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Across the ages every great society has celebrated and revered a great warrior tradition and passed on the stories of these heroes in folklore. We can look back to the Spartans, Roman Legion, Vikings, Knights, Samurai, or Aztecs and each time we will find that a strong warrior class coincided with a strong nation.
The warriors spirit is alive and well here in the greatest nation in history. Although it lives in the hearts and minds of those who serve in our Military, Law Enforcement and other patriots, our society is beginning to shun warriors and move them down the social ladder. At the turn of the 20th century, warfare began to move away from the martial art of combat and move towards a more mechanical, detached system of destruction. This has changed society’s view of what it means to be a warrior, with the true traits taking a backseat to political correctness.
Another reason for the cultural shift in thinking, is that people have seen an increase in the warriors’ dark side. Of course when most of us hear about the Dark Side, we think of Darth Vader in Star Wars and this is good thing. If you understood how the force worked in the movies, you understand how it works in today’s warriors. A warrior has a certain set of traits that can be used for good or evil and it’s up to each one to choose what path he will follow. It’s also up to our society to allow boys to be boys, men to be men and express themselves in manly ways. Sometimes this involves fighting, which if used for the right reason, is a good thing.
Too many people think that in times of war we can turn on a magical switch to activate our warriors and protect our way of life, then when the war is over we turn off the switch and our warriors go back to eating tofu. I’m guessing that most of you reading this would disagree, but understand that being a warrior is a fulltime job; a way of life and something that needs to be trained and tested so we can be ready for our enemies surprise attacks.
A Way of Life
Going to war is not a prerequisite for the title of warrior. ‘Warrior’ is simply a recognized role in society that has played a vital part in every great society in history and will continue to do so for time immortal. The way of the warrior is a never-ending road of self-discovery and self-improvement. Although it’s difficult to travel and the rewards are few, let’s talk about the traits you’ll need to join the warrior class.
For the guys that I train, I know this is one of the biggest indicators of success in any combat environment. I can see if they’re confident before we even start training. It’s why my Navy SEAL brothers and I can spot one another out in public, even if we’ve never met. A warrior is sure of oneself; having no uncertainty about one’s own abilities or successfulness. Start with the end in mind – You will win. It’s not a question.
Displaying little or no hesitation in battle is vital to survival. Warriors are known for their decisive manner.
Warriors are leaders. To be a good leader you need to be confident and direct in claiming your rights or putting forward your views.
You don’t need to bench 500 pounds to join the club, but you do need to make the most of the muscles you have. Even the most skillful swordsman needs to have the strength to pick up the sword. This applies to mental muscle as well. You need to have a determined will in all that you do. A strong mind can make up for a weak body, but not the other way around.
Having the right mindset is vital, but you need a skill-set to match that big brain of yours. The skills themselves can vary, but the more mad-ninja skills you have the more balanced you’ll become. “Know your sword” ~ Musashi
You need to be moving, doing, or functioning at all times. Ideas and theories are great, but action is what gets thing done. Once you’ve got a plan, execute.
When most people think about being aggressive, they think of a Pit Bull with a bad owner. That aspect can and should be used in combat, but I’m talking about being assertive, bold and energetic.
You’ve got a plan, you’re confident you can do it, now you need to have the discipline to stick to your plan. Getting up every morning at 0400 so you can hit the gym before work sucks! Being fat and out of shape sucks worse! Not hitting the snooze takes discipline. Warriors are disciplined.
Navy SEALS have friend we call Max Flex. It means we need to be able to adjust quickly to different conditions. Being adaptable is what allows species to survive evolution. The way warriors survive in combat is by adapting to the ever-changing battlefield.
You never know when the balloon will go up so you have to be ready 24/7. You need to see everything that’s happening around you and be prepared to react appropriately. Warriors are always prepared and ready.
No, not the kind you find in a hospital bed. Having patience means, bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint. It means manning-up. I’ll always remember the whiners in BUDs complaining about how cold or tired they were. Guess what? We were ALL cold and tired and complaining didn’t make them any warmer (although quitting did).
A warrior needs to be mentally quick and resourceful. When things go to hell, it always happens fast and you need the metal prowess to quickly invent a new way to do what you were just trying to do. Things rarely go exactly as planned and you need to be smart enough to adapt.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve taught my kids is what it means to be brave. Like most people (and even some dictionaries) they thought being brave meant that you weren’t afraid. This is actually the opposite what it means. Being brave means that YOU ARE AFRAID, but you do the offending task in spite of your fears. I’m not afraid to ride roller coasters so me riding one does not make me brave. When my youngest son was afraid to ride a roller coaster for the first time he was afraid, but he was brave enough to go anyways.
An arrow without a tip is just a stick. A warrior needs direction, and that comes from being faithful to a cause, ideal or institution. This could be your family, your country, or a religion. Having loyalty will keep you guided along your path; just make sure you keep it in balance with the other traits.
A warrior has confronted death and understands the value of life. Warriors whose lives are in balance are peaceful, unselfish and have a compassionate concern for the good of others. The love of his family is what gives the warrior his internal energy to constantly train for battle and strength to survive once he’s there.
I know this is a long list and the kicker is that it’s far from complete. My original goal was to come up with a nice sounding number to write about like, “Seven Traits of a Warrior”, but as I started to compile the list it grew far beyond seven and I simply stopped at a point that I thought would give you a good overview of the complexities inside every warrior. You’ll become a true Renaissance-Man in your quest for warrior status, but just remember to stay away from the dark side.
The Dark Side
Like yin and yang, hot and cold or dark and light, all the above traits have two sides that can manifest. If your life is unbalanced, the dark side will be the stronger force and your actions will demonstrate this fact. There are several ways a warrior can become unbalanced and it’s important to quickly recognize this and take corrective actions.
Simply not being well rounded is the quickest way to become unbalanced. We see this with religious extremists who concentrate so much on loyalty to their religion, that they completely neglect things like patience and love.
Suppression of a warrior’s God-given drive will also slowly lead to an imbalance and manifest itself in negative ways. Telling boys it’s wrong to fight is like telling a bird it’s wrong to fly. Holding back someone from what they are supposed to do will lead to unwanted consequences down the road.
Sometimes warriors are traumatized which can effectively short-circuit their systems. It doesn’t make them evil; they are the same person displaying the dark side of their traits. We see this with warriors coming home with PTSD and need to recognize the problem and put them back on the right path.
Finally being improperly or inadequately trained can lead to imbalances. This is happening all over the Middle East where Jihadists’ are training their children to be warriors. They are loyal to religion, disciplined, confident – they have all the traits, but they are being trained that God wants them to kill Infidels, while killing themselves in the process. Bad training of good people.
As you train yourself to become a warrior, be on the lookout for these imbalances and correct them as soon as possible. Like a magnet, all warriors have two sides and you cannot separate them. No matter how thin you slice a magnet it will always have a North and South Pole. In the same way, no matter how much of the dark side you try to remove, you’ll always be left with both sides.
Becoming a Warrior
- Grow a set of NUTs! (Non-negotiable, Unalterable Terms) and live by them. These are anything you’re not willing to compromise in life, Period.
- Start practicing some form of martial arts. MMA, karate, boxing, jujitsu – Pick one you like and go get punched in the face a few times. Find a school near you or start off with a great instructional karate book or video.
- Meditate – This may be getting too close to the spiritual realm for some of you, but meditation is one of the most important things you can do for your mind and body. Sit in a quiet room with your eyes closed and work on quieting your mind for 20-minutes a day. At first you’ll think it’s impossible, then you’ll be able to clear your mind for a few seconds. It gets easier as your life becomes more balanced.
- Find something you’re afraid of and go do it. If it’s a roller coaster, ride them until you stop crying like a 5 year-old girl; if it’s public speaking, join ToastMasters. Everyone has fears – warriors overcome them.
- Workout. It doesn’t matter what you do, just workout hard. Breathe heavy, sweat. If you puke, that’s a good indicator that you’re getting closer to being a warrior!
- Embrace competition. Sign up for a race, a fight or just challenge someone to arm-wrestle. Prove that you’re better than someone else or work until you are.
- Next time your wife asks you where you want to go to dinner, give an answer and get in the car. Be more decisive. The more decisions you make, the easier they are make.
- Start establishing routines and habits in everything you do. We are what we repeatedly do.
- Write down your goals and core values. Review them once a month. If you don’t have a map for your life, how can you expect to get where you want to go?
- Become a master at everything you do. Everything in life is either worth doing well or it’s not worth doing.
- Stop any addictions. If you smoke, do drugs, drink to excess – your life is not in balance.
- Shoot guns. If you don’t know how, find the best book to learn how to shoot and read it.
- Watch warrior movies to see how you’re supposed to be acting. This is my list of inspiring warrior movies.
Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Chris is a former Navy SEAL and the Director of Training for Center Mass Group, which was founded by two former Navy SEAL Instructors. Giving people the experience of being trained by the most elite combat unit in the world, Chris is currently a Maritime-Counter-Terrorism and advanced marksmanship Instructor who has trained DOD, DHS, FBI, CIA and multiple foreign allies in all aspects of combat weapons handling, marksmanship and Maritime Operations. His new book, How to Shoot Like a Navy SEAL, is now available and definitely worthwhile to check out!
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I think that political correctness is having far less an impact on the perception of our warriors than politics! Oftentimes we are asked to participate in actions that are morally questionable and/or have no clear route to victory. The portrayal of the services in the media and on social networks ranges from heroism to oil enforcers to baby killers. Also, it's not lost on some people that actual humanitarian or moral battles do exist and that we do not fight them. As a sailor of 21 years I honor and respect the sacrifice of every service member but the politics and changing face of our service has me on my way out of the door.
PC? No, i submit the new lack of a warrior spirit comes about by being raised in a family without a father. Too many of those unfortunate young men never have an appropriate male role model and grow up with more of a female (hey, I know there are some warrior females out of there but the vast majority just aren't) point of view. Too often boys raised by mom just never learn how to be men.
My father was a tough WWII veteran. I grew up with firearms and hunting, boxing and wrestling, and I don't suffer from being unable to make up my mind. My first real job outside of the family was in the West Texas oil patch as a worm (newbie hand on a drilling rig) working with tough men doing hard things that soon taught the value of a college education. I worked for the US Navy, was a federal agent, Texas rancher, wildcatter, African big game hunter, brush pilot, scuba diver, and ended my working career as a Texas judge. Dad didn't raise sissies.
@Panhandle Rancher Sounds like you've lived an awesome life and I agree that not having a father could very well be the problem for those in that specific situation. But in general that number is very low compared to the much larger societal views that have changed since you were a young lad.
I would even say that from what I see, the lack of a father has led to boys not growing up or not learning how to be gentlemen as is clear with many of todays black, fatherless youth.
Either way, cheers to dads!
@Chris Sajnog @Panhandle Rancher Men must be secure in their self esteem. One can begin the task of becoming a gentleman only when self confident. Self confident people have no reason to debase others in attempt to elevate themselves and such is the beginning of the gentleman's walk.
You can read many of my posts at Modern Survival and Survival Blog.
Thanks for your comment.
@Panhandle Rancher - As much as I agree that without MULTIPLE "Quality" Male role models, boys have a much harder time learning what being a man is really about, but let's face it, even if they have a STRONG male role model at home, in the form of a loving, caring father, the PC mentality and emasculation of America plays an even greater role than most fathers can over come. Everywhere boys turn now it's "Fighting is WRONG", "Feelings are the only important trait"... We have pretty much, as a society, written off the male qualities that make boys, men. Being macho is made fun and SERIOUSLY looked down upon by most of our culture. Being assertive and having an opinion is also looked down upon. Standing up for a cause, unless its a popular (band wagon) cause, is also looked down upon. All of these things that make boys into men, our society tells our boys that they are WRONG for feeling. It's really kind of sad...
PC is the antithesis of all of natures laws, and it can only be embraced by those who have been so insulated from the real world, that the "only the strong survive" seems just "Oh so Neanderthal...".Perhaps the sheepdogs have been doing their job all too well, for too long...The sheep no longer feel the need for them, and find them distasteful.
We have met the enemy, and he is us.
Next time you are out alone in the country after dark, in the cold, and find yourself in the company of some “fluffy, beautiful”coyotes, just “be nice”,offer em a candy bar, and show em your "belly".....see how far that gets you.
@David_M_Bergman Det där första stycket, historikern i mig gråter och är förbannad på författarens lärare.
@903Lew ligger nog något i det, skulle gärna läsa en bra historisk artikel om krigarkulturer av kunnig svensk kollega... wink wink ;-)
@David_M_Bergman Goddamn it. Nu måste jag nästan göra det där.
I fail to see how these traits of warriors are in conflict with vaguely undefined "political correctness." Which is a shame, given the title of the column.
@slingstone49 I am sorry, but I think "political correctness" will be easily understood by most. I fail to see how you fail to see.
This is Dr. Grant Kruhly. I have been a professional martial man for over 40 years with over 50 000 hours of time on the mats. I have had the honor of training and being trained by elite decorated Marines, SWAT, Force Recon, Army, Navy, and Air-force fighter pilots. In my opinion this is one of the best articles I have ever seen and is badly needed in today's America. The entire media and school system is destroying our boys with carefully planned programming. If you disagree your not aware and/or misinformed, or simply brainwashed. As a Doctor with a few degrees including education and a Sensei who has taught thousands of people I am qualified to make such a comment. I applaud this man, and the men he represents, and I feel personally inspired to train harder and with more intent from reading it. Sincerely, Dr. Grant Kruhly, Founder of Applied Samurai Wisdom
@kruhlysensei I doubt a man with a PhD in education would confuse "you're" with "your."
@kruhlysensei Thanks for your kind words Doc. I've been inspired by many of my teaches over the years, so it's nice to be able to pass it on.
Hey Chris, Outstanding article and thank you for your service! I'm one of those old warriors from the Vietnam Era...was a Seawolf working with and living in close proximity to SEALs in the Mekong Delta. It is so refreshing to know the DNA lives on. Things were kinda wild and wooly back then but the" way of life" items you listed are spot on. It is good character, refined in the fire, that produces high achievement...it is an internal reservoir to draw strength and resolve from. Back then there were only 2 teams and they did 6 month tours so in a year you got to work with East and West coast Seals. You may have heard of Hulk Richards was a LTJG back then and Joe Defloria just made 0-5.
This is a great article and I'm going to send it around if that's ok. I have written a book I would like to send you if interested called Born To Be a Warrior. I was looking everywhere to find a definition for "warrior spirit" and could not find one....then this one came to me...check it out! "The passionate desire and determination in the heart of a man to prepare himself and to perfect himself for the stance against evil in the service of others". I would imagine that you can readily identify with that.
When you go into battle remember your ancestors and remember your descendants. Tacitus
Keep your powder dry,
@Barney Barnes Glad you liked the article and of course you are welcome to pass it on. I'd be honored to read your book. Our address is: Center Mass Group 9921 Carmel Mountain Road, #556 San Diego, CA 92129
Thanks for checking in and keeping the warrior spirit alive!
Terrific! I'll get a book launched on a westerly track. The passive adult male (esp parent) is a major contributor to the disolusionment and violent behavior of many of our boys and young men. As you so well chronicle, this passivity and efeminite behavior weakens and drains the culture. This "wusification" must be reversed.
@Barney Barnes Thank you! I'll keep an eye out for it.
I have 2 young warriors myself and share your feelings...
i'd like to suggest another series of books.
The Harry Potter series. You get to watch children grow up, and make decisions to "Do what is right, not what is easy."
Great to share with your kids (or read yourself)
Thank you for this article. I write about these same traits of the warrior and have several books out on the subject, my newest being Modern Bushido, which is very close to what you write in your article. I have found that I spend so much time answering emails from readers and motivating others, that I sometimes run on empty. Sometimes those of us who are the motivators need some motivation too. Your article gave me a much needed shot of motivation. Thank you! Bohdi Sanders, author of Modern Bushido: Living a Life of Excellence.
@Bohdi I checked out your book on Amazon and it looks great! I grew up a student of Goju-Ryu karate, so our paths seem to be pretty close. I'm glad and honored that my article could touch someone with your background. Let me know if you would be interested in a book exchange.
This was very well put-together. I was expecting something a little more cut-and-paste and worn out based on the title, but I should have known that ITS doesn't roll like that. Fantastic article, something everyone can and should live by at least in part.
Excellent article, will share on Warboats.org FB page and Spec. Ops. Warrior Foundation Linkedin page.
@DudeinSC Thanks for your kind words and sharing.
Wow. I read a lot of articles on this site and this is the first one I've been compelled to comment on.
I love that you not only listed the qualities of a warrior but also some action steps for those of us who weren't born into such a persona. You have encouraged me to work on a list of things to work on.
The bravery thing for example: Some things I want to do are to spend the night in the woods alone (don't laugh but I'm 27 years old and have never done it), to tell people exactly what I think regardless of the consequence, and to do something during which I will suffer and to suffer in silence ( a Goruck for instance)
Thanks for posting this. Again, I'm 27 years old, married, we have a baby girl on the way, and even though things are going smoothly and my family is provided for, I feel like I'm faking it. It's time to man up.
@7Owl22 You're not alone, and it's for people like you that I wrote this. Hell, even retired Navy SEALS need a reminder sometimes! The first step is the hardest. Once you take it, every other part of your life will benefit. Plus, what a great example for your baby girl! Good luck!
@ExSubSpy sure is.
@CENTCOM_Survivor Thanks brother!