If you’re willing to accept that, then fine. Accept responsibility for it. Perhaps it will be enough.

The better way; the Stoic way accepted by warrior cultures throughout history, and throughout the world though, is to take responsibility for yourself. Accept that you have absolute control over what you have control over, and don’t worry about the rest of it. If you take the responsibility you need to take, then you will perform. If you don’t, you will fail.

You cannot control whether you achieve X in XX:XX. What you can control is, “I will do XYZ every day. I will try to perform better and faster, every time I perform XYZ. If I do this, eventually, I will achieve X in XX:XX, then I will continue to improve.”

“Hard” standards of performance are, by definition, minimal standards. “Soft” standards are superior to hard standards. They require stoic acceptance of the struggle. They require you to continue trying to improve. “Hard” standards are about “stay safe.” “Soft” standards are about “fuck safe, stay dangerous.”

I taught a TC3 class in Idaho this weekend past. After the training one night, at supper with some of the students, we were discussing PT. You can follow any number of PT programs out there. I describe a program in Volume One of The Reluctant Partisan. Rob Shaul of Mountain Athlete, located in Jackson, Wyoming has “tactical athlete” specific training programs. Gym Jones in Salt Lake City, UT provides training for tactical athletes. Crossfit is—of course—popular with many tactical athletes.

Ultimately, if you want to do PT to improve yourself, it’s not particularly difficult. Lift more today than you lifted yesterday, and lift more tomorrow than you can lift today. Run or ruck further and faster today than you did yesterday, and run or ruck further and faster tomorrow than you do today. Any strength and conditioning specialist or personal trainer will, of course, tell you that this is a gross oversimplification. You have to factor in all the variables: nutrition, rest and recovery, etc.

Bullshit. If you walked out in your front yard right now, and picked up a 45-lb Olympic barbell off the ground and pressed it all the way over your head, and did that five times, then repeated that—and nothing else—every single day, rain, shine, sleet, or snow, adding five pounds every day, in a month, you would be fitter than you are today. If you walk outside tomorrow, and you walk two miles, as fast as you can walk that two miles, and tomorrow, you repeated it, but threw ten pounds into a backpack while you did it, and repeated that every day for a month; you would be fitter—faster and stronger—than you are today.

People bitch and whine all the time in the comments on this blog about my exhortations to do PT, shoot, and train. “It’s too hard!” “I’m too crippled.” “I’m too old.” “It’s cold outside.” “It’s too hot.”

That’s fine. Blame it on the environment. I don’t give a shit.

You can’t control whether it will be hard or easy. You cannot control your past injuries. You cannot control your age. You cannot control the weather. You can control your reactions to those things. If you choose to let them stop you, fine. Just accept responsibility for it. The difficulty of exercise and training, your old injuries, your age, the weather; none of those things are in your control. They cannot control you either. You, and you alone, are responsible for your actions. It’s not your age or the weather that’s stopping you from being dangerous. It’s being a whiny little bitch who wants to blame someone else for your failings that stops you from being dangerous.


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  1. Wes permalink

    I see Trump as more of a band aid than a savior. He’s just buying us more time, maybe..

  2. PT, PT, PT. I’m with you amigo. Almost every small group I’ve visited and trained with is lacking in that department. Guys are willing to spend thousands on gear, invest time and money on training, and yet time and again are unwilling to do something that costs nothing but time, effort, and basic discipline. That always comes up as the first AAR comment after a session – “We need more PT”. Some do it, some don’t.

    Glad to hear you have a paying gig. Keep up the fire!

  3. SemperFi, 0321 permalink

    I’m headed to Jackson on Wed, seeing Doc about meniscus surgery soon! Have decided to get my 62 yr old ass in even better shape than now, as I have a lot of backpacking in mind for the summer. Thanks for the tip on the gym in Jackson, must swing by.
    And hope all is well with you.

  4. Dustin Daniels permalink

    Great post. Hope to see more in the future. I am reading through your blog for the second time since running across it. Love your writing style and attitude. Recently found Pat Mac as well. What a bad assistance and motivator. Would love to see you in videos but realize it will never happen and totally understand. Keep up the good work and thank you sir.

  5. Comrade X permalink


    Take care of those bones this year, it is what it is!

  6. James permalink

    I would not look at any POTUS as a saviour/everything now fine incident.As many say,will watch and hope for best and with perhaps a little more breathing room can learn more skills/better some skills.That said,do believe the first 100 days will be “interesting”.I hope the New Year treats us all well.

  7. huckleberryfun permalink

    I’ll keep reading. Still with you because shit still ain’t right.

  8. HunterRavenwood permalink

    What advice would you give to those who have trouble motivating themselves to train due to them not liking/enjoying it? For example, if someone doesn’t like BJJ, how do you make sure they train? In short, how do you embrace the suck?

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