The “Fascinating” German Wand Winding Exercise

The wand is a versatile exercise tool, resembling a three-and-a-half-foot staff, that was extremely popular during the 19th century. Described as “one of the most desirable kinds of hand apparatus known in physical training”, the wand was used as both preparation for bayonet and quarterstaff practice, and as an entity unto itself for the cultivation of numerous mental-physical benefits. Although there existed various European approaches to wand exercise, perhaps none was more sophisticated and complex than the enigmatic method of German “winden,” or winding. Arising during the mid-1800s within the German Turner physical culture movement founded by Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, winding was described as an “exercise of skill” both “fascinating and puzzling”, and which used spiral-like movements to drive the wand into positions in which the practitioner’s limbs retained serpentine holds, as well as utilizing complex sweeping and cutting motions. Winding required keen mental focus and developed agility, flexibility, strength, suppleness, and neuro-muscular control. As one German Turner of the period wrote, “The sole aim of gymnastic art is the harmonious development of the body in such a manner that the smallest part, itself and for itself, as well as in conjunction with the whole, is able to actualize and execute the mind’s will.”

In this on-your-feet class, following a short history of the exercise, participants will learn the ABCs of winding:

Part I – Winding basics:

Posture and basic positions (resting, carry, & fundamental).

The four holds.

Positions of the wind and the half-wind.

Winding and unwinding: horizontal, oblique, vertical, forward, backward, rear, foreupward and foredownward.

Part II – Additional techniques:

Footwork (foot-placings, steps, strides, fallouts, layouts, cross-steps, stretch steps, and turns).

Trunk and knee bends.

Swinging & circling (one-handed).
Sweeping (two-handed).

Changing between different holds while in motion.


Transitions and combinations.



Balance stands.


In the final ten minutes of the class, students will combine and implement the techniques that they have learned, as we perform an arranged series of movements from the period, originally choreographed and performed at a Turnfest (German gymnastic festival) held around the turn of the century. In this way, participants can get an idea of how these exercises were ultimately combined, applied, and executed in sequence during the period.


Wands will be provided to participants. If, however, participants wish to bring their own wand, this should be a straight stick or rod measuring 38 to 43 inches in length depending on their own height (40-41 inches being the median for someone of average height), and about 1 inch, but no less than ¾ inch or more than 1¼ inches, in thickness/diameter, and of a strong, inflexible material, free from splinters or bumps.

This class premiered in 2021 Virtual CombatCon. The 2022 CombatCon is the first time that it will be taught in person.

Location: Laughlin II Date: July 22, 2022 Time: 9:00 am - 10:30 am Ben Miller