Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one. -Bruce Lee
Over the past several years, a trend has emerged to label anything that deals with men, exercise, and masculinity as toxic.
In July of 2023, MSNBC reshared a year-old-tweet by extremism expert Cynthia Miller-Idrissthat she penned in March of 2022, sounding the alarm that young men were being radicalized and recruited through encrypted chat groups, they’re ‘lured with health tips and strategies for positive physical changes.’ Researchers reported this as “fascist fitness.”
The author goes on to mention that physical fitness has always been central to the far right, referencing Mein Kampf and Hitler’s fixation with boxing and jujitsu. The author goes on to claim that far-right groups are setting up mixed martial arts and boxing gyms in Ukraine, Canada, and France.
Mrs. Cynthia Miller-Idriss speaks of extremism and fitness as it connects to an obsession with the male body, training, masculinity, testosterone, strength, and competition. She talks of how combat sports are appealing to the far right because fighters are trained to accept physical pain, become warriors, and embrace solidarity, heroism, and brotherhood. I’m guessing she thinks that when a person, male or female, joins a CrossFit gym, a powerlifting gym, boxing, Muay Thai gym, or jujitsu school, a community from all walks of life, the bonds and confidence they build there is supposed to be a form of extremism.
She sums this up by going full-on crazy Charles-Manson-Helter-Skelter, saying, “It’s championed as a tool to help fight the ‘coming race war’ and the battles that will proceed it.”
The author’s article delivered backlash from the likes of Podcaster Joe Rogan, an avid strength trainer and jujitsu practitioner who tweeted, ‘Being healthy is “far right.” Holy fuck. Then, the comment section exploded.
Considering I’ve never been an avid gym member (I go to the local gym when I’m on vacation), but I’ve had a home gym, been strength training with Olympic weights and body weight calisthenics all of my life since age 11, as a kid I looked up to Arnold Schwarzenegger, Reg Park, Clint Eastwood, and Sylvester Stallone. I grew up on the pugilism of pro boxing, being motivated by everyone from Jack Johnson, James Braddock, Muhammad Ali, to Arturo Gatti. That doesn’t include my training in Martial Arts from age 12 until my mid-30s. Being influenced by men like Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, and Jackie Chan. Men who overcame adversity through their chosen training. Why? One might ask, because fitness requires effort, goal setting, discipline, and a resilience of self. These guys didn’t get participation trophies. They earned their way in life while overlooking negativity.
Does that make me a racist? No, it does not. I’ve taught, studied, and trained in many disciplines throughout my life, including Korean Tae Known Do, Traditional Chinese Kung Fu, Western and Eastern Boxing, Brazilian Jujitsu, and Jeet Kune Do with all creeds and colors of people.
White supremacy was never part of the curriculum. Community, bonding, and hard work were front and center.
Fitness is the single most important daily endeavor that a person can embark upon. Movement molds a person into a better person. Creates discipline. Promotes health, mental and physical.
Examples from influencers/authors/podcasters such as Jocko Willink, Joe Rogan, Cameron Hanes, Mike Rowe, Joe DeSena, and David Goggins, though sometimes extreme, promote leadership, positivity, and goodwill. And no-nonsense motivation to be a little better each and every day. And they give back to their community.
Discussing what society has lost with retired Strength and Conditioning Coach Jim Steel from the University of PA, we narrowed it down to the simplistic: people have gotten away from the rewards of hard work. A stronger mind, a stronger body, and a positive attitude. In other words, society no longer realizes our country wouldn’t be where it is without overcoming negativity and putting in the hard work to create better men. Men who built roads, bridges, and infrastructure. Farmed land to produce food. Fought in wars. Battled racism. Every person who succeeds in life has had obstacles to overcome to get to where they’re at.
Sadly, in this day and age, we’re the one country that can complain and criticize how free we are. And about the men who fought for this freedom.
Why not consider this? Another friend, Strength and Conditioning coach Zach Even-Esh, writes a daily newsletter. They’re informative and inspirational; one of the issues he’s encountered over the past 10-plus years when training younger athletes is the average teenager can’t do 10 pull-ups or push-ups. As a people, we’re letting our kids proceed backward.
Competition is demonized. Victimhood and participation trophies have become the acceptable norm, and kids have become weaker.
This carries over to becoming an adult. Testosterone levels in men have declined. Gen Z and millennials have lower testosterone when compared to their predecessors. Declining about 1% per year since 1980. Why is this? Many factors. Eating too much processed/junk food (fast food, chips, soda, white sugar). Stress from jobs that require less movement than in the past, like sitting behind a desk and staring at a monitor for hours on end. Mental health issues. Tight underwear. Not smoking (nicotine raises T; I don’t condone smoking). Not getting enough sleep. Oh, and men don’t get enough movement throughout their day. They don’t exercise. And guess what could curb or even eliminate all of these issues and raise men’s testosterone: exercise. Lifting weights, calisthenics, or bodyweight movements. Getting outdoors and getting your Vitamin D from sunlight, from daily walks, sprints, or push mowing your lawn. Getting eight hours of sleep. And eating real food.
Look, men have egos, and they have testosterone; that’s what makes us men. But in this day and age, we’re constantly being labeled as toxic. No wonder there’s a decline in testosterone. It’s the pampering of culture, the removal of hard work and grit. Doing hard things.
Growing up in a blue-collar family, my father was constantly helping his in-laws on their farm, providing for my mother and me but also for his mother and his community of friends. He served in the Vietnam War as a Combat Engineer. He worked three jobs and took care of our home, and he was humble.
We’ve simplified life and removed effort and dedication. Commitment. Discipline. Work ethic. Goals. And most of all, pride. We’ve replaced it with excuses and weakness.
My advice to young men, stay off of social media and turn your phone off. Start journaling. Set daily goals. Read books. Learn a skill. Help others. Get outdoors. Go walking or hiking daily.
Lift weights, do bodyweight exercises, or join a gym. Quit making excuses. You’re not a victim.
Every man who’s succeeded in life did it by working hard and being dedicated. Regardless of how they were treated, shunned, or turned down, they did it by being resilient. It’s called being a man.
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SOFREP and Frank Bill go together like ribs and BBQ sauce. Click on the links to check out more of his fantastic body of work: The Ravaged, with Norman Reedus; the novels Back to the Dirt (May 2023), The Savage and Donnybrook, the latter of which was turned into a film in 2018; and the story collection Crimes in Southern Indiana, one of GQ’s favorite books of 2011 and a Daily Beast best debut of 2011. – GDM