Indian clubs design and styles

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Categories: Indian clubs
In this post about Indian clubs, we are going to cover a bit of history, and touch on swinging styles and club design.
 
The term Indian clubs is actually a misnomer. Brits were stationed in India during the days of the East India company (1600-1874). During that time, they observed the locals swing wooden clubs as a form of exercise, and referred to those clubs as “Indian clubs”. Had they been stationed somewhere else, the clubs would be called something else!
 

Indian clubs design around the world

In India, depending on what region you are located, clubs have their own names and shapes, from Gada, Mugdal, Jori, Karelakattai etc…
In Iran, the typically conical shaped clubs are called Meel.  In Japan, the Chi Ishi is  used to strengthen forearms and striking power for Martial arts. Native American Indian  have war clubs, and so do most islander nations. In the West of course, the mace was used through history to smash through heavy armors. As you can guess, designs of these clubs vary greatly.
 
The origin of club swinging as strength training is heavily contested. The official story is that the clubs crossed over from Persia into India. Read our short history of clubs here.
 

The club as a symbol of power

Most Hindu deities, like Hanuman the god of strength, are depicted with a Gada in paintings and temple carvings. The Gada goes 4000 years back, but to our Western knowledge, no written documentation about training with clubs goes so far back.
In the west, scepters and the Polish bulavas were also used by authority figures.
 

The club as a training form

The traditional indigenous clubs were built to develop full body strength, and the ability to use strength in a multiple planes of motion, along with awareness, agility, coordination and mindfulness. Stuff that was useful to warriors.
 
The Brits mostly became interested in club swinging as a way of maintaining good health, and destroying Indian culture heritage in typical colonial fashion (Reference: Conor Heffernan). They wanted to implemented club swinging on a truly large scale, and this is where the design had to change. T keep things simple, in the West we ended up with 2 main designs: tear drop clubs and bottle shaped clubs.

The original fitness centers

In the Zurkaneh (Persian “House of Strength”) and the Akhara (Hindu wrestling gymnasium), a whole collection of clubs is at the disposition of the members, much like the dumbbell racks of a commercial fitness center today. Limited equipment works fine in that sort of set up.
 

The British influence

To be able to train large numbers of people at the same time, the Brits changed the Indian clubs design to the smaller version we know today, the British style Indian club.
For reference, in the 1850’s, the military issued
“regulation clubs” weighed 2kg a piece. The Indian club was now easy to mass produce, cheap, highly transportable and every person in a group of 100 or more people, could have his own set. In effect, the Brits appropriated the Indian clubs as their own.

New possibilities

This light Indian clubs design allowed the practitioner to do figures and patterns that were simply impossible to perform with the traditional and heavier clubs. Most of the heavy club swinging is often times very limited in exercise choice. Design plays a large role into what you can or cannot do with the club.
The only time one can talk of wrong design is if the weight distribution is off, resulting in a poor swing, or maybe if the knob is too bulky, getting in the way of the wrist for the type of swing your are doing.

Is there a correct style of club swinging?

Which brings us to the difference in club swinging styles that are commonly seen today, and the arguing that often ensues between traditionalists and adopters of modern techniques.
 

It’s all about context!

There is no real right or wrong way to swing Indian clubs. There is not a single right way to stand, there is not a single right way to hold the club, there is not a single proper name for each exercise.

The truth is, if you understand the key concepts of Indian clubs, you can freestyle much from there.
Traditions have rigid ideas about how to swing Indian clubs, from technique to stance to which exercise to perform and so on. British style club swinging in the military stance is a perfect example. The reason behind the military stance are societal and related to fighting on horseback. Maybe we’ll cover that in a future article.
 
Remember that somewhere along history, someone is bound to have made a mistake or two transmitting information to the next generation. 
That is why you should use your common sense, intuition, awareness and creativity, instead of blindly following a text book.
 

Indian clubs is an art, not a science  

Even science updates its former beliefs and discoveries over time.
We can learn from the context of traditional club swinging, yet it does not mean we have to follow it 100%.
 
For example, in the Zurkaneh, the athletes swing meel in a confined environment, and to a highly regulated schedule. If you check out videos, most often you will see back circles as the movement most usually trained.
The Indian wrestlers swing joris, which are very long clubs, and can mostly be swung behind the back.

Karlakattai

In contrast, the Tamil version of club swinging, Karla Kattai, seems to have a more flexible approach. They swing with 1 club, sometimes with both hand on the club, sometimes single handed, and of course they swing with 2 clubs as well. Our Pahlavandle™ XL is designed after one of the clubs they use in that system.
 
Not only that, but the variety of the swings is broader than other heavy club swinging, swinging in different planes of motion, and including quite a bit of footwork and combinations.
This is pretty much what we love doing at Heroic Sport and you will find in our tutorials!
 
So get inspired by other schools, get swinging, it’s all good!

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Image source: International Karlakattai Sports Federation