Unleash Your True Strength: What We Can Learn From the Ancients
During this and my next few articles, I will explain the incredible ancient exercises of the Kushti Wrestlers of Northern India and how to perform them. They are unique exercises, with far-reaching benefits for developing full-body strength and power.
The main exercises unique to the Indian wrestler's training arsenal are:
- Gada (mace swing)
- Jori (club swing)
- Dumbbell swing
- Dand (often referred to as the Hindu push up)
- Bethak (often referred to as the Hindu squat)
Many other exercises are part of a wrestler’s program. Some are equally unique, such as the Sumtola (log-shaped Indian barbell) and Gar Nal (stone neck rings), while others are commonplace in gyms around the world, such as barbell and dumbbell exercises, and callisthenics, such as pull ups and dips.
True Minimalist Fitness
Regardless of the exercise, they are all used in a practical manner. Nothing is fancy or flamboyant. Quite the opposite, the gymnasiums of Akhara are of pure minimalist design, with earthen floors, no fan or air conditioning units, rarely any mirrors, no sound systems. If you are lucky, there is a water pump for your rehydration needs. The equipment is equally spartan, constructed from clay, stone, bamboo poles, wood, and iron. This is fitness stripped to its most bare and naked form.
Rarely will you hear screams for “One more rep!” or the clanking and clashing of heavy iron. Egos are left at the door, for the Akhara is also a temple to the Hindu god of strength, Hanuman. This monkey deity has a shrine at each gymnasium, and before and after training the wrestlers will pay their respects by offering simple prayers. As such, each Akhara is by definition a holy place and is treated as such by all who enter.
The exercises listed here are what I would consider the core exercises of the Indian wrestlers’ workouts. Not all are necessarily performed in a single workout by any single wrestler. They are generally dependent upon how the trainee feels or wants to accomplish, or dictated by what the Akhara guru (the chief of the gymnasium and usually an ex-wrestling champion) feels they should do.
The Gada is a roughly constructed strength tool comprised of clay, cement, or stone with a bamboo pole over a meter long inserted into its center. This gives it the appearance of a giant lollipop. The Gada was used as a weapon for many centuries in India. To increase a warrior’s battle prowess it was employed as a training tool. The main movement employed is the Rumali or Head Move.
- The Gada is swung from between the legs to gain momentum, then launched over the shoulder to begin the Rumali.
- Catching the momentum, the head of the Gada is then swung in in a pendulum arc behind the body before being pulled up and over the shoulder, pausing momentarily before being sent back over the opposite shoulder.
- The arcing movement is used again to achieve the same result on the opposite side. This is repeated for the desired number of repetitions.
The Gada is a great tool for developing grip, back, and shoulder power and if used correctly fully engages the core musculature. The Gada was the weapon of choice for Hanuman and in all depictions of him he is seen with this symbol of strength and power.
Click page 2 below to read about the original Indian clubs.