The human form has been on this planet for thousands and thousands of years (whether you’re a creationist or evolutionist). The basic anatomy has not changed all that much in that time. Since the dawn of civilization, man has pursued exercise and movement. The pursuit of conditioning the human form in ancient Rome dates back to not long after the city-state was founded in 753 B.C.E. The Romans built gymnasiums and held the first Olympic games. However, that style of training is relatively young and new when compared to the practice of yoga in the Indus Valley or Chinese Martial Arts. Chinese Martial arts can be traced back to 2,500 B.C.E. while yoga may go even further back between 5,000 to 10,000 years. In that time, several tools were developed to aid in the conditioning and training of soldiers, athletes and the population as a whole.
Many of these tools have stood the test of time and are found in most of today’s modern gyms and health clubs; medicine balls, dumbbells, barbells, climbing ropes and hanging rings. There is another tool that dates back approximately 5,000 years and had almost been lost at the turn of the last century. It was once found in American classrooms from 1880-1930 and had been a part of the modern Olympic games. Fortunately, it has re-emerged, albeit slowly, in training studios across the country. It is the Indian club.
Originating from the country of India, they began as weapons. Their purpose and use were slowly refined over thousands of years, right up until the British Empire gained control of the region in the late 18th and early 19th century. The British soldiers were surprised at the level of resistance they met at the hands of the native rebelling forces. Much of this resistance was because of the Indian’s amazing hand-to-hand combat and the use of Indian clubs. After the British forces had conquered the natives, they adopted Indian club training into their military training. The clubs made their way back to Europe where they began to be infused into the physical education and military training of several European countries. By 1880, the clubs had been brought to the United States where they would also be infused into the American physical education system and eventually as a part of the games of the modern Olympiad. Click here to watch a youtube video of a group of school children in a Kansas City classroom in 1904, using Indian clubs. Sometime during 1920-1930, the curriculum of physical education in American schools shifted it’s concentration to games, sports, and competition. Sadly, Indian clubs faded out of popularity, and it would be many decades before their return.
The benefits of Indian club swinging are numerous. Proper use of the clubs can enhance and restore neck, shoulder, elbow, and wrist function. They can be used to strengthen the musculature of the arms and shoulder girdle, including the rotator cuff. They can also reduce joint compression and shoulder impingement. I may be a little biased toward the clubs because I attribute regular use with avoiding a recommended shoulder surgery which, in the end, turned out to be unnecessary.