A Lesson from Charles Bronson

A Lesson from Charles Bronson

Based upon the responses I received to last Friday’s daily transformation titled “The Two Charles Bronsons,” it’s obvious that it really struck a chord with many of you. In fact, I received a great many e-mails thanking me for sending it as well as a few that voiced a certain level of concern, wondering if I was endorsing a criminal.

So before I go any further, let me state for the record that I was not endorsing the criminal behavior that was responsible for putting Mr. Bronson (Michael Peterson) behind bars. Nor am I endorsing the violent and erratic behavior that is responsible for keeping him in prison. I never have, and I never will. Without question, society needs to be protected from someone with his violent nature and criminal past.

What I am endorsing is the man’s training methods, which are in many ways identical to mine and Big Jim Forystek’s. I also admire the fact that rather than just sitting in his cell vegetating, Mr. Bronson has chosen to use his time productively as a writer, poet, artist, and physical culturist. In fact, he has received several well-deserved awards for his poetry and art.

But now to answer a specific question I was asked in an e-mail: “John, why did you write such a glowing endorsement of Charles Bronson’s book Solitary Fitness? The man is a violent criminal. You should remove his story from your new book, Power Sculpt—A Man’s Guide to Ultimate Push-Ups for the Awesome Physique.”

Answer: First off, if someone feels the inclusion is a glorification of violent behavior when I think there is an inspirational and instructive aspect to it, then he or she simply shouldn’t buy my book. I don’t see it that way, and I’m not removing the story for that reason.

Here’s the deal. Charles Bronson has become one of the strongest, fittest, and healthiest physical culturists in the world. At soon to be age 57 (I’m one month older), Charles Bronson routinely performs exercises that the vast majority of men 35 years younger cannot dream of doing. This he accomplishes on a diet of prison food and without the use of any equipment, and he has done so for more than 34 years. Furthermore, everything he has done has been totally self–directed. Bronson is a self-made, self-motivated physical culturist. I admire that, but not the violence.

Prior to his time in prison, Bronson actually worked as a strong man bending bars and breaking chains. There is no doubt in my mind that first and foremost Bronson was a Charles Atlas student and has followed the Atlas Course and methods since his earliest youth and all of his adult life, just as yours truly has done. Why do I say that? Because it’s obvious when you read his book, including the specific health-related information on diet and the importance of internal cleanliness, that it comes straight from Atlas’s Dynamic Tension Course—as do his 37 self-resistance exercises that he calls Solitary Dynamics. Granted, there are other exercises in his book, such as burpees and handstand push-ups, that are not from Atlas, but those exercises leave no doubt as to their origin.

There is something else that I believe is even more important and beneficial to his readers than the positive physical effects of his exercise methods. That is its effects on the mind. The type of mind/body exercise that Bronson promotes and practices daily is identical in concept and execution to my own. It requires a laser like focus and develops the mind and the ability to think equally as well as the body. It literally concentrates and builds one’s NERVE FORCE. This in turn allows one to deal with stress and adversity with greater capacity and responsiveness. My sense is that it is this mental capacity that has helped Bronson maintain his sanity and his drive for living productively while spending more than 30 years of his adult life incarcerated and isolated—the greatest proof of all of the effectiveness of the exercise methods he promotes.

Granted, the violent criminal disconnect in this man’s life is scary. But as regards his being a physical culturist, Charles Bronson has earned his own self-respect by being true to himself and his beliefs. And it shows.

His physical culture methods are nearly identical to those you will find promoted in each of my books.

—John Peterson

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