It started innocently enough.
After a Kettlebell workshop at BodyTribe, the owner-Chip-was talking with me about ways to gain mobility/stability in my repaired shoulder. He showed me the gym’s home-made Indian clubs and suggested I try building a light version to get some work in.
Once home, I hit Home Depot for some parts -eager to be working on this odd shoulder: painful in one spot and perfectly fine in a point just an inch away. This shoulder that STILL causes the bicep to ache when I knit. This shoulder that some days feels healed and others feels just minutes away from the surgery.
Making the Indian club was fun and simple. (and a post for another day). However, figuring out what to do next turned this into an unexpected journey. There are no blog posts on using Indians clubs (well, at least not yet…), nor any useful articles to be found online except for one book found in one place: Sandow & The Golden Age of Iron Men: The Online Physical Culture Museum. There I found Sim Kehoe’s 1866 book on using an Indian Club.
I also found a lot more. The history of modern exercise – but in a form that reads purer and less complicated than any system of health and fitness I know today. They call it Physical Culture- a belief that a strong capable body, a strong moral soul and a strong disciplined mind go together to create the ideal specimen of humans. I’ve become lost in reading about uncommon strength, healthy eating, healthy living perspectives from 100 years ago.
And fascinated all the time. I mean can you imagine reading anything like the following in a modern text on strength and condition? I cannot.:
“…my assissants have….developed muscle at the expense of mentality, they have not understood that muscle alone can never constitute personality, neither does it play anything like such an important part in character building as does mental training.” -Thomas Inch
In Kehoe’s text on using the Indian Club, he characterizes Physical Culture’s role in creating a well-rounded individual:
An examination of the human frame demonstrates that it was intended for motion alternately with repose and not for a state of absolute quiescence. Nor is the mind, which is furnished with so many faculties, and provided with so many organs of sense, which serve to connect it with the external world, less calculated for active exertion. Any attempt to contravene the laws of nature, which enjoin a reasonable exercise of mind and body, brings a punishment upon the individual. The mind, which he allows to be inactive, loses the capacity for exertion when required, and the body becomes a prey to disease in some shape or form. Let it never be forgotten, however, that the physical education of the human race ought not to be alone confined to the humble object of preventing disease. Its aim should be loftier and more in accordance with the destiny and character of its subject –to raise man to the summit of his nature: and such will be its scope in future and more enlightened times.
Yes. A text on a piece of exercise equipment becomes a lecture on using the brain and brawn to create a well-rounded individual. And Kehoe, in 1866, believed that the future would continue to create individuals of greater strength in both functions. I shudder to think what he would think of today’s society.
How sad and appropriate that perhaps the last of the Physical Culture gurus -Jack LaLanne- died while I was reading about this movement.
So I’ve been distracted and educated at the same time. I am beginning to learn how to play with my Indian club – and I’m constantly reminding myself of the physics of a lever and fulcrum- my little 2# of steel is HEAVY when my arm is fully extended away from my body.
I’ve been quiet for a reason -but it’s a good one. I’m getting schooled by individuals who lived a very different life in a very different time. And part of me wants to try and embrace some of their philosophy and keep it alive with me today.
I wonder, what writing has inspired you to embrace some of the philosophy? Who has inspired you in the past? And what was the inspiration?