On Being a Beast

by Johnny Pain

“Because Strength is Your Best Defense Against Prison Rape”.

A conversation between myself and one of my close friends years ago is what spawned that infamous Greyskull Tee Shirt design. We were discussing the various reasons that one trains in strength and conditioning. We had recently been surrounded by a large concentration of people who were discussing their motives in training and we were hearing things like “to be truly elite” or “to attain a level of fitness unseen by professional athletes”. We listened to men in their twenties talk about longevity and the dietary and exercise choices that they were making in order to be the picture of health. Much to our befuddlement there were also grown men claiming that they were training in order to “lose a few inches off of the waistline”.

Seeing as how we were at this venue professionally in the role of instructors, we were not judgmental or condescending in how we addressed these individuals or in how we provided them with the instruction that their dollars had bought for them. We did however engage in a discussion while we broke for lunch about why it was that WE trained.

My friend said something that struck a chord with me for sure and echoed my sentiments on the issue. It went something like this.

“I train because I don’t trust cops, and I sure as hell don’t trust fucking District Attorneys, and since I’ve chosen to have a life that is worth a shit and worthy of remembering there is a legitimate possibility that I could end up in prison for something that I did or didn’t do, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to get ass raped and killed over some bullshit”.

We both had a laugh as some of his statement has been censored due to the PC nature of StrengthVillain. The thought however was as logical and truthful as any that I had heard, and certainly topped my list of best reasons that one chose to train.

Seeing as how the two of us at different times in our lives choose or have chosen to exist in some of the more gray areas of society, the notion of imprisonment was something that we could certainly identify with. There is nothing glamorous about prison, I have had the misfortune of visiting some of my better friends in such settings and am thankful that I’ve never been incarcerated myself. There is an entire world within that many will ever learn about, let alone experience. Thinking about being thrust into a stint however gets one thinking and reevaluating rapidly a lot of things about how they live their free life.

What if you were being sentenced in six weeks for a crime that you did not commit? (Or fuck it, what if you did commit it, I’m not one to judge).

How would you spend the next forty-five days? Think about it.

Who would you visit?

What time would you get up?

What foods would you eat knowing you’d be living off of prison fare for the next few months/years?

Just how much sex would you try to cram in?

Lastly, how would you train your body?

I’ve been in situations where I’ve helped advise people on exactly this matter and I can tell you that regardless of how cool the individual is about the severity of the situation, the stress level is high. Talk about the “unknown and the unknowable”.

Will you cell with a fifty-year-old lifer who found religion ten years ago and has abstained from violence since, or will you get the 6’5”, 320 lb manic-depressive pervert who never washes his feet, shouts at you all night and expects sexual favors in return for the privilege of using the toilet?

Will there be a communal cordless phone? What will you be asked to do in order to be able to talk to your family by the big shot on the block that controls the phone?

You simply wouldn’t know.

How would you prepare?

Well, if it were me, I’d want to be the meanest, toughest, nastiest, most beast-like human being that I could be.

The concerns over training minutia would go out the window. Arguments over percentages or head and eye position on the squat would seem rightfully retarded. All that would matter is building a body that was strong and capable. Times to completion of various arbitrary tasks would be of little importance, as would one-rep maxes performed for other people’s benefit.

Things like biceps peak, body composition, quad sweep, or whether or not you could do a particular parlor trick on the rings would be unthinkable notions pushed aside by ever-present knowledge that your mind would be tested the most, but that your body could be called on to do very serious things. These tasks could be life or death, not win or lose. The stakes could be rectal integrity or death, not bragging rights on an internet forum.

You’d have to be strong, you’d have to be quick, and you’d have to have a decent set of lungs on you.

In the situations where I’ve helped those in this spot prepare, we’ve spent the time lifting weights (Greyskull LP Basics), acclimating the body to high frequency body weight exercises like chins and pushups, and busting out frequent (3 x week or more) short, fast, intense conditioning workouts like those featured in my ebooks “50 Greyskull Approved Conditioning Workouts for the Modern Viking” and the new, second offering in the series; “50 More Greyskull Approved Conditioning Workouts for the Modern Viking”. Or a plan like the one in my “Gladiator” series.

The strength training portions were brief and simple with an emphasis on big, compound movements that elicited global strength increases and spurred hypertrophy. The bodyweight stuff prepared them for what was ahead, as many facilities have done away with weights for prisoners, and started them on the road to the possessing hard, dense, capable musculature that only high frequency bodyweight stuff can deliver. The conditioning toughened them up mentally and taught them to push themselves beyond their comfort level while building iron lungs that would allow them to fight hard and fast if need be, but also possess the stamina needed in a riot situation (we’re always worst case, contingency thinkers here).

So what does this mean for the “normal” upstanding citizen who has no reason to believe that they will ever find themselves on the wrong side of prison bars? Well, frankly not much. Trusting in the idea that you will forever be free and protected by police and law and order can be a comfortable feeling I am sure. Entrusting others blindly and entirely to protect your family, your wife, your children from predators and anyone who would harm them for the duration of their lives must be a similar sensation.

Neither however are sentiments with which I can relate, and I am sure that there are some out there reading who feel the same.

There are situations in life where being an absolute beast could be very beneficial. Whether or not you plan on getting jammed up in the next few months, give some thought to the idea that you have one life and one shot at doing it right. We make decisions in finance and other realms based on long term payoff and relevancy, why not in why we train?

Don’t be the fat, beer bellied guy at the gun show who carries three cocked and locked 1911 .45’s and shit talks the 9mm round who loses his teenage daughter from choking because he didn’t possess basic first aid skills which would be much more likely needed in life than his 24 rounds of 230 grain hardball, or who can’t run to save his four year-old son from the drunk driver barreling down his street.

Get your basics down. Build your body up into that of a beast, a predator’s body, not a butter soft, tasty piece of food chain. It may very well all be in vain, and I hope to God that it is for your sake.

How many of you have smoke detectors in your house?

Ok, now how many of you have ever had a fire in your house?

Preparing for the worst is never a bad thing. Be ready for anything. Prepare in the manner that gives you the most bang for your buck.

Ask yourself, how would I train if I knew I was going to be locked up in a maximum-security prison six weeks from today?

See if thinking that way does not yield a very productive six weeks of training.

Be a fucking beast.


24 Responses

  1. DBT

    From another perspective the ordinary citizen should train as though they are preparing for the same battle. Not all guys in prison are maniacs but you need to prepare for the ones that are. They eventually get out and some get right back at it. Finding out you’re unprepared to defend yourself or your family when you’re in the thick of things es no bueno. Lift, grow and present a hard target for any potential ne’er do wells

    October 11, 2011 at 12:45 am

  2. sapper09

    Great article as usual, chief.

    Following what D said, I’ll be getting better acquainted with those who live that life very soon, and, I want to know I’ll be stronger, faster and more brutal than that d-bag on the street.

    October 11, 2011 at 2:48 am

  3. Mitch

    THAT is what SV is all about. I’ll tell you what I would love the pleasure of reading, “Hardened: A collection of essays on life & training. By Johnny Pain”

    October 11, 2011 at 4:05 am

  4. Susan Peterson

    Thank you for writing this and to my friend for posting it on FB. I am a 60 year old female and realize the way of the US right now, I could end up in jail! I believe in the Constitution, 2nd Amendment rights!!,etc. So, guess with some of that along with not totally trusting law enforcement, I need to be primed and in ready mode. How do you tailor the program to the older folks? Thank you – from someone that would like to be a ‘bad guy’ – well physically speaking.

    October 11, 2011 at 6:14 am

  5. Worth

    I’ve been on the site a while reading, this was a great article. There’s a youtube video called something like “Don’t talk to the police”, and it lays out how a policeman’s job is just to get the soon to be defendant, not find the guy/gal who committed the crime. I’ve never been to prison, nor do I plan on going. But this has definitely brought up some good ideas on training mentality.

    October 11, 2011 at 7:44 am

  6. JamesC

    Don’t forget when the maniacs get out and make the streets their play ground again, violence will find you.

    Great post JP

    October 11, 2011 at 7:59 am

  7. Vim

    Great article. Makes me realise i need to up my conditioning (read: start it again).

    Agree with the other comments too. You should prepare for the worst whatever your situation in life. You hear it all too often in the UK right now, someone getting stabbed or beaten to death for looking at someone in the wrong way.

    I know in the past theres been times where ive felt intimidated by thugs in clubs etc, because i knew full well, weighing 145lbs, that if they wanted to, they could have seriously hurt me. Not the case anymore, and ive got SV to thank for it.

    October 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm

  8. Fran

    Unexpected Surprise to see this article today. Good Stuff. I would try to cram the sex in!

    October 11, 2011 at 12:55 pm

  9. Scott

    As a cop, I found this article to be very interesting and useful. I’ve always been intrigued by inmates “gladiator academy” training. I remember seeing a great poster in the academy of a huge guy in squat rack with a t shirt that had State Prison on the back. At the bottom of the poster it says: this inmate works out, do you? I also remember martial artist and street fighter, Paul Vunak using the prison scenario to describe the realities of real fights. Great minds think alike. Once again JP, excellent article!

    October 11, 2011 at 1:34 pm

  10. Butch

    One of the best pieces on “why to train” I ever read… damn well done JP.

    October 11, 2011 at 5:34 pm

  11. k

    another cop here,

    where I work, there is as little as one officer on shift for every 20k citizens. Case law is tying our hands, budgets are dwindling our numbers and letting more cons out of prison earlier while mental hospitals are closing,its very possible and it does happen where 911 dispatchers say, sorry we have no officers to send.

    You havent seen shit until you’ve rolled with a jacked schizophrenic who literally believes he is Satan, screaming that hes going to bring you to hell. Damn straight you need to be a beast. And in my opinion, part of being a beast is carrying if allowed and training on the range as hard as you do in the gym. Be strong and conditioned but be ready for the three bangers that boot your front door with the intent to rape rob and pillage.

    October 11, 2011 at 5:48 pm

  12. ahahah

    aiight, I’ll cave–where do I buy the t-shirt?

    October 12, 2011 at 10:12 am

  13. King

    Holy Sh*t! Great post!!

    I’m always looking for motivation and you reminded me of the time I had to spend an overnight in the clink (for some bs that was later thrown out). My attorney who was a skinny fat 145# dude with harry potter spectacles called me “fat” at one point during our talks. and I just thought to myself: “ha! thank God I’m 6′, 253 lbs, have touched a weight and hit a heavy bag in my life. and that they had to find me a 5xl set of overalls to fit my shoulders, and that I was left alone” this guy wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds if he had to do real time or the zombie’s attacked. Everything could be taken from him.

    Damn good post. I’m ready to go back to the gym today.

    October 12, 2011 at 1:35 pm

  14. Dirichlet

    Good article, and I agree with DBT’s post. Your training should be pre-apocalyptic. You should train as if tomorrow shit will hit the fan and there will be no law to protect you, no cops to enforce it, and no rights nor entitlements. What will you do to secure your survival and that of your loved ones? Right, you will make a beast of yourself.

    Also I chuckled at the “PC censorship” comment up. I think you just gave away what he actually said, heh.

    October 12, 2011 at 2:07 pm

  15. Walrus Yalp

    That was a really good post.

    October 13, 2011 at 3:20 am

  16. Jen

    awesome post, johnnie.

    October 14, 2011 at 9:48 am

  17. Train to whoop ass, Not be it, words of wisdom John. Got some awesome looks in Russia wearing that shirt from those that could read english that is.

    October 14, 2011 at 10:11 am

  18. That T Shirt is hard Core and i enjoyed the read. Thanks for sharing.

    October 18, 2011 at 9:18 am

  19. Wade M

    Great post. Reminds me of the talk my buddy who is a US Marshal, gives during his jujitsu instruction. He and I both believe that you should train hard in the gym, pushing iron, rolling on the mats, practicing your self defense skills then spend time on the range shooting, drilling, practicing weapon retention, practical shooting set ups. All that so you not only jaffe the physical skills to do the job of protecting yourself, friends and family but that you are confident enough and look bad ass enough that you are actually insulted that some shit bag would even think about picking you as his next victim. Keep fucking em up, Johnny.

    December 4, 2011 at 10:53 am

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  21. Luis

    Great read. I agree 100%. Saw 2 guys at the gym today benching 405 for reps. Animals, both of them. And not that they’re bad people but what if you’re cornered by one or both guys like this? You have to forge your body into a piece of iron. The pain from lifting and exercising is NOTHING compared to the pain of being mangled, raped and ripped apart by guys like this. You gotta fight, even if you die. Better than laying down like a bitch.

    January 8, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    • Will

      …in short, that’s where fight training comes in.

      It’s one thing to be able to move a disgusting weight like that – but if you’ve not actually practised fighting on a regular basis you’re going to be screwed if you come across someone who has.

      Or in the case of the animals in your gym – chances are most people that big don’t know how to fight… if you do and you’re strong, you’ll probably come out on top.

      There is, of course, the truly rare animal – the beast who CAN fight… then your options are somewhat limited and tend to come down to the legality and availability of firearms… and the old truism… “you can’t win ’em all.”

      February 11, 2012 at 12:15 pm

  22. Will

    Awesome post. You’ve expressed my feelings about personal safety better than I could have.

    You just got yourself a reader.

    February 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm

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