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‘Tetrads’
Of Naked Exercises: 8
© 2022 James LaFond
MAR/13/23
[Possibly, the only useful training information lies ahead in the final pages of a book that has not addressed method at all but dwelt in history, philosophy, sophistry and the concerns of the onlooking sissy.]
47. Also let us take no heed of the tetrads of the gymnasts, by which the whole of gymnastics has been ruined. By tetrads is to be understood a cycle of four days, on each of which something different takes place. On the first, the athlete is prepared; on the second, intensively engaged; on the third, given over to recreation; and, on the fourth, moderately exerted.
[Cyclic training in this manner is adopted by many combat athletes today.]
The preparatory training is, however, an energetic, short and rapid movement, which arouses the athlete and prepares him for the coming exertion; the intensive, an irrefutable test of the inner strength of constitution; the recreation, the period in which movement is again systematically resumed; the day of moderate exertion teaches escape from the opponent, but if he himself flees, not to relax.
[This may have been an ancient method, as it mimics mustering and/or marching, battle, raping and pillaging and reforming for action. The author does not agree with this method, though his opinion has been seen to be of little worth on matters beyond the beauty of the athlete.]
And since they plod through this entire method of training systematically, and always repeat the tetrads, they deprive their science of intelligent understanding in respect to the condition of the athlete to be trained. For foods are harmful, wine is detrimental, and so are stealthy eating, anxiety, weariness, and much besides, partly voluntary and partly involuntary. How, in such cases, shall we bring about a cure by means of tetrads and training by fixed rules?
[Gluttony among champion athletes and warriors, some of whom had eating contests, was a demonstration of vitality in imitation of the gorging lion and not beneficial to future but rather a demonstration of current vitality. Circa A.D. 1200 a man who would conquer the lands in which Philostratus leisured his life away, Babyars, was famous for eating a whole lamb at one sitting and was the most feared warrior of his age. In training, during classical periods and in the modern period, a frugal diet has generally been recommended for fighters.]
48. Over-feeding will be betrayed by the pendulous brow, panting breath, filling out of the cavities at the collar bones, and the groins at the side, which exhibit a certain voluptuousness. Wine drinkers are marked by a thick paunch, lively blood, and moisture of the groins as well as at the knee. Those who come from the enjoyment of Venus betray themselves at training in many ways. They are, for instance, diminished in power, short of breath, timid in attack, lose their color under exertions, and are recognizable by such signs; stripped, they betray themselves certainly by hollows at the collar bone, relaxed hips, ribs in relief, and coldness of blood. Were we to try it with them, they could not carry off a wreath at a contest. There is a hollowness under the eyes, the heart-beat and perspiration are weak, their sleep, which regulates digestion, is light, their glances are unsteady and reflect the consciousness of love’s favor.
49. As for pollution, it is to be sure a discharge of over-flowing health, but the persons nevertheless appear pale, are covered with perspiration and diminished in physical strength, but are well-nourished as a result of sleep, have faultless hips and plenty of wind. Though comparable with those who embrace the enjoyments of love, they are yet not the same; for they experience a purification of their condition, while the others wear themselves out. It is a certain sign of exhaustion, if the surface of the body appears tenderer than usual, and the veins puffy, the arms limp, and the muscular system flabby.
[Reasonable precautions for training eaters are made below.]
50. The overfed, if they are to undertake either light or heavy exercises, are to be massaged downward, in order that the superfluous weight may be drained off from the heavier parts. The pentathletes are to be trained in one of the light exercises; the runners are not to be strained, but to go leisurely, only at a little more vigorous pace; the boxers ought to practice boxing lightly and only with blows in the air. Wrestling and the pancration are upright contests; but there is of necessity also the contest on the ground. So they ought to practice the contest on the ground, but lying above more than under, and never go head over heels, that the body may not be injured by a wound. And the trainer ought to massage the light as well as the heavy athletes with little oil, chiefly on the upper parts, and he will have to wipe off the oil which he applies.
51. If athletes have too much wine in their system, moderately hard exercises will produce secretion of sweat; such over-full people, of course, ought neither to be trained vigorously nor left entirely to recreation, for it is better to drain off the stale liquid, in order that the blood may not be harmed by it. The trainer should, accordingly, dry him off and scrape him, using a moderate amount of oil, that the sweat pores may not be stopped up.
52. If one comes from sexual indulgence, it is better for him not to take training; for where is the manhood of those who exchange the wreath and the herald’s cry for vile sensual pleasure?
[Perhaps the author is not physically erotic, as indicated here, and his obsession with masculine beauty is like some post-masculine idyll like those currently engaged in by neo-masculinity advocates of today.]
If, however, they are to be trained, let it be as a warning, that the condition of their strength and their respiration be brought home to them. Both of these are especially severely affected by sexual debauchery. As for the condition of those who suffer pollutions, that is also a phenomenon of sex life, but, as said, involuntary. They are, therefore, to be trained with care, principally to increase their physical power, since they are short in that, and to drive out the perspiration, since they have a superfluity of it. Their exercises ought to be less intensive but long drawn out, that breathing may be exercised. They need an adequate amount of oil thickened with dust, for this means preserves and refreshes the body.
[Sex before combat is rarely regarded as a positive activity for fighters, but held as a reward after combat. Below is some practical advice for training men for self improvement.]
53. Nervous athletes should be mentally influenced by comforting words which encourage them and set them up, but they should be trained together with those troubled with insomnia and poor digestion. Systematic training does them good, for timid souls learn more willingly, which one has to be on his guard against. Exhaustion, perchance, is the beginning of illnesses, and it will be sufficient to give people who have tired themselves out in the clay and sand of the palaestra a gentle relaxation, in the manner described; those tired out in the dust, however, must be trained further again the following day in clay, with a little increase. For sudden rest after exercise in the dust is a bad remedy for fatigue, since it does not preserve the powers but enervates them. Thus, therefore, a more competent science of gymnastic might be developed which fixes attention upon the individual peculiarity of the athletes.
54. A bit of evidence against the tetrads that I have repudiated is the blunder in connection with the wrestler, Gerenos, whose tomb stands in Athens, on the right side of the road to Eleusis. He was, in fact, from Naukratis and was among the best wrestlers, as witness the victories which he had carried off in the contests. He had just been victorious at Olympia, and when for two days thereafter he had made a carousal and had entertained some of his acquaintances in celebration of the victory, he could not sleep, because of the unwonted debauch. On the following day, when he came to the gymnasium, he confessed to the trainer that his digestion was disordered and that he felt indisposed. The latter, however, was vexed, listened angrily, and was displeased because he wished to delay, and to interrupt the tetrads, and, finally, he killed the athlete in the midst of training, from a lack of understanding, since he did not prescribe the training which was in order, even when the athlete was silent.
[Of course, each trainer should engage a method best suited for each athlete. However, these contests were religious observances of tradition and site trainers at Olympia, for instance, would insist on running contestants through regimented paces before the contest. These athletes were temporary and sometimes permanent sacrifices. The best and the lucky would be rewarded.]
If the tetrads are so constituted and the gymnast so untrained and uneducated, it is no small calamity. For is it not depressing when the stadia lose such an athlete? And what do those who rave about tetrads do with them when they come to Olympia? There, there is dust as I have described it, and exercises according to command; and the Hellanodik also does not train according to a pre-announcement but everything is improvised at the time, and even the trainer is threatened with the whip, in case anything happens contrary to their orders.
[The whip, along with the rod, were instruments of military and servile torment applied to athletes who slaved for The God of the Contest under the direction of the Priests, even as a soldier was beaten by his officers in sacrifice to the need of his nation for an obedient combatant.]
There is, however, no contradicting their commands, for those who resist them can be debarred from the Olympic games. So much for the tetrads; if we adhere to this, we shall show that gymnastic is a science, and shall strengthen the athletes, and the stadia will flourish as a result of proper training.
55. The halter is an invention of the pentathletes, but was invented for the jump, from which it receives its name; for the rules of the game consider the jump a difficult type of contest and inspire the jumper with music of the flute and give him wings with the jumping weight; that is to say, it is a sure guide for the hands and brings the feet firmly and gracefully to the ground. What that is worth, the rules of the game show. That is, they do not permit the measurement of the leap, if the imprint of the feet is not faultless. The oblong jumping weights, however, exercise the arms and shoulders, the roundish ones also the fingers. Light as well as heavy athletes ought to employ them along with all exercises, excepting recreation.
56. Of the dust places, the clay is fitted for purification and for the restoration of normal conditions in case of surfeit. Brick dust serves to open closed pores and to bring out the sweat; bituminous dust, to warm the parts that have become chilled; the black and the yellow dust are both earthy and good for softening and nourishing, but the yellow dust also imparts a luster and is more beautiful to look at, on a noble, perfectly-formed body. But one must strew the dust with a loose wrist, letting it through the fingers and sprinkling it rather than pouring it on, so that the fine dust may fall on the athlete.
57. The punching bag should also hang ready for the boxers, but above all for those who attempt the pancration. The one intended for boxers ought to be light, since the hands of boxers are to be trained merely for quickness; the one for pancratiasts, larger and heavier, so that, on one hand, they develop firmness of footing, when they obstruct the swing of the bag, and on the other, the shoulders and fingers, when they meet resistance. The athlete should run against it with his head and, in general, go through all forms of the upright pancration.
[The heavy bag was more for checking, kicking and clinching drills. The light bag would be lighter than ten pounds, probably half that weight. In the bare knuckle and small glove era of the 1870s thru 1890s, the heavy bag was a ten pound object and disliked by most boxers for causing wrist and hand injuries.]
58. Those sun themselves unintelligently who do it in every kind of sunshine and all without distinction; the experienced and intelligent, however, not at just any time, and only in so far as it does them good. For when there is a north wind, or a calm, the sun’s rays are pure and salutary, since they spring from the clear ether; with a south wind and cloudy sky they are moist and unduly hot, and so enervate rather than warm those who are training. I have, therefore, described the days with favorable sunshine. The phlegmatic, however, must sun themselves more, in order to sweat out the superfluous; but the choleric must be kept from it, that fire may not be added to fire. And, of course, those more advanced in age ought to sun themselves, lying inactive, exposed to the sun as if for roasting; those abounding in youthful strength, however, in activity and practising everything, as the Eleans prescribe.
[The ritual beatings of the Spartans, were being conducted as tourists attractions in the time of the author.]
The sweat-bath and dry anointing, however, since this pertains to the rougher gymnastic, we shall leave to the Lacedaemonians, whose exercises are similar neither to the pancration nor the boxing match. Still the Lacedaemonians themselves explain that they do not practice these types of contest for the purpose of competition, but merely for the purpose of hardening, and this is entirely in harmony with their flagellation, for a law among them prescribes lashing at the altar.
[They were are, over 10,000 words from antiquity describing how people fought, by a bookish nerd who merely watched, with not a word on hos a man actually trained for combat. As we reside in such a similarly soft time, I expect this book to be praised, almost entirely worthless as it is.]
No wonder the Boxer was Dread, for the spectators to such combats had no idea at all the methods by which these shadows or earlier, better men, fought. In the Iliad, Homer said more about boxing in two lines attributed to Nestor punching straight from the shoulder than this man said about all of combat sports.
Here we are, having hoped for an explanation of how men trained for combat, finding instead, a description of his sophists viewed combat as a medical-totemic morality play.
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