The “Fascinating” German Wand Winding Exercise

The wand is a versatile physical culture tool, resembling a short staff, that was extremely popular during the 19th century. Wand exercise was used as both preparation for bayonet and quarterstaff practice, and as an entity unto itself for the cultivation of numerous mental-physical attributes. Although there existed various national and regional approaches to wand exercise, perhaps none was more unique than the enigmatic method of German “winden” or winding. Arising during the mid 19th century within the German Turner movement founded by Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, winding was described as an “exercise of skill” both “fascinating and puzzling”, and which used “graceful” spiral-like movements to drive the wand into positions in which the practitioner’s limbs retained serpentine holds. Winding required keen mental focus and developed agility, flexibility, strength, suppleness, and neuro-muscular control.

In this 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 bends.
Swinging (one-handed).
Sweeping (two-handed).

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.

We will have a limited number of wands available on a first-come, first-serve basis, but participants are encouraged to bring their own sticks if possible. 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. Wands not conforming to these specifications may present problems in attempting the winding exercise. Wands made of hardwood dowels (the preferred choice) or a synthetic material may be used, but should be free from splinters or bumps, which could injure/impede the hand as it necessarily glides along the wand during the movements. The wand should also be of a strong and inflexible material, as the tension placed on the wand in the various positions can otherwise cause it to bend and/or snap. Some types of broomsticks available from hardware stores may fit this description.

This class premiered in 2021 Virtual CombatCon. The 2022 CombatCon is the first time it will have ever been taught in person.

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