At one time Indian Club swinging was very popular all over the United States, even here in Kansas City. Check out this group Indian Club routine performed by Hyde Park Elementary School students. This video has been restored by the Library of Congress.
Dr. Ed Thomas is a fitness educator, responsible for the re-discovery of indian club swinging.
Eric Deffenbaugh is currently the only Certified Indian Club instructor in the Kansas City area
Dr. Thomas and Eric at a training workshop
A Brief History
The clubs originated centuries ago in India. They were developed by soldiers, police, and others whose caste required strength, agility, balance, physical prowess, and martial arts skill. British officers involved in the annexation of India were surprised to find the natives marvelously expert in swinging clubs in various graceful and fantastic motions, and they noted that besides the great recommendation of simplicity the Indian club practice possesses the essential property of expanding the chest and exercising every muscle of the body concurrently. (Spalding, p.77)
The British brought the Indian clubs to Europe where the Germans and Czechs eventually adopted club swinging into their physical training systems. German immigrants brought Indian clubs to the United States in the mid-1800, and the clubs were soon introduced into both American school physical education programs and military physical readiness training.
Club swinging enjoyed immense popularity until America began losing interest in physical training in the 1920's, as sports and games replaced the European based systems of restorative and military exercise. By the end of the 1930's, the art of club swinging was almost lost.
In the early 1990's students in the Northern Illinois University Department of Physical Education began to train in this amazing and beautiful art. Club swinging has since spread into the American martial arts community and the United States Army.
The Benefits of Club Swinging
The shoulder girdle is probably the most movable area of the body, but it is also one of the most fragile. Strength of the shoulders should be complemented by flexibility, and the clubs can contribute to both. When the ball and socket joint of the shoulder works in harmony with the elbow and wrist joints, an almost infinite number of circular patterns is possible. The key to effective use of the clubs is progression, variety and precision.
Many if not most Americans do not fully develop their natural shoulder girdle mobility and muscular balance. Ill-fitting furniture, poor posture, and our tragically inadequate system of physical education in our nation's schools are among the many cultural factors that keep us from realizing our highest potential.
Basic club skills offer a safe and very effective means to regain essential shoulder girdle mobility. More advanced club movements include complicated arm and footwork that contribute to overall agility, timing, and dexterity.