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.

You can learn from home!

We have created lots of programs for beginners which you can download, offering a wide variety of club swinging style. Following our step by step approach, people from around the world have had success learning at their own pace.

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. However, people from India dispute this, maintaining that club swinging goes even further back. And as a weapon, this might be right. Clubs are ancient, and depicted on temple carvings, and other art form. However, swinging a mace or club for physical conditioning is something else… And without written records, anything goes.

In India, 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. Silambam is supposed to be the world’s oldest martial art.

kushti wrestlers indian clubsIn Persia, the 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.

Persian 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.

Even this name “pahlavan” or “pehlwan” is understood as “wrestler” today in India, Pakistan and  adjacent countries. The plot thickens…

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. 

Image source:

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

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Active recovery has been found to help improve performance in athletes more so than passive recovery. In plain language, it means that snoozing is great, but light physical activity can even be better. 
Recovery involves more than muscle repair. Other factors involved in recovery include hormonal balance, nervous system repair, mental state… What’s more is that the training stress is cumulative, and all that goes on in your personal life also adds up.
I remember reading a study a few years back mentioning that even creative activities like painting or a visit to a museum was better for athletes than just relaxing and sleeping. It seems that involving the brain in the recovery process has its place.
Light Indian clubs are a fantastic tool for active recovery. They help the recovery process due to the light intensity exercise they provide. They also nourish the joints, improve flexibility, and challenge the brain with complex movements, like juggling.

The role of Indian clubs

Lot of people misunderstand the role of light Indian clubs. They are easily dismissed as “too light” when the focus of a typical training session is about lifting heavier weights. Light club swinging is a skill practice, more than strength training. Remember that recovery is the other side of the coin of strength training. If you train hard, you need to recover well to adapt and become stronger.
If swinging for recovery, keep your Pahlavandle™ on the light side, somewhere from 750g to 1,25kg.
There is a reason restorative arts like Tai chi or yoga are hugely popular. Those activities provide the needed balance to the stress of life and strength training. The goal of those practices is gentle movement while turning focus inwards and quietening the mind.

What do Indian clubs do?

Indian club swinging challenges coordination and rhythm. Both sides of the body work sometimes independently or even out of sync.  Go a step further, add locomotion in the mix to integrate the upper and lower body. Now you can really play, move in 3 dimensions fully unrestricted, forget everything else and let everything around you disappear… Our video tutorials show you step by step how to get there.
You can swing light clubs everyday, without wearing the body down, and keep doing so right into old age, making training with Indian clubs a truly sustainable and healthy form of training.

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Indian clubs are for everyone, from kids to office workers to elite athletes.

Training with Indian clubs is more like a form of skill practice, and therefore the intensity of training can be relatively low, unless you decide otherwise. Low intensity and focus on skills and movement is what make club swinging a sort of meditation in motion, and makes it very helpful for recovery from heavy strength training.

It’s easy to get started too.

Right from the start!

Our Pahlavandle™ is adjustable from 200 grams to 3kg, so you are sure to find your right starting weight, and also have a chance to increase the weight as you get more skilled and stronger.

Indian clubs, gymnastics, boxing, fencing equipment on British Navy shipFor reference, British soldiers in the 1800s swung 2kg regulation clubs. In competitions, clubs weighed 1,5kg. When starting off, men were advised to use 1kg and women 500 grams.

It’s also easy to get started with club swinging. Download our video tutorials, and swing along.

Weightlifters swing them!

Here’s what weightlifting legend Tommy Kono has to say about Indian clubs in his book “Championship Weightlifting”:

“Although the weight of the Indian Clubs may be only a pound or two, it isn’t so much the weight, but smoothness of the swing and the rhythm that increases the mobility of the shoulders, elbows and wrists. A few minutes spent in working with the Indian Clubs will more than pay off in great dividends as a recovery exercise. I bring your attention to this type of training because I have benefited from them and feel there is a need to promote flexibility in the shoulders without taxing them.”

For the record, Tamio “Tommy” Kono (born June 27, 1930) was a U.S. weightlifter in the 1950s and 1960s. Kono is the only Olympic weightlifter in history to have set world records in four different weight classes. He also won the  bodybuilding Mr Universe title 4 times.

Picture source:

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