noun, plural ludi
definition: A school of training, where men are forged into gods.
Train to achieve the following standards, in order. Never base your training on higher standards without having first achieved all that come prior. Expect to spend one or more years in pursuit of each.
Welcome to the brotherhood.
Level 1 – Strength
- Bench press: bodyweight (bw) x 15 reps
- Pull-up: 15 reps
- Barbell Squat: bw x 15 reps
- Power Clean: bw x 1 rep
- Loaded carries: 1.5bw x 100m
- Deadlift: 2bw x 1 rep
Weights are a tool. They are not a goal.
Your purpose at this level is to acquire what coach Dan John has referred to as “game-changing” levels of strength. Others refer to this quality as General Physical Preparedness. We prefer to think of it as Readily Available Strength, or perhaps more simply, manliness. This is not the ability to lift barbells. It’s the silent ability to call on a capable reservoir of strength whenever necessary, whether in athletics or manual labor, procreation or the protection of loved ones, as quickly and gracefully as a well-oiled, loaded gun.
Each of the standards should be achievable in a single workout. Achieve them however you like. Don’t ask questions. Front squat, back squat, conventional, sumo, 5/3/1 or Texas Method; these are unworthy concerns. Do whatever it takes to shape the body you were born with into one that possesses innate strength. Read. Sleep. Eat like a man. Programming is ultimately inconsequential. You will get hurt. You will recover. Over time, between the knurling and the calluses you build, you’ll learn everything that matters.
When that day comes, you’ll no longer focus on lifting weights, just as a confident chef no longer practices the speed at which he chops onions. You’ll be strong enough. You’ll continue to lift, and will certainly acquire more impressive levels of strength in the future, but such will no longer be your focus. A man who pursues weight-lifting goals beyond this level, without having successfully achieved each of the higher standards, might be considered a weight-lifting specialist. You aren’t a weight-lifting specialist. You’re a man training to carry and tolerate a higher voltage of life.
Level 2 – Resilience
- Standing Pike – Palms flat on the ground
- Back Bridge – Arms straight
- 3-minute Passive Hang
- Third-World Squat – Deep, performed as genuine rest
- Turkish Get-Up – Drinking cup half-filled with water balanced on fist
Strength incapable of being expressed is precisely as useful as a penis that can’t get hard. Don’t lie to yourself.
Through ownership of these five standards you’ll pay respect to your joints and the delicate structures of your body. You’ll obviate the risk of injury and prepare yourself to express physicality when the need, or desire, arises. You’ll learn that your body is not an obstacle to attaining your goals, but that your daily behaviors may be. You’ll cast off the shell of weakness that defines modern life.
Fact: your body is not malicious. It adapts only to the stimuli with which you present it on a daily basis. By the end of high school, the average urban youth today will have spent a total of 9,000 hours, one whole year, sitting in a desk. If he enrolls in college and works in an office, he can look forward to 44,000 more spent hunched like a rag-picker, swelling, congealing, unable to move. Thus it comes as no surprise that the average Western man today looks like a woman in her second trimester, a shape best left to those who endure it with grace.
Prepare. Stretch. Consider yoga. Stand up straight. Pull back your shoulders. Cast off your rigid character armor. Ensure that your body is as ready as a switchblade knife.
Level 3 – Persistence
- Run 400m in 75 seconds
- 25 Double Unders (jump rope)
- Swim 500m nonstop
- 100 (perfect) 24kg kettlebell swings in 5 minutes
Can you run? Can you jump? Can you swim? Can you work?
Congratulations. Now you can.
In achieving these standards you’ll teach your body to work, under stress, with grace. You’ll obtain a level of physical efficiency independent of your body’s ability to process oxygen and lactic acid. You’ll remind yourself that conditioning is task-specific.
Ask a world-class marathoner how easy it is swim a kilometer. Ask a lifeguard, who easily carries bricks underwater, how easy it is to grab a basketball rim. Ask a boxer how easy it is to shovel tremendous quantities of dirt. Ask a man capable of all the above if there’s anything he’s afraid to try.
That’s a man you can trust.
Level 4 – Control
- 1-Arm Push-up
- Pistol (1-Leg) Squat
When a man of honor finds himself accidentally held in solitary confinement, how does he spend his time?
Through the achievement of these three standards, you’ll equip yourself with a powerful means of physical training, in any environment found on dry land. You’ll attain mastery of physical tension and learn to control your center of gravity. You’ll find comfort on your back, learn the function and purpose of your feet, and discover the impressive potential contained in your hips.
Remember that there will come a time when you’ll no longer be able to perform the kip-up. Weak men call this a consequence of aging. Strong men know it as the aggregation of a lifetime of injuries, whether attained in labor, training, competition, war, or sitting at a desk. So be it. Very few can become a champion. But to dedicate oneself to the pursuit of grace – that, perhaps, is all that is worth celebrating.
Level 5 – Courage
- Boxing proficiency as judged by your peers
- Grappling/Jujitsu proficiency as judged by your peers
When life presents you or those you love with the threat of imminent danger, and the only choice is to fight, how will you fare?
By obtaining proficiency in two fighting disciplines, you will prepare yourself, both physically and mentally, to protect that which you care for most should the need, unfortunately, arise. You will learn to strike, and be struck, hard. You will learn to maneuver and manipulate. You will equip yourself with an emotional skill set allowing you to overcome opposition even when at a stark disadvantage. You will test your stamina and mental fortitude, perhaps like never before.
It is no small promise, but a promise nonetheless: by learning to fight, you will learn how to live. You will learn to struggle, to survive, to be intimate with fear. In this way, quietly and without boasting, you will teach your loved ones to sleep more soundly, if only due to the nearness of a man who they know will look fear dead in the eye and say to it, “Here I stand.”
Level 6 – Champion
You honor us, brother. The world has a great many stadiums, but very few men who can stand in their shadows and know that they were a champion. You have achieved a feat of steadfast devotion, of iron will and glacial determination. You have prepared yourself to scale grim peaks, to ford rivers, to protect any and all you love, and perhaps to subdue those you don’t. The lessons you’ve learned were occasionally physical, but more often echoed the quiet truths that have always dwelled within the hearts of great and honorable men. You do not cower. You do not break. You bend, on occasion, because you’ve learned that there are times when this is the right thing to do. You accomplish your goals. You speak softly. You carry a stick that’s fit for a titan, one which you carved yourself.
Now there is one standard left to attain. Now you will prove your worth, Champion. Now is the time to give back.
- Teach that which you’ve learned
In attaining this standard you will find a young man who bears a resemblance to the weakling you once were. Perhaps he walks with his eyes to the ground. Perhaps he struggles for the right thing to say. Perhaps he has suffered greatly in life, or perhaps you simply pray that he’ll never have to. He may be your son. Or he may not. He may be of your own race. Or not. You won’t recognize him by the language he speaks, the clothes that he wears or his education, but by the sound, hidden in his chest, of the beating heart of a lion.
Guide him. Set him on the path you followed. Teach him strength. Teach him resilience. Teach him persistence, how to control himself, and also how to fight with courage. Teach him so that he too can become a champion. Teach him so that he too can share the honor of being a true and worthy and virtuous man.
Then, Champion, you’ll truly stand taller than all those around you. And then you’ll laugh, in quiet moments, knowing that this was never the point anyway.