Aztec boys were born to be part of the military to become a brave warrior, and to grow into this role it was essential for them to endure their warrior training.
Training was the first step for a budding warrior, and surprisingly in this society where becoming a warrior was the primary option, the Aztecs would began their training relatively old for commoners. The young Aztec would live a normal life with their family before this, being trained how to farm and fish, and providing general manual labour for their family.
Certain skills learned here would help the young Aztec when his training began. Hunting was a common skill passed down from father to son, and often the use of a sling called a tematlatl would be used, or even a bow and arrow, providing some early experience of ranged warriors to the young boy.
Life wasn’t easy regardless, even before the real training began in earnest. The young Aztec boys would be taught to manage rations and would be duly punished if they were to over-eat. They were also punished for laziness, and were expected to contribute to the family as soon as they could.
Aztec warrior training began at different ages for commoners and noble folk. The commoners typically lived a fairly normal family life until the age of 15 when they would likely start their training at the telpochocalli. For the sons of nobles, training is thought to have begun much earlier, starting from their sixth birthday in some cases. The nobles would start their training at the calmecac instead of the telpochocalli however, which we go into more details about below.
Like many other parts of Aztec society, the training of their warriors was separated by the class of the person. Class was very important in Aztec life, with the nobility having many options in life, but if a noble one decided to become a warrior, then they would be trained in a separate school to an Aztec commoner.
The calmecac was the noble training grounds for the future rulers of the Aztec society. Its thought that even in the noble training school, there was still an order, high ranking nobles would send their sons to the Calmecac from a young age typically around five years old, and lower ranking nobles would send their children later, up to age thirteen.
The focus of the calmecac was two fold, it was a training ground for the mind and also for the body. The teaching of the mind would be run by priests, with lessons on topics like reading, writing, learning the calender and Aztec literature. Other lessons would be domestic with all students having to partake in daily chores, from cleaning to cooking. The calmecac of course also trained the youths in all aspects of war and battle, with the warrior priests teaching the youths how to handle weapons and common battle tactics.
The telpochocalli was the home of training for the average Aztec commoners. Aztec youths would start their war training here from the age of fifteen, and it was common for them to taste their first war at around age twenty.
The telpochocalli’s main goal was to instil courage, battle skills, ritual and order. The focus was on the body, with much less focus on the mind than the noble youths received at the calmecac. Training would be taught by veteran warriors, their knowledge and skills learned on the battlefield would supply the youths with the knowledge to speed up their military growth, and perhaps save them from a few mistakes.
For the Aztecs war was a way of life, sustaining their community and growth meant expanding their ownership of land. In some cases this meant war, and the training they implemented for their youth allowed them to be successful.
For a young Aztec warrior the training would be hard but would eventually allow them to compete on the battlefield with confidence. Preparation was key for the Aztec warrior and the Calmecac and the Telpochocalli were the tools that provided this preparation.