The Indian club was brought to the west from India by British soldiers. Club swinging was very popular with soldiers and physical culturists in the U.K. and made its way to the U.S. becoming a staple in physical education programs for children and fitness enthusiasts. Club swinging eventually became an Olympic event though only for a short time. Juggling has always been an interest of mine and I was happy to hear from a friend who attended Ringling “clown college” that the Indian club movements were taught there as “Juggling 101.” Using clubs as an adjunct and recovery modality to enhance mobility, stability and reactive strengthening of the shoulder musculature while promoting physical literacy.
Club swinging was part of Indian and Persian physical culture, and was practiced by wrestlers, soldiers, police and others as part of their daily fitness routine. The ancient clubs were simple in shape and were swung in basic movements helping practitioners gain flexibility, coordination and upper body strength. The British Army began to use club swinging as part of their daily exercise drills and also introduced club swinging to Europe where it became part of German and Czech systems. Indian Physical Culture used heavy clubs called Jori and there is a Persian tradition of Mils or Meel clubs which are also larger and heavier than the Indian Clubs that were adopted by the British Army and then brought to the United States by Simon D. Kehoe who popularized in America.
Simon D. Kehoe manufactured and sold gymnastic (exercise equipment.) Mr. Keheo travelled to Europe, England and Ireland in 1861 for a rest and engaged in all the current physical culture pursuits on that side of the Atlantic. One of the most influential encounters he had during this trip was a display of heavy war-clubs by noted English Gymnastic Professor Harrison. Upon his return to the U.S. Mr. Kehoe brought together his ideas and created the Indian Club shape and weights that were manufactured and became popular in American Physical Culture. Spalding and other manufacturers also began to make and distribute Kehoe’s version of the club.
The exercises performed with the clubs have morphed from the simple traditional exercises performed with the larger heavier war-clubs (Jori and Meels) into exercises influenced and geared toward sword fighting, boxing, juggling and rhythmic gymnastics. Club Swinging was a Rhythmic Gymnastics event in the 1904 and 1932 Olympic Games. Indian Club exercises were widely accepted by organizations like the YMCA, and heavily promoted in gymnasiums, and by proponents of the German and Swedish Systems in U.S. schools.
Take a look at what an Indian Club and Wand class can look like.