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Problems related to a sedentary lifestyle are nothing new. The following parable about what Indian clubs can do for you was first published in a  magazine from the heydays of Indian clubs in the Western world, the late 1800’s.
  

Let the tale unfold…

An Oriental king, by the luxurious life of a palace had lost appetite for food, and relish for occupation or pleasure. At length, dreadfully weary of doing nothing, yet too weak of will to rise up and find something to do, he called his wise men about him, to prescribe a remedy for his evil condition.
At this they were a good deal puzzled, for it did not require much wisdom to see that all the king needed was to stir himself, and shake off the slothfulness that had fastened upon him. So, one after another, evading the real difficulty, proposed a journey, a change of diet, a sleeping potion, or some light tonic; but, as the wise men expected, these remedies accomplished nothing, while the king grew daily more listless and languid. At last, an obscure man, who had heard of this strange malady, made bold one day to ask an audience of the king, professing to bear an important message. The king granted his request, and with an air of great languor, asked his message.

“To cure thee, 0 King,” he said.

The king was astonished and unbelieving. “How canst thou,” he said, “accomplish what the learning of my kingdom has failed to do?”

The stranger quietly replied, “I bring thee this club. Within its handle lie hidden potent drugs, which will impart their virtues only when thy hand, grasping the club, and brandishing it thus and thus, hath become heated, and imparted its heat to them. Then will their healing power be aroused, and the cure begin. Rise with tomorrow’s sun, eat sparingly of simple food, and when the sun is three hours high, withdraw into thy garden. There, for the space of half an hour, swing this club as I have instructed thee; and after that, go to thy bath and thy couch. Two hours after the midday meal, go forth again to thy garden; use the club as in the morning, and afterward bathe and rest. Continue thus till the cure is complete.”

The king was persuaded to try the remedy, though much doubting of any success. To his surprise and joy the first day gave relish for the simple food allowed him, and at night his sleep was sweet and unbroken. The rising sun called him to a second day of trial, which he spent like the first, with increase of good result. Thus passed a third day, and many more, till the keen delight of returning health reminded him of the debt of gratitude he owed his unknown benefactor. Summoning him to his presence, his eagerness to reward him knew no bounds, and he would have lavished upon him wealth and honors without stint. But the stranger modestly declined the royal bounty, saying, “Thou owest nothing to me. No drug could have worked so marvelous a change. Thou owest all to the exercise thou hast taken, and the temperate living thou hast practiced.”

It’s up to you to take charge!

There you have it, simple advice with a simple piece of equipment. You just have to swing it everyday…

To make it easy for you as well to swing every day, we have a special offer on our starter kit of 1 set of Pahlavandle and our club swinging 101 and 102 video pack

And if you are in doubt bout which size or type of Indian clubs is best for you, read our previous post.

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Sources:

Article source: The Riverside Magazine For Young People | An Illustrated Monthly, Vol. 3, 1869

Picture source: wirally.com

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So you’re willing to try Indian clubs but you are not sure what type and weight is best suited for you. This guide is for you!

Indian clubs, steel clubs, clubbells, Persian meel, Indian Jori and Tamil Karlakattai. All these Most of these clubs have a set length and weight. There are many types of clubs out there, and nobody likes to fork some money out to find out they bought something not relevant to their needs… Clubs can be too short, too long or too heavy. Read on and become wise about choosing what you need.

Traditional clubs

In the West, what we call “Indian clubs” are made of wood and typically weigh from 500g to 2kg. These clubs were inspired from the large Indian Joris, and designed for British style club swinging.

British style Indian clubs

Indian clubs for ladies
Indian clubs exercises

Because of their light weight, a wide variety of figures can be executed. These clubs are a fine way to start with club swinging! 
The main purpose of these clubs is skill practice, coordination, mindfulness and mobility. Traditionally, ladies start with 500-750g, and men with 1kg.

A club creates a long lever arm which increases the forces generated with each swing. It always takes people back how such a light weight can be so difficult to handle…

Tommy Kono was a famous weightlifter in the 50s and 60s with multiple world records. His advice was to use light Indian clubs and concentrate on perfectly smooth swings. 

Unless you are really well trained and with a good body awareness, you won’t really need to go much heavier. Remember you are not lifting the clubs like a dumbbell!

Shape

Indian clubs can be bottle shaped or tear drop shaped.

For example, the Perrier bottle was designed after Indian clubs. Tear drop clubs look like mini war maces, with all the weight towards the end of the shaft. This design spins aggressively and fast due to the weight distribution. Bottle shaped clubs tend to be more forgiving. 

Length

Next is the length of the clubs. For the classical exercises, it is important that the clubs are neither too short or too long.

Short clubs have a poor weight distribution which makes then clumsy to handle. It is really hard for a beginner to feel the swing, and as a result, they end up moving the clubs around the body without any flow.
If the clubs are too long, they might end up hitting each other and get in the way in some of the exercises.

When swinging with 2 Indian clubs, the best length is roughly from your armpit to wrist. For most people, that is a club from 45-55cm length.

Persian Meel and Indian Jori

Indian jori Britishmuseum.org Museum number As.318
British Museum number As.318

The accepted history, is that clubs (“Meel”) were used as training form for warriors and wrestlers  in Persia, and that at some period they crossed over into India (“Jori” or “Mugdar”) and Pakistan (“Mungli”). These clubs are similar in shape, yet they have their own local flavor.

As the Brits were stationed in Indian and not Iran, they gave the name to the clubs. However, the Joris were large and heavy, from 4kg to more than 20kg per club. Typically, large clubs are only swung behind the shoulders in alternate fashion. The competition meel are around 1 meter in length, and Joris can be over 1m20! We are talking about very specific clubs with limited use for most people. 

Why did the Brits change the design?

One of the reason the Brits went away from the original club design is that they weren’t handy to transport and mass produce for the army and other institutions. 

If you’re going to swing Persian meel, ladies can start with 2kg per club and men with 3kg. Your first goal before adding weight should be to perform 100 unbroken reps of alternating back circles (also called shield casts).

Tamil Karlakattai

tamil karlakattai club
www.Karlakattai.com

In Southern India, the karlakattai has been used to train soldiers, bowmen and even farmers. In contrast to the meel and jori which are always swung in pairs, the karlakattai is also swung as a single club, sometimes with 2 hands on the club. Traditionally, there are 64 types of swings, including footwork, making this system of heavy club training a favorite of ours. 
Our Pahlavandle XL is the answer to the Karlakattai. You can adjust both length and weight.

Start light and build up progressively to a heavier club.

Steel clubs

steel clubs from 9T9fitness.com
steel clubs from 9T9fitness.com

Clubbells, or the original clubs made of steel, made their apparition in the the early 2000s. Copies followed soon after, some good, many bad. The problem some  steel club is poor weight distribution and swing mechanics, and a knob that can be so big, it gets in the way of your wrist.

Clubbells are mostly swung with 2 hands on the shaft, and the emphasis is on heavy club swinging, using the whole body.  

Steel clubs can be intimidating for beginners, as one can expect to knock knees or heads in the learning stages.
With weight ranging from 2kg to 20kg, expect a lot of variation in how well they swing due to the different sizes and weight distribution.

Why the Pahlavandle™ is best!

indian clubs shoulder mobility crossfit kettlebells weightlifting clubbellsWith one set of handles and a few plastic bottles, you get a whole range of clubs up to 3kg. The Pahlavandle allows you to adjust the weight accordingly to the exercises you are doing, and figure what is right for you!
Length and weight is easy to adjust by simply changing bottle size and filler.

Due to the shape and design, the Pahlavandle™ swings as beautifully as a perfectly balanced wooden club!

Being soft, you won’t injure yourself should you hit yourself. This is why we have kids and older people taking up Indian clubs training!

You can also extend the handle to create a short mace or a substitute for Persian meel.

And since you can take them in your carry on, and find soda/ sparkling water bottles around the world, you won’t have to stop swinging during your next escapade!

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Sources:

Picture source is documented on each picture

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The joys of mobility which include everything from less pain, better coordination, more flexibility, better core strength or the calm that follows complex movement. These are the things you will experience when training with Indian clubs, as I did.

How I got into club swinging

When I started swinging clubs it was during a long recovery from a very bad fall from scaffolding. The programs Thierry Sanchez developed for me back in 2012 were not about the weight of the club but more about the movement and good technique. The invention of the Pahlavandle™ combined with recycling a plastic soda bottle made choosing the proper weight easy.

My Indian clubs training recommendations & tips

In the beginning, do not stress your muscles, tendons and joints by using to much weight or training for too long at a time.
”Scale it down” the more fluid the movement is, the better. I do my best to remember the general fundamentals like, letting the club be an extension of my arm whenever possible. Reach for the sky!

Remember to breathe in when the clubs swing up and breathe out when they swing down. I do my best to make sure I train in both directions, both sides and with both hands. I always try and look at the clubs turning my whole head and not just moving my eyes. This acted like a massage for my neck and took away a lot of the stress from the frustration of being broken.

Use your stomach muscles and try to keep a straight back, this allow your shoulders and hips to move. I felt this protected my lower back too.

The beauty of Indian clubs

I visualize training with Indian clubs as a type of music. The swinging movements are based on circles, or parts of it. In short, club swinging is just a series of large, medium, and small circles, with arcs and waves tied together by the momentum of the club in motion.

It’s quite beautiful actually, because the movements can be very simple or complicated, and you can change the tempo. This unleashes the laws of Physics and centripetal forces. Suddenly that light club you were swinging generates lots of forces, pulling you off balance.

Right from the beginning you will get the urge to free style and incorporate squats, switching directions and swing behind the back. Moving our body in this way, we light up parts of your brain we don’t use as often as we should.

Like dancing, you can always add a move to make a routine more interesting or complicated or just keep repeating to work up a sweat.

It’s limitless. Its magical. You’re going to love it as much as I do!

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There are many different versions of the History of Indian clubs. We are not scholars, but we have gathered facts from different sources for this broad but short article.

Club swinging is one of the disciplines of varzesh-e pahlavāni (“Sport of heroes”), an ancient Persian physical training system to improve strength, mobility, coordination and not least, to increase mindfulness. Warriors needed to improve multiple physical abilities while developing their spirituality at the same time.

Disputed origins of Indian clubs

The beginning of Pahlavani tradition goes back to Parthian Dynasty (238 BC – 224 AD) and Mithraism, the religion of warriors. One hypothesis is that Club swinging spread from the Persian empire to the adjacent countries.

In India the clubs are known as Karlakattai, Jori and Mugdar. Tamil warriors also used clubs to assist their martial art practice, Silambam, which teaches how to handle weapons before one learns empty hand combat.

kushti wrestlers indian clubsThe pahlavan (“hero”) was a warrior but also a leader for his community. They would gather at their local gym called the Zurkhaneh (“House of Strength”) to swing heavy clubs, lift odd shaped objects, wrestle, and perform calisthenics along to music, traditional stories and prayers.

Pahlavans were forced underground under the Muslim rule, and since they were not allowed to bear arms, they could at least do some physical training and maintain their conditioning and traditions. Skills developed during practice were transferable to weaponry and fighting techniques.

Indian clubs in Europe

By contrast, club swinging came to Europe and USA during in the 19th century. Englishmen stationed in India during the East India Company (1600-1858) witnessed the graceful motions and good physiques of the wrestlers swinging heavy clubs. They mistakenly called them “Indian clubs“.

Indian clubs in schoolsThey redesigned the clubs into smaller versions, and the concept was taken to Europe, where club swinging became integrated into institutions and the system of physical education of that time. For reference, the regulation club of the British Army in 1850 weighted 2kg a piece. Lighter clubs opened the possibility of swinging in new patterns that could not be done with heavy clubs.

”British Manly Exercises” by Donald Walker is the earliest reference book on the subject of club swinging, and was published in 1834. It contains both exercises with light and with heavy clubs.

As people started to lead a more sedentary lifestyle, physical exercise became essential to achieving and preserving good health. Indian clubs become one of the tools of ”Restorative arts” (also known as ”orthopedic or remedial gymnastics”, or basically an early form of physiotherapy). The practice aimed to bring the body into an optimal state of balance and compensate the effect of modern life.

Indian clubs in institutions

Indian clubs were found in gymnasiums along boxing and fencing equipment. Cultural factors at that time ensured the popularity of organized exercise. Club swinging was introduced into school physical education classes and military training.

Sim. D. Kehoe, an American fitness enthusiast and businessman, began to manufacture and sell clubs to the American public in 1862, after his travels to England.

The body coordination benefits were a big reason why the U.S. Army had soldiers train with Indian clubs. According to the 1914 U.S. Army Manual of Physical Training: “The effect of these exercises, when performed with light clubs, is chiefly a neural one, hence they are primary factors in the development of grace, coordination and rhythm.”

Did you know that club swinging was even an Olympic sport in 1904 and 1932? However, like kettlebells, Indian clubs lost their popularity in the 1930s, as organized sports and games became more popular than physical culture.

Indian clubs today

At Heroic Sport we are trying to revive the once very popular discipline of club swinging, and make it once again available for the masses. Until now, the price of traditional equipment has been a barrier for many people who might want to try it, and instruction has been scarce or without structure.

With our Pahlavandle™ , and our online videos, it has never been easier or more affordable to learn how to swing. 

Questions about Indian clubs or this article?

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Image source:

  • Two men wrestling – Tashrih al-aqvam (1825), f.203v – BL Add. 27255.jpg 
  • Cleveland St Public School – Indian Club Drill