Long before Knowledge for Men, The Game, the Red Pill, or any of the other modern men’s movements, a single organization emerged with a mission to train and empower men to live their best lives.
The ManKind Project.
Founded in 1985 by Rich Tosi, Bill Kauth, and Ron Hering, ManKind Project and their New Warrior Training is one of the longest-running men’s groups in the world.
With a presence in more than 21 countries, 900 international men’s groups, and a mind-boggling 65,000 students, ManKind Project is also one of the largest groups on the market.
Does it deliver on its promises to help men heal the wounds of the past and form a band of brothers with whom they can share their lives?
Or is it, as some pundits have claimed, little more than an outdated cultish fraternity fueled by homoeroticism, father-bashing, and beta male behaviors?
I decided to register for The New Warrior Training Adventure and find out for myself if this would help further my development as a man.
This is my honest review of my experience with the ManKind Project…
Let’s dive in.
(Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with ManKind Project in any way, financially or otherwise. The views expressed in this article are strictly my own).
The Journey Begins
I was in the middle of nowhere.
Even though I was less than two hours outside of San Diego–the city I’ve lived in for most of my life–I felt like I was in a barren wasteland. The campground where I found myself seemed foreign to me, like something out of a Western movie.
“You’re not in Kansas anymore,” I thought to myself.
As I looked around at the other men in my training group–predominantly white affluent 30 to 40-somethings–I noticed that they all shared my growing sense of anxious anticipation.
We had no idea what to expect next.
And that’s exactly how I was supposed to feel.
Out of nowhere, the instructors emerged and started the event with what I can only describe as a boot camp style mental shakedown.
They attempted to scare us, taking our belongings, staring us down without flinching, talking (in some cases shouting) bluntly and profanely.
If I’m being honest, at first the rah-rah military-style antics were more amusing to me than anything else. Seeing a grown man strip another man of his belongings doesn’t pack quite the same punch when you know it’s just about setting the mood of the weekend.
But there was something undeniably powerful about the complete disconnection from the outside world.
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been this isolated from the rest of the world with no computer, no smartphone, no electronics, and no clue what the fuck was going to happen next.
And that was the point.
The instructors were attempting to break us down (in a positive way) and open up the men in our group to a new way of thinking and being. To break us out of our existing patterns and create an experience, unlike anything most modern men have.
You aren’t told what to expect. You aren’t given any agenda of the day. You’re simply instructed to show up and do what you’re told.
But as we began going through the “on-boarding” exercises, which included receiving a spirit animal (which becomes your name for the event), I found myself faced with a growing sense of unease.
“What the hell is going on?” I thought to myself.
It all felt so silly…so contrived. A bit like live-action role-playing or an old war re-enactment. It certainly didn’t feel like I was growing as a man or learning anything new.
As the day waned we were finally directed to our lodging–a cramped dorm room with a dozen uncomfortable cots and outdoor bathrooms (remember: this isn’t a vacation). And as I laid down to sleep that first night, I considered leaving.
I felt like the experience was going to be (and already had been) a giant waste of time. Or was this my fears talking?
I was already there and I’d never been one to walk away from things so I turned over and fell into a fitful sleep.
Rites of Passage, Resolving Trauma, and Sweat Lodges: What to Expect at the New Warrior Training Adventure
Upon waking up the next day, I was “treated” to a meager breakfast of bean soup.
I quickly discovered that the instructors at ManKind Project withhold food unless it is absolutely needed. The idea being that when you’re full, your body steals energy to digest and prevents you from being present and fully engaged with the experience.
Of course, they don’t tell you there’s the added benefit that conscious fasting can lead to hallucinations, make you susceptible to new thoughts, and give your instructors more power over you doing the exercises…and I actually found this to be a good thing, although not everyone did. I was pleasantly surprised by the energy and aliveness I felt when my system wasn’t so bogged down by my (then) standard fare of California burritos and tequila and was more present than I’d been in a while.
As the experience continued, we engaged in dozens of exercises and events designed to emulate the hero’s journey.
Some of these exercises resonated and lead to breakthroughs.
Others fell fla.
The Native American style “vision quests”, which were originally done with the assistance of mind-altering drugs like Psilocybin or Peyote, felt hollow and silly.
The sweat lodge experience was interesting and surprisingly challenging but most of the men in our group powered through it without issue. Only one man had to step out.
It’s worth noting that many people have died doing events like these (e.g. James Arthur Ray’s tragic event in Sedona) and you need to know your limits. If you decide to attend and you feel the need to exit the sweat lodge, do it. One of the pillars of self-respect is prioritizing your own well being over the opinions and beliefs of others, especially in groups.
The initiation also proved to be a breakthrough experience for many men (although I had a few issues with it which I will discuss later).
However, the most transformational aspect of the event and the real reason ManKind Project continues to attract thousands of men to their events every year, was the “trauma exercises.”
To me, the entire experience seemed to be a build-up to the moment where men were asked to share a trauma or deep emotional wound and engage in “men’s work” and other exercises designed to help you heal.
For some men, the experience was life-changing. For the attendees who had spent their whole lives suffering in silence, believing they needed to “be the man” and work through their challenges alone, the exercises we went through broke them down and gave them the opportunity to heal emotional wounds that had been festering for decades.
For others, however, it was an exercise in futility. It was clear that many of the men in attendance chose to remain inauthentic and hide from their truth. To get the most out of the experience, you must know the issue you want to resolve before beginning the exercise. Otherwise, it will have little effect and leave you feeling more confused than when you started.
My Biggest Takeaways from the ManKind Project Experience:
Although the New Warrior Training Adventure at times felt outdated and vague, I left with numerous takeaways that I still carry with me to this day. While everyone will leave with different lessons that are applicable to their specific situation, I noticed three central themes that dominated the experience.
1. Share Your Trauma and Your Truth
From the time you were a little boy, you were conditioned by your parents, peers, and society to “be the man.” You were told that “real men don’t cry” and that showing even a modicum of emotionality is a display of weakness.
And the results have been catastrophic.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
The simple act of sharing your trauma and truth with other men who care for and respect you sets the wheels of healing in motion and gives you the opportunity to bond with a brother who has faced and overcome similar adversity.
The simple truth is that we’re all hurting. We’re all human beings with our own baggage, our own past trauma, and our own shit. And to lessen the pain and grow from it you must open up…to be authentic…to share our truth even when it’s scary.
Because when you do, you will realize that you are not alone. That there are millions of men out there just like you, dealing with the same struggles, and battling the same demons.
And when you realize this, you will find strength in numbers and allow yourself to heal the pains of the past by sharing them with your brothers.
2. Seize the Opportunity
Most men live their lives on autopilot.
We wake up, make coffee, drive to the job we hate, distract ourselves with social media and memes until 5 pm, drive home, watch TV, and repeat ad infinitum.
We aren’t living, we’re simply existing and getting through life.
While at the ManKind Project experience, I rediscovered the beauty of an undistracted and fully engaged life.
What really adds to the experience was the “time distortion” that resulted from the isolation.
You’re never told the time and the days are very long (from 6 am to 10 pm).
I was amazed by the sheer volume of work and play that I accomplished when given the opportunity to truly seize the moment without distraction or external obligations.
It provided a stark reminder that all of us, without exception, have more time than we realize…but we allow our most precious resource to be squandered with mindless entertainment and other distractions.
Living without electronics, a sense of time, or the endless distractions that are so prevalent in modern life helped me reconnect with myself in a way that few men ever take the time to do.
You have the time, energy, and resources to make every day count. To make massive progress toward your biggest goals, tap into deep states of flow, and find a sense of inner peace and balance.
But it is up to you to “seize the day”.
It is a decision that you must make in every moment. To either allow life to happen to you, or to step back and make a life that happens for you.
3. Surround Yourself with Good Men
This year has been one of the hardest years of my life. Between a breakup, toxic mold poisoning, and the loss of a close friend and my father in the same month, I’ve been kicked in the face time and time again to the point of desperation.
And I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only reason I’m still here, writing this article instead of flitting away to a foreign country and drinking myself into oblivion is because of the men in my life who encourage and support me.
For many men, the brotherhood and camaraderie at The ManKind Project’s weekend training is the first time they’ve ever been surrounded by good men without judgement. It’s the first time they’ve ever had the opportunity to open up to others, to share their traumas, and to receive support, feedback, and kindness from people who care.
We all need our own band of brothers. We need good men in our lives who care about us, not just what we can do for them.
Without this support, the challenges and adversity of life can become overwhelming. Depression, existential anxiety, even suicidal tendencies start to eat away at us like cancer.
When you have the right men in your life, men you trust and respect and who trust and respect you, everything becomes easier. You can share your challenges and triumphs, learn from one another, and move through every setback faster and more efficiently.
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ManKind Project Criticism: What the Event Got Wrong
While the staff at ManKind Project did a lot right, the experience was tainted by a few key issues that prevented it from fulfilling its promises of personal transformation and authentic masculine development.
One of the biggest problems I had with the event was the utter lack of credibility and authority held by the men leading the event.
They are trying to do a good thing and they are helping many men (which is why the organization has continued to thrive for decades), but they ultimately come up short.
I didn’t feel like the men leading me had real credibility or true authority to do so. If I’m going to go all out on an experience and bare myself for the world to see, I need to know that you’ve been on a challenging journey, that you’ve suffered through adversity and overcome it, that you’ve achieved something of worth and made your mark on the world as a man.
I don’t care that you want to help me, I want to know that you can help me.
And, considering the deep emotional work being done, I was uncomfortable with the staff’s lack of credentials. We weren’t being led by licensed counselors, therapists, or psychiatrists who are trained to navigate the murky waters of trauma and (in many cases) mental illness. Just regular men without any understanding of or training in the nuances of the human psychology.
Furthermore, I couldn’t shake the feeling that many of the “leaders” of the event men with unresolved traumas themselves. It seemed as if many of men were simply men who had found a community that accepted them and wanted to do good and give back, but lacked the personal and professional achievement and experience to do so.
While there were definitely exceptions to this rule, I found most of the event’s leaders to be completely unqualified, yet passionate.
Another issue I had with the event was the childish encouragement men were given to express destructive emotions.
For example, during the “healing event” around trauma, men were applauded and celebrated for a hateful and harsh tirade against their father’s.
“Fuck you dad! Fuck you for not letting me live the life I wanted and making me play sports!” he screamed while jumping up and down and jamming a middle finger into the sky.
The angrier he became, the more positive feedback he received from the Mankind Project staff.
This appeared to be a childish way of resolving emotional trauma and a very one-sided experience. It’s entirely possible that sports saved his father’s life and he was trying to pass something positive onto his son. But neither our group nor the instructors had a real understanding and background of his relationship with his father and were forced to watch him “resolve” his trauma in an emotional temper tantrum.
Another issue I had with the event was the degree of homoeroticism that was present throughout the experience.
I could care less who you want to sleep with or what gender you’re attracted to.
But I found it a little off-putting that we were actively encouraged to strip down during many of the events (which at my event was often led by homosexual instructors). Stripping down was uncomfortable, to say the least, and I was frustrated by the condescension I received for “not being fully engaged” when I decided to keep my briefs on.
With its roots in the 60s and 70s hippie culture, the event felt like an outdated trip to the past. Although I believe that the leaders of The ManKind Project are genuinely trying to serve men and provide real value to the world, the training and organization has not evolved to meet the needs men have today.
The experience was just that…an experience.
You don’t learn applicable skills to use after the event and you aren’t given any sort of life-changing instruction or guidance that will help you better navigate the waters of life after your departure.
When I left my weekend at the New Warrior Training Adventure, the only thought running through my mind was…
“Well, now what?”
Who Should Attend the New Warrior Training Adventure?
If you’re an older man who has spent his entire life isolated and alone, feeling like you’re going through the journey of life as a one man army without the support and camaraderie you need to heal, The New Warrior Training Adventure can provide you with great support to assist you on your journey.
Although the experience is only a weekend and the onus is on you to form an ongoing support network with the men you meet at the event, the ManKind Project can help you begin the process of healing and begin to resolve the challenges that have been plaguing you for so many years.
Who Should Not Attend the New Warrior Training Adventure?
If you have a strong group of men in your life, your own band of brothers, or even a good therapist or counselor who you regularly open up to and receive feedback from, The New Warrior Training Adventure will have very little impact on your life.
It will be a weekend adventure that might be fun and provide the “post-retreat high”, but ultimately result in very little transformation or growth.
In the months and years following the experience, you will often wonder if the event had any meaningful impact on your life.
Was is Worth It?
For me, I cannot say that it was or that I would do it again.
While the leaders at MKP are trying to do something noble, the mechanics of their training lack the power and potency needed for the challenges of men today.
As a results-oriented man, I found it to be a very rudimentary primer on the basics of masculine development.
Most of the men in my training group were new to the personal development world… commonly serial nice guys who were angry at women and the world for not giving them everything they wanted.
Although the experience provided a place for these men to marinate on their issues and seek guidance from other men, there were no practical solutions or proven paths to go from releasing the pain of the past to creating a more empowering future.
Instead of preaching self-reliance and progress, the event encouraged men to point fingers and use the traumas of their past as an excuse for why they can’t have the life they truly desire.
When considering the price of the event–$725 plus transportation, a weekend, and another week to cool down and recover–I did not feel like I received a real return on my investment, or that the lessons I did takeaway were exclusive to them.
I had fun. I learned a few lessons. But ultimately, felt that my time and money could have been better invested.
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