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Old-School PT: The Negative Injunctions by Mark Hatmaker


First, a little back-story on this offering.

So, on the 14th of September this Old Man made 55 revolutions around the sun.

I celebrated the day before that with some river kayaking in the September rain and a little cliff jumping with loved ones. In the process of packing up kayaks and hitting a post-swim parking lot strip my wife snapped a few candids, never fear, not those kinds of candids, just a few shots of a 55-year-old man having a day. [Cash on the barrelhead for the Full Monty.]

Those pics wound up spawning a surprising number of messages along these lines,

Happy Birthday, Mark!”

Me-“Thank you, Brother or Sister!”

“Um, just wondering, what are you doing for training these days cuz, well, looks like it might be working a little.”

Regarding these Messages.

ONE-Thank you, everyone likes to be stroked.

TWO-Likely a case of low expectations. Hell, I’m 55-years-old, I wager as long as I wasn’t 50% Dadbod I’d still get a pat on the back.


That still does not answer queries, so, allow me to first answer broadly and insufficiently, and then get specific with what I am not doing as sometimes, like the Ten Commandments, knowing what not to do can be of value.

Caveat First—These are my results, there is no single way in the world. I do what floats my boat, float yours, Amigos.

The Broad General Answer

As many of you know, I am giving up “kind” training, that is sport specific tactics and focusing on pure OD old-school mayhem that we label The Black Box Project [for more on that, see here.]

This material is devil-in-the-details, in-the-weeds, “If it ain’t mean, real, historically accurate and effective I ain’t interested.”

The Black Box is comprised of pugilism, old school all-in wrestling. Frontier rough ‘n’ tumble combat, and old school frontier weaponry.

I mention all this not merely as sales pitch for the RAW: Black Box Project but to state what I assumed was obvious.

Just as there are old school forgotten combat ways, or old school devilish tweaks that render the “familiar” tactic a different beast, the same holds true for old school conditioning.

With that broad statement in mind, let us proceed to specifics, but only in the “What not to do aspect.”

Mark’s Negative Injunctions

One-I do not lift weights. I did for years, but no more. Sure, there were dumbbells around for some boxers [Mr. Owens comes to mind] and resistance work from old school grapplers, but…

There were no Globo-Gyms, no Boxes, no Bow-Flexes, no designated store-bought goodies on the Oregon Trail.

When I go old school, I go old school. I play like my heroes.

Two-I do not run. I do not bike. I do not ruck. I damn sure do not use any “exercise machine.”

But…many an old school warrior did indeed use roadwork for conditioning.

So, why don’t I run?

Part of my knee surgery last year was a revelation that it simply is not a good idea for me anymore. So, this injunction is likely mighty specific to me. Most can likely skip this advice.

Three-No Cardio? But, well, you gotta have cardio, right?

Old School thought did not make separations between the strength maker and the “bottom maker” [an old school term for stamina.]

The strength and stamina exertions were one and the same.

Oh, I get it. High-volume calisthenics.”


I do nary a burpee, I do not do Hindu Squats, Hindu push-ups, or any exertion designed to be high-volume. I rep no higher than 20 in anything.

In broad strokes…

The Old Man’s Routine

I will not regale you with the combat rounds which undoubtedly contribute to the “cardio.” Needless to say, I box, I wrestle, I have blades, tomahawks, straight-razors etc. and Old West firearms in my hands 6-days per week.

Training Days: 3-on/1-Off. Rinse-wash, repeat.

Daily: A 3-minute synovial fluid wake-up call I do outside with the morning sun [It’s part of The Suakhet’u Program.]

Followed by 1-minute of Flexibility

One minute? Come on, you need more than that.”

Do we?

If you are privy to the Street Dentist Punching Arsenal, we started on RAW 214 [yeah, The Black Box Project] engineered tweaks to the system can reduce our workload while increasing effectiveness.

3 Days Per Week I do a Sliding Scalable Series of Six Old School Strength-Maker Calisthenics performed to Old-School form. No rep higher than 20. [If you’re doing it right, higher than 20 ain’t gonna happen anyway.]

The other 3 Days are ABS Training Days [Agility, Balance, Shock.] These days are more like fun than work.

I hit one 3-minute round of environmental mobility per day. Nice and easy, no stress.

And…1 round of “Beat the Clock.” I pick a chore and rep number and aim to complete it in under 5-minutes. If I am slow that day and the clock wins…I simply stop.

That’s it.

That’s it?”

That’s it.

Well, then I guess that works if you dial in tight on your diet.”

I eat donuts for breakfast. I am a connoisseur of non-chain donut shops.

I am not a vegetarian—I am a chuck wagon cook in training no such thing as a vegetarian on the trail.

I am not paleo. I love me some pasta and potatoes.

I have no diet religion, beyond what we all know, “You full? Step away from the plate, Hombre.”

Are you hitting the creatine hard?”

I do no supplements. I have no Dietary Religion.

In all my historical research I can find no single factor that shows these old school Hosses were ingesting a super-food. We have Corbett swearing by calf’s foot jelly, Grimek by chocolate bars, Fitz by corned-beef hash, and an old timer or two who shoved a sliver of ginger up their anus to gain the edge.

The single unifying edge seems to be the work.

Even more so, just not any kind of work. Work that always directly supplemented the game of fighting survival in question. One that called for no gear beyond a tree branch to grab hold off. One that was easy on an Old Man’s joints and allowed you the mash the pedal to the floor, grip that wheel with a Bootlegger’s Grip, and still hit the track when the urge hits.

I am well aware that negative injunctions can be unsatisfying as we all want clear-cut “Tell me how ABC/123.”

Well, that’s the sort of thing we do on RAWs. The sort of thing we do one-on-one.

My subjective negative injunctions might allow you this, they might allow you to examine your own training or training beliefs and ask “Hmm, is all this really necessary? Is there an old-school rock-solid way that calls for less time, less gear, less, well, everything except grit?”

Yeah, there is.

In The Black Box Project we provide Combination Fighting nitty-gritty straight from the historical record.

For skinny on The Black Box Project

[For techniques, tactics, and strategies of Rough and Tumble Combat, Old-School Boxing, Mean-Ass Wrestling, Street-Ready Frontier Scrapping & Indigenous Ability culled from the historical record see the RAW Subscription Service, or stay on the corral fence with the other dandified dudes and city-slickers.


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Just what is The Black Box Project? I’ll turn 55 just over 30 days from now and I have put out a boatload of material over the years—I’m mighty proud of the work but I’d be a liar if I didn’t ‘fess up to three things. THING ONE -Some of what a young man does in practice, tactics and strategy is just that, what a young man does. One with vim, vigor, speed, around 300 less injuries, and far less experience. If we are playing the Game of Life right, the older we get, the wiser we get, and in this particular case the meaner we get. THING TWO -I am a far better archeologist now than I was decades prior. Oh, I’ve always been not too shabby in the research, test, trial and error department, but, again, that age thing leads me to believe that I’ve only gotten better at my obscure digging for old school combative gold. Hell, I never would have thought that I’d learn the Comanche language simply to dig even deeper under layers of wicked dust. THING THREE -We have always present