The Four Archetypes of the Mature Masculine: The Warrior

by Brett & Kate McKay on October 23, 2011 · 60 comments

in A Man's Life, On Manhood

This is the fourth part of a series on the archetypes of mature masculinity based on the book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading the introduction to the series first. Also, keep in mind that these posts are a little more esoteric than our normal fare, and are meant to be contemplated and thoughtfully reflected upon.

Every great civilization has a great warrior tradition and accompanying warrior myths. The Old Testament recounts the stories of a warrior people and a warrior God. In the ancient Mediterranean, the Spartans had perhaps the most legendary warrior tradition. From birth, Spartan society nurtured and trained their boys to become warriors, and that rigorous training created men like Leonidas and his 300 men of unconquerable spirit. Japan had their fearless samurai warriors whose undaunted courage came from living life as if they were already dead.

Today the Warrior archetype lives on in our reverence for those who serve in the armed forces and in modern books and movies. William Wallace from Braveheart and General Maximus from Gladiator embody the Warrior archetype.

But in general, modern culture is not comfortable with Warrior energy. The advent of mechanized warfare during the first half of the 20th century dampened the romantic ideal of martial courage. Since the social and cultural revolutions of the 60s and 70s, we’ve generally taught boys and men to avoid confrontation and conflict and to instead nurture their “feminine side.” The result is the Nice Guy; the man who will avoid confrontation and aggression even when confrontation and aggression are justified.

Society pushes men to be sweet and sensitive, because they fear them becoming coldly stoic, abusive, and destructively angry. But society’s perception of the Warrior archetype is not based on the Warrior energy in its full, healthy manifestation, but on the archetype’s shadows. The problem is not Warrior energy itself, but Warrior energy that is not used in harmony with the other masculine archetypes and directed by empathy, contemplation, and order. Fighting itself is not bad, the question is simply: What is a man fighting for? The Warrior’s energy is needed not only in times of war, but on all the battlefields of life.

Properly tapping into the Warrior’s energy provides a man with an unsurpassable power source which will fuel him to reach his goals, fight for worthy causes, achieve greatness, and leave a lasting legacy.

The Warrior in His Fullness

Moore says that “The characteristics of the Warrior in his fullness amount to a total way of life, what the samurai called a do (pronounced ‘do’). These characteristics constitute the Warrior Dharma, Ma’at, or Tao, a spiritual or psychological path through life.”

What are these characteristics? Let’s take a look.

Note: While here we use the language of the martial warrior, the characteristics can be applied to any man’s life mission, whether civilian or true solider.


If you look up the word “aggressive” in the dictionary, these are the definitions you’ll find:

1. characterized by or tending toward unprovoked offensives, attacks, invasions, or the like; militantly forward or menacing
2. making an all-out effort to win or succeed; competitive
3. vigorously energetic, especially in the use of initiative and forcefulness

Of the three definitions, the first is most popular in modern culture. Something unprovoked, out of line. Notice how often “overly” precedes “aggressive” in common parlance. Aggression may also bring to mind military policies a person does not agree with. In general it has a negative connotation.

But true aggression should be thought of in the context of the second two dictionary entries. Effort. Energy. Initiative. Force. Aggression is a neutral tool that can be harnessed for either ill or good. How it is channeled makes all the difference. A man who does not harness his aggression at all picks a fight with everyone and about everything; his relationships fail and he is stunted in his personal development. The man who reins in his aggression too much becomes the stereotypical weenie Nice Guy–proper aggression turns into passive aggression. He is too “polite” to go after what he wants, and he’s seething inside because of it. A man who has successfully integrated the Warrior archetype harnesses his aggression as the force that pushes him to compete to be the best and moves him ever forward towards his goals.


Of course that proper use of aggression presupposes that a man has goals that he’s striving towards in the first place. A man has to have a clear and definite purpose in life, or he will feel lost and restless, like he is drifting along instead of marching ahead.


The mindfulness of the Warrior is two-fold. First, he is always alert and awake, ever vigilant. He has keen situational awareness. He never lets complacency lull him to sleep; instead, he is always watching, observing, studying, and planning. Secondly, the Warrior is mindful of the finiteness of life and the inevitably of death, and he purposefully contemplates that death. His courage is rooted in the fact that he is not afraid to die. Life’s shortness brings clarity to his mind. He knows that any minute could be his last so he makes every day and decision count. Carpe diem! becomes his battle cry.


During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army knew that it could not match the man and fire power of the British. So instead of facing them down on a field for a traditional battle, the minutemen took to the woods and launched surprise hit and run attacks on the enemy. This is the way of the Warrior; he is a guerrilla fighter. When he’s up against great odds, he bucks convention and uses his cleverness and his strategic intelligence to find creative ways to turn the tide in his favor. He is an efficient fighter–he studies the weaknesses of his opponents and concentrates his strikes there. He is flexible and able to respond to change by shifting tactics on the fly.


The key to successful guerrilla warfare is the fighter’s ability to travel light. While the traditional force has power in its superior resources, those resources also weigh and slow them down. The guerrilla fighter strips away all superfluities and excess baggage; he carries only what he needs and is thus quick and nimble, able to be two steps ahead of the enemy.


In times of peace or crisis, whether for big things or small, the Warrior is able to boldly make decisions. He doesn’t stand there shilly-shally, wondering what he should do, scared of choosing the wrong option. He is calm and cool under pressure. Once he makes a decision, he unhesitatingly moves on it because he does not live in regret. The Warrior is able to be so decisive because he trains so thoroughly for these moments; he is prepared. He thinks about all possible contingencies and what he would do in each situation before the crisis arrives. When the crisis does come, his mind and body already instinctively know what to do.


Part of the Warrior’s confidence in his decisions is rooted in his supreme competence. Accordingly to Moore, “The Warrior’s energy is concerned with skill, power, and accuracy.” The Warrior “has absolute mastery of the technology of his trade…the technology that enables him to reach his goal. He has developed skill with the ‘weapons’ he uses to implement his decisions.”


If you remember, the Hero is the boyhood archetype which matures into the Warrior archetype. Part of this maturation process centers on a shift in a man’s loyalties. Moore argues that “The Hero’s loyalty…is really to himself–to impressing himself with himself and to impressing others.” The Warrior’s loyalties, on the other hand, “are to something beyond and other than himself and his own concerns.” The Warrior’s loyalty centers on “a cause, a god, a people, a task, a nation–larger than individuals.” The Warrior has a “central commitment” around which he organizes his life. His life’s purpose is rooted in ideals and principles, which naturally strips away superfluities and pettiness and brings his life great meaning.


The Warrior has mastered himself in body and mind. His power is rooted in self-control. He knows when to be aggressive and how aggressive to be.  He is the master of his energies, releasing them and pulling them back as he chooses. He decides the attitude he will take in a certain situation, instead of letting the situation dictate how he feels. Unlike the boyhood Hero archetype, the Warrior understands his limits; he takes calculated instead of unnecessary risks. His discipline also frees him of a fear of pain. Feeble, mediocre men believe all pain is bad. The Warrior knows there is bad pain and good pain. He is willing, even eager to withstand psychological and physical pain on the path to his goals. He’s the kind of man who subscribes to the “pain is just weakness leaving the body” philosophy; he relishes difficulty because it makes him stronger.

Emotionally Detached

Not all the time, but when he is in Warrior mode. To complete his mission, the Warrior must be emotionally detached–from the fear and doubt generated by his own feelings, from the intimidation emanating from his enemy, and from the “shoulds” and demands put on him by friends and family. The Warrior needs the kind of mental clarity that only comes from single-minded purpose, or as Moore puts it, “The Warrior needs room to swing his sword.”

Switching off that emotional detachment when away from the mission represents the great challenge for the Warrior. The inability to do so can result in one of the Warrior’s shadows.

Creative Destroyer

The Warrior is the archetype of destruction. However, the Warrior in his fullness only destroys in order to “make room for something new and fresh and more alive.” His is an act of creative destruction–he doesn’t tear things down simply for the pleasure of doing so. We call upon the Warrior archetype when we quit bad habits and replace them with better ones or when we get rid of people in our lives who bring us down and surround ourselves with people who edify.

The Shadows

The Sadist. As just discussed, men in touch with the Warrior archetype have the ability to detach themselves from emotions and human relationships. While detachment provides a man with much needed focus on important tasks, when it becomes a man’s permanent state, the Sadist shadow controls a man’s psyche.

This is why soldiers, who have a mission-minded attitude while on deployment, can find it very difficult to adjust to life back home and find their place in their families, which are based on emotional needs and currents–the stuff the solider has been used to setting aside. The mission-focused life freed him from human pettiness–and returning to it can be grating. This is also true of lawyers, ministers, doctors, politicians, and other men who may be married to their job–shifting from mission-mode to domestic-mode can be difficult for them.

As the name implies, the Sadist can be cruel, even to those most vulnerable. He disdains the weak. A commanding officer in the Army may try to rigidly run his family in the same way that he led his troops. The Sadist creates unattainably high standards for himself and those around him. When a child comes home with a less than perfect grade, a father influenced by the Sadist will put her down and berate her mercilessly. A man with positive Warrior energy would have kindly shown disappointment, but then offered to help his daughter study for the next exam so she could ace it.

The Sadist’s disgust at weakness is linked to the boyhood Hero archetype. The Hero tries to break away from his mother and from feminine energy in general as he seeks to become his own man. But adult men who are still insecure about being “man enough” project this insecurity onto others. He hates what he fears is within himself.

According to Moore, men possessed by the Sadist also tend to be workaholics. They’re the men who take pride in working all night at the office and coming home at 7AM, only to leave for the office again an hour later. They’ll choose work at the expense of health and even family. They take the Warrior’s comfort with pain to an extreme and grind it out to get to the top. But they’re doing it because they really don’t know what they want out of life, and constantly working distracts them from this fact. Once they do reach the top, they often feel empty, lost, and bitter. But many Sadists simply burn out before they even get there.

The Masochist. The Masochist is the passive shadow in the tripartite Warrior archetype, and its attributes closely parallel those of the boyhood Hero archetype’s cowardly shadow. A man possessed by the Masochist feels he is powerless. He is a push-over who has no personal boundaries and will let others walk all over him. He may hate his job or the relationship he’s in and complain about it, but instead of quitting, cutting his losses and moving on, he digs in and tries harder to be who his boss or girlfriend wants him to be and takes even more abuse. Because while he might complain about the pain, he really likes it. This is the man who enjoys being the martyr.

An archetype’s bi-polar shadows often work together against a man. Men under the Masochist’s influence will take the disrespect others dish out without fighting back or asserting themselves. Then one day something, maybe a criticism from his wife, pushes him over the edge and he “explodes with sadistic verbal [and sometimes even] physical abuse.”

How to Access the Warrior Archetype

Many men today lack Warrior energy. They’ve been told all their lives that aggression is bad and they should just work on being be “nice guys.” But if there’s anything the world needs today, it’s men in touch with the Warrior archetype. It’s the energy that propels men to dare greatly and to fight for a worthy cause. So what can we do to access this positive Warrior energy?

Watch movies about great warriors. Yeah, it’s cliche, but it works. They don’t necessarily have to be war movies. Any film that showcases men with the warrior spirit will do. Here are a few of my favorite warrior movies. I’d love to read yours:

  • Braveheart
  • Gladiator
  • The Seven Samurai
  • Last of the Mohicans
  • Shane
  • Glory
  • Patton

Read biographies about great warriors. Also, dig into writings like those of Marcus Aurelius (the ultimate philosopher-warrior).

Take up boxing or another martial art. 

Do something that scares you. 

Work on becoming more decisive.

Meditate. Especially on death.

Quit shoulding on yourself. The Warrior is able to detach himself from the opinions of others in order to carry out his mission.

Find your core values.

Have a plan and purpose for your life.

Boost your adaptability by strengthening your resilience.

Study and practice the skills necessary for completing your goals. Whether that’s marksmanship, computer programming, or being charismatic, become a master of your trade.

Find the principles that you’re loyal to.

Establish some non-negotiable, unalterable terms (or N.U.Ts) and live by them. 

Compete in a race like the Warrior Dash. It’s got the word warrior right in the name!

Strengthen your discipline by establishing habits and daily routines.

Adopt a minimalist philosophy. Declutter your life. Simplify your diet. Get out of debt.

The Four Archetypes of the Mature Masculine:
The Boyhood Archetypes – Part I
The Boyhood Archetypes – Part II
The Lover
The Warrior
The Magician
The King

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

1 andyinsdca October 24, 2011 at 12:10 am

The speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V, Once More unto the breach is VERY warrior-like/inspiring

2 Brian October 24, 2011 at 12:51 am

I think Cindirella Man needs to be in that list.

3 Shane W. October 24, 2011 at 12:51 am

One thing that I think is very inspiring, and holds to walking the fine line of the two shadows, is the speech at the end of the movie The Great Dictator, in which Charlie Chaplin delivers a goosebump invoking message to the soldiers, I think it may be one of the greatest speeches of film history.

A book that I would recomend for going along with this subject would be Hannibal: One man against Rome, by Harold Lamb. Its more of a historic narrative about Hannibal Barca, the general from Carthage that fought Rome. Hannibal is one of the most epic people you never hear anything about, he was a great statesman and a brilliant general with unwaivering resolve for what he saw as his missions throughout life, its a great read!

4 Steve October 24, 2011 at 12:55 am

Awesome post–so much to chew on here and think about.

And looking at the links at the end reminded by of how many life-changing posts you guys have put up over the years. It’s kind of amazing. Thank you.

5 Allan White October 24, 2011 at 1:13 am

Good post, the links at the end are helpful.

Look into Saladin and other warrior-poets like Musashi. Also, “The Last Samurai” is one of my favorite stories of a warrior’s journey into redemption. “Life in every breath”!

6 Allan White October 24, 2011 at 1:15 am

Shane, you’re spot-on about Hannibal. Incredible individual and family. Check out Dan Carlin’s “Hard-core History” podcast series, he is an amazing storyteller that brought Hannibal and the Punic Wars to life for me.

7 Reed Palmer October 24, 2011 at 1:16 am

I am with Brian who said that Cinderella Man should be on that list.

8 Brandon Elrod October 24, 2011 at 1:29 am

Fantastic! Henry V has another that sums it up for me-the Saint Crispian’s Day speech:

But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

This moves me to tears every time. Thank you for the post!

9 JGW October 24, 2011 at 1:51 am

Brandon, those words are fantastic and true– You can apply Saint Crispin’s day to the present. I dare men to establish strong character, to battle themselves to become strong warriors, lovers, magicians, and kings.

10 Josh October 24, 2011 at 8:25 am

This is the one I’ve been waiting for. I’ve always identified with the Warrior archetype. I loved history and the military since before I can remember and one day around age 6 or 7 I declared to my parents that I was going to go into the military when I was older. I became so adamant about it that in an effort to scare me “straight” so to speak my parents sat me down and had me watch “Platoon”. It didn’t deter me. I never was able to go into the military, (severely injured both knees in separate skiing accidents when I was in High-School) but that identification has never faded.

Looking back I realize as a boy I was the Grandstander Bully… I realized my harmful aggression as I got older and most spiritually aware, but sadly I think I over corrected. Upon self reflection and examination whilst reading this post I find I’ve become the Masochist. Knowing the temper I had as a boy I’m terrified to think what might happen where I to explode today due to bottling up my aggression and conforming to what I think is expected of me.

How does one find the middle road?

11 Shannon October 24, 2011 at 9:35 am

The balance has already been mentioned. The Warrior/Poet. Creation and Destruction. Life’s journey is filled with opportunities to be both. To ignore the chance to be the poet is as damaging as the cowardice of avoiding the warrior. When I look at my own journey, there has always been this challenge. To complete it all, I need to capitalize on the opportunities that I feel God lays out for me, daily. Not every day is San Juan Hill in the history of the world, but every day is filled with personal, small Thermopolaes. Just my .02.

12 Anthony October 24, 2011 at 9:47 am

We could add “The Patriot” to the movie list of warriors: Benjamin Martin particularly fits the image of the warrior as creative destroyer (as well as demonstrating guerrilla warfare). He enters the war reluctantly, but once he commits he is completely dedicated to winning. And at the end, he (and his men) go home and start rebuilding.

Josh – Martin’s character sounds a lot like yours, though hopefully you didn’t dismember a band of Indians. He learned to balance his creative and destructive impulses and remain in control, even in the midst of violence (remember how he ordered his men to show quarter? The Martin of the French and Indian Wars would not have done that).

13 Daren Redekopp October 24, 2011 at 10:10 am

The apostle Paul makes a direct appeal to the warriors within us as men when he says to, “Stand firm in one spirit, with one mind, together contending in the faith, not being startled in any way by those who are set in opposition. I have a post on it here:

14 Will October 24, 2011 at 10:25 am

Great article! I’d also put We Were Soldiers or the entirety of Band of Brothers on that list.

15 Seth Millican October 24, 2011 at 10:37 am

The more I read on this blog the more I like it. This post and the philosophy behind it should become the essence of every guy in today’s culture. I actually wrote something similar not too long ago. Fortunately, there are some who still recognize and appreciate the guys who want to be more skilled with their hands, don’t run from confrontation, sacrifice for their families, welcome the opportunity serve, like getting dirty, play ball with their sons, teach their daughters about true beauty, and eat at steakhouses. lists the 14 Manliest Things in the Universe, including hot chicks, bare hands, manly beards, manly cars, tools, guns, grilling, beer, football, and manly jobs and movies. The website poses some of the following humorous, yet somewhat insightful, points: “Running into someone as fast as you possibly can with the intent of physical harm is manly…Not all guys want guns, but all men do. Ever watch a movie where a guy runs into a burning building to save a child? These things take balls, and that’s why men have them.”

If we want to be better men, there are three simple areas that demand our constant attention and discipline. If guys will commit to intentionally seek constant improvement in these three areas, then they will quickly find themselves on a different level in their personal and professional development.

Heart – We must work to constantly refine our heart and spirit. These are the foundation of all we are and should be. This “bucket” includes faith, character, emotional fulfillment, and living with a clear conscience.

Head – Life’s situations require us to regularly study to improve our intellect, musical ability, and communication. The skills that lend themselves to academic and artistic ability will keep us from becoming all brawn and no brains.

Hands – Finally, we must include in our lives a regular diet of all things physical like fixing flat tires, lifting weights, hiking, fishing, and golf. This bucket is also where we satisfy the competitive side of our male nature.

If we want to be different, we must realize that being a man, in all of its glory and pain, is a privilege. We must become uncompromising in that conviction, because uncompromising men are what this society needs the most. We should prepare for and count it an honor to have our strength tested and proven through the rigors of life. It’s not rocket science – we do not have to re-engineer the man’s soul. If we commit to constant discipline and development of these three core areas, we will be ready for the challenges life throws at us.

16 Jordan M. Poss October 24, 2011 at 11:05 am

I’d add Zulu to the list of warrior films. Not only does it depict some incredible heroism, it ends with a really powerful scene of how respect, warrior to warrior, can reach across cultural and racial divides.

17 Sterling Cooper October 24, 2011 at 11:43 am

What surprises me is that so many men would appear to be in touch with the Warrior, but then you put a girl in front of them, and it’s like they revert right back to their boyhood Coward. You get guys (can’t really call them men) who wet their pants at the thought of asking a girl out, guys who insist they would rather be friends first so they don’t really have to ever put themselves out there, guys waiting on girls to ask them out, guys who get their ideas on the way romance is supposed to work from movies and then get all fussy when it turns out the movies were wrong, etc.

How can you be so proactive in life, yet so passive with women? It’s not like you’ll somehow magically turn into some great husband if you manage to trick a woman into marrying you. You’ll just be a doormat of a husband instead of a doormat of a single guy. You’ll think you can win your wife’s affections by doing everything you can possibly think of for her, but all she’ll really want is for you to just grow a backbone, and if you think that’s headed anywhere other than divorce, you’ve got another thing coming.

18 Carl October 24, 2011 at 3:46 pm

The Quiet Man, my favorite John Wayne movie, and among my favorite movies of all time. Also I’m sure the Patriot, We Were Soldiers, Blackhawk Down, and Saving Private Ryan speak for themselves.

19 Carl October 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm

As I think of it more my highschool wrestling coach would have Vision Quest playing before practices, I was in highschool ’97 to ’01 and it still holds up.

As for books Sympathy For the Devil by Kent Anderson, I brought with me on my first deployment to Iraq and must have read about 3 times. Hanson, the main character, is ARMY Special Forces and serves multiple tours in Vietnam struggling with his sadist.

Stephen Hunter’s Point of Impact, the novel that the movie Shooter was adapted from, is also noteworthy. Shooter was a good adaptation, but no where near as good as the book.

20 Claude October 24, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Great article. I think im going to print it and keep it on my night stand for reference.

@ Carl
You named my all time favorite movie, The Quiet Man, and all time favorite book ,Point of Impact, in your posts. So Im definitely going to check out Sympathy For the Devil.

21 Stevie October 24, 2011 at 5:57 pm

For me, my favourite warrior archetype comes through Eiji Yoshikawa’s retelling of the life of Miyamoto Musashi. It’s a helluva read. I recommend it.

22 Reid October 24, 2011 at 6:08 pm

This was a great article. I agree with Carl and Claude that the Quiet Man, as well as most of John Waynes films are great examples of the warrior archetype. Also the “Hell Fighters” with Wayne would be an excellent example.

23 Mike M. October 24, 2011 at 7:50 pm

I’d like to point out that a Warrior is studious. Not merely of the fighting arts, but of history as well. Willing is a goal…but perfection is a greater one.

As to films, I’ll plug “Gettysburg” and “Gods and Generals”.

24 Robert Niles October 24, 2011 at 9:51 pm

What can I say it was right on

25 Nate Towers October 24, 2011 at 11:18 pm

Perhaps book recomendations are appropriate… Steven Pressfield’s books consistanly explore the “worrier ethos”. I would start with Gates of Fire, and then go on to read The Afghan Campaign.

26 Jesse October 25, 2011 at 2:05 am

@ Seth Agree with the head/heart/hand ideas, good stuff . . .

Nice post, good timing. I just started taking kendo and iaido lessons, and have taken boxing and submission grappling in the past few years. There is something about the clarity of mind that occurs when facing someone in the ring, on the mat, or across the floor. The need to tap into the warrior energy- the detached, aggressive, skillful & mindful mixed with a bit of the dominant-male-monkey energy- is something that we (I) are/am so uncomfortable with in our modern “work smart not hard” era. I guess that is why I keep coming back to the martial and combat arts. Don’t get me wrong, I love yoga. But holding a bamboo sword in my hand while someone tries to clock my head with a sword of their own? Somehow ‘warrior pose’ just doesn’t quite hit the same spot. :)

27 Sam October 25, 2011 at 5:16 am

I do not love the bright sword for it’s sharpness, nor the arrow for it’s swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend. – J. R. R. Tolkein

28 Doug October 25, 2011 at 8:26 am

I love these articles. Just curious, have you posted the other two archetypes (Magician and King?), or are they not out yet?

29 Mitch October 25, 2011 at 11:38 am

I enjoyed this article, it was very insightful. I think that sometimes when people initially learn of these concepts (like the term manliness itself) there can be a tendency to see it in only the narrowest of terms. I liked the concept of “the warrior in its fullness” the idea that actual physical fighting is in fact only a piece of the warrior archetype, that a fully developed warrior personality includes: mindfulness, loyalty, and discipline. I think a great archetypal image of the warrior as “creative destroyer” is Shiva in Hinduism as well as the warrior Buddha. The Buddha is sometimes imaged with a sword in hand and this image can be confusing or uncomfortable as he is believed to be a wellspring of compassion. However, upon further investigation the learner finds that the sword image represents metaphorically “cutting away” the ties of ignorance, sloth, craving, addiction, etc. through self-mastery. I love this and I think it resonates with not only this article but should resonate with anyone who has truly involved themselves with self betterment whether that be through education, physical improvement, conquering addiction, or identifying our own shortcomings. This is the work of the warrior! I agree it is part of becoming a man one I for one need to continually work at to be my best.

30 JJ October 25, 2011 at 4:41 pm

The movie and book The Peaceful Warrior is a pretty good watch/read. I like the book a bit more. It’s a bit of a meld between spirtualism and taking action.

31 Fox October 25, 2011 at 6:18 pm

@ Jesse I recently borrowed a book from my local library The way of Kendo & Kenjitsu by Darrell Max Craig and I was immediatly hooked on Kendo. I just started classes and you’re right that there is just something about holding that bamboo that centers me like no other. The author had many great points but one stuck with me, in order to be successful in anything you must unite your mind, spiritual strength, and physical power to the task..
@ Brett & Kate Another great post, keep up the great work.

32 Austin Gohn October 25, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Awesome article. Thanks.

33 McCord Rees October 25, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Right on point. My hero is George Washington. A great worrior, but you need to read the good sources like his own words. Books ‘ Sacred Fire’. And ‘ The Real George Washington’.

34 Michael~ October 25, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Great Article Brett,

I do have a question,

Can a man access all these archetypes? or does he have to choose whether he wants to be the lover, or warrior, or king , or magician??

And does working on accessing one particular archetype detract from the others?

Thanks again!


35 Lee October 25, 2011 at 9:23 pm

This is a topic I am intimately familiar with. My whole life I’ve been training to fight. Fight with my fists, fight with ancient weapons, and fight with modern firearms. Why? Because I started with martial arts. With martial arts training came the realization that the world is not as nice and safe as we would want it to be. That if I ever needed the training, it would be there. Hopefully not, but it would be there. As an adult I realized that unarmed combat training wasn’t enough anymore. That if the world ended I would need a firearm. That even though I can overpower most people, a firearm for home defense was immensely superior. Just in case you’re curious, I don’t carry one even though I could.
In addition to all of my training, I’ve spent countless hours studying the subject. A true warrior sharpens his sword and his mind. For his mind is the ultimate weapon. Clichéd I know, but so is the stereotype that all Asians know martial arts; yet do you really want to test the odds? I don’t. Anyway, it’s true. A true martial artist must hone his mind and his weapons. In my case, my razors too, but I’ll get to that later.
Mental training is everything in the martial arts. Without discipline and focus, you will progress nowhere. Without mental fortitude, how can you bear through the pain of sitting in horse stance for more than one minute; let alone five, or the one hour that the truly physically adept can accomplish. Without meditation, how can you clear your thoughts? Without a keen mind, how can you out-match your opponent? As a child, one of my instructors told me that a fight is a chess match. A chess match played out in real time with milliseconds in between the moves. You have to have a strategy before you even go into the match, and you have to have trained for countless hours to know what you can do, and how best to react.
Now, this mental training is not limited to quick thinking, mental fortitude, meditation, or discipline. It should also include traditional learning. Higher education and continual learning are the hallmark of a true master. For without learning, our minds wither. Just as the Samurai class of ancient Japan embraced poetry and the higher arts, so too should the true warrior. For without art, what is there to fight for other than the base physical needs? History, technology, science, or philosophy are all excellent ways to hone the mind.
Higher education should be seriously thought about. I highly recommend pursuing this worthwhile goal if you can afford to do so. For the less fortunate, start at a community college and move on to a state college after acquiring your Bachelor’s. Graduate school. I highly recommend graduate school. And if not graduate school, continue learning by always reading a paper, engage your elected leaders. Actually research the facts yourself and come to your own conclusions. Learn to read faster, learn to memorize better, or learn a new language. All worthy goals for the true martial artist.
Now, on to my comments on this article. I agree, a warrior needs to be aggressive. There is absolute truth to the old adage: the best defense is a good offense. If your opponent is too busy fighting you off, he cannot mount an effective attack. That said, this is what I take huge issue with: the comparison between a true warrior and a guerilla fighter. Yes, we can all appreciate the revolutionaries efforts in liberating our country from the British, but think about it and take your premise to the next level. And let’s face it, it’s not a huge leap…. It’s actually quite disturbing.
You’re glorifying the guerilla fighter for his adaptability. Yes, I agree with you a warrior needs to be adaptable, but personifying the warrior with the guerilla fighter is inane and insane. Think about it!!! You have just called the Taliban, Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro’s revolution as true warriors. Now, maybe they are. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re fighting for something they personally truly believe is right and righteous. So were the colonists. Yet, back then, they truly were rebels. They were rebelling against their rightful monarch. There’s really no other way to put it. We glorify them because they won. And thank god they won. But to personify the essence of warriorship as being a guerilla fighter is just plain stupid and wrong-headed. I realize you needed some copy, but come on… do better!!!
Minimalist – Makes sense. Soldiers have to make do with less since resupply can be weeks or months away. Plus the less stuff you’re carrying, the better. Thus, you have to be self sufficient. Probably why I love straight razors so much. Not only do I get a closer, better shave, but I can do it all myself with the minimum of outside help. And, if the world ends, I can go on shaving as long as I have a steady supply of water.
Emotionally detached – Yes, this is a key trait only found in the best of the best. Richard Gere put it in interesting words in “First Knight” (yes, I saw it and yes, I like the King Arthur tales). He said, “you have to not care whether you live or die.” Now, the writers probably had no idea about the truth of the statement, they were just doing a hackney job of making Gere’s character morose and depressed, but the truth is, the ability to let yourself go and only react using your training is key for the true warrior. It is indispensable in a real fight against real odds. I say real odds because it’s a cake walk to beat someone less trained and dedicated to winning than you are.
And as for the rest of the article, I must admit Brett, I actually have no idea what your trying to get at. Maybe I’m missing some important point, but what exactly is Moore trying to say with the triangles and the second triangle? The diagram actually confused me. It looks more like a quadrilogy than a pyramid.
Anyway, on to the movie part. Really? Braveheart and Gladiator? Yes, they were good movies, but I’d hardly call them shining examples of real warriors. Did not see Shane, will have to put it on the list, but I agree with the rest.
Keep writing great articles,

36 Brett McKay October 25, 2011 at 11:16 pm


A man should strive to access all of these archetypes, as opposed to thinking of himself as one or the other. The goal is to reach the peak of all of them and to integrate all of them into your psyche in a way in which they complement each other and work in harmony with each other. The other energies keep each indvidual archetype from evolving into its shadows.

Your question about whether working on one detracts from the others is a good one. Some would say that the archetypes power up in your life at certain times and in a certain order: Lover, Warrior, Magician, and then King as the culmination, so it might be best to work on them in that order, as each plays into the next.

37 Shane October 26, 2011 at 5:02 am

I too identify with this article and with Josh. I grew up as a hero with bullish tendancies, and now I am a warrior with sadisitic tendancies. All the discussion above reads like my life, the unattainably high standards and work-a-holic nature, the detachment… My life has always been about keeping these darker sides in check, and I have fared better and been more successful than a couple of similiar people I grew up with because of this disipline.

For me path to success is understanding my own nature, and then managing the less desireable traits. This article in particular has aided in my understanding – using an approach that I haven’t come across before. I believe will be returning to this article again soon. Thank you Brett for the time you have put into this, it is greatly appreciated.

38 Ryan October 26, 2011 at 6:13 am

Rudy and Invincible are on my list

39 Thom Burke October 26, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Michael and Brett,

in the “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover” books (there are five in the series) the authors, Moore and Gillette, stressed that we should “access” the Archtypes, rather than seeking to “become” an Archtype. Moreover, they set out profound psychological consequences for identifing one’s self, or ego, with an Archtype.

Each of us suffer, to some degree or another, from the toxic influences of the ALL the Shadow Archtypes. These Shadows that haunt us and keep us from fulfilling our potential are the result of the deep emotional and psychological wounds we recieved in our youth, before we were mature and strong enough to handle them appropriately. In our childhood weakness, we constructed our Shadow Archypes as a means of defense in a hostile world, but now they only keep us from growing into the men we were meant to be.

Rather than “become” the Warrior Archtype, we must attempt to “access” his strength, and with humility, ask his help in dealing with the Shadow Archtypes who keep us from becoming men in the truest mature sense.

Personally, I’ve been using the author’s prescribed “creative imagination” method to access the Archtypes (each one on a different day). It is during meditation that I acknowledge my weakness and humbly ask for his help, his gifts of strength and pledge to serve his glorious values in the same way a Knight pledges to serve his King. Then, with gratitude, I try to “act as if” these gifts were given to me, which is another method prescribed by the authors.

I don’t ask to become the King, or the Warrior, or the other Archtypes, but seek to become part of something much bigger than myself: the ancient collective unconscious that we were born with, but due to the post-modern culture we were born into and were not given the rites of initiation by our fathers.

40 DRG October 26, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Another great film showing a strong completion of the warrior archetype is “Hero” (the Chinese one made in 2002).

I’d highly recommend it, it’s a work of art and also gets you thinking.

41 Jesse October 26, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Seven Samurai gets another vote from me, for its portrayal of a variety of characters, all within the ‘warrior’ archetype. Plus Kurosawa . . . the man knew film. :)

42 Luke October 27, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Shouldn’t all Steven Seagal movies be on the list?

43 Taylor October 27, 2011 at 11:37 pm

I have enjoyed these articles very much, and they have given me lots of food for though. However, I was wondering: are there are any parallel archetypes for females? I can understand if they are similar, but it would be fascinating to see the female archetypes, and then to see how the male and female archetypes interact.

44 Ollokot October 28, 2011 at 3:47 am

I will always place the mission first.

I will never accept defeat.

I will never quit.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

45 Jeanette October 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm

I think that this should be applied to women as well. Not in the sense of how it seems now, that women are apporpiating themselves as the top sex. I’m in no way a feminist and do not support their views, but I think that the warrior mindset would be benifical tool for women also.

With the right balace, being a woman warrior could create strong, confident women, that we do not see too much today, even with the so called “sexual revolution”.

I believe that women are given too much slack and are not corrected on their behaviors. There is no “law” that we are expected to live by, such as honor and loyalty. There are no boundries anymore of what is expected of women, how they should…present themselves to the world and to others.

This would be a great “philosophy” to teach both girls and boys.

46 Dave Tindell October 30, 2011 at 8:26 am

The historical novels of Steven Pressfield should be a must-read for any man today. The movie “300″ should be at or near the top of the list, as well as the first and last “Rocky” movies.
As a youngster, I was constantly bullied because I was tall, skinny, wore glasses, got good grades, and because my father was the school principal or adminstrator. Later on I discovered that I could play basketball, and play it well, and started discovering my inner warrior through the game. A serious knee injury quashed my chances for a college scholarship or a career in the military, so I dealt with those disappointments by seeking the easy path. Many years later, after a failed marriage and a stalled career, I started training in taekwondo. The martial arts have made an enormous difference in my life. I had already remarried to a woman who was a much better match for me and started a second career in a much more challenging and rewarding field, but getting out there on the mat several times a week has really supercharged me. I now train in isshiny-ryu karate and ryukudo kobujutsu, and within a couple years will add black belts in those disciplines to my TKD belt. Also have studied Russian Systema. For any man who truly seeks to be a warrior, you can’t go wrong with martial arts training.

47 Dave Tindell October 30, 2011 at 8:27 am

Should be “isshin-ryu”, of course. Hey, even warriors are allowed a typo now and then.

48 Niebo October 31, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Great work on the archetypes, but where’s the Magician in his fullness? Are you working on that page?

49 Joe October 31, 2011 at 11:31 pm

A great book that combines oriental/tibetan buddhist philosophy and the code of the warrior is Chogyam Trungpa’s book titled Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior.

50 MajorKG November 1, 2011 at 1:47 am

Mission, men,me. Simple succinct and true.

51 Ben Branam November 2, 2011 at 3:14 pm

I love the thoughts on being emotionally detached. It is totally necessary at points in your life to turn off your emotions and just act out of instinct and knowledge.

When I was in combat in Iraq it was necessary to not be emotionally attached when I was killing the enemy and watching them being killed. At one point I was worried after seeing a particularly brutal killing of an enemy that I felt nothing. Now looking back, if I used emotion I would have never been able to continue.

I also teach self defense classes and talk about shutting off emotion and being more brutal, mean, and aggressive then the attacker.

52 Ralphie November 4, 2011 at 10:45 am

Some other movies that embody the warrior archetype:
High Noon
The Searchers
Any football movie ever made (Since Americans have transferred much of our warrior culture to the football field – just think of how often men that play a game for a living are referred to as “heroes”, “warriors”, etc.)

53 Johnny November 6, 2011 at 11:50 am

I’d like to say awesome comments from Josh, Sterling Cooper and Lee. Lee’s comments about the continental army are spot on.

To really understand war:
Full Metal Jacket by Stanley Kubrick
Come and See by Elem Klimov

When I see a war movie I feel awful for ALL those involved. What a terrible waste. Life’s like that, but it doesn’t mean that I need to spend my time contemplating how awesome war is.

54 ChrisKuhn November 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm

GREAT post. I love the perspective and style of writing here. It really shows the difference in societal perceptions. Check out my site and throw some tips if you could. Always looking to improve and your style of writing is a similar tone to what we hope to one day achieve.

55 Stoic Guardian October 13, 2012 at 4:30 am

I agree with all this, particularly the cotemplation of the inevitablility of death. Which i have done for many years.

One small and somewhat irrelevant problem i have, is you say a “true warrior is a guerilla” now I undertand that in mind with adaptability, a warrior should be prepared to fight in a number of ways, but conventional fighting shwocases many of thes virtues more than guerrilla warfare, and is often far quicker and far more decisive, conventially need not equate with attritional (which guerrilla warfare often is). Guerrilla warfare is a last desperate resort for those who can’t hope to win a war conventionally.

56 Abdul Shakur January 11, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I think that under movie/TV shows should be added the Spartacus series on STARZ premiere channel. Spartacus has found his purpose in fighting to free all the enslaved of Rome. I thought “The Patriot” was a Mel Gibson movie. Braveheart is best Warrior movie to date. I would also suggest reading “Man of Steel & Velvet” by Dr. Aubrey Andelin.

57 Patrick April 10, 2013 at 6:32 pm

As I read this my foot was tapping, my breathing slowed, and my temperature went up. Signs of a good reading.

58 Max April 26, 2013 at 10:21 am

The book/movie Fight Club comes to mind especially the following quotes.

“The things you own end up owning you.”

and on being too “Nice Guy”

“Were a generation of men raised by women, i’m thinking is another women really what we need?”

Anyway just my thoughts.

59 Karl Johnson December 26, 2013 at 4:15 am

I would say “The Shawshank Redemption” would be a good example. Andy Dufresne’s single minded purpose and drive seems to fit in with this well.

60 Dingo January 3, 2014 at 11:01 pm

1 other film that should be on the list is Hambuger Hill, that is a great film about brotherhood of races cause when it comes down to it we all bleed the same!!!

PS Put your ass on the line and see how it feels!!! :)

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