My Judo sensei once said to me, “a man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or else what’s a heaven for?” He was telling me about his old training schedule, the weights he used to lift, and the body weight exercises his sensei would demand that he perform. I was awestruck, doing 500 pushups, or bodyweight squats in one day? At the time I could not conceive that such a thing could even be possible.
His Judo sensei was a member of the Iroquois nation of native peoples, and while they would train he would tell them the stories about mythical warrior Hiawatha. Hiawatha is said to have wrestled the unconquerable Bear of the West the gatekeeper to the realm of the dead to a draw. Hiawatha is supposed to been able to paddle a cannon with such ferocity that he could change the course of rivers, outrun day light so he could continue speaking with the spirits of the night, and shoot twenty arrows into the sky before the first one came back to touch the ground.
Was my Judo sensei actually supposed to believe that Hiawatha preformed such supernatural feats? Well, no, but also yes, within the appropriate context. His sensei was doing from him what the Iroquois elders did for the young up, and coming warrior-braves; inspiring them to forever keep their reach exceeding their grasp. By telling the stories of Hiawatha the young warrior-braves felt encouraged to test themselves over, and over again. They sought to become as fast as the wind, and as strong as a bear. Like Hiawatha, these represent subjective units of measure. How fast is the wind? How strong is a bear? How powerful is Hiawatha? The answer will always be faster, stronger, and more powerful than you are currently. So you must always seek to improve, be better, and achieve greater.
The heroes of mythologies are meant to spark something deep within us, to light a fire that we could use to courageously explore the depth of our souls, and inner recesses of our minds. As we immerge from our own dark psychic forest, we return from what Joseph Campbell termed the “hero’s journey”, and we now have been remade more in the image what we individually believe heroic to be. These heroes are symbols and as such are mutable. They can be changed to fit societal needs, but still represent the values deemed virtuous by an entire collective, and heritage of peoples.
In my own studies of mythologies, I began perhaps intuitively, to feel as if the writers of these sagas where speaking not only across time, but speaking to more than just ancient superstitions. I started to see a deep, if not hidden wisdom within the stories. Thor’s magic glove which translates to “Iron Grip”, and his belt which literally means “earth’s power”, are what enabled him to wield his famous hammer. In order for a man to be mighty like Thor, he would need to train his hands into possessing a vice-like grip, and obtain a well develop lower back, and legs. In reading the works of old-time strongmen I found this confirmed many times. The key to superhuman strength is found in grip strength straining, and focusing on heavy lifting exercises such as dead lifting, squats, and swings.
What transpired next was an immersive study into the mythologies, and hero legends from around the world. This was the impetus of Heroic Evolution and its strength training programs.
However I wanted not only to share quality strength training, but also to promote the qualities of having good character, or at least an examined character. What is the purpose of being strong in the first place? That is a question that has a dizzying amount of potential responses, and is for the trainee to explore for themselves if they wish, and certainly worthwhile if they do.
The stories of heroes like Hiawatha, or even King Arthur, set forth a code of conduct, as well as I believe, contain physical training protocol that where meant to be discovered by young members of different warrior societies. These stories are laced with clues in not only how to get strong, tough, and fast, but also what to do with that formidability in their society, and how to act appropriately.
Embodying one of these mythological heroes is a life changing process. The hero exists only inside you, and to go within to find them is actually to find your greater potential. The exploits of the hero can never be matched; but the hero doesn’t care, as the point is that you attempt. It is in the fierce attempts at the impossible that we discover just how amazing we can be. The hero can’t ever judge you, and thereby this places all the responsibility back on you. How do you feel about your efforts? Do you feel you are meant for something greater? Do you believe you can, or should, do better in whatever endeavor you have chosen?
Your answer to these questions can be sobering indeed.
Mythologies allow us to glimpse into our own lives, the roles we, and those around us fill. We all live out a certain “personal” mythology whether we are conscious of it, or not. The simple truth of the matter is that if we don’t like the story we are living we need to change it. The strength to change it comes through becoming our own greatest hero, by moving past our own perceived limitations, and reaching into our infinite potential to grasp at something we never dreamed we were capable of until we found the courage to try.