Club swinging was one of the most popular and iconic physical culture exercises of the 19th century, practiced by soldiers, sailors, athletes, women, and children for both its health benefits and its artistic value. Although the origins of club swinging lay in the East, Europeans soon began to change and adapt these exercises, and numerous different regional approaches and individual methods developed in both Europe and America. These club-swingers devised increasingly fast, agile, and complex movements—methods which would be advocated by both fencing masters and champion boxers as adjunct training exercises.
In this class, students will be introduced to the school of club swinging which developed in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland during the second half of the nineteenth century, being especially guided and influenced by the methods of August Ravenstein, and later, Chicago Turnmeister August Lang. The Germanic school was regulated in large degree by the Turner physical culture movement, whose motto was “a sound mind in a strong body.” The Germanic school emphasized a rigorous adherence to proper form and technique, gracefulness, precision, finesse, and economy of motion—and contained a variety of peculiar techniques not done in other methods, such as striking motions.
We will use light German clubs which can be manipulated with great speed and maneuverability (in some cases, using the fingers alone). In terms of physical development, the primary goal of this method is to develop agility, finesse, flexibility, mental focus, ambidexterity, and neuro-muscular control (all of which can directly translate into one’s martial arts), and developing strength that is compact and elastic, rather than bulky and stiff.
Topics and techniques we will attempt to cover in this class include: safety, club anatomy, the five primary and adjunct grips, the five basic positions, the three planes, the different types of circles/swings, finger articulation, introductory exercises (tip-ups, tip-overs, pendulums), windmills, directional changes, transitions, grip-shifting during mid-swing, and footwork.
Time permitting, we will also demonstrate and teach an advanced “slide, throw, and catch” technique in which the club briefly leaves the hand while shifting grips: (Auswerfen oder Gleiten der Keule)
Vintage 20th century clubs imported from Germany will be provided to all participants. These are light, properly balanced clubs that are appropriate for this method. However, participants are welcome to bring their own clubs if they own some.
For historical background, it is recommended (though not required) that, prior to attending class, participants watch the following short Youtube video, or read the accompanying transcript: