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How To Mosh: Every Move You Must Know

Here are the basic rules and moves you’ll need to take part in the human meat grinder that is the pit.

Call it “thrashing,” “slam dancing,” or “going HAM” — it sure doesn’t matter what term you use once you’ve gotten caught in a mosh.

The ultimate physical expression of rock ‘n’ roll’s pure power and energy, moshing has a rich history dating as far back as the late-’70s, derived from punks who’d jump around at shows. Eventually, the speed and aggression of hardcore and thrash metal began to inspire the shoving and slamming we now know — the honest rage and love of music exuded by bands like Black Flag and Anthrax inspiring crowds to take things in an angry-as-hell direction.

That said, moshing wasn’t always a positive release, and many a Nazi and hardcore gangster used the pit as a place to beat people up, inspiring bands like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and Fugazi to publicly call people out for moshing at their shows. It seemed like the crisis had come to a very public head in 1996, when Smashing Pumpkins publicly announced they were against moshing after a woman died at one of their performances.

But as fans of punk and metal evolved, so did moshing; these days, the pit is much more of a place to blow off steam and give oneself to the power of the riff than partake in a flailing free-for-all. But in case you’ve never had the pleasure of getting your shit rocked at a Lamb Of God show — or simply wish to reconfirm what you know — here’s a move-by-move breakdown of the mosh.

I. BASIC RULES

Before we talk mechanics, let’s go over the generally-accepted rules to moshing. Disobey these at your own risk (i.e. do so, and people will think you’re a towering anus).

1) Pick ’em up when they fall – What it says on the label. When someone falls down, you pick ‘em up before doing anything else.

2) Hold lost items over your head – If you find someone’s lost phone, shoe, watch, glasses or wallet on the floor, hold it over your head and walk around or through the pit so they can find it.

3) No punching, choking, or fighting in general – That shit is how cops get called and venues get closed. Take it outside, champ.

3) Don’t shove someone into the pit who doesn’t want to go – Don’t be an asshole. If you want a better line of sight, move.

4) Karate gets what karate gives – Yeah, you can do several spin-kicks and chop your hands all over the place, but don’t get upset when you get slammed by the huge dude who is sick of you.

5) Don’t crowd-kill – Crowd-killing is when you wile out on the people at the edges of the pit to get them involved. Leave the innocent bystanders alone.

6) Nazis, bullies, and gropers are cruising for an abusing – If you’re here to throw the Heil, beat on someone smaller than you, or cop a feel, you’re begging someone to murder you with a crowbar.

7) No whining – Aw, did a crowd surfer accidentally kick you? Did you get accidentally duffed in the face? Sucks — but guess what? It’s a mosh-pit. There’s a bar in the back to lean on, if you’re not feeling it.

Got it? Great. Let’s move on to…

II. MOSH STYLES AND MOVES

Here are the basic styles of moshing, and the moves that come with them.

1) ’BOW-THROWING

Elbow-based moshing. Fun to do, sometimes painful to be around.

1a. Two-Stepping

This is an essential. It’s honestly the perfect move to make before you start doing any serious damage. It’s like running in place, only with ample elbow-throwing as you get into it. What a move, look at it go.

1b. The Lawnmower

An oldie but a goodie that became popular in the early 2000s after emo kids stole it from corny punks. It’s a pretty comical move to make at this point, especially if the point of moshing is trying to look scary. However, it used to be very a cool looking startup to an eventual beatdown.

1c. Picking Up Change

Pick it up pick it up pick it uuuup! This one sort of makes you look silly, but it’s fun to do. Snap your hand down to the ground and then yank your elbow back. Ooh, a penny!

Next up…

2) EMO KARATE

Mosh moves that emulate combat. Just know you kind of look like Mac from Always Sunny doing these (aaand you might get your ass kicked).

2a. The Hinge

Make a fist and stick it out in front of you. Whip your arm back and forth in a wide arc as though it’s is attached to your shoulder by a hinge. That’s it, that’s the whole move.

2b. Roundhouse

This move is when going to a show becomes the cheapest martial arts class you could ever take. Kick the leg up as far as it goes, and spin in a circle, to make contact with someone who doesn’t see it coming for the life of them. Might get you kicked right the fuck back.

2c. The Windmill

The windmill can be traced back all the way to the early ’90s (check out some of those moves in Biohazard’s Shades of Grey video from 1992) — but the move would become much more mainstream with the explosion of early 2000s metalcore/hardcore. When people whirl their arms as fast as they can, there’s no way they can miss. What better way to guarantee a hit than to actually just aim at everything?

Thirsty for more? Because it’s time for…

3) HIT AND RUN

The cardio of moshing. Usually a good way to get the whole crowd involved. Smokers beware.

3a. Skanking

The go-to move for ska kids and pop-punks, skanking is like exaggerated walking, or two-stepping with no thrown elbows. Generally peaceful, and a great way to move through a…

3b. The Circle Pit

Ol’ reliable. The fascination of the circle, the wheel, the spiral, has been a driving force for mankind for all of its existence, and the circle-pit has been around since the beginning of pissed-off-dude dancing. Anyway: everyone runs in a circle creating a human whirlpool. To instigate, hold up an extended index finger and spin it over your head. Especially popular at thrash metal shows.

3c. The Wall Of Death

Though this term was originally used to describe when Nazis and assholes at hardcore shows to just mow folks down and trample them, the Wall Of Death has become a much-loved group activity at metal shows. The crowd splits down the middle and pull back, creating an aisle down the middle of the floor. At the singer’s command, the two sides run Braveheart-style at each other and collide in a glorious clash of mosh pittery. Good times, but always remember Rule #1.

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WORDS: Amanda Van Poznak

Posted on January 8th 2019, 7:00pm
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