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The History Of The Club

12 Oct , 2014,
The Fisher Sisters
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The most ancient weapon, the club, evolved over millennia into devastatingly effective martial arts worldwide.  Many cultural martial traditions across the planet utilized the club not just for combat, but for restorative health and developed strength: Indian Kalaripayat, Iranian Pahlavani, Okinawan Karate and Russian SAMBO.

Circular Strength Training® can be traced to the to strongman competitions in Ancient Persia. They created a definitive edge in strength and endurance training.  During these times, the weight-lifter, wrestler or fighter was called a Pahlavan, or club swinging strongman. This physical exercise existed as far back as Ancient Egypt.  The most popularized international form of Circular Strength Training® originated in India, though originally derived from Persia and ultimately from Ancient Greece.  Regardless of the method, whether with the Indian karela, ekka, jori and gada, Iranian meel, Russian bulava, or Okinawan chishi, Circular Strength Training® can be dangerous if not properly learned and practiced.


Sim D. Kehoe brought Indian Clubs to USA from Britain. In 1862, he opened a New York shop to manufacture clubs. To spread the word, he sent free samples of his clubs to prominent individuals in the hope of securing positive endorsements. The famous Civil War era boxer, John Heenan, wrote him that, as an assistant for training purposes, and imparting strength to the muscles of the arms, wrists, and hands, together in fact with the whole muscular system, I do not know of their equal. They will become one of the institutions in America.

US President Grant wrote to thank Kehoe, Please accept my thanks for your thus remembering me, and particularly my boys, who I know will take great delight as well as receive benefit from using them.

Bornstein stated that Circular Strength Training® was the most universal method of developing the muscular anatomy of the human body.  Schools, colleges and even theological seminaries have adopted their use in their respective institutions with the most beneficial results.  For keeping the body in a healthy and vigorous condition there has as yet been nothing invented, which for its simplicity and gracefulness can be favorably compared with club exercises.

In 1866, Kehoe published Indian Club Exercise, a beautifully illustrated book showing the benefits of HEAVY Circular Strength Training®, with two aspects of significance. Firstly, he distinguished between the short, light-weight bat – a one to four pound club used in the popular Don Walker’s and Dio Lewis’ callisthenic drills. Secondly, Kehoe distinguished thelong Club. Light-weight bats became the Ivy-league vogue in popular Victorian culture, and heavy leverage lifting was eventually phased out through social pressure – ironically simultaneous to the eventual phasing out of Catch as Catch Can wrestling and general Strongman enthusiasm.

Many turn of the century and modern strongmen such as George Jowett, Bob Hoffman, George Hackenschmidt,  Paul Von Boeckmann, and Slim the Hammerman Farman, and of course, Ghulum(The Great Gama) Mohammed  (pictured left with his 80LBS club) used many different types of clubs (and club variations , such as the Weaver Stick, Thor’s Hammer, Fulcrum Bells, Swing Bars and even store-bought sledgehammers as substitutes.)

Circular Strength Training® was implemented in the military physical training programs for both the USA. Posse (1894) stated that clubs were the oldest known implement for military gymnastics.

In 1914, the US Army Manual of Physical Training explained that these exercises, supple the muscles and articulations of shoulders, upper-arms, forearms and wrist. They are indicated in cases where there is a tendency toward what is known as muscle bound. (There are opposing opinions regarding this statement in the physical culture industry.)


Circular Strength Training® became an Olympic Sport calledRhythmic Gymnastics  in 1904 (St. Louis, USA) which Americans won in all divisions.  It endured until 1932 (Los Angeles, USA) which Americans swept again.  Rhythmic Gymnastics diminished from the Olympic scene until 2003 when it rose again.  Olympic Style Clubbell® Sport launched in 2003 and is quickly becoming the most exciting strength endurance sport in the world.