Physical Training Jan 2001

Dick's Indian-Club Exercises

Dick's Indian Club Exercises

William Brisbane Dick, (1827-1901) published 1887 and sold for $0.25


The advantages gained by the proper use of Dumb-Bells and Indian Clubs are too well appreciated to be disupted. Both of these simple implements of exercise have been in constant use for years, and still hold a prominent place among the methods of Gymnastic training.

The principle objects for which they are designed may be briefly summed up: They strentghen the muscles of the arms, and, incidentally, those of the body and legs; they expand the chest and induce full and regular respiration; they impart firmness of balance and grace of motion.

The Indian Clubs are the most effective for giving grace, ease, and accuracy of movement, and, when skilfully used, they present a very attractive appearance.

There are several excellent books of instruction in the use of Indian Clubs and Dumb-Bells, but are generally too expensive; this little work has, therefore, been prepared with the view of affording all the instructions needed for proficiency, at a merely nominal price, and thus bringing them within the reach of all.

By carefully comparing the directions laid down with the illustrations, in which every movement is plainly depicted, there will be no difficulty in mastering even the most apparently complex exercises, always bearing in mind that a mastery of all the exercises can only be attained by mastering each in succession and each one thoroughly before the next is attempted.

[we skip 40 pages of free body exercise and dumb-bells to go to the indian club exercises]

Indian Clubs

We distinguish between the ordinary long clubs and the short clubs, the former being about 24 inches long, the latter 18 inches. The weight of the clubs varies. That of the short clubs need never exceed four pounds. the most useful weight for long clubs is four to ten pounds, according to the strength of the performer. Clubs heavier than ten pounds each may be kept in  a gymnasium for the use of individual members, and they can be used also with both hands.
Indian Clubs

Beginners should always make use of light clubs, and only when they have fully mastered the movement to be executed, should they take heavier ones. Precision and regularity in swinging the clubs are of great importance; graceful action, free from jerks and stoppages, should be carefully studied.

As a rule, all club exercises are done first with the right, next with the left, then alternately, and then with both arms simultaneously. Great care must be bestowed upon the left arm, for none of the more attractive exercises can be performed unless the left and right have attained the same degree of perfection; and it will generally happen that the left arm will require the most practice, unless the learner is left-handed, when the reverse will be more likely to occur.

Starting Position

The starting position for the club exercises is with the clubs at "order," to adopt a military term. The hands grasp the clubs on the outside, palms turned inwards. The position is upright, the heels geneally together or legs astride. Before beginning the exercises in a squad, the men take distance by raising both clubs horzontally sidewards and moving to the left or right until the ends of the clubs are about 6 inches apart (fig 1).

Fig 1

Exercises in which the arms remain straight

1. The men fall in, clubs at "order." They can then raise clubs and arms horizontally in all directions, forwards (A), diagonally forwards to the left and right (B B), sidewards (C C), and even backwards (D), Fig 2.

Fig 2

2. Both clubs can also be raised to the same side diagonally forwards or sidewards, the body twisting in the direction in which the clubws are raised. The clubs must be parallel to each other. The change from one side to the other, by swinging the clubs downwards and upwards close by the legs, the arms remaining straight, is to be recommended (Fig 3).

Fig 3

3. The clubs are raised above the head, forwards, sidewards, and both to the right or left (Fig 4).

Fig 4

4. Having raised the clubs above the head, we can swing them backwards and frowards, raising on tiptoe with every backward swing (Fig 5).

Fig 5

5. The mill in front of the body deserves to be noticed specially. Arms and clubs form one straight line. Starting with clubs extended horizontally sidewards, the right club is swung downwards and the left only follows after the right has completed three parts fo the circle. The clubs, once in motion, are swung round in regular cadence (Fig 6).

Fig 6

6. Another effective mill in front of the body, is done by both clubs swinging round in the same direction to the left or right. Compare Figs. 3 and 4. Care must be taken that the clubs are throughout parallel to each other.

Exercises in which the arms are bent

1. Starting from the fundamental position, clubs at "order," one or both clubs, on the word "to shoulder--up!" are brought to the position shown in Fig 7. The club or clubs must be perfectly perpendicular. From this position we can thrust upwards, sidewards and forwards.

Fig 7

2. After the clubs have been raised forwards or sidewards horizontally the arms can be bent, and we then thrust in a similar manner, taking care to keep the clubs perfectly horizontal. When thrusting sidewards, the tops of the handles should nearly meet in front of the chest.

3. Having brought the clubs above the shoulders we can drop them over the shoulders backwards. When done with a swing and in regular cadence, this is a very effective exercise (Fig 8).

Fig 8

Wrist Exercises

In these exercises the arms remain  stationary and the clubs are moved by a turn of the wrist. A few examples will suffice.

1. The clubs having been raised horizontally forwards, they can be dropped on the shoulders in two motions at one--they are raised perpendicularly; at two--they drop slowly upon the shoulders (Fig. 9). The same exercise is done with the clubs raised sidewards.

Fig 9

2. Having raised the clubs sidewards, arms horizontal, but clubs perpendicular, we can drop the clubs forwards and backwards.

3. Having raised the clubs abover the head, we drop them in a similar manner backwards, forwards, to the left or right.

4. If the clubs are raised above the shoulders (Fig. 7) we can drop them sidewards, the handles meeting opposite the chin, or, by sinking the hands, opposite the chest (Fig. 10).

Fig 10

5. Lastly, we will grasp the clubs with reversed grasp, raise them in front of the body, and swing them to and fro (pendulate) (Fig. 11).

Fig 11


Circles are effected by a skilful turn of the wrist; they are the most attractive and serviceable of the club exercises, and the old hands at the clubs seek their pride in producing circles compined with the swinging in the greatest variety. We confine ourselves to a few characteristic examples.

1. Holding the clubs at "order" (Fig. 1), we can circle them forwards and backwards at the side of the body; and to the left and right, in front of the body, the arms remaining straight and steady. We can, furthermore, circle the clubs in contary directions in front of the body; that is, one to the left, the other to the right (outwards, Fig. 12, or inwards). Starting from the "order," the right club is moved first and the left follows when the right is upright.

Fig 12

2. Holding the clubs out horizontally forwards or sidewards we can describe inside or outside circles, forwards and backwards. These circles are done first with one arm, then with both arms together in the same direction, and lastly in contrary directions, the right club describes an outside circle backwards, whilst the left describes an inside circle (in front of the arm), etc. (Fig. 13).

Fig 13

3. These circles, combined with swinging, offer some fine practice.

Fig 14 shows the outside circles combined with swinging forwards. At one, raise the clubs to A; at two, circle backwards; at three, swing the clubs back to B; at one again to A, and so forth.

Fig 14

Fig 15 shows the outside circles backwards combined with swinging sidewards. At one, raise both clubs to A, at the same time twisting the body and bending the left knee; at two, circle backwards, back to A; at three, swing the clubs close in front of the body, to B, twisting the body in the same direction and bending the right knee; at four, circle backwards; at one, swing again to A, etc.

Fig 15

4. The circles round the head are less attractive than the preceding ones. Starting from the "order" we bring the left club to the position shown in Fig. 16, and without stopping we pass it, by the back of its original position, as indicated by the dotted line. The same is then done with the right club, next with both clubs in alternation, and lastly with both together. The body is bent backwards.

Fig 16

5. The circles in rear are done from the club above shoulder. The club is dropped to the left or right, and describes a circle passing close to the rear in a vertical plane. The back is hollow, and the hand stationary. Practice this circle in rear first with the right club, then with the left, and then with both simultaneously. When the latter exercise is done in the same direction --to the left or right-- both clubs start together, but when the circles re described in contrary direcions the second club only starts when the first has completed half a circle. The circles must be described with the greatest regularity, and without any stoppages or jerks.

Fig 17

6. The circle in front is shown in Fig. 18. We start from the position with the club above shoulder. In describing the circle the arm is stretched nearly to its full extent, but as the clubs swing round, the arm bends by degrees until, on the completion of the circle, it is again in the position above the shoulder from which we started.

Fig 18

This circle in front is done to the left and right, alternately and simultaneously, in the same manner as the circle in rear.

These circular movements, when well performed, are exceedingly graceful. They should be practiced persistently until the appearance of all effort entirely cerases; they then become very attractive, especially when the continual changes of attitude involved are done easily, and without any apparent constraint or visible display of labor.

7. Having mastered both the above circles we practice them in combination. Bring your right club up to the shoulder, describe a circle in rear (Fig. 17), then follow this up without stopping, by a circle in front (Fig. 18). When able to do this with perfect ease with the left and right clubs, raise both clubs to the shoulder, and, whilst describing a circle in rear with the right, describe a circle in front with the left club, as shown in Fig. 19.

Fig 19

8. Circles above the head are done with ordinary and reversed grasp. The clubs are raised above the shoulders, but rather higher than for the circles in rear, and the clubs are then swung around in an analogous manner to the circles already described. The back is hollow, and the performer looks upwards, as in Fig. 20.

Fig 20

The heavy club used with two hands

The expression "heavy" is to be taken relatively, for that which is light to one man is heavy to another.

The men fall in at arms' length from each other, the club standing to the right side. On the word "clubs in front," they place the club in front, between the two feet, and they are now ready to begin the exercises.

The club is raised forwards horizontally above the head, and it can be dropped backwards behind the head as shown in Fig. 8.

Of more value are the exercises in which we strke with the club. Raising the club above the head (Fig. 21, A) we strike downwrds (B). The alternate bending and stretching of the legs, which accompanies this exercise is a pleasing variation of the preceding.

Instead of raising the club above the head we can bring it over one of the shoulders, and deliver the stroke in the opposite direction, obliquely downwards.

Swinging the club in a circle over the head, and other exercises can also be practiced.

Fig 21

Concluding Remarks

A thorough course of Indian-Club exercise strongly recommends itself as a means of physical training. The constantly changing variety of movement develops the strength of the arms and expands the chest, at the same time bringing into full play every muscle in the entire body, and imparting ease and elasticity of motion, perfect equipoise, and firmness to the step.

In order to get the greatest amount of benefit from these exercises, care must be taken to avoid over-exertion. Commense with light weights; practice each exercise until proficiency in it is attained, before attempting to use heavier clubs; never continue an exercise long enough to produce fatigue, as endurance is attained only by constant practice, gradually increased in duration as greater strength is acquired, and even then, short exercises at intervals are more beneficial than any long-continued strain on the system.

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of manuals dealing with the Indian Clubs which we will be publishing over the next several months. I have been training with club-like implements for almost 20 years (swords, staffs, suburito, tanren-bo) and find the clubs quite fascinating. If anyone else would like to try their hand at club training, EJMAS will be making them. I am having a pair of 20 inch purpleheart and birch clubs spun as I write. When they are finished I'll be putting photos on the EJMAS equipment page and we'll sell them to you.

I know of no other sources for the training clubs, but there are several sources for light juggling clubs online, try a google search for "indian club" or "club swinging" (make sure your anti-porn filter is on before you try that last one. Another possibility is the club used in Rhythmic Gymnastics but they are also very light, being around 150g -Kim Taylor

GV 481 D55

Physical Training Jan 2001