Tag: karlakattai

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We have been talking about karlakattai for at least 2 years. Our pahlavandle XL was the first club we produced inspired by this club swinging practice. So it was about time more people discovered the traditions of this ancient practice.

We were lucky to talk to Karthik Vilwanathan who is studying under Sir Jothi Senthil  Kannan, his “guru”, or “the one who helps remove ignorance”. Sir Jothi resides in Tamil Nadu, where he is keeping the traditions well alive with his school, workshops and book on the subject.

For those who still do not know what karlakattai is, and how different to Persian meels and British club swinging, here’s a quick breadown.

Karlakattai is a holistic health practice based on swinging wooden clubs. there are 5 types of clubs, plus one specifically for women.
The designs of clubs are based on their purpose, and shaped to the morphology of the practitioner.

Clubs are swung as single club with 1 or 2 hands, and also swung in pairs. 

Out of the 64 types of Karlakattai suttrus  (swings or rotations), only 4 are done with double clubs. 10 of those swings are done with both hand on a single club. The rest are done single handed, often time switching hands from side to side as 1 repetition.

And now, we leave it to Karthik to tell us more.

If you’d rather just listen to it than watch the whole thing, Click here to listen or save the mp3 file.

Our discussion with Karthik  covers many subjects:

  • 3:10 How common place are karklakattai in India
  • 5:20 Influence of western culture in Indian
  • 6:50 How did you re-discover karlakattai
  • 10:15 Your first set of Indian clubs
  • 12:00 Sir Jothi Senthil Kannan
  • 13:20 Cultural identity
  • 18:55 What did you notice since you started karlakattai practice
  • 23:05 Learning process & preparation
  • 25:20 Traditional Indian club exercises
  • 27:35 Daily practice
  • 29:00 How do other people react to karlakattai
  • 33:48 Six different types of karlakattai, starting weight & progressions
  • 47:50 Heavy clubs practice versus competition aspects
  • 50:00 The reasons behind barefoot training
  • 52:55 Favorite suttrus/ swings
  • 55:50 Training philosophy & guidelines
  • 58:48 Kusthi training versus karlakattai
  • 1:00:10 Breathing
  • 1:04:35 Workshops

Get in touch with Karthik:

https://www.facebook.com/karthik.vilwanathan https://www.instagram.com/karthik.vilwanathan/
https://karlakattai.com/

The 2 videos below show examples of karlakattai suttrus.

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Heavy Indian club exercises. What do you picture in your mind as you read this? Probably a scene from the Persian Zurkhaneh, or the Indian Akhara, where swinging 2 large meels or joris are performed. 

Is swinging with both hands on a single Indian club traditional?

In the club swinging community, swinging a single club is mainly thought as not traditional, often associated with clubbells and other steel clubs.  I have even read comments on social medias saying that swinging with 2 hands on a club is wrong. Yet, those same people swing gadas and other type of maces with 2 hands… But I digress.

Swinging a heavy single club, with 1 hand or 2 hands, is even found in the English literature of the 19th century, when Indian clubs made their way to Europe. This style of club swinging is as legitimate and ancient as any!

In India, swinging a single club appears to be more common place the more one travels South. The design of the clubs also change from a conic shape reminiscent of the Persian meel to a straighter log shape. The handle on these clubs is typically 8-9 inches, providing room for double handed grips without having to interlock fingers.

In Tamil culture, there are 6 different types of Indian clubs known as Karlakattai, each with their specific functions.

Why you should incorporate single heavy Indian club exercises in your current training

Swinging a pair of heavy, bulky and long clubs severely limits the range of exercises you can do with them. While back circles are great, they can rapidly become tedious…
By contrast, swinging a single heavy club offers a myriad of possibilities, and also way more options of integrate footwork and lower body exercises.

Reason 1

heavy indian club exercises by warmanYou should start by swinging a single Indian club because it is simpler to coordinate, and therefore faster to learn. By switching grips and avoiding fatigue, you can also maintain your heart rate elevated to get the benefits of cardiovascular fitness.

That’s the main reason why our level 1 online certification covers only single club swinging. It really is the foundation necessary to perform complex double club swings in the long run.

Reason 2

heavy indian club exercises -dick'sYou can swing heavier clubs from the start. While the European systems of double club swinging often recommended 1,2kg clubs as the first weight for men, the typical starting weight for mugdars and karlakattais would be 3-5kg.

You can guess that the physical adaptations and physiques resulting form training with light clubs would be different from the heavy clubs.
As long as you slowly build up volume in a progressive way, there is no reason to think you’d be more likely to injure yourself with a single heavier club.

Proponents of heavy Indian club exercises such as Sam D.Kehoe and Professor Harrison, were rather opinionated on the matter, thinking light clubs a good form of exercises for children and geriatrics. At Heroic Sport, we however think there are many benefits to also swing light clubs!

Reason 3

As many of the heavy single Indian club exercises are based on fighting techniques, many of the swings also make use the diagonal and horizontal cutting lines, which are often times neglected by club swingers.

As we know, variability is essential to human development and health, and movement variability ensures you do not neglect movement patterns.

Heavy Indian club exercises inspiration

To that purpose, we have created a series of heavy single Indian club exercises, which progressively become more complex and challenging in each volume. It’s been planned for the beginner in mind, but anyone will be able to train at their own abilities and enjoy a great workout.

If you haven’t checked out our Hanuman workouts yet, you’re in a for a treat, as we designed a whole 4-6 week training cycle template, including one for instructors running classes or bootcamps. The whole work is cut out for you, just warm up and hit play!

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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. To 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