The Olympic Games are sometimes filled with the weirdest sports in the world, like race walking and tandem bicycle sprint, but one of the most unusual has to be the sport of club swinging. What is club swinging, and how did it become a sport in the Olympics? Here are the origins and the rise in popularity of club swinging.
What is Club Swinging?
Club swinging is a sport that can be categorized as a sub-type of gymnastics, as it involves creating tricks or movements using the body, although, in this sport, you would need to hold two Indian clubs in both of your hands. The goal of winning the sport is to be able to perform moves that are unique and difficult at the same time by swinging the held club in different motions.
The Indian clubs in the sport have a similar shape to bowling pins, although they are much longer and heavier. These clubs are often used for exercise since they are able to develop strength in the muscles found on the arms. In addition, they also help improve mobility in the arms.
Origins of the Indian Clubs
According to Indian historical records, club swinging and the Indian clubs are said to have originated in India’s ancient military during the 5th century. There is no recent evidence that suggests that the Indian clubs are used as weapons, but it is a known fact that soldiers swing wooden clubs around to improve their grip and arm strength whenever they are holding heavy weapons. There was no official name for the clubs during that time, and it was only in the 19th century, when British colonists found the peculiar items for exercise, that they were named Indian clubs.
A bigger version of the Indian clubs called the Gada club is said to have been created around the same time, and it is also utilized as training equipment for warriors who wanted to hold their weapons better.
In 1610, a Rajput painting wherein the people depicted was swinging clubs existed, which further suggests that club swinging has been a popular form of exercise in India even before the 1600s. The club swinging exercise became so well-known not only in India but also in several parts of the world. Because of its popularity, the exercise was able to inspire other people to create newer forms using the Indian clubs, and one of those infamous club swinging sub-types is juggling, which involves throwing small clubs in the air in different directions, catching them whenever they go down, and throwing them once again. It was believed that the first items used for juggling were Indian clubs, with the first performance being done by DeWitt Cook during the 1800s.
Club Swinging in the Olympics
The sport of club swinging has appeared only two times during the Olympics, and the rarity of club swinging in the famous sporting event may have been due to the lack of players who wanted to participate in the sport.
The first club swinging tournament was held at the 1904 Summer Olympics on October 8. Unfortunately, the number of participants in the tournament was not recorded, although the three podium finishers are shown in official records. The participant who won gold was Edward Hennig, an American gymnast who also won gold for the horizontal bar event in the same year, but he shared that medal with Anton Heida because they had the same score. The one who won silver was Emil Voigt, who won bronze medals for the rope climbing and rings event. Finally, the one who won bronze was Ralph Wilson, who only competed for the club swinging event.
The second club swinging tournament was held at the 1932 Summer Olympics at Los Angeles on August 9. There were only four participants in the event, with three representing the United States while the other is representing Mexico. All the three American participants won a podium finish in the event, a George Roth won gold, Philip Erenberg won silver, and William Kuhlemeier won bronze. The Mexican participant, Francisco Jose Alvarez, garnered 25.4 points, which is only .5 point lesser than Kuhlemeier’s score of 25.9. After the 1932 event, club swinging was never seen again in the Olympics.
Club Swinging Today
Although club swinging is not considered as a sport anymore, it remains as a popular form of exercise around the world, especially for gym buffs or fitness enthusiasts. Aerobics may have contributed to the rising popularity of club swinging in the 21st century, as it made the form of exercise to look more appealing to younger people.
Thanks to the growth and modernization of club swinging, it has become a more accessible exercise because many gym equipment manufacturers have started producing clubs that are made of different materials like metal or plastic. Club swinging remains to be the favored form of exercise for those who want to build proper arms strength and mobility.