Lessons Learned From An Assassin: How to Train With Deadly Precision

Imagine you’re an an assassin living in Renaissance Italy.

You’re part of an ancient underground brotherhood and it’s your job to assassinate sinister enemies while remaining completely undetected.  You can use any means necessary to eliminate your target as long as you do so without being discovered or caught.  Fortunately for you, you’re a damn good assassin: scaling city walls, vaulting between rooftops, balancing along ledges, lurking in the shadows, existing and yet being unseen, unheard, unknown.

Today, you’ll learn how to think, act, and train like Ezio Auditore, a bad ass assassin and main character in one of the most enjoyable video game series I’ve ever played – Assassin’s Creed.  Don’t worry if you’ve never played the game before; the information here will certainly apply to you as well.  This article will still give you all the info you need to become an awesome ancient assassin.

Just don’t go ACTUALLY killing anybody, okay?

In order to get in the correct mindset to start thinking like an assassin, take a few minutes to watch this trailer and begin your training:

Assassin’s Creed Trailer Video

Build your body for efficiency

If you’re going to be an assassin, you need to have complete control over how your body operates and moves at all times. This means you must be at an optimal weight: carrying too much weight and bulk can slow you down when trying to scale buildings and leap between rooftops.  Think like a rock climber or a master Parkour traceur (which I’ll get to shortly): powerful strength and lightning quick reflexes are your best friend – half an inch or a few extra seconds can be the difference between a successful climb and fall, a successful mission or failed attempt, even life and death.

For that reason, you need to become a master of your body by getting REALLY good at moving, lifting, and carrying your own body weight – lifting extra weights to increase your relative strength is helpful, but having the muscular endurance to climb a ten story building is far more important in this line of work.  Referencing the Art of Manliness article “Fitness Benchmarks a Man Must Master,” here are five fitness benchmarks you should master that will have you well on the path to becoming a capable assassin:

  • Swim half a mile or more: for when you need to dive underwater to avoid capture and swim to a more secluded location.
  • Run at top speed for 200 yards or more: for when you are spotted and need to run away to avoid capture.
  • Jump over obstacles higher than your waist: for when you need to climb buildings, hurdle obstacles while being chased, and more.
  • Do fifteen to twenty pull ups: for when you need to scale buildings to stalk your prey from above.
  • Dip between parallel bars twenty-five times or more: to hoist yourself up onto ledges or to push yourself away from one wall to leap to another.

Master these movements, and you will have plenty of speed, power, and endurance to become an efficient assassin.

In order to get better at these movements, you can do two things: PRACTICE them (for the pull ups, dips, and sprints – do them every other day), and decrease your body fat percentage.  The more weight you lose, the less weight you’ll have to pick up and move, the better you’ll be able to move your body through these movements.  I’ve found the Paleo Diet to be the fastest method to decrease your body fat percentage.

Master your environment

Once you’ve built your body for optimum performance, it’s time to start mastering your environment.

After all, what’s a strong body good for if you don’t how to use it effectively.  In order to become a great assassin, you need to become a proficient traceur (a parkour professional) and you need to start analyzing each environment you inhabit quickly so that you can move through with maximum efficiency.

Parkour has already been covered extensively on Nerd Fitness, so I won’t rehash the same information. Follow the prescribed workouts and start mastering the basic Parkour movements using the information in that post (especially the precision jumps and front rolls – can’t have you breaking a leg from a fall while on a mission!)

Instead, I want to talk about analyzing your environment – often times you’ll be in a situation where you’ll need to get creative with your surroundings in order to succeed.  Let’s say you need to assassinate a target on the other side of a building – if that building doesn’t have a ladder to get to the rooftop, do you give up and go home?

Hell no!

You Macguyver a plan B. If you can jump onto the small pillar, swing onto that rope, hang on the windowsill, vault over to the chimney, and then shimmy up between the two walls you can get to the roof.  When I was in Peru back in November, it was just days after I blazed through Assassin’s Creed 2; I couldn’t help but analyze each and every church and ancient building I visited for Parkour potential, trying to determine the fastest path to the roof.  I obviously never climbed anything (didn’t want to get arrested), but the mental exercise of planning each path was a lot of fun.

On a more practical level, now that I’m traveling through Australia I have zero access to any exercise equipment. For that reason, I spend the first afternoon in each new town wandering around until I can find a suitable “gym” to exercise in.  I know that as long as I can find something to hang from, I can do my pull ups, chin ups, and tuck front levers – so far I’ve used a playground’s monkey bars, low-lying tree branches, the underside of a set of stairs, the overhang of a low roof, and a pipe hanging off a building in an airport parking lot.

Get creative, keep your eyes open, assess every situation, and aim for the path of least resistance.

Move softly

You’ve got a visual on your target...

You creep through the shadows, completely undetected.  Only twenty feet separates you and your prey who has his back turned to you.  It’s time to quickly cover that distance and take care of business.


Oops.  Your giant shoes and funky footwork have given you away in a matter of seconds; looks like  all of that hard work sneaking around has gone for naught.  If only you had been wearing silent shoes and had perfected the art of barefoot movement.

It’s time to trade in those clunky running shoes and change up your running style – pick up a pair of Vibram Five Fingers (or even go barefoot) and learn to run barefoot – your calves will HATE you for a few weeks but your knees, hips, back, and other joints will love you.  Get good at running silently by landing softly, and pick surfaces that hide your footsteps – grass is optimal.

You can even practice this by fake-stalking in the park (though don’t ACTUALLY stalk people and get me in trouble).

Be quick about it

Assassins are like stealth bombers – they make their move before anybody notices anything has happened (well, except for their targets – I’m fairly confident they’re probably aware they’re dead).  A slow assassin wouldn’t survive very long – if he’s still standing there when the body hits the floor and he has a giant bloody knife in his hands…he’s pretty much screwed.

You need to become quick like an assassin by training with purpose. If you’re at the gym or training in your backyard, stop chatting on the phone.  Don’t spend hours on a treadmill watching Oprah.  Don’t waste any extra time between sets.  Get into that gym, get your workout done quickly, and get the hell out of there.  Set a timer and tell yourself that you need to be done with your workout in 45 minutes or less.

Want to speed up your workouts and give your heart a great cardiovascular workout?  Change your workouts to circuits instead.

Join a Brotherhood

The Assassins Brotherhood is underground network of people working to help each other accomplish goals. Although most assassinations are solo missions, assassins can often work together to eliminate a target.  When not on a mission, students of the brotherhood learn from those more advanced and experienced than them.  The more senior assassins help put together teams that maximize the chance for success in every mission.  Assassins looks out for their brothers (and sisters) by helping out in any way possible.

Hmmm, sounds a lot like another brotherhood I know…

Man, women, boy, girl, alien, robot – whatever you are, you’ll have a better chance of being successful in fitness and in life if you’re surrounded by people all chasing the same goals and dreams.  You might be on solo missions with your workouts (I LOVE working out alone), but know that there’s a community of like-minded people just a few mouse clicks away that’s willing and able to help me with my journey.  Join our community, check out the Parkour thread, start tracking your workouts, post your successful missions, and start leveling up your life.

Our brotherhood, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion, is always looking for new recruits, and you don’t even have to kill anybody to join.

So, are you in?


Last week’s contest winner: Jake who talked about why he strength trains: Growing up as a nerd (and continuing to grow up nerdy), I’ve been surrounded by heroic and epic figures – from Luke and Han to Aragorn, to Maximus the Gladiator, even the Master Chief.  I would idolize their feats of badassery (like charging out of Helm’s Deep or fighting Rancor’s and escaping Jabba’s palace).  But until I joined the Rebellion and started reading the site, their fantastical world of heroism remained out of reach.  Now, I realize that Master Chief doesn’t become a hero by sitting around playing Halo all day and eating crap food, he busts his ass for it.

So, I strength train because walking around with sore and spent muscles underneath my glasses and (very stylish) button up shirt makes me feel like I have a huge friggin’ “S” branded on my chest, despite the occasional monotony or aimlessness of my post-grad life.

Today’s rebel hero – Jacob L, who sent this picture in from Vail, Colorado.  First Cambodia, then Israel, and now  on the tops of mountains – there’s no place where a Nerd Fitness rebel won’t go.

You might think he has one eye closed due to the blinding sun. It’s actually due to too much awesomeness radiating from the t-shirt.  After taking this picture, Jacob went down a halfpipe and did a triple-flip 1080 stalefish, then wrestled a bear and chopped down a tree using the side of his snowboard.

Have you ordered your Nerd Fitness shirt yet? Pick one up (only $20 with free shipping anywhere in the world), and send me a photo – you could be the next Rebel Hero!


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