All Training is Sacrifice - STW Episode #18

Don’t kill your ego. Sacrifice Yourself To Yourself. Bruce Lee wrote that: “Punches and kicks are tools to kill...

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All Training is Sacrifice - STW Episode #18
Blog, Essays, Feature
The Conflict Bindrune
STW Podcasts
STW Episode #16 – Greg Walsh from Wolf Brigade
STW Podcasts
STW Episode #15 – Hunter M. Yoder the Heiden Hexologist
STW Podcasts
STW Episode #14 – Mike Lummio on Bushcraft
Life is Conflict - Jack Donovan
Blog, Commentary

This is for Me, Too

I don’t just write the words you need to hear. I write what I need to hear, too.

I’ve been doing a lot of MMA training lately — clocked in 7 hours last week. I’ve been training for a couple of years now, but mostly boxing, and mostly with pads. I’d had maybe ten serious sparring sessions total, including two or three matches with other members of the Wolves.

At this point, sparring is what I need. I need to shorten my reaction time and learn how to apply all of the theory I’ve been practicing. I need to learn to keep attacking instead of resetting by default the way you do when you are repeating pad drill with a partner. I need to figure out what really works, what needs more work, and what is probably not going to work for me most of the time because of my size, fighting style, build and age.

I don’t have much to put out there confidently in terms of wrestling or kickboxing yet, so full MMA sparring rounds are still somewhat stressful and confusing. I’m not a tail-wagging 22 year old who feels invincible. I’ll be 42 in a couple of weeks. I’m a fast, strong, healthy and I’d like to think kinda imposing 42 when I’m not smiling or laughing, which I usually am — but I’m still 42. Because I’m one of the bigger guys, the other big guys and the guys who are actually good are always going to want to work with me.

The other day this guy joined our class. He was maybe 5’9” and 185. Cauliflower ear, obviously broken nose. Built like a fighter. I knew I was going to have to end up sparring with him that day, because I was an obvious match. When he walked across the room and picked me for the second round of sparring, In my head, I kicked rocks and got all Eeyore for a second. “Well…this is going to suck for me.”

Then I remembered that I’m the guy who writes things like, “Life is Conflict, Peace is Death.”

Oh. Yeah. I’m supposed to be that guy.

Alright. Stop it, Jack.

Life is conflict. Peace is death.

It was a long three minutes, but I did OK, all things considered. Took a Superman punch to the face, a bunch of kicks, some brief grounding and pounding, a few punches that could have been knockout punches — but I have a pretty good chin. And no, he wasn’t being a dick or showboating. I don’t think he ever went past his 70% range. I also threw out a few solid punches that connected, and I kept him moving.  

It was just a round, but I drove home on a Fight Club high. I was glad that I’d worked with him, and that I’d survived. Nothing really even hurt. No fucked up face.

The next morning I texted Paul Waggener, asking if he ever finds himself repeating his own mantras.

He said that he does it all the time, and that he writes mostly for his “future self” at this point.

He’d been sick that day and had wanted to lay around, but remembered that there are some guys out there who think he is some kind of machine. And machines don’t lay around being sick. So he hit some weights and went to BJJ class that night.

“What good are these mantras if we don’t use them as what they are for ourselves?”

I’ve had a reader tell me that when he read The Way of Men for the first time, he thought, “Man, this guy has got to be some kind of operator.” The reader actually had been an operator. Somehow, I’d managed through pure thought experiments to pull this truth out of the ether that he recognized.

I’ve never been an operator. I went to art school. I didn’t bar fight my way through my twenties. I started thinking and writing about masculinity seriously in my mid-thirties. I didn’t actually learn how to throw a punch or deadlift over 400 pounds until I was 38.

The other day, I was being photographed by a guy I used to deliver produce with for a book project he is working on. He has had a rough time over the past few years, and he asked me what my biggest “struggle” had been.

I haven’t had a very hard life, by any meaningful standard.

My biggest struggle has been trying to live up to my own words and beliefs. I can’t just write this stuff and not do it. I can’t be that kind of hypocrite. I can’t tell people to go out and push themselves if I’m not willing to do it myself.

When my work makes men angry, it’s usually because they imagine that I’m some kind of puffed up jerk who is calling them pussies and telling them to be more like me. I trigger a lot of guys with “daddy issues.” Or they think I’m some phony pretending to be something he’s not.

The truth is, I’m just a guy.

I’m just a guy trying to live up to his own ideals. I’m writing the words I need to hear myself. These mantras and symbols are for me, too.

Like Paul, I’m writing for a future self.

We are creating ourselves, always in the process of transforming and becoming. These words and symbols are magic. No lightning flies out of my fingers, and I haven’t tried to summon a storm, but these words and symbols are what I need to invoke my better, higher, future self.

I’m at a point in my life right now where I feel more “self-realized” than I ever have before. I’m closer to who I have always wanted to be than I ever have been before.

Maybe these words and symbols and ideas will work for you, too.

I almost didn’t want to share this. Sometimes it’s better to allow people to believe whatever they want to believe about you.

And, tactically speaking, when we meet and you shake my hand, you’ll know that I have no grappling game and my kicks suck.

But…by then…I’ll be better.


Jack Donovan
Blog, Feature, STW Podcasts

All Training is Sacrifice – STW Episode #18

Don’t kill your ego. Sacrifice Yourself To Yourself.

Bruce Lee wrote that: “Punches and kicks are tools to kill the ego.”

It sounds like mountaintop mysticism, like some far-out, far-eastern form of overdubbed, white-bearded enigmatic enlightenment.

It’s become a training cliche. Whether you are training with weapons or weights, someone will eventually tell you that your ego is your enemy.

The problem with that is, your ego is also — you.

People tell you to kill your ego because they want you to get out of your own way. They want you to stop acting like you already know everything, because by seeking out training, you’ve already acknowledged on some level that you don’t know everything.They want you to leave your status or perceived status in the world behind, so that you can submit to the learning process as a student — with no chip on your shoulder and nothing to prove.

They want you to train with humility and avoid hubris — an ancient Greek concept describing a man who overestimates his own power or status and brings himself into conflict with natural law, which is, from a mythopoetic perspective, the will of the gods. His hubris eventually leads to his downfall. In the case of training, a man’s hubris makes it more difficult for him to learn and grow as a practitioner — his hubris becomes the cause of his stasis.

Conceit, hubris, arrogance…this kind of ego-tism is only one negative connotation of the word ego, which also describes a much broader concept of self.

“Ego” is actually a Latin word for “I,” sometimes translated as “I, myself.”

The Twentieth Century use of “ego” in English to mean “self” stems from the psychoanalytic work of Sigmund Freud, who used the simple word “Ich,” also “I,” in German. This seems less editorial and more in keeping with the Latin “I, myself.”

In the Freudian model, the super-ego, or Über-Ich is the ego above and beyond the self. It’s the part of the conscious and unconscious self that absorbs and processes collective identity as well as the demands and the norms of the group, culture, society — tribe.

If you train on purpose — if you train because you want to train — your training is driven by the ego.

sidebaradVoluntary training is endured in the service of the ego, with the ultimate purpose of validating the ego, increasing self worth and improving social status. You train because you believe that you are good enough to be better, and worth improving. Or perhaps you see yourself training for the sake of others, for the group, to protect them or fulfill a role you believe you are good enough and able to fulfill. If you train for honor — to be worthy of your peers, your ancestors, your gods — you train because you believe yourself to be capable of honoring them. (1) This too, is a product of your ego.  

The ego, in both the broadest and the psychoanalytic sense, describes your conscious mind. It makes up the bulk of your “I” or “Ich.” Your ego is what separates you from dust in the wind. It’s the part of your mind that is awake, sentient, self-aware. To whatever extent you are the master of your own fate and the captain of your soul, the “you” is your ego. It is your ego — inseparable from any knowable version of “you” — that perceives and processes information about the world around you, evaluates that information, and selects a direction or course of action. It is the ego that manifests will.

Men train in the service of a higher version of the self, imagined and willed into existence by the ego. Training is self-creation — becoming — not self-destruction.

The aspects of the ego which must be destroyed or contained in training are self-imposed scripts and limitations and habits which may impede the progress of your self-development.This is a pruning of the ego — a sacrifice of old growth to stimulate new growth.

This pruning may be painful as you clip away or brush aside cherished ideas about the talents or even perceived limitations that you believe make you special.

People seem to take almost as much pride in the untested reasons and rationalizations they’ve dreamed up for why they can’t learn in a certain way or do a certain thing as they do in untested delusions of grandeur — especially in this slave age that prefers victims to victors. Often, their perceived limitations are like those of a boy who believes he can’t swim or doesn’t like swimming because he fell in a pool once and didn’t know what to do.

The world is also full of men who want to tell you how much they used to lift or how fast they used to run, before they got “old” or suffered some injury that elite athletes work through all the time. “Limitless potential” is a fantasy, but most people set their own limits long before they come anywhere close to the top end of their potential.

While some believe they can’t when they can, many others believe they could when they probably couldn’t. Millions of doughboys overestimate their ability to fight because they won an altercation in high school once — or worse, because they’ve watched a lot of videos of fights and think they “have a pretty good idea of what they’d do.” You can find them second-guessing professional fighters and quarterbacks in bars and in front of television sets all around the world.

To truly become the kind of men who know they have the ability and the conditioning to do what these men merely believe they can do, these couch captains would have to abandon their self-authored fictions about themselves. They would have to go through a process of failing and looking stupid before they even started to look like they knew what they were doing — much less became truly capable of performing as they’ve imagined.  

To train successfully, you must be willing to sacrifice portions of your present self-concept to a future, higher version of the self created by your ego. It is your ego, god-like, that is initiating and driving the process of self-transformation and becoming. This process requires you to exchange something you have for something you want. Nothing worth anything is truly free, and everything worth having requires some kind of sacrifice.

Instead of “killing your ego” — instead of fighting yourself — approach training as a sacrifice of a part of yourself to a higher self.

This is the way of Odin.

Odin is usually depicted with a missing eye, because he sacrificed one of his own eyes to the giant Mimir in order to drink from his well of wisdom. He sacrificed a portion of his superficial sight for a deeper, higher way of “seeing.” .

In another tale, Odin disguised himself as a farmhand and labored through a growing season, doing the work of nine men to gain access to Óðrœrir, the mead of poetry and inspiration. To get the mead, the hooded wanderer eventually had to seduce the giantess Gunnlod, whose name translates roughly to “invitation to battle,” and slam her out for three nights in a row. (It must have been a rough three nights.)

Odin is perhaps best known for his self-directed ordeal hanging from the world-tree Yggdrasil, wounded by what was (presumably) his own spear. After hanging without food or drink for nine nights, the runes reveal themselves to him, and from them he gains magic and a greater understanding of the universe.

While this scene is superficially Christ-like, and it makes sense to wonder how much Christian imagery and intent colored any of the surviving stories of pre-Christian European pagans, the stark difference here is in Odin’s motivation.

The spirit of Odin’s ego-driven self-sacrifice is captured in the following lines from the Hávamál:

og gefinn Óðni

sjálfur sjálfum mér

a sacrifice to Odin

myself to myself


The Hávamál is known as “the sayings of the high one” — sayings attributed to Odin himself. The majority of the first 138 verses pass down practical advice for living, as if from a grandfather or a wise old king. These lines about the sacrifice of self to self are found in a distinctive portion of the text that reads as if the speaker has slipped into a trance. In this dream state, the high one recalls his initiation into the mysteries of the runes, through starved meditation, while hanging from the world tree (2):


Veit ég að ég hékk

vindga meiði á

nætur allar níu

geiri undaður

og gefinn Óðni

sjálfur sjálfum mér

á þeim meiði

er manngi veit

hvers hann af rótum rennur


Við hleifi mig seldu

né við hornigi

nýsti ég niður

nam ég upp rúnir

æpandi nam

féll ég aftur þaðan

I know that I hung

on a windy tree

for nine full nights

wounded with a spear

a sacrifice to Odin

myself to myself

on that tree

which no man knows

from what root it runs


None made me happy with loaf

Or with horn

I looked down below

I took up the runes

Screaming I took them

And then fell down from there


Odin’s martyrdom is a self-martyrdom, done in the service of no one but himself, for reasons of his own. He sacrifices himself to reach a new level of understanding, and through that understanding becomes a higher version of himself.

Odin acknowledges that he doesn’t know everything, and instead of sitting on his throne sipping mead and marveling at his own creation, he pushes himself out of his own comfort zone and forces himself to do what he believes to be necessary to know more and become better. The Allfather could easily compare himself to other gods and humans and all of the lesser creatures, and be satisfied. But Odin doesn’t measure himself against others, he measures himself against himself.

The opposite of Odin wouldn’t be a giant or a dwarf or a man — or even the wolf who swallows him and ends his life. Odin’s opposite would be the person who tells you to “just be yourself” or to “be happy just the way you are.”

The story of Odin is a challenge and a reminder that no matter who you are or what you’ve achieved, you can do more, learn more — you can make yourself better in some way.

The practice of Odinism requires no worship of Odin with kneeling prayers.

One who practices Odinism acknowledges the worthiness — the original meaning of the Old English word, “weorðscipe” — of the Odinic ideal by embodying Odin. A man becomes Odin by acknowledging the worth of the way of one who is always seeking, always improving, always willing to sacrifice a piece of himself to become more, to become better, to do more.

All training requires some kind of sacrifice of self to self. Of something you have for something you want. Of something you want to do now for someone you want to be later. It may even be a part of you that you cling to, some idea about yourself that you’ll have to give up temporarily or permanently, because it is preventing you from becoming who your ego believes you can become.

When you’ve decided what you want to learn or what you want to do or how you want to transform yourself — work to remove the internal obstacles that are preventing you from achieving mastery or realizing that goal.

Be the loosener your own fetters.

Determine what you have that you need to give up — time, money, work, habit, comfort — and sacrifice it on the bloody altar of that vision.

When you are tempted to feel burdened or victimized by the hunger of your vision for sacrifice, remember that you are the visionary — the father of it all.

You are the god, the priest, the slaughter and the harvest.

(1) For more on training for honor, read my essay, “Train for Honor” in the collection A Sky Without Eagles.(2014)

(2) The translation is mixed and simplified, based on the comparative work done here:

I’ve done my best to mimic the reconstructed Old Norse pronunciation in the recorded version on that page, albeit with my own quirks and dramatic inflections. Following the example of Paul Waggener, I’ve made this a part of the opening of every Wolves ritual I conduct.

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No One Will Ever Make America Great Again

Donald Trump Isn’t Your Daddy, And He Can’t Fix What’s Broken In America

British journalist Milo Yiannopoulos frequently refers to Donald Trump as “daddy.”

Milo introduces himself as, “the most fabulous supervillain on the Internet,” so calling a Presidential candidate “daddy” is consistent with his own quirky brand of camp conservatism.

I don’t know of anyone else who calls Trump “daddy.” But when I see my peers caught up in stadium-style slave wave that is ready to crown a shifty, wheeling and dealing New York City businessman as America’s savior and “emperor god-king”…

…“daddy” does seem uncomfortably appropriate.

The incontinent progressive mainstream would have you imagine Donald the “daddy” as the paternal leader — or Führer, as they put it once upon a time in Deutschland. However, Donald Trump is no artist, and his vision for American Greatness seems to be far less grand, let alone “great.”

Continue reading

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STW Episode #16 – Greg Walsh from Wolf Brigade

Today’s guest is Greg Walsh, founder of the Wolf Brigade gym and brand out of Rochester, NY. We talked about fitness, thought crime, entrepreneurship and publishing.

Topics covered:

  • Benefits of mace and kettlebell training
  • Greg’s background in BMX and hardcore scenes
  • Self-Publishing
  • Trolling, sincerity and hipster irony
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Thought crime and being an outsider


Wolf Brigade

War of Attrition

Wolf Brigade on Instagram

“Outlaw Wolf Fire” by Horseskull is available at Bandcamp

Subscribe to START THE WORLD on iTunes here:

START THE WORLD is also available on Stitcher:

STW Podcasts

STW Episode #15 – Hunter M. Yoder the Heiden Hexologist

Today’s guest is Hunter M. Yoder the Heiden Hexologist. Hunter is a Heathen folk artist who specializes in hexology and Traditional Deitsch  — that’s Pennsylvania German, or “Pennsylvania Dutch” —  Barnstars.

He’s published several books on hexology, including The Backdoor Hexologist, and several collections of interviews with other Germanic men and women doing hexwork.

Topics covered:

  • What it means to be Pennsylvania Dutch, and the relationship between Pennsylvania Dutch culture and broader Germanic traditions
  • What is a hex sign? What is a hex?
  • What is a barnstar?
  • The history of the production of hex signs in Pennsylvania
  • Hex signs and Germanic heathenry
  • Plants – Henbane, Datura, Cactus


Hunter Yoder’s Web Site – The Hex Factory

“Outlaw Wolf Fire” by Horseskull is available at Bandcamp

Books Mentioned:

Hex Signs: Pennsylvania Dutch Barn Symbols & Their Meaning: Revised & Expanded
Don Yoder

Hex Signs: Myth and Meaning in Pennsylvania Dutch Barn Stars
Patrick Donmoyer

Strange Experience: The Secrets of a Hexenmeister
Lee R Gandee

Subscribe to START THE WORLD on iTunes here:

START THE WORLD is also available on Stitcher:

Mike Lummio Bushcraft Northwest
STW Podcasts

STW Episode #14 – Mike Lummio on Bushcraft

Mike Lummio runs Bushcraft Northwest, which offers several courses on bushcraft as well as urban survival. Recently, he invited me out to one of his Bushcraft Weekends in Goldendale, Washington.

Topics covered:

  • What is bushcraft?
  • Difference between bushcraft and wilderness survival
  • Gear – over-dependence and what makes a good setup
  • Responsible harvest
  • Perpetuated myths
  • Bushcraft in urban settings
  • Upcoming book “Living Bushcraft”


“Outlaw Wolf Fire” by Horseskull is available at Bandcamp

Bushcraft Northwest

Wild Food Adventures


Books Mentioned:

Essential Bushcraft
Ray Mears

Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival
Mors Kochanski

Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West
Gregory L. Tilford

Subscribe to START THE WORLD on iTunes here:

START THE WORLD is also available on Stitcher:

Évariste Vital Luminais [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

STW Episode #13 – John Mosby “Forging the Hero”

John Mosby is a former U.S. Army Special Operations soldier and author of a new book, titled Forging the Hero. He is best known online for his contributions to the magazine Forward Observer, and his blog, Mountain Guerrilla


A tribal strategy for building resilient communities and surviving the decline of empire

Topics covered:

  • The historical reality of decline vs. collapse fantasies
  • Group survival vs. the Hollywood loner myth
  • The importance of tribe
  • Building tribal cohesion through gift-giving
  • Identifying shared culture and values
  • Frith, Innangard and Utangard


“Outlaw Wolf Fire” by Horseskull is available at Bandcamp

Mountain Guerrilla

Forward Observer

Books Mentioned:

A Study of History, Vol. 1: Abridgement of Volumes I-VI
Arnold J. Toynbee

The Fate of Empires: Being an Inquiry Into the Stability of Civilisation (Classic Reprint)
Arthur John Hubbard

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