The Thirty-Six Stratagems

Ancient Chinese Warfare Philosophy for Today

An ancient Chinese General Wang Jingze created the thirty-six stratagems. The stratagems were thirty-six strategies for ancient warfare.  As with many philosophies these principles have stood the test of time, and with a little work can be applied to today.

How could thirty-six ancient Chinese warfare tactics possibly have any impact on my life? More than you think. The stratagems can be directly applied to business, negotiations and winning situations. Let’s review a few of the stratagems that have some easy applications today.

“Borrow a corpse to resurrect the soul.” Kind of morbid, but hang in there. Take something that has disappeared, fallen out of style, an old technology, and use it to reinvent your business or yourself. This follows the saying, “There are no new ideas, just respun old ones.” You do not need to reinvent the wheel. Many times the things you need are already available; you just need to find a new application.

“Take the opportunity to pilfer the goat.” Who needs a goat? You might need a goat. Be flexible in your plan. Opportunities arise all the time; do not be too rigid to embrace them.

“Replace the beams with rotten timbers.” I don’t build houses, and its okay if you don’t. Change the rules. Go against common thought. People take strength from understood rules. Make the rules to your favor.

“Wait at leisure while the enemy labors.” Can be taken literally, but pick the time and place for a confrontation, engagement or challenge. Bring a challenge into your home court. Make the timing of an event to benefit you. Be prepared while allowing for your opponent to do all the extra work.

“If all else fails, retreat.” This is probably the most famous of the stratagems. If you survive, then you are still in the fight. Know when to quit and regroup. Live to fight another day.

“Chain stratagems.” One should be weaving many stratagems and tactics together to be successful. Be flexible in your strategies. Change them as needed. He, who adapts, will win.

I really like the aspect of flexible planning. I think everyone has life lessons they can learn from a good deal of planning, but keeping a flexible plan in order to embrace opportunities as they come along.

Please take a look at the full list. Maybe an ancient Chinese strategy or two can help you accomplish your goals.

Other people have correlated these strategies into business books. Here’s a link The Art of Advantage.

The Art of the Advantage: 36 Strategies to Seize the Competitive Edge

This is  another good interpetation of thirty-six strategies.

The 36 Stratagems for Executives (Sun Tzu’s The Art of War for Executives)

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Workout of the Week #1

Workout of the Week (WOW)

Diversifying your weekly routine

I would like to introduce a great way into changing your training regimen. It’s called the Workout of the Week or WOW for short. This is a way for people to break out of their routine, diversify their training, maybe jumpstart their routine, and (hopefully) bring some excitement back into exercise.

Every week I will post a new workout that people can plug into their regular routine or build a routine around. It is similar to a workout of the day (WOD) except I don’t tell you what to do everyday, just give you something new to try once a week.

WOW #1

“Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great.” –Orison Swett Marden

The Burner

10 rounds with a 45 second rest between rounds

15 deadlifts at 135 pounds (this can be modified to 95, lighter dumbbells, or a kettlebell)

15 free squats with a 20 pound medicine ball

¼ mile run

Let me know how you do. Too tough? Not hard enough? Really awesome? Give me a shout!


Bigger, Stronger, Faster*…

A Documentary on Steroid Culture in the United States

Everybody wants to be Bigger, Stronger, Faster, right? Maybe not everyone, but many people do, in one way or another. The bodybuilder wants to be bigger, the marathon runner wants to be faster, and the power lifter wants to be stronger. At what cost will someone go to reach superiority in his or her athletic field? I watched a movie over the weekend on a whim. I was perusing through Netflix and came across a documentary called Bigger, Stronger, Faster*. At first glance, I was like, right up my alley. A movie about being awesome, I’m down. Then I thought it might be related to the Bigger, Faster, Stronger (BFS) program for high school athletes, but this was not the case. At a closer look, I noticed it was a documentary on steroid use. I was in for the next hour and forty minutes. The use of performance enhancing drugs has been a hot topic throughout the last 15-20 years. As a society we have been inundated with major league baseball scandals, Olympic disqualifications, and the overlooking of steroid use in high school athletics. Steroid usage remains a topic of debate in our country today. Naturally, I had to watch and see what the steroid culture in the United States is like.

Christopher Bell, the narrator, is a regular guy in his thirties. Growing up he and his brothers were obsessed with the muscle heroes of the 80s and 90s. While Bell only experimented with steroids, his brothers built a life around them as they strived to reach their athletic goals. Within the first ten minutes I was hooked. As Bell talks about his childhood superheroes of Arnold, Hogan, and Stallone overcoming insurmountable odds to be heroes in both real life and fiction, I felt a connection with my childhood. I too remember growing up watching Conan the Barbarian, Terminator, and Rocky (especially Rocky 4 where he battles the shredded Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren)). I remember being enthralled by their dominance on screen. These guys were the real deal. They were larger than life characters, and dominated boyhood dreams of a generation. They were the tough guys. They were the good guys (most of the time). I know they had an impact on my life. If you don’t think that movies, TV , and celebrities’ impact people, especially young people, in some fashion, think back. Are their any movies, TV shows, or celebrities that you idolized growing up? Are their any celebrities that you still want to be? I bet there was at least one that impacted you in some way.

Bell continues on explaining that the impressions that these men gave of the American dream were slightly tarnished. He explains that these men used performance enhancing drugs to get those bodies, not by eating a healthy diet or shoulder pressing three people in a farm cart. He uses his brothers, as examples of the impact of steroid culture in the United States. He interviews them, and they are honest about their usage. The steroid use is ingrained in their lifestyle, and although their wives want them to stop using for health reasons, they cannot see their dreams coming to fruition without them. To help give the viewer a better look at the War on Steroids Bell interviews, doctors, fitness models, a congressman, Olympic athletes, and the founder of the Taylor Hooton foundation against steroid use, who helped shape the current US policy against steroids. While Bell doesn’t take a side on the issue, you can tell that this is something that touches very close to home.

I feel like the film gives a very balanced approach to the issue, but is critical of the current policy toward banning steroid use. It is very thought provoking, and should resonate with people on why we should care about performance enhancing drugs in our society. I think this is especially important as people begin to question current policies on other drugs. If you are interested in subcultures, as well as, the culture of steroid use, and its impact on American society, I would definitely recommend this film.

If you want to buy the DVD, check out the link below.

Bigger, Stronger, Faster*

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Sleep: The Easiest Way to be Healthy

The Dozing Pillar of Health

The benefits of sleep are a dozen fold. Every study that hits the press states the same thing. Getting adequate sleep, which is 7-9 hours for an adult, is paramount to any fitness program, and one could argue a critical component of every person’s life. The benefits can be seen across the board.

Muscle Repair/creation of HGH

Cognitive Rest and Repair

Weight loss: or gain if you are deprived

Increased alertness: Many auto accidents are from people that are sleep deprived

Boost in Memory

Decrease Inflammation

Lower Stress

Lowers Cholesterol/lowers risk of diabetes

The information is everywhere yet people in our society are constantly ignoring it. Just this past January the CDC labeled sleep deprivation as an epidemic. According to the article, as many as 50-70 million Americans have a sleep or wakefulness disorder, and I would bet that the actual number is much higher. People are not taking their sleep seriously, and it is one of the easiest ways to stay fit in body and mind. I know that this has been a major struggle for me. There is just never enough time in the day and sleep usually takes the hit. Here’s a link to the article.

Can’t Make it Up

Sleep is not a component of overall health that can be ignored or made up for on the weekend. In fact, according to a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania, one cannot catch back up on sleep later. Neurons that are damaged or lost from being sleep deprived are gone; they cannot heal over time like previously thought. Losing sleep will literally make you dumber. See link.

Sleep Enhancement Tactics

Here are some sleep enhancement tactics to help ensure that you are getting to sleep fast and hopefully staying asleep. Many of these tactics have greatly enhanced my falling asleep and staying asleep. (I am not a doctor; these are for educational purposes only. Please consult a physician for medical advice.)

  1. Blackout Curtains: I would recommend these for everyone, but especially people who do shift work. I have black out curtains, and they have helped me enormously get better quality sleep. See link.
  1. Keep your Room Cool: If I could sleep in an icebox, I would. Studies state that a cool room is better than a warm one, but keep your room a comfortable temp and it will be easier to sleep. See link.
  1. Melatonin: a naturally occurring hormone in the body that tells you its time for sleep. This can be bought over the counter at your local pharmacy. See link.
  1. No screens in the bedroom, screen time right before bed can cause sleep problems. See link.
  1. GABA-natural supplement: some people will swear by it others don’t. See links.
  1. Exercise: yes burning yourself out with good exercise will help you sleep get to sleep quicker and sleep longer. Great link.
  1. Meditation: Clearing your mind and washing away your many racing thoughts will help you relax and sleep. Great Link.
  1. Make a to-do list for the next day. Planning ahead helps me relax which in turn helps me fall asleep faster. This may stress some out more.
  1. De-clutter/organize your room and belongings for the next day: Having my clothes already picked out, briefcase packed, and other pocket items organized helps me not stress about the next morning.

I would start with some blackout curtains in the bedroom. They cost around 80 dollars depending on brand, and I guarantee they are worth every penny in uninterrupted sleep. Next, I would do a nightly organization and make my bedroom a screen free zone. Why take supplements for something that you may be able to fix by building some better habits. Try a screen free zone and a nightly organization for one month and see if that helps you get to sleep quicker. Then I would throw in meditation time. I will have another post in the future that goes over meditation techniques, but for the time being try a four count breath in and a four-count breath out. Focus on a deep lung filling breaths. If these methods fail you over time, try some sleep aids. There are more than I mentioned above.

Sleeping is literally the easiest way to increase your overall health. If you are struggling with it, make some definite moves toward improving it everyday. It is probably the one of the most overlooked and forsaken of health principles. Sleep is the easiest way to make gains, live better and helps your cognitive function stay top notch. Get there. Get it done. Feel great. Being healthy is as easy as going to sleep.

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Functional Fitness is Warrior Fitness

My first discussion with the Warrior Scholar Community is on functional fitness. First, how does fitness fit into the life of a Warrior Scholar? “Physical fitness is a general state of health and well-being or specifically the ability to perform aspects of sports or occupations. Physical fitness is generally achieved through correct nutrition, exercise, hygiene and rest.” Wikipedia

Functional Fitness

A Warrior Scholar uses fitness to keep his body honed for combat and in turn keeps his mind sharp for battle. This does not mean that you are training for the military or law enforcement occupation, but more importantly training for life. Training for life. When was the last time I had to run, shoot, and fight? Hopefully, you will never have to, but sometimes you don’t have a choice, and one must be ready. Here’s a non-violent example. Just this past winter I was at a winery with some friends, and as we were leaving we noticed that another patron had slid their car over a large wooden beam in the parking lot. The front tires were not touching the ground so they could not get the car back over the beam. Instead of just leaving the person to get a tow truck my buddy and I decided to give them a lift. A big deadlift. On either end of the front of the car we gripped tightly engaging our posterior chain, hamstrings, shoulders, core, and hands. We strained and heaved, and with a few grunts and a little luck we got the car moving. Good Samaritan deed done for the day, right? Right. Let’s change the scenario up a little bit. What if we were in the middle of nowhere, and we could only depend on ourselves? What if my buddy and I were only obsessed with ‘beach muscles’ instead completing lifts that had some real world application. We would still be stuck today. That is life. Being able to take care of things around you as needed.

What are the principles of a functional fitness?

1. Core Strength Functional Lifts: Deadlifts, Squats, Snatches, Bench Press, and Shoulder Press

2. Supersets/Trisets/Circuits: A set that combines two or more exercises that you complete back to back. This allows you to complete more lifts faster, keeps your heart rate up, and embodies a type of interval training.

3. HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training, helps the warrior burn fat, build muscle and endurance through periods of extreme stress.

4. Appropriate Rest Phases: rest days help you rebuild.

5. Diversity of Training: A broad spectrum of body weight, dumbbells, barbells, heavy, light and complex lifts. We try to stay away from machines.

Why functional fitness is warrior fitness?

Functional fitness is a person’s ability to do real world activities. Jump, run, pull, push, throw, climb and lift things off the ground, to name a few. These types of movements are important to us whether we are trying to be healthy or whether we are preparing for an end of the world scenario and we need to escape a horde of zombies. When we train for functional fitness we are training complex movements that involve more than one muscle group. We do this because in the real world we do not just use our biceps to do an activity, but we may use our biceps, back, core and even our legs to pull ourselves over a wall. The more functionally you train the more your muscles are trained for everyday activities. In extreme cases like a firefighter carrying a person from a burning building, or on the less extreme end bending over at the waist and picking up a box and putting it on a shelf. Combining the principles of functional fitness together we can create a body that has a muscle memory for real world scenarios.

Now you ask, what exercises can I do to improve my functional fitness?

At the most basic level of functional fitness we will train with exercises that move your own body weight.

Body Weight Exercise

The pull-up, the push-up, free squat, sit-up, running, walking up hills, planks, burpees (a sprawl into a pushup, moving to a crouched squat position followed by a standing jump.) Check out this link for an example. ( There are other variations of these exercises, but at its most rudimentary core these are major real world functional exercises. Just yourself moving yourself. When it comes down to it, if you can’t move yourself then you won’t be able to do much anything. It is of no coincidence that all of the major United States Military Branches have Physical Fitness Tests(PFTs) that encompass basic body weight moves. These are all movements that require no weights and no gym. For example, the United States Marine Corps PFT looks like this:

1. Pull-ups 2. Crunches 3. 3-mile run

There are set standards that a person must reach to fail, pass or score excellent. These warriors aren’t being asked to bench press a thousand pounds or clean and jerk 500 pounds. They are being asked to move their own body weight with extreme proficiency. High muscular endurance is one goal of functional fitness. We can help achieve this by incorporating body weight exercises into our training schedule.

Here is a Beginner’s Bare Bones Functional workout:

Jog a 1/4 mile
20 pushups
20 sit-ups
20 free squats

Repeat 5 times

Very simple, you don’t need a gym, just yourself.

Here’s another Beginner’s functional workout:

5 pullups
10 pushups
15 sit ups
20 air squats

Repeat 5 times
(These workouts can be scaled down or up)

Intermediate Level Full Body Functional Circuit:

4 rounds
Run 1/4 mile
10 pull-ups
10 Kettlebell swings
10 T pushups
10 Sumo Deadlifts
10 High Rows with Kettlebell
1 minute of Planks
1 minute of burpees

Rest 2 minutes between rounds

After we master some of the basics of body weight exercises we look for ways we can increase it through more advanced strength training, and advanced programs and routines.

In the next blog, I will go over other fundamentals of training, and review some more workouts, some beginner and some advanced. As we become more advanced, I would start breaking down some of my training into more specific areas, variants and patterns.

Thanks for reading! I look forward to sharing more next time.

Here are some links that talk about functional fitness.

Photo credit: marines do pushups.jpg, wikimedia commons