06 December 2010

Taking It Back To The Old School, Cause I'm An Old Fool Who's So Cool

I've found that little music on Earth is quite so soothing as the timeless epic known as "Whoomp, There It Is" by the whirlwind of musical viruosity Tag Team.  Actually, that's a lie- that song sucks shit, and I vastly prefer 95 South's "Whoot There it is", which speaks to an issue near and dear to my heart:  finding booty.
I think I've located the booty for which 95 South has been searching.

Piratical song lyrics aside, I've mentioned at great length the lessons that can be taken from old school lifters and general strength trainees, and recent personal experience has reiterated this strongly.  People back in the day were, quite simply, far harder than we are today.  This isn't some Hesiod-style reference to a bygone Golden Age of humanity, but a simple statement of fact.  Modern life has made people soft as shit, and we're thus incapable of doing some of the epic crap that people did as a matter of course before the days of mocha lattes and iPads.  Nor is this simply an affliction of the West, as Japanese karateka and Indian martial artists have found their bodies, and their hands in particular, to be far too soft to accomodate the old styles of training, and thus cannot attain the level of tiger-choking, bare-handed alligator killing, mass destruction of entire cities awesome that our forefathers did.
Mas Oyama used to beat up bulls, barehanded, as a goof.  He built his strength by using the implements listed below, in addition to randomly fighting rocks, trees, and waterfalls, and (of course) by running half-naked in the snow on a regular basis.

Quite frankly, the shit's not entirely our fault- modern life doesn't really prepare you for badassery, or generally allow for it.  Everything these days is mechanized, so even farmers are blubbery shadows of their former selves.  Men of bygone eras built their bodies through their daily routines, chopping wood, digging ditches, and walking all over the fucking place.  I mean, for fuck's sake- we're so soft that we now wear shoes while "barefoot running."  The shit's gotten beyond ridiculous.  As such, it seems that we might look to what these guys used to do for strength training, because we can rest assured that it's badass, and it might give you something to do when you're out of ideas.
Hmmmm... barefoot shoes seems like a contradiction in terms, methinks.

All of you know at least a bit about the Great Gama.  According to a certain skinny bald guy with access to a lot of light clubbells and "secret ancient strength training knowledge", Gama did untold thousands of pushups and hindu squats, and then swung around a bit of wood for a while and was jacked as a result.  Well, that's not the whole story.
"Gama used to wear a 60 kilogram granite ring around his neck while doing pushups and squats. Then he swung some very heavy karela or mudgar (Indian clubs). No. Not the puny cola bottle club bells now being promoted as the all singing all dancing fitness equipment, but really heavy ones weighing from 20 kilograms to 60 kilograms. In addition to all these , Gama used to dig the wrestling pit with a pharsa (a heavy hoe like implement) weighing as much as 30 kilograms. Not for fun, not because he could not find something lighter. But because the added resistance helped him to strengthen the forearms. The superior skill and the strength Gama possessed made him the greatest wrestler in the world."  (Venkatachalam)
Now, that shit is fucking hardcore.  Fuck an X-vest- I want a granite ring hung around my neck while I go about my daily routine.  Not only would that add resistance, but that'd build one hell of a thick fucking neck.  Nor was that the end of the road for Indian wrestlers (who were at one time pretty fucking badass):
"Supplementary weight training was the rule - not the exception. The scenario was much the same with Kalarippayattu and other Indian martial arts like wrestling and vajramushti. Every village had some sort of vyayam mandir or gymkhana (gymnasium/health centre), and people who thronged there lifted heavy stone balls, did squats with  heavy stone rings around their neck, swung heavy mudgar or Indian clubs, used sandbags, did exercises on a pole (mallakhamb) and then practiced their martial arts. These exercises were in addition to their menial jobs like chopping wood, fetching water from deep wells. carrying head loads over 100 kgms and walking to the market and the manual labor on the agricultural fields."(Venkatachalam)
Forearms, much?

Clearly, their daily routine was far harder than anything you or I will ever experience.  Beyond that, even guys who work with their hands can attest to the fact that the old guys with whom they work rock 18" upper arms and forearms while eating a diet that consists of nothing but cheese and hard liquor, all due to the fact that they spent their entire lives using pipe wrenches and manual tools.  Thus, we need to sack the fuck up and start building up our workload bit by bit, through the day, to try to regain some of the epic, diamond hardness that our grandfathers had simply because they were alive.
Jack Palance, one of the last of a dying breed of unbelievably hard motherfuckers.  Coal miner, pro boxer, bomber pilot, country music singer, and one-handed pushups at 73-doer.

So, what'd they use to get their badass physiques of yore?  In this installment, I'll go over some Eastern implements for strength building, and then in a future one, I'll throw in any other training system I can find.  (Incidentally, if any of you are fluent in Latin, email me, because I've got a translation job for you)  The Okinawans and Japanese had some sick methods for building overall strength, and given that the Okinawans created fighting systems so they could kill armored opponents with their bare hands, there's not much better place to start.
Chishi: The chishi is a concrete or stone weight at the end of a wooden handle, which basically makes it analogous to the Indian club bell or a sledge.  Obviously, this thing's mostly working your hand and forearm, but anyone who's played with a sledge will attest to the fact that it becomes a full body workout in short order.
Ishisashi: This is a stone padlock that's sort of like a kettlebell. Most of the applications I've seen for these involve punching, and these things apparently build sick arm, forearm, hand, and shoulder strength.
Jari Bako: Anyone who's seen a kung fu movie is familiar with this, and I'm willing to bet half of you (like me) tried creating your own with a bucket of sand or gravel after reading about these in karate books.  Basically, you start with sand and then work your way up through gravel, small rocks, large rock, and then allegedly glass to turn your hands and fingers into rock-hard, esophagus-ripping death machines by punching your hands with a knife fist into the aforementioned bucket.  Using these is undoubtedly what gave Sonny Chiba the finger strength to de-throat the main bad guy in Street Fighter, making that the best martial arts movie until Bloodsport.
Kongoken: After seeing these used on Human Weapon, I'm pretty sure I'm going to make one of these bad boys myself (you can get how-to directions here)  It's essentially a heavy hoop that you use in a wide array of exercises either by yourself or with a partner for total body conditioning.  I don't know if they have a standard weight, but I know it seems to have been kicking the piss out of the guys on HW and looked awesomely unwieldy.
Makiage Kigu [aka Maiage Gu]: Nothing more than a wrist roller, which comprises the sum total of my grip work and is definitely indispensable.
Nigiri Game [Sanchingami]: As this weirdly ripped, pigeon-toed Nazi demonstrates, the Game are weighted vases used to strengthen the fingers and arms, again for the throat-ripping.  They're made of clay, filled with sand, and occasionally used to bash the fuck out of casual onlookers at this super-ripshit pumped German karate studio.
That kid missed his calling by about 75 years.

Sumabukuro: Brooks Kubik's favorite exercise, none other than sandbag lifting.  Not surprisingly, every culture around the world seems to have utilized this lift for strength training, which means we probably should as well.  Obviously, the pic above isn't sandbag lifting, but Karelin was a fucking beast, did sandbag lifting, and this pic is 11000 different kinds of awesome.
It's working for this broad.

I've said it a thousand times, and I'll say it again- we've become, as a species, soft as shit on the blacktop in an Arizona desert highway in the middle of August.  There needs to be a hell of a lot more of the shit that went on in the past than there does ridiculous calculations of percentages of 1RM and note-taking in the gym, and even less of weak-sauce idiots wearing sleeveless Under Armor with matching nylon belts and gloves on the decline Pec Flexor 2000 machine.  Less Coach McGuirk and more Captain Caveman.

Stop regressing and go lift something, already.  If you want some ideas, check out this text on the use of some of the implements I listed above.

Hewitson, Nick.  "Martial Arts Aren't What They Used To Be." Fight Times.  http://www.fighttimes.com/magazine/magazine.asp?article=261

Venkatachalam, R.  "Strength Training- The Neglected Art and Forgotten Aspect of Kalarippayattu." KalariWorld.   http://www.kathinayoga.com/KalariWorld/Articles/Strength_article2.html


  1. I have never read (or heard) a reference to "Sonny Chiba," except from my younger brother, in my adult life.
    The entire "Street Fighter" series is pretty awesome.
    (Except for "Sister Street Fighter"...)

  2. Holy fucking shit yes.

    Also worthy of note is fucking Masahiko Kimura, the Judoka who did all sorts of crazy fucking bullshit like giving 10 different motherfuckers in his Judo club concussions in one day, doing 1000 pushups per day on top of supposedly having a DAILY weight lifting regimen and training NINE HOURS OF JUDO.

    He also destroyed Helio Gracie who, despite being a skinny, weak, frail and sickly bastard was tough as fucking nails, and sustained only 4 losses in Judo his entire career, which lasted until he was fucking 51 years old if I recall.

    ALSO, here's some pics to complete the image of this penultimate fucking badass.


    Also see these sources...




    Aaaaaaand, Mas Oyama had this to say about him: "Karate great, Mas Oyama wrote: As one of my Senpai, there was a Judo master named Masahiko Kimura. In Judo, simply there has never been a man as strong as this man was. He was such a master in the art of Judo to the extent that is frequently said: Kimura No Mae Ni Kimura Nashi. Kimura No Ato Ni Kimura Nashi. (There has been no Kimura before Kimura. There will be no Kimura after Kimura.)"

  3. Great post, Jamie. Past lifters were seriously fucking awesome.

    Doing what I can to live up to the legacy.

  4. I've seen the ishisashi used in a video here:


    The guys train in Shuaijiao (type of Chinese wrestling) and implement other tools, such as:

    Loose sandbag

    Stone block w/ handles

    Handled chains

    Unilateral-loaded pole

    I swear foreign athletes use(d) the best objects. Awesome post.

  5. I've got a sashi in my mom's backyard. If you can't get a hold of one, those new style barbell plates with the handles built into them can be used very similarly.

    Anything you can do with a chishi can be done with a sledgehammer or by loading just one end of a dumbbell handle.

    That pigeon-toed stance is sometimes called sanchindachi. Point your toes together, thrust your crotch forward and corkscrew your feet into the floor. You'll notice an increase in strength when doing grip strength feats like bending, nail driving with your hand or those last few reps with the wrist roller. An added benefit is that your whole body will tighten up like you're ready to get hit by a truck and not even feel it, which feels pretty cool.

    Okinawan is spelled Okinawan, not Okinowan.
    Taekwondo was originally Japanese karate which was originally Okinawan karate which was originally Chinese kung fu which may or may not have originated as some obscure martial art from India.
    Interestingly enough, the Japanese were not fans of karate at all when it first arrived on the mainland. Okinawa was part of the Japanese Empire at the time and the Okinawans were considered ugly and stupid (the Japanese believed themselves to be the master race and even taught this within their school system). They already had kendo, the art of chopping a man in half with a sword, and judo, the art of finessing a man off his feet and bodyslamming him. Karate was a collection of dirty tricks and strangle holds and was considered uncivilized and unnecessary. The weapons used and taught by the Okinawans (kobudo) were also considered shitty compared to the Japanese sword. Sometime in the mid-1920s, a 53-year-old Okinawan named Choki Motobu stepped out of the crowd at a boxing exhibition being held on mainland Japan where a Russian was dominating all comers. Legend has it, the short, pudgy little fuck knocked the Russian out with a single punch to the face, thus beginning the Japanese' obsession with karate. Renaming it karatedo, adopting the coloured belt system from judo and making it into a popular Japanese sport.
    What's also interesting is that Choki Motobu hated Gichin Funakoshi for a number of reasons and bitched about the Japanese karate not being realistic enough, or "functional" if you will. So we can see that that particular argument has been going on since the beginning of time. Or several decades at least.

    Streetfighter > Bloodsport

    When you're using exercises and implements like the ones described in the above article, you should do a lot of reps. Sets should take a long time to complete. Two to five minutes at a minimum. That may go against what's currently popular. Do it anyway. It'll make sense to you in a few months when your grip strength is increasing on a regular basis while all the dipshits treating their grip exercises like powerlifts have stalled out and probably quit.

  6. Great article, but more importantly, WHO IS THAT GIRL IN THE .GIF?!?!?

  7. Mukashi no hito wa, hontou ni chikara tsuyokatta naa! Yoku dekimashita, Jamie! Good post to you, too, Glen!

  8. Yeah awesome post Glen! Got me interested in Martial Arts and shit. I would like to start Self defense has anyone got experience with Krav Maga?

  9. I'm having difficulty reading the first two paragraphs, can you make that GIF go away? Or something you have to click to see? Thanks.

  10. Trained with all the Okinawan Strength tools.

    The Kongoken is 30-50kg heavy. We had 2 heavier and one lighter one for our group. Depends were you have it made and what material is used.

    Concerning that pigeon toed German. That stance (see right foot) is on purpose and is called "sanchin dachi" meaning "Hourglass stance" (upper and lower body form the hourglass). It gives improved stability on the ground. Has been kinda removed from the system recently (last 1-2 years) and a more normal/parallel stance is used.

  11. Love these types of posts, this is great information that doesn't really have many outlets on the web.

    We are (and will continue to get) softer than previous generations, no doubt about it.

    Also, to an above poster: penultimate means next to last, it is not a more extreme version of the world ultimate.

  12. Glen, is there anyway you could keep your insightful comments a bit shorter than Jamie's entry??
    Cream of Wheat

  13. Though we are not as tough as previous generations, I don't believe we are doomed to being soft. That's the whole idea of training hard in the first place. The ones who do so will become strong.

  14. And even if we don't reach the strength and muscularity of before, we can still do our part to "stem the tide of suck."

  15. Tyler Durden said: 'God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't.'

    No more wars to define us.

    Cheers, John

  16. "Also, to an above poster: penultimate means next to last, it is not a more extreme version of the world ultimate."

    Hahaha I was going to say something too...I love this site and the comments are great but there are so many misused words its hilarious. I know you champions must write your comments with thesaurus in hand attempting to sound intelligent, but mix in a fucking dictionary!!

  17. Glen- Thanks for the tip on Okinawan- it's not a word I spell on a regular basis. Additionally, there's a movement afoot amongst historians and archaeologists that ascribes the rise of all Eastern martial arts to the West. The theory is that Alexander brought pankration to India, where they fucked it all up to pieces and turned it into their silly jumping Kalaripayat, which Bodhidharma then took to Shaolin. Other people took it East into SE Asia, giving rise to Thai/Burmese/Laotian boxing. In China, Shaolin became the melting pot of all styles in mainland China, and eventually made its way to Okinawa, which I still spell incorrectly on the first try.

  18. Dray- I had no idea that Kimura was the man like that. I'll have to read up on him.

    Niel- Thanks for the links.

  19. WWI/WWII military combatives and renaissance MA fuck up all asian MA, because white people are also smarter and have greater attention to detail than gooks on top of being bigger and stronger.

  20. Wladek Zbyszko also fought Helio Gracie. The record books show a draw but many have argued that Zbyszko was the decisive winner. At this point we'll never really know.

  21. Military victory, especially in those two wars, was due to overwhelming military superiority, genius. Generally we are no doubt bigger and stronger, but with the rest of your statement you prove that at least some of us are about as smart as a fucking rock.

  22. Both the the Zbyskos were both catch wrestlers, as I understand it, which would have made them legit badasses for nhb fights.

  23. Not one word about bukkake in this whole post?
    I am disappoint.

  24. Great post.

    People from older generations busted their asses, nonstop, every day.

    Old-school bodybuilders were known to work out 6 times a week, often twice per day, with ridiculous volume.

    Olympic lifters lift twice a day, 6 days a week.

    So where the fuck did this notion of "rest and recovery" come from? That we grow more out of the gym than we do in it? That lifting 3-4 days a week is more than enough?

  25. thank you for making me laugh with your comment on barefoot running shoes

  26. What's the Latin thing you need translated?

  27. Where are the pictures of Japanese schoolgirls raped by tentacle monsters?

  28. I'll get some Hentai in there for you guys shortly.

    As for the translation: De Arte Gymnastica by Hieronimus Mercurialis
    as seen here: http://www.wbc.poznan.pl/dlibra/docmetadata?id=35932&from=publication

    Frankly, I didn't expect anyone to answer in the affirmative. If you see something cool in it while perusing it, particularly about the training methods of the Greeks and Romans, shoot me an email.

  29. What became of your trip to Iron Sport Gym? Any photos or write up?

  30. I lift there all the time while I'm home. One dude came out, and we lifting for a couple of hours one day. It was a good time. I didn't bother with taking any pictures, what with being busy lifting.

  31. If you're THAT interested, I can do my best to track down info on that Zbszysko fight. Wladek and Stanislaus were some badadass mofos...Larry, well, not so much.

    Honestly, let me know, as I have a contact who may have that information.

  32. Anonymii: I know penultimate isn't a more extreme version of ultimate. But I'm going to continue using it that way because I can.

    Also, on Glen recommending high reps: Kimura apparently used to plunge his hands into sand 1000 times a day and if the grip of probably the greatest Judoka to ever live doesn't prove anything, then nothing will.

    The best grip is a grip that works, and Judoka need fucking strong hands.

    And as expected, this is now my favorite comment thread on C&P and I'm bookmarking it for life.

    I'm also surprised that no one has mentioned Shaolin monks with their intense random finger strength, doing handbalancing on one or two fingers and crazy fucking shit. Although they don't eat any meat so naturally a hooligan might be inclined to hate them.

  33. Dray, how old are you??

  34. Anonymous- Stronger than you.

    Oh, you said old. Who cares?

  35. so its been asked, but it hasnt been answered yet. its important though, so i think it bares repeating.

    who is that girl!?

  36. There has only been a small handful of Shaolin monks ever to accomplish that one finger handstand. It's not a common feat.

  37. Having read some of Drays posts, i'd guess he's about 14 - 17 years old. And i doubt he's stronger than anyone. Even Christine with her herpes.

  38. You guys disrespect my father one more time i'll rip your fucking limbs off, you bunch of fucking internet 'experts'. I bet you all wear gloves when you lift so you don't hurt your hands while doing tricep kickbacks. Fucking week pussies all of you - strong, tough people don't sit around writting how tough and strong they think they are. Any yes, that Dray sounds a cunt.

  39. Get on a torrent and download The 72 Arts of Shaolin by Jin Jing Zhong. Interesting book lists a whole bunch of ancient shaolin secret training techniques. Some of them are bullshit like going outside everyday and try to lift a tree out of the ground until one day you do (though I don't think the book is actually expecting you to manage this feat but rather is teaching the principles of isometrics and a mindset that you will accomplish impossible things). Others are very good such as the fingertip pot lifting and methods of toughening various parts of the body. If you have some imagination you can replicate many of them in the gym. For example, the pot lifting is basically the same as lifting plates by the hub with your fingertips.

  40. Oh, I know that Glen. However, just a handstand on fingertips whatsoever is going to be incredibly tough, and handbalancing on two or three fingers each hand seems fairly common place among those monks. And just to be clear, I just meant 1 finger per hand as opposed to a one finger handstand.

    Anonymous- Actually I'm 18 at the moment.

    As far as being stronger than anyone, 80-90% of lifters online or otherwise are completely weak sacks of shit and I've essentially already outdone them.

  41. Fingertip handstands are easier than you think. If you can do handstand pushups against a wall and you can do fingertip pushups on the floor and you're not a total geek you'll be able to do at least a few handstand pushups against the wall on your fingertips.
    I personally have never bothered to progress beyond that but if anybody wanted to it would just be a matter of taking away one finger per hand at a time until you're doing it on two fingers. Easier said than done and it would probably take you at least 10 years. Less if you're already pretty strong and have the willpower to remain consistent. A month of dedication here and there will never do it.

  42. Well, I can only recently do any more than a few fingertip pushups after having dislocated the hell out of a thumb a while back. Judging by that I should probably be able to do one, I suppose.

  43. Come on, Dray, you are stronger than 90% of the other lifters, I'm pretty sure you can do more than that.
    Eighteen, huh? No surprise.

  44. A kitten could be part of the top 10% of trainees today, Anonymous, I'm really not stroking my ego here.

  45. KC- Thanks for the suggestion. It's actually on mediafire: http://www.mediafire.com/?mtqmxzk5zo3

  46. That'll be a nice companion to Enter the 36 Chambers.

  47. Hey Jeremy. I was wondering what you think about barbell hack squats. They're an oldschool exercise aswell. I do them 6 times a week, working up to my 1RM every workout. It increased my deadlift a lot.

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