Monday, November 5, 2012

Beyond the Breaking Point

In any all-male environment I was ever around, mocking taunts and insults about a male's actions or behaviors that question his masculinity or heterosexuality was the norm. Status jockeying to establish the social hierarchy and sorting out who was the AMOG, and who was the omega(s) everyone else shit on...sometimes metaphorically, and in the case of young men, sometimes literally. I've been on both ends of the spectrum in the loosely defined hierarchy of male group dynamics.

Don't be a pussy!

C'mon BOY!

Don't be a douche bag.

Go home and cry to your mommy, you little fag.

You're so gay.

Eh Boy, don't be a panty.

When faced with peers taunts and jibes, a male has some choices in dealing with it: suck it up, take it in stride, ignore it, or play along and have fun with it. Try to give as good as you get, and be a good sport about it.

Or you can wallow in your hurt feeeeelllings.

You can drop out of whatever group you're a part of so as to avoid the harsh words and taunting insults.

For the young male aspiring to gain respect and rise in any social hierarchy, all of the well known maxims of masculine development training apply: "Pain is just weakness leaving the body," "When the going get tough, the tough get going," and "no pain, no gain."

They may seem like cliches, but they really are truths for men.

Physical strength can be developed by many, but it's the mental strength in the face of adversity that is the true development of your character, and gives you real world confidence

When I first took up feral hog hunting in the early 90's as a young man in my late teens and early 20's, I was beanpole skinny and had almost no visible muscular development. I was 155 lbs. of skin and bones. Back in those days, we used to go hunting twice a week. While I didn't look strong, I had developed good stamina from the hours of trekking through Hawaii's mountains, hacking through dense and humid rain forestry and ascending and descending steep river valleys repeatedly for hours on end.

We once took a friend who'd never been hunting before, his curiosity aroused after hearing our small group of regular partners telling hunting stories over drinks at various parties and social events.  He was a Gym Rat and he certainly looked it with an Adonis physique - the V-shaped torso, bulging pectorals, six pack abs, and prominent traps. He could bench over 350+ lbs., and he made sure we all knew that. He was, of course, quite the ladies man. Cocky, arrogant,  fun and humorous. Often, the life of the party kinda guy. The social scene AMOG. In a night club, at a party, he was "Hollywood."

He was also one of those guys that regularly teased and insulted other men for being "girly" and he was always teasing on guys like me for being too skinny, and that we needed to get into a gym to become a REAL MAN.

After listening to yet another round of hunting tales, he decided one day that he wanted to go and see for himself. If we could trek for hours, from dawn to dusk through the mountains, surely he'd have no problem since he was so much stronger than any of us.  Often times friends would ask if they could come along. Many times we'd assess him and tell him in all honesty, we did not think he would be up to the rigors of the Hawaiian boar hunt. We had no such reservations of Gym Rat. He was known as the strongest guy in our social circles of all the young adult cliques in our town.

So we took him hunting in an area where you have to make a steep, long descent into a river valley. Some areas were switch backs, other areas where navigated by small trees you had to use, going from limb-to-limb to control your descent on the steep grade. Several parts of the trail had ropes because of a dearth of natural hand holds.

It took close to two hours to reach the river valley floor from this steep descent. It was also a hot and very humid day in that valley. No breeze, and we were all drenched with sweat and eagerly gulping down our water as we took a moments rest next to the river.

Then we noticed the dogs get excited at the mouth of a small gorge that fed into the main river we had just  hiked down to. The dogs shot up the gorge and we had to quickly stow our water bottles into our packs and pursue the dogs. They were on the scent, and a boar was obviously nearby.

Sure enough, about a hundred yards up this winding, steep gorge, the dogs had cornered a good sized boar in the shallow river, and we let Gym Rat dispatch it with his brand new hunting knife he had bought for his first boar hunt.


He was exhilarated. A big boar with prominent tusks on his very first hunt!

When I first started hunting, I had gone on over twenty different hunts with my friends, before I finally experienced such a catch. We had warned Gym Rat that most likely we would not catch a big boar, that he shouldn't get his expectations up...but you never know.

 Some guys get all the luck.

We tied up the dogs and field dressed the hog and prepared for what was now the real work at hand - carrying that pig back to the truck. In Hawaii, we tie the front legs of our game animals to the back legs, than hoist it on our backs and carry it out as if you are wearing a back pack.

"Your turn for pack da pig, boy!"

The animals leg bones grind into your shoulders, and the weight is top heavy, making you unbalanced and constantly having to teeter and pause to regain your balance to avoid falling over. Packing the pig out is the real challenge to hunting feral hogs in Hawaii's mountainous terrain.

When people often hear that my friends and I hunt wild hogs, and that we often use a knife to kill the pig, most are in awe of what sounds like a primal and barbaric act. "You hunt wild boar with a KNIFE?!?!?!"

Meh. It's nothing, really.

 The dogs do most of the work tracking it, cornering it and fighting it. The hunter just walks up, grabs the pigs back legs while it's engaged with the dogs, and you stick your knife into it's heart. If your aim is true, the pig dies in seconds.

That's not to say it's without peril or excitement, of course, Many times your dogs can hit several pigs roaming together, so your pack is split and you may only have 2 or 3 dogs fighting with any one particular pig.

Many a hunter who went for the pigs back legs engaged by only a couple dogs, had to quickly retreat when the pig breaks loose from the dogs and whirls like a dervish, flashing it's razor sharp ivories at dog and hunter alike. Some especially ornery hogs have been known to buckle loose from multiple dogs locked on it when the hunter went in for the kill. Many a hunter has been cut or bitten by wild hogs. I've had my own fair share of close calls, but for the most part, have fortunately avoided that particular scenario in my years of hunting. Catching the pig is no doubt the most exciting part of the hunt. The furious sounds of dogs scrapping a vicious boar usually causes an adrenaline dump as you approach the action to attempt dispatching the pig with your knife.

But the excitement after the catch fades as you clean the pig and prepare for the real challenge that is part of hunting the wild boar of Hawaii. At a young age, carrying pig on my back up steep mountainous terrain taught me some valuable life lessons. I learned the real meaning of mental toughness. I found what I thought initially was my breaking point, and yet managed to push on, well past it.

My partners and I have carried pigs for miles, and on occasion have run out of food and water and still hours away from our truck. In that situation, you have no choice. You suck it up, throw the hog up on your back when it's your turn again, and stagger onward, driven only by the desire to reach the end of the ordeal.

Many times one of the hunting party may feel exhausted and just want to quit. I've heard bizarre things come out of exhausted hunter's mouths (including my own)...things like "Let's just butcher the pig, make a fire and cook it right here. We can eat it, feed the dogs, and then sleep out and finish hiking out in the morning." Or, " Let's hang the pig in a tree, and come back for it tomorrow!" Such verbalized fantasies were never taken seriously. When one beaten hunter reaches this point, it's usually one of the others that goads us all into persevering in the ordeal.

"Come on you fag, it's your turn. Don't be a pussy, we're almost there..."

On such hunts where every inch of your body aches, your dry mouth thirsts for water, your belly rumbles for food, and you still got miles to go, you learn a lot about yourself.

You also learn a lot about the men you're hunting with.

On that particular hunt with Gym Rat, we all took turns carrying the boar down the gorge, back to the main river, and we began the ascent up the steep trail to get back to our truck. When we were not even a fourth of the way up the steep trail, Gym Rat began to fade. At first, we all took some pleasure in throwing all of his  jibes he regularly used on all of us about getting into the gym:

"C'mon Princess! I thought you were strong?!? Don't be afraid to lift some weight!  Don't be a pretty boy pre-Madonna! C'mon...let's go!"

He weakly laughed and grinned as we threw it all back at him...all of those common jibes and goading he regularly used on us all to try to get us to go to the gym and lift weights so we could be like him.

But as time went on, he began to take his turn carrying the pig for shorter and shorter intervals, before dropping it off of his back in exhaustion and collapsing onto the side of the trail to catch his breath and drink water.

Then we came to the vertical, dried up waterfall section of the trail, with a thick nylon rope hanging down it's length, tied off to a tree branch at the top. We all groaned at the prospects of carrying the pig up this part of the trail.

As we were carrying the pig on the lower parts of the trail, this waterfall section weighed heavily in our minds. We all knew this would be the killer part. We made short quips of dread on our way up the trail.

"Damn, that waterfall is gonna be a killer!"

"Think this is bad now...wait til we get to the waterfall."

We all decided to Jan Ken Po to determine which two of us had the task of hauling the hog up the rope. There was only one spot about halfway up the old waterfall in which the packer could take a break and trade off the pig to another hunter. Jan Ken Po is the Japanese-derived Pidgin slang we call the old Rock-Paper-Scissors game. There were four of us. Gym Rat and I won.

The two losers looked at us for a  moment of annoyed defeat, and then they bargained with us. We agreed with their assertion. Since the waterfall was such a killer, once they got the pig to the top of it, Gym Rat and I would then have to carry the pig the rest of the way up the valley trail, back to the truck. The top of the waterfall was roughly about the half way point up the side of the valley.

Gym Rat and I watched our two partners struggle mightily to get the pig up the rope. Both almost fell, slipping and sliding with a pig on their backs. At the halfway point, they took a breather then switched off  the pig. Throughout the entire climb, while one man had the pig on his back and his hands on the rope, the other man followed close behind to push the pig upwards to help the other bear the weight while they ascended

I got tired just watching them.

It took 10 minutes to descend this waterfall rope when we were hiking down.

It took close to 45 minutes to get the pig up.

Gym Rat and I simply sat at the foot of the waterfall and watched them. We did not dare follow up behind them on the rope, in case they fell.

Once they hit the top, they dropped the pig and yelled out in exuberant exaltation that their laborious, dangerous task was done.


The deal was made, and they did not have to carry the pig out the rest of the way. That was now up to Gym Rat and I.

As we took our turns climbing up the rope, the guys at the top rested and drank their water and recuperated from the exhaustive effort.

When Gym Rat and I got to the top, we had to take a breather as well. That waterfall was hard enough without 120+ lbs. of dead hog on our back to climb.

As we rested, our two companions got up with their second wind and told us, "See you guys at the truck, have fun with the hog!", and they took off.

Gym Rat took his turn first. He carried it about 100 yards up the trail. We switched, and I took it about a 100 yards. Then he took it 50 yards and then collapsed. At this point, we were both exhausted. We took a long break and finished up the last of our water in our packs. I hoisted the pig on my back and began the torturous ascent again.

I walked until I felt like I could walk no more. Endlessly upwards. One foot in front of the other. I could hear my heart beat pounding in my head. I was gasping for air. I began to teeter uncontrollably along the trail. I finally gave in and collapsed on the side of the trail, this time not even bothering to take the dead pig off my back. I lay there for a few minutes atop the dead pig while I caught my breath.

Finally, I slid my arms out and sat up. I looked at Gym Rat. He wouldn't look at me. I said, "Your turn." His head sank further. "I can't, bro. I'm done."

I was dumbfounded.

Gym Rat outweighed me by at least 50 lbs., and most of that was muscle. But the pig and the mountain broke him in a way the weight bench in the gym never had.

All of the insults and teasing he'd doled out to all of us non-weight lifting friends flashed through my mind.

How many times he laughingly called us pussies and fags and little boys for not getting our skinny asses into the gym.


He didn't answer me, He just sank his head into his chest and leaned back into the side of the steep trail.

I got angry, and caught my second wind. Wordlessly, I arose, and hoisted the pig on my back and began the laborious ascent up the trail once again.

He rested as I headed up trail for a few minutes, then he got up and slowly followed me.

Thrice more I had to stop and rest. Thrice he wordlessly sat down across from me and refused to meet my eyes. I became disgusted. Then enervated. I realized that despite all his muscles he'd built up in the gym, his mental strength was sorely lacking. He quit. I would no longer even try and ask him to take his turn.

In the face of his failure, and years of his condescending teasing and japes, I felt an inner fire grow as I continued to struggle uphill with the dead weight on my back.

Despite all the muscles and the impressive muscular build, I knew then that I was mentally stronger than him. I had more willpower. That knowledge drove me. The thirst, the exhaustion, the pain all became more bearable as I realized this. I was carrying the pig, and I was still hiking faster than him. I began taking frequent but brief breaks, where I'd lean the pig against a tree or a rock for a few moments respite from the weight, then continue the upward staggering. We had run out of water. Every time I stopped, Gym Rat stopped a few feet behind me and wordlessly sat down and refused to look at me or say anything. I began to just ignore him as if he were not even there.

For two hours I sucked it up and drove myself on. As we neared the top of the trail, our partners who had already made it up well in advance after leaving us at the top of the waterfall, began to tease us, shouting out their taunts.

 "C'mon girls! W've been waiting for hours! What's taking so long?!?!?"

Gym Rat and I never responded. He wouldn't look at me, and I just continued to carry the pig up the trail.

When we finally reached the truck, I felt great relief. I dropped the pig at the foot of the truck bed and collapsed into an exhausted heap. I only stirred when one of the guys handed me a water bottle they had kept in the truck. Water had never tasted sweeter.

 I never said a word about Gym Rat quitting on me, leaving me to carry the pig by myself up to almost half the trail.

But for ever after, he never ever again teased me about being skinny or weak. He also gave me great respect whenever we saw each other. He used to tell other acquaintances and strangers at parties and get togethers that I was "the man" and treated me like i was one of his best friends whenever we saw each other. I know he felt bad about quitting on me, and he appreciated that i never rubbed it in, nor told all of our mutual friends and acquaintances about it.

He eventually told our hunting partners about what happened. That he got too tired and couldn't handle it anymore, and that I had carried the pig out most of the way by myself. The two who had carried the pig up the waterfall and then left us at the top, were surprised to learn that I had carried the pig all that way by myself.

One of them, the owner of the hunting dogs (this was before I had my own pack), had kept the jaw with it's impressive ivory tusks as a trophy. Like most hunters in Hawaii, he kept all the impressive jaws strung up as trophies on his dog kennels. As the owner of the pack, he always got first choice of the meat cuts and the first claim to the jaw and/or tusks. After having heard Gym Rat's account, he later came over to my house and gave me the jaw from that pig and told me he thought that I deserved it. If he had known Gym Rat would quit on me, he would have never left me to carry the pig alone for that great a distance of steep valley trail.


It was several years later that I acquired my own hunting dogs and began to string up my own collection of jaws on my kennels. Each one with it's own personal hunting tale and memories. Some came from boars that killed favored hunting dogs. Many of them are more impressive in girth and size of the tusks than that first jaw that my former hunting partner gave me.

But that first jaw is the only one I had professionally cleaned and mounted onto a plaque by a taxidermist. It still hangs on my wall inside the house as a reminder of that day.

I never broke. I hit what I thought was my limit, but managed to find the will to go beyond it when I was forced to by the circumstances.

What I learned about myself that day is a lesson I've carried with me throughout my entire life. "When the going gets tough, the tough get going!" is not a trite cliche. It's truth. No one is born tough. Toughness is developed...forged in the fires of tribulation. You can't become tough until you challenge yourself and strive with all your will to overcome.

 This is why I exhort young men to don't play too much the x-box or world of war craft, stop fapping to teh Pr0n and go out and do something real.

Find your breaking point, then push beyond it. That is how you truly MAN UP.

Don't be a pussy, you fag.


Anonymous said...

Awesome article. I experienced something similar (although nowhere near as gruelling by the sounds of it) when I ran a marathon a couple of years back.

I'd foolishly only run 8 miles in training, thinking I'd breeze through it. And I did - up until about mile 16, when my body fell apart. Agony in every muscle, cramps, both soles of my feet just two giant blisters. Nothing except sheer grit and bloody mindedness saw me through til the end, whilst around me many people who had trained harder than me dropped like flies.

Once across the line, I was physically unable to take another step. But the feeling of having been tested, and come through it, will always be cherished.

Kawika On2 said...

Reading this has lit the fire in the belly that I sorely needed for this week. Thanks brother.

Carnivore said...

WOW! Great article and great inspiration!

Aurini said...

Basic Training; marching through a field with full-kit, moderate rain weighing the grass down. Every step it caught on your feet, the equivalent of 10 lbs of pull each time you tried to lift your feet.

Trying to figure out how your Master Corporal became so tough, able to do this shit without comment or complaint, hitting that barrier...

...and taking one more step.

a good ROI said...

Thank you for this, I am planning on reading this (slightly edited ;) ) to my young sons.

Excellent personal account of forging mental fortitude and the realization that you can be tougher then the toughest looking person just because you are not willing to give up.

AverageMarriedDad said...

Love this post! It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. Have great respect for mental toughness and for your experience. Which reminds me, I just saw Rudy again this weekend, same deal.

Anonymous said...

Great story Keoni. That sounds like a mega workout.

TGP said...

When you are swinging for the fences, you have some Babe Ruthian fucking forearms, and when you connect, like you did with this piece, you lift us all from our fucking seats to cheer (well, metaphorically speaking old sauce!). Very nice piece.

Jeremy Clifton said...

This was so well-written and inspiring that I had to come out of lurk mode and say so. Thank you for a sorely needed kick in the arse!

Koanic said...

Muscle guys gas earlier. You see it a lot in MMA. It wasn't necessarily a mental thing.

PM Siesta said...

Thanks man, killer story. I've had a few experiences like that in my life too, still remember them, and they definitely contributed to my character. A story like this adds more substance in the 'manosphere' - this is real positive here.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for telling this story. The depth and the straightforward symmetry of male honor (and male honesty) is breathtaking. I long for a world full of such clarity and purity.

Emma said...

I think that's one of the disadvantages of having a lot of muscle - you have to carry it, along with the pig. In this type of physical activity, being thinner can be better. Kind of a shame it's such a compromise, but everything in life is.

injections said...

Each one with it's own individual tracking story and reminiscences. Some came from boars that murdered preferred tracking pets. Many of them are more amazing in thickness and dimension the tusks than that first jaw that my former tracking associate provided me.

Anonymous said...

Emma said...

"I think that's one of the disadvantages of having a lot of muscle - you have to carry it, along with the pig. In this type of physical activity, being thinner can be better. Kind of a shame it's such a compromise, but everything in life is."


Anonymous said...

Great story. Fantastic writing.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely right about muscle-guys getting worn out earlier. I've never seen one 'Gym Rat' yet who could do more than 3-4 hours of strenous manual labor without wearing out.

As you mentioned with martial arts, the old-school Chinese masters used to put recruits to about six months of hard manual labor to build up their endurance before they even let them begin training.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, you're a PUA prick whose never lifted anything heavier than a wine glass! LOL

Anonymous said...

'No one is born tough. Toughness is developed'

This is a totally forgotten truth in our feminist society. It used to be that the military boasted that it 'turned boys into men.' They did this by pushing men beyond their breaking points and showing them what was possible.

praguestepchild said...

Epic stuff, Keoni.

PA said...

This was one of the best and most memorable blog posts I've ever read. Well told.

I ran a marathon at 17 and pushed past the wall at mile 20. ANyone who has done that gets it. The remaining 6 miles were sheer force of will. Also Army basic training.

We're about the same age, btw. I've been going to the gym for about five years now... of late I've slacked - still go 3-4 times a week, but my workouts have gotten lackadaisical. Haven't lifted to muscle failure in at least three months. Reading this post ensures that I go balls to the wall once again.

zazendo said...

Great story man. Here in Texas we hog hunt with a knife too. ;)

Jah Warrior said...

Solid story bro. Im from Waianae and trained MMA but when we went ruck marching in Basic Training it was killing me lol