Convict Conditioning: The Forgotten Art of Bodyweight Training (Book Excerpt)

Conviction is not just a word associated with criminals; it’s a state of mind. Convicts are often described as being “stubborn” or having “no fear.” These descriptions may be accurate, but they’re also somewhat misleading. A person who commits a crime doesn’t necessarily have the same mindset that leads them to commit such crimes every day. They may feel compelled to do so, but they don’t always want to do it out of some sort of moral imperative. For many, their criminal behavior stems from a combination of factors including:

A lack of self-control.

An inability to control impulses.

The need for attention.

A lack of self-control is something most people struggle with at one time or another. Some people learn how to overcome it through hard work and discipline, while others never develop the ability because they were born without the necessary genes.

Regardless of why someone develops this trait, there is no denying that it’s a problem.

When we look at the psychology behind a person’s motivation to commit a crime, we see that it is largely determined by three things:

Self-esteem. Self-worth.

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Let me explain each of these concepts in greater depth before I go into my own personal experience with convict conditioning.

Self-esteem is described as a person’s sense of worth. It’s the mental shortcut we all use to determine how valuable we are as a person.

Everyone faces challenges in life, and how we overcome those challenges can either build up or tear down our self-esteem. If you believe that you’re worthy of respect no matter what the situation, then your self-esteem is healthy. On the other hand, if you only feel worthy if you constantly prove your superiority to others, then your self-esteem is lacking.

Self-worth and self-esteem are different for everyone. Our values and beliefs are shaped by a variety of factors during our formative years.

Some people grow up in an environment that supports and encourages high self-worth. They may have been praised for winning a sports match or getting good grades. Their parents may have always helped them solve their problems instead of ignoring them or causing them. People like this develop a strong sense of self-worth that helps them succeed in life. On the other hand, people who didn’t grow up in such an environment may struggle to feel good about themselves. They may develop low self-esteem or even a lack of self-worth.

Fear is a natural part of being human. Everyone experiences fear at one time or another.

Whether you fear public speaking or spiders, the fear response inside your brain is triggered by the same neurons. Fear can be beneficial to your survival if it causes you to avoid real danger, but some people experience fear on a level that is disabling. These people often live their lives in a constant state of panic that prevents them from doing everyday things. For our ancestors living in the wild, this would have been a big problem. For people living in civilization, this can be a big problem as well.

In my experience, most criminals suffer from some sort of fear that drives them to commit crimes. I believe this is due to an impaired sense of self-worth.

When people feel their self-worth slipping, they often become obsessed with regaining it. One way some criminals attempt to do this is by proving to themselves and others that they are bold individuals who don’t let society’s rules stand in their way. They do this by stepping outside of their comfort zone and engaging in risky behavior. Depending on the situation, this can range from harmless (like public nudity) to more serious (like violent crime). In my case, the risk involved with armed robbery made it the perfect crime for me.

Some criminals are motivated by a fear of failure rather than fear of personal harm. These people feel a need to prove themselves in order to escape the shame of personal failure.

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Many of these individuals were subjected to verbal abuse or high academic standards by parents who pushed them toward success. These people may be highly educated and intelligent, but they often struggle with following society’s rules. In some cases, their inability to meet their parent’s high standards of success can lead them to a life of crime.

And for others, the fear is more primal: the fear of hunger. People who live in poor conditions where food is scarce may turn to crime in order to feed themselves or their families.

These people don’t commit crimes because they’re “bad”, they do it because their survival is at stake. In these cases, poverty can be more of a driving force than any sort of mental condition.

The point is, there are several different factors that can cause people to turn to a life of crime. While some people may have some sort of mental condition that contributes to their criminal behavior, not everyone who commits a crime is insane.

Not even close. The idea that all criminals are crazy people is just another negative stereotype manufactured by the media and reinforced by movies and television shows to keep people afraid of the world they live in. In reality, very few criminals are truly insane. The ones that are truly insane aren’t very productive and get weeded out by natural selection long before they reach adulthood. Only the hardest bastards manage to thrive in a life of crime and grow up to be successful criminals.

Which is why I have no sympathy for Dean Ral’s son, even though he feared for his life. The kid was too much of a coward to try and overcome his fear, and as a result he got himself killed.

I didn’t know all the details of how it went down, but I didn’t really care. Nate told me that his death won’t slow us down too much. His father was the only person who knew about our plans for tonight, and we already have everything ready to go. The only thing we need to do is wait until nightfall and carry out the mission as planned.

I spend most of the day in my room at the inn we’re staying at. I mainly just loiter around in the corner of the room and stare at the wall.

I’m not really trying to concentrate on anything in particular, I just don’t feel like interacting with anyone right now. Not even Nate, who has visited my room several times already since Dean’s death. The only thing anyone seems to be concerned about is that I washed all the blood off of myself this morning. Not that it matters though, it isn’t like anyone can see me right now anyway.

As the day passes into night, I can sense that everyone is preparing themselves for the mission. There isn’t any specific time that we need to do this, but it needs to be done before dawn so we’re all going to wait until the middle of the night and go from there.

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I wish I could be a part of the action, but I’ll just be observing tonight.

I leave my room and enter the kitchen, passing by a couple of the inn staff that automatically go out of their way to not look in my direction. They must get paid well for their silence, because I know they can see me.

I head out into the darkness behind the inn where I meet up with Nate.

“You’re late,” he says. “Everyone else is already at the hideout.

Let’s go. And try to walk normal, dammit.

You know how bad you look right now?”

How do I look?”

“Like you’ve got a knife strapped to your leg and you’re deathly afraid that someone is going to see it.”

I stop trying to hide the fact that I’m carrying a weapon and walk over to him. He’s on a horse and I hop on behind him.


I ask.

“A little,” he admits. “At least now I know you’re not going to go on a killing spree in the middle of our mission.”

I don’t reply to that, mainly because I’m wondering why I’m not going to go on a killing spree in the middle of our mission.

The entire purpose of me coming along is to kill everyone at this hideout, isn’t it?

I’m certainly going to try my best to do so, but I feel like Nate has some sort of agenda that doesn’t involve me killing everyone…

We ride for at least an hour before we get to the forest. It’s currently autumn, so the trees have lost most of their leaves, making our journey a little easier.

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Still, I can’t help but marvel at Nate’s riding skills. He’s sticking to the horse like he was born on it. I can’t imagine how scary it would be to ride a horse at night, but Nate’s making it look easy.

We eventually reach the hideout, and I have to say I’m a little impressed. It’s a small cabin located in the middle of the forest.

I guess I expected something more… luxurious for notorious bandits. Then again, given that their exploits have made them somewhat infamous, I suppose this is the last place the guards would ever search for them.

Do you see anything unusual?”

Nate whispers.

Other than a cabin in the middle of the woods?


He shakes his head. “C’mon, let’s go check inside.”

He hops off the horse and walks towards the cabin. I follow closely behind, stepping as lightly as I can.

As we approach the cabin, I notice that the door is slightly ajar. That’s not a good sign…

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Nate calls out. No response. He tries again, a bit louder this time. Still nothing. He pushes the door open and we see the grisly scene before us…

The cabin is completely devoid of life. Or at least what little life it had.

Four bodies lie on the floor, covered in stab wounds. They’re so mutilated that I can’t tell whether they’re our people or the bandits. It doesn’t seem like it matters anyway.

“Oh, this is just fantastic,” Nate mutters. “

What the hell happened?”

I walk over to the bodies and take a closer look. In addition to the stab wounds there are also some… strange markings on the wall, and pieces of cloth stuffed in their mouths. Whoever did this wasn’t working alone. It had to be the bandits, because our people aren’t ruthless enough to do something like this. At least I don’t think they are.

“We need to report back to the captain,” Nate says. “He needs to know what happened here.”

“This doesn’t make any sense.

Why would the bandits kill their own men and cover their tracks?

It doesn’t line up. Shouldn

Sources & references used in this article:

K9 Behavior Basics: A Manual for Proven Success in Operational Service Dog Training by R Gerritsen, R Haak, S Prins – 2013 –

Breath by J Nestor – 2020 –

Mind over water: Lessons on life from the art of rowing by C Lambert – 1999 –

On the natural history of destruction by WG Thompson – 2010 – Prometheus books

Programmed communication during experiences with DMT (dimethyltryptamine) by WG Sebald – 2011 –