The Making of a Warrior

In ancient Greece, the City-State of Sparta was renowned for the ferocity of its soldiers and dominance of its military might.  As the only city with no defensive walls, it was said that the soldiers made up the “walls of Sparta”.

The strict disciplined training that forged the Spartan soldier was known as Agoge, a training program which began for virtually all male Spartans at the age of seven and lasted until the age of twenty one.

The tenets of Agoge were simple:

  1. Personal desires are secondary to the service of Sparta.
  2. The mind and body are hardened only through rigorous training.
  3. Resiliency of character is forged through sacrifice.

There is much about what we know of Agoge that by our current standards seems brutal and counterproductive to civilized culture.  For example, at only 7 years old, a boy is taken from the arms of his mother and forced to live in an austere environment, fighting with other boys for food and a place of importance.  At age 12, the boy is provided a single set of clothes and made to live a full year outside, stealing to stay alive.  Trained constantly until the age of 21 in the skills of combat and forced to literally fight for his survival, with very few comforts along the way – save the knowledge that his sacrifice earns him a place among the greatest warriors in all of Greece – the Spartan soldier upon entering the Army has more combat experience than most of the veterans of other Greek states.

Compare this with the culture of today and it is obvious that while our desire for comfort has fueled great strides in many areas, it also has a negative side effect.  This is especially evident in first-world countries where there is a constant stream of “entertainment” that provides immediate distractions from facing anything uncomfortable, where the overwhelming message broadcast by every radio and television is “if it feels good – do it” and “if you want it, buy it – you deserve it”.

In contrast, the Spartan learned in Agoge that “if it feels good – beware, it will likely make you soft”, and “the only thing worth wanting is to honor Sparta, and you can’t buy that, it is earned through a constant force of will and bone and muscle and sinew.”

Ten Days of Agoge

There is a saying that the only constant is change.  This is true of most things – people, places, ideals, etc. – but not of everything.  For example, the principles that forged a young Spartan boy into one of the world’s greatest warriors, these do not change, but are in fact the very catalyst of change.  These principles were true in 480BC, as 300 Spartans fought valiantly at the battle of Thermopylae, and they are true today.  The question is whether or not you will allow them to be a catalyst of change in you.

The Agoge Challenge is to commit to 10 days of rigid discipline.  It is simple, but not easy.

For 10 days, you will:

  1. Wake up one hour earlier than usual.
  2. Perform a short morning exercise routine (see notes).
  3. Read from suggested reading list (see suggested reading).
  4. Eat a strict diet (see meal plan).
  5. Cut off all media – music, television, movies, video games, internet (except for work purposes).
  6. Consume no alcohol or caffeine. 
  7. Drink at least one gallon of water per day.
  8. Keep a journal and write at least one page per day (8 ½ x 11 single spaced).
  9. Speak only what is necessary, listen to only what is important.
  10. Go to sleep an hour earlier than usual.

Morning Exercise Routines

Day 1 – 50 Kettlebell Swings (35lbs/53lbs)

Day 2 – 100 Push Ups

Day 3 – 50 Kettlebell Romainian Deadlifts (35lbs/53lbs)

Day 4 – 100 Sit Ups

Day 5 – 50 Kettlebell Thrusters – 25 Right/25 Left (35lbs/53lbs)

Day 6 – 100 Push Ups

Day 7 – 50 Bent Over Row – 25 Right/25 Left (35lbs/53lbs)

Day 8 – 100 Sit Ups

Day 9 – 50 Burpees

Day 10 – 100 Squats

Note – this does not take the place of your normal training schedule.

Suggested Reading

A Message to Garcia – Elbert Hubbard

Gates of Fire – Steven Pressfield

Lone Survivor – Marcus Lutrell

Seven Pillars of Wisdom; a triumph – T.E. Lawrence

The Art of War – Sun Tzu

Note – these are suggestions only.  Feel free to compile your own reading list that focuses on inner development as opposed to entertainment.

 Meal Plan

Breakfast –

4 Hard Boiled Eggs

1 Pieces of Wheat Bread – plain

 Lunch –

1 Large Chicken Breast – unseasoned

3 Cups Raw Broccoli

1 Piece of Wheat Bread – plain

 Dinner –

1 Large Chicken Breast – unseasoned

3 Cups Raw Spinach – unseasoned

1 Piece of Wheat Bread – plain

 Snacks –

½ Cup of Almonds eat throughout day

 Meal Plan Notes:

Do not deviate from meal plan.  Do not add anything to meal plan. 

 Nutritional Data:

Total Protein – 158g – 41%

Total Fat – 65g – 34%

Total Carbohydrates – 112g – 26%

Total Calories – 1745

 You can expect to get hungry on this plan, although it will provide you with enough energy to sustain normal training volumes.

 Parting Words

The Agoge Challenge may at first appear easy.  Make no mistake, though, this undertaking, if done as prescribed, will require that you exert a great deal of self will to be successful.  It is an impossible task for the weak willed, but for those who can complete it; it is a catalyst of change like few others.

While you are in the challenge – do not discuss it with friends or colleagues.  In fact, other than those who live with you, no one else should be aware of what you are doing.  Do not complain.  Do not look for pity.

It will probably feel as if your mind is at war with itself – literally like there are two minds.  One part of your mind will try to talk you into giving in to some temptation or another while the other tries to hold on.  As the days wear on it may feel that the side that wants you to give up is getting stronger and the side that wants to hold on is getting weaker.  Stay strong and force yourself to BE POSITIVE.  You have control over which part of yourself you give power to.  No matter how badly you feel on the inside, no matter how hungry you think you are, no matter how much you want to watch T.V., listen to the radio, or surf the internet, STAY STRONG by projecting strength, confidence, and resolve in your body language.  You will break through each and every barrier that your mind puts up in front of you if you focus on what is right in front of you.

This challenge is not for everyone.  It is recommended that you consult with a medical professional before starting the challenge.

If you do accept this challenge, then also accept the Spartan reality when going off to fight; Come home with your shield, or on it.