I’m going to go “Balls to the Wall” – Huh?

Have you ever started a race and told yourself you’re going to go “Balls to the Wall Or, when something has gone south, said to yourself well that went “titsup”? (I promise, this post is not X-rated so stick with me.) Have you ever shouted “oorah” or “aroo” and wondered what those calls of action meant?

All four phrases actually have military origins, and yet very few of us know this. In fact, most of us run our races without fully knowing that Spartan and Tough Mudder and BattleFrog all are derived from basic training or special forces training. So let’s explain the origins…

Balls to the Wall

Balls to the Wall – gentlemen – has nothing to do with anatomy, the typical wall, or nailing one to the other. “The expression comes from the world of military aviation. In many planes, control sticks are topped with a ball-shaped grip. One such control is the throttle—to get maximum power you push it all the way forward, to the front of the cockpit, or firewall (so-called because it prevents an engine fire from reaching the rest of the plane). Another control is the joystick—pushing it forward sends a plane into a dive. So, literally pushing the balls to the (fire)wall would put a plane into a maximum-speed dive, and figuratively going balls to the wall is doing something all-out, with maximum effort. The phrase is essentially the aeronautical equivalent of the automotive “pedal to the metal.” – slate.com


You may have been involved in some endeavor, race, or life event where your plan of action began to crumble and you found yourself at a point of no return–or failure. In the military, you may look upon those in your company and exclaim, “Well that went titsup.” But what does that actually mean? TITSUP stands for Total Inability To Support Usual Performance (military slang.) In your case, you used the acronym correctly, but it’s nice to know that you did rather than throw the term around without knowing its true meaning.



Many OCR races begin with chanting or yelling their battle cry. Do you know where these cries came from? Ooh Rah is a battle cry that is commonly used in the USMC (United States Marine Corps) and has its origins tracing back as far as the mid-20th century. The term Oorah means “charge.” In the US Army uses, Hooah, and the US Navy, and Coast Guard, the term is Hooyah; however, in this instance, it is more of a verbal greeting or expression of motivation. Hooyah may be whispered or cried out as a battle cry, both instances providing motivation. The terms have various spellings that have been used through time and some have tried to provide a definition of each of the spellings–Huah, Hooyah, Hooah, Oorah. However for the sake of definition, yelling this out at the beginning of a race provides exactly what it was intended to provide–motivation to attack the course!


So now you know the true meaning behind going balls to the wall or titsup. While their meanings may not be x-rated, we still recommend you use earmuffs around the kids–unless you don’t mind recounting these explanations to their school principals!

See you on the course (balls to the walls of course)! HOOYAH!


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