Boxing and jiu-jitsu have always seemed more important than any training in marksmanship

Wednesday, April 20th, 2022

I stumbled across an MSNBC opinion piece arguing that fitness-fascists have been recruiting and radicalizing young men with neo-Nazi and white supremacist extremist ideologies. I rolled my eyes, but I was legitimately surprised by this bit:

In “Mein Kampf,” Hitler fixated on boxing and jujitsu, believing they could help him create an army of millions whose aggressive spirit and impeccably trained bodies, combined with “fanatical love of the fatherland,” would do more for the German nation than any “mediocre” tactical weapons training.

I’m honestly shocked that I did not know this, since I’m interested in both military history and martial arts. Here’s the offending passage (from 1925):

Now if the SA could be neither a military combat organization nor a secret league, the following consequences inevitably resulted

1. Its training must not proceed from military criteria, but from criteria of expediency for the party.

In so far as the members require physical training, the main emphasis must be laid, not on military drilling, but on athletic activity. Boxing and jiu-jitsu have always seemed to me more important than any inferior, because incomplete, training in marksmanship. Give the German nation six million bodies with flawless athletic training, all glowing with fanatical love of their country and inculcated with the highest offensive spirit, and a national state will, in less than two years if necessary, have created an army, at least in so far as a certain basic core is present. This, as things are today, can rest only in the Reichswehr and not in any combat league that has always done things by halves. Physical culture must inoculate the individual with the conviction of his superiority and give him that self-confidence which lies forever and alone in the consciousness of his own strength; in addition, it must give him those athletic skills which serve as a weapon for the defense of the movement.

Naturally, anyone recommending physical fitness or martial arts is basically Hitler. (Same with vegetarians, of course.)


  1. Adept says:

    He’s right, you know.

    I have little experience with jiu-jutsu, but my father had me train in boxing throughout my formative years. (In fact, some of my earliest and fondest memories are of that suburban strip-mall gym, in the late 80s and early 90s.)

    The thing about boxing is that it takes a hell of a lot of practice to get the basics down. Footwork, keeping your hands up, rolling with punches, understanding your range so that you can throw a jab effectively and without pawing like a noob… The average man off the street can train in boxing every day, for a year, and still be a total novice.

    Secondary to technique, but simultaneously with technique, training in boxing teaches aggression, resolve, discipline, and keeps you in good physical condition. It also teaches patience; you can’t “overdo it,” and you can’t rush things, or you’ll get injured — hand, wrist, shoulder, TMJ, concussions, whatever.

    In contrast, most forms of practical marksmanship are extremely easy to learn. The average man can learn how to shoot competently within a few weeks. Most people can pass the FBI’s handgun qualification — which is harder to pass than most normal police qualifications — with a week or two of daily training.

    And marksmanship training is so easy, so removed from hard physical effort, that it doesn’t require or develop grit.

    Excessive marksmanship training has always been quite pointless. Rucking, land nav, and other forms of physical training are more important, for the soldier. Even games, for instance, per Wellington’s famous quote that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the fields of Eton. The right games and sports develop qualities in men that make them good soldiers.

  2. Harper’s Notes says:

    “Among men of lower socioeconomic status (SES), strength predicted increased support for redistribution; among men of higher SES, strength predicted increased opposition to redistribution.”

    From .. Psychol Sci 2013 Jul
    The ancestral logic of politics: upper-body strength regulates men’s assertion of self-interest over economic redistribution
    Michael Bang Petersen 1, Daniel Sznycer, Aaron Sell, Leda Cosmides, John Tooby

    The various authors have published more since then, but that’s the foundational paper I think.

  3. Adar says:

    As was directed toward the SA. Street fighting guys that always in dirty combat with the communist fighting units. SA also responsible for maintaining order at Nazi party meetings and rallies. Understand disruptive elements [communists] not going to leave the premises quietly.

    Rohm the best friend of Hitler a physical culturist and homosexual who liked strapping muscular young men as “partners”.

  4. Sgt Rock says:

    Hand to hand training is all well and good, but as someone that has been doing it for over 50 years, only a bloody idiot considers cold steel or naked knuckles better than a rifle. In fact, as a 25 year infantryman I’d rather stand off with arty or better yet missiles than to close in. As the man said, if you can sight the enemy, he can sure as H*ll sight in on you.

    Which is why professional militaries spend more time on weapon systems than CQC. In a real way we won’t bother clearing buildings, better to drop a city block with arty than lose a platoon to snipers.

  5. Adept says:

    I don’t think that anybody’s arguing that close combat training is somehow more important or “better” than training with modern weaponry.  The opposite is obviously true.  Instead, the argument is that close combat training hones both the mind and body, in a way that makes men good soldiers, whereas training with rifles and mortars does very little for mind or body.   

    I think that this is because modern weaponry is easy to use, by design.  Marksmanship, to practical engagement distances with modern weapons and optics, is the very definition of a “low skill floor, low skill ceiling” activity.  Easy to learn, easy enough to master.  I’ll swear on anything you like that you can score in the top 90th percentile of the FBI’s handgun qualification exam with just two weeks of training.

    On the other hand, boxing has a very high skill floor.  You can remain a novice for years.  Some men are physically or mentally incapable of ever becoming decent boxers.  Boxing also has an insanely high skill ceiling.  Success requires every element: Dedication to training, good coaching, mental resolve, and physical gifts. 

    (As an aside, that old mainstay of infantry, the spear, has a relatively low skill floor and low skill ceiling.  Fighting with the spear is simple, intuitive, and easy to master.  The sword, on the other hand, is just the opposite.  It’s like boxing.  Perhaps it’s even more complicated and subtle than that.)  

    Training, or play, that sharpens the mind and body — and weeds out the physically, socially, or mentally incapable before they show up at the recruitment office — would be excellent as a foundation for any country’s armed services.

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