Way of the Warrior Kid comes off as a swaggering retort to Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The latter, which you likely know because it has sold 150 million copies, is a fun, endearing book about an awkward, but good-hearted kid trying to make his way in the world and learning to accept himself over the course of many sequels. Warrior Kid centers around a very similar character who, instead of accepting himself, doesn’t. Instead, he works out a lot and becomes confrontational and takes charge of the whole situation in that way to 10-year-olds don’t and never have. Written by Navy SEAL and bonafide hero Jocko Willink, the book is basically Portrait of the Artist as a Young #Winner. It articulates a bizarre worldview while also offering up–and the narrative may be a Trojan Horse built to contain this–a pretty specific training regimen.
Marc is coached to warrior-ness by his smug, borderline pathological uncle, Jake. Jake, a former Navy SEAL, creates an intense workout program that helps Marc overcome his limitations and conquer his goals. Because this is pretty popular and highly rated on Amazon, I became fascinated with this workout, which I assume that at least some kid somewhere is doing at the behest of an overbearing father or swole uncle.
In commiseration and out of curiosity, I decide to follow the way of the warrior kid to see if I could rise above like Marc. Could Jake’s wisdom help me or was my wimpy-ness permanent? I started reading….
We meet Marc. He is about to finish the fifth grade and has nothing to show for it. He can’t do a pull-up. He doesn’t know how to stand up to his bully. He doesn’t know how to do his multiplication tables. Just pathetic. I take solace in the knowledge that I am better than Marc in every conceivable way. Maybe I do not need this book after all.
Honestly, pretty much the exact same thing as the last chapter. Still gets bullied. Still can’t do a pull-up. I am still better than Marc.
Marc and his mom pick up Uncle Jake from the airport. He’s staying with them for the summer. Uncle Jake is the coolest guy ever. He’s a Navy SEAL who has the answers to all of life’s problems. He, unlike Marc, is a winner who gets shit done. He shakes Marc’s hand and mocks his weak grip. Then he makes Marc carry his bag.
Uncle Jake tells Marc he will help him become a “Warrior Kid.” Marc is excited. I am wondering if this little story development needed to be stretched out over four chapters.
Marc heads downstairs for breakfast and Uncle Jake brags about all the shit he did before Marc was still sleeping like a fucking zero. In case it wasn’t clear by now, Uncle Jake is the man. He says starting tomorrow morning, the transformation begins.
Uncle Jake wakes Marc up very early. What time? The book doesn’t say. I’m guessing Uncle Jake is testing me to see if I can figure it out myself like a winner. It only says before sunrise. I check Google and find the sun rises at 5:44 AM tomorrow morning. Okay, I will get up at 5 AM.
My alarm wakes me up at 5 AM. I do not like this, but I don’t want to be a loser like Marc. Uncle Jakes tells Marc (and me) to try to do as many push ups as we can. I am too tired to do that many or count how many I’ve done, but it was definitely way more than the nine Marc did. Take that, Marc! So far, being a warrior kid is fucking terrible. But hey, warrior kids don’t quit. So I keep going.
Uncle Jake teaches Marc a bunch of different exercises called “Star Jumpers,” “Burpees,” “Diamond push-ups,” “Dive-bomber push-ups,” “Supermans,” and “Jackknives.” Uncle Jake demonstrates them to Marc, but Marc fails to describe any of them to the reader. Marc is obviously trying to get the upper hand over me. Fortunately, I know what most of them are already and just Google the rest. Once again, I am a winner.
I do a few of each because the book once again does not specify how many I should be doing. Because why would a book about getting in shape ever specify the amount a person should do? That would be silly. Then, Uncle Jake made us do as many squats, push-ups, and sit-ups as we could in two minutes with one minute of rest between.
Marc did 23 squats, 14 push-ups, and 18 sit-ups. Uncle Jake did 104 squats, 108 push-ups, and 122 sit-ups. I was able to 56 squats, 45 push-ups, and 75 sit-ups. By this point, I was pretty tired, but I was also feeling good because I CRUSHED Marc. Maybe I was wrong to so quickly dismiss the Way of the Warrior.
Uncle Jake teaches Marc what it means to be a warrior via a bunch of warrior codes. Including The SEAL Code, The Viking Laws, The Ranger Creed, The U.S. Marine Corps Core Values, The U.S. Army Warrior Ethos, The Seven Virtues of Bushido, and The Code of Chivalry for Knights of the Middle Age. Marc thinks these things are super cool and decides to make a code of his own. I do not.
Uncle Jake gets Marc a pull-up bar. Marc fails. I borrow a pull-up bar from a friend. I succeed because I am superior to Marc.
Uncle Jake tells Marc by the time summer is over, he will be doing at least 10 pull-ups. Will I be able to do 10 in two days? Only time will tell. Though I am having my doubts Marc will be able to either.
Marc begins to learn how to do basic math. I already know how to do basic math, because I am a winner and also an adult. Skip!
Marc begins his Jiu-Jitsu class. I do not have time to take a Jiu-Jitsu class and I am fairly certain my boss won’t pay for it anyway. Skip!
Marc begins learning how to swim. He is afraid of water. I already know how to swim. I am not afraid of swimming or water. I drink water all the time just to let it know it is not scary to me. Skip!
Marc wants to quit the program. Uncle Jake convinces him not to. I am ashamed of Marc for being such a quitter. Skip!
It took Marc 18 days to do a pull-up. It took me one attempt. Seriously, is this even a competition, Marc? Get it together…
Uncle Jake catches Marc watching TV and he is pissed. Why does Uncle Jake hate TV so much? Does he know how good TV is? He makes Marc do math. I already know how to do math. So I watch another episode of GLOW. Skip!
More martial arts stuff, which once again I cannot do. Skip!
Uncle Jake teaches Marc some food stuff. I am uninterested and beginning to question if Uncle Jake is the badass ultimate hero I thought he was. Skip!
Marc finally swims. It took him 114 pages to do something I could do before I started this book. Skip!
Uncle Jake wants us to 100 pull-ups. LOL that is very funny, Uncle Jake. But seriously, what are we doing? Uncle Jake is serious. We are allowed to take breaks, but we have to keep going until we reach 100. I am worried that Marc might die.
Marc somehow reaches 87 and then wants to quit because his hands are bleeding. I am pretty sure Marc is lying about how many he’s done because everything up to this point tells me Marc is weak as shit. But obviously, we will let him stop. His hands are bleeding. He is a child. Only a monster would make Marc continue.
This is when it hits me. Uncle Jake was not the hero. He’s the villain. What else could justify making a child do 13 push-ups after their hands are literally bleeding? My God, Marc and I have both been swayed by his charisma, but no more! Right, Marc?! Let’s stand up for ourselves!
Marc keeps going. Dammit. I realize now that the Way of the Warrior Kid was inside me all along. I am not only greater than Marc, but I am also greater than Uncle Jake. I reward myself by doing no pull-ups.
Marc memorizes the names of the Presidents? Was this a previous plot point? Where is this coming from? Whatever, I am bored. Skip!
Marc fights someone in Jiu Jitsu. How long is this fucking book? Skip!
Chapter Twenty One
More swimming stuff. I feel my sanity slowly slipping away from me. Why am I doing this? Who am I? What is life? Skip?
Chapter Twenty Two
Marc does 10 pull-ups. This feels extremely anti-climactic. Why did Uncle Jake have him do 100 four chapters ago? I am left wondering if any of this has meant anything.
Chapter Twenty Three
Uncle Jake lets Marc know that his stupid friends aren’t “warriors” like him. Marc is better than all of them. Okay, I may not agree with all of Uncle Jake’s dickish tactics, but it’s pretty cool that he is transforming Marc into some form of a schoolyard super villain. Uncle Jake leaves, probably off to find the next loser he can fix. Goodbye, Uncle Jake. You were kind of an asshole, but you are also fictional.
Chapter Twenty Four
Marc heads back to school and his name may as well be Awesome McAwesomeson. He does third-grade math correctly. He does a shit ton of pull-ups in front of people. He tells his bully that if he messes with him ever again “I promise you will never forget what I do to you.” Wait, is Marc a bully now? Is that the twist? He eventually tells his bully he is free to play too. So… I guess not?
Chapter Twenty Five
Marc writes a letter to Uncle Jake laying out his “Warrior Kid Code.” I am way too bored to repeat it to you. But believe me, it is very dumb.
The end. I’m exhausted and I’ve learned nothing. I feel no compulsion to do push-ups or pull-ups. My code remains pretty basic. I wake up and do me to whatever degree that’s possible without harming others. Then I go to sleep. Does that make me a wimp? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that if all my friends got together we could beat up Marc.
Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.