Welcome to the Indian Club

Let’s go back to the start

Over the next few months you are going to see the (re-)emergence of a very simple, functional tool. I will tell you now, there’s a bunch of folk who will try to lay claim to “discovering” it. They will tell you what’s “old is new” again. They will probably try and convince you that they have “top secret” information. It may even be from the Eastern Block.  And if you are really lucky they might just ask you to part with an extraordinary amount of cash to learn the “long lost and never before seen art”  they use.

Well listen up. There are no secrets. Welcome to the Indian Club.

Indian clubs have a rich history, from the Persian Wrestlers Zoorkaneh (House of Power) through to the British Army. Jonathan Lewis of Balance Physio informs me that Indian Clubs are still being used by the Royal Marines. Such is their history with that elite force that Physical Training Instructors are known as Club Swingers. If you are interested in the cultural history of club swinging you will find some in the references at the bottom of this article. If you are interested in how Indian Clubs might help you, read on…

Over a year ago fellow IKFF Instructor Jason Dolby, the Cali Caveman, told me about something he’d been using to rehab shoulder issues. Having suffered two shoulder dislocations myself and struggled with impingements and mobility issues I obviously wanted to know more. Jason had done his homework, tracking down information as from various sources including the respected Dr Ed Thomas. When Jason returned to America he forwarded me a set of Indian Clubs and I set to work. Ed Thomas was kind enough to email me information on the historical background of Indian Club swinging and some articles he had previously published. I purchased a copy of the ancient Indian Clubs and Dumb Bells: Spalding’s Athletic Library by J. H. Dougherty (Published 1911) – which is historically relevant but not exactly inspiring.

One important thing did come out of Dougherty’s book. There is a diagram of a man holding clubs surrounded by the numerous overlapping circles that swinging Indian Clubs create. Ed Thomas had highlighted the similarity between this and the circular movements of Kali. I turned to my copy of Dan Inosanto’s “The Filipino Martial Arts” and there is exactly the same set of circles. So with guidance from Jason Dolby, Ed Thomas’s work and my background in training and martial arts I began a personal journey back to shoulder health.

Before we go further, let’s clear up any confusion. Indian Clubs should not be compared to the Clubbells made famous by Scott Sonnon. Sonnon has successfully promoted his own brand of strength and conditioning using Clubbells weighing anything up to 45 pounds. The humble Indian Club that we start with weighs in at 1 pound. And for most folk this is all they might ever need. What we are interested in is recovery and restoration.
Indian Clubs are about mobility. If Kettlebell training is the Yang component then Indian Clubs are Yin. The clubs are used in a neutral stance and with a relaxed posture, the focus is on letting the Clubs do the work. The clubs themselves add a small but significant weighted component to many of the standard mobility and calisthenic drills we do. The major focus for Indian Club training is the rotator cuff. The thoracic spine, elbows and wrists receive substantial benefit too. By adding Indian Club’s simple circular movements we can create extension in the joints, lubricating them, engaging the supporting musculature, ligaments and tendons and gently encouraging a fuller range of motion.
For anyone involved in an activity where the shoulder girdle plays a major role (ie: Golf, basketball, tennis, throwing sports, combat sports and martial arts) Indian Clubs provide a safe, effective warm up, deep recuperative benefits and a neuromuscular challenge. As the drills get more complex they add an element of “Brain Trainer” to the equation. It is of course possible to incorporate footwork and make the endeavour more complex but for now focus should be on the areas that receive immediate benefit. Basics and fundamentals first.
Eric Cressey, who specializes in applied kinesiology and biomechanics, talks about the mobility of the shoulder joint coming at the expense of stability and in turn how this impacts performance. In particular he highlights the most common injuries, those caused by overhead motions  including throwing and pressing. Whilst promoting mobility, Indian clubs provide the added benefit of engaging the rotator cuff in exactly the types of movement that integrate stability. We are getting out of the linear and into the circular. By addressing these limiting factors we support the integrity of the shoulder and that carries over to any strength work we do. Anything less is building on a fault line.

Training is Trauma – Mobility is Medicine

Training Is trauma. You will hear this phrase at Simple Strength workshops, usually followed by – Mobility Is Medicine. Show me someone who trains consistently, with intensity and I will most likely show you someone who has compensations and niggling injuries. It comes with the territory and most of us at some point exceed our physical capabilities at a given point and pay the price. It is through restorative mobility drills and recuperative methods such as Indian Clubs that we can restore the balance and regain the bodies confidence.
In the next few articles I will outline Simple Strength’s Mandatory Mobility drills and the basic Indian Club moves we use to get ourselves out of pain and into action.
www.wolverson-fitness.co.uk have taken the initiative and produced a range of 1lb and 2lb Beechwood hand finished clubs which are now available. These are the clubs I have been using for the last few months with fantastic results. The Wolverson Indian Clubs have a slightly thicker handle than some of the clubs available which makes for more intensive forearm and wrist involvement. Several fellow IKFF CKTs are road testing these at present and we will be using them at the forthcoming BODYPOWER EXPO in Birmingham May 21st & 22nd. Come and see us in the Workout Area. Simple Strength will be hostingIClub Mobility workshops soon.
Please email me if you have any questions – rannoch@simplestrength.com

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About Rannoch Donald 6 Articles

Beginners Mind – Beginners Body

My name is Rannoch,(founder of Simple Strength – Beginner’s Mind, Beginner’s Body) a movement maverick with a lifetime’s interest in martial arts, movement, mindfulness, conditioning, strength, mobility and recovery which has led to a sustainable personal practice based on resiliency. I write about the things that interest me and the training and practice that reflects it. If it works for me it might just work for you. But ultimately, this is my own personal, ever evolving experiment. You need to find what works for you and share that with everyone. I am not a big fan of putting results and outcomes in the hands of others. No one can do the work for you, we all have access to the same basic tools, it’s up to each of us to get on with the process.

Science explains, Art expresses, Simple Strength attempts to create a bridge between the two. Only direct experience can show you what works.

My influences are broad and diverse, from East to West, high culture and low brow, hopefully keeping things free from dogma and kool aid. Please contribute, comment or email me on any of the above. We are all students, we are all teachers. If you have something you’d like to share on the blog just let me know.

As Scotland’s first RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge Instructor) I certified under Pavel Tsatsouline. My training took a radical turn when I had the good fortune to meet and work with Steve Cotter and Ken Balckburn from the IKFF, going to certify as an IKFF CKT Level 1 & Level 2 Fitness & Movement Dynamics and Kettlebell Teacher. Since then I have had the honour of learning some of the world’s best teachers as and coaches, including Pavel Tsatsouline, Steve Cotter, Mike Mahler, Erwan Le Corre, JC Santana, Alvaro Romano, Ken Blackburn, Mark Cheng, Jonathan Lewis and Scott Sonnon, all of whom inform my own training and practice in some way. Simple Strength and Kettlebells Scotland distills my own practices into something simple, scalable and effective to be used by anyone, young and old, men and women, athletes and amateurs alike.

It is a simple model…

Practice – Progression – Performance

Practice leads to progress, progress leads to performance. Performance is a rarefied place we visit now and again. It is the practice and subsequent progress that make performance possible. No one ever spent too much time on the basics and fundamentals, what George Leonard calls “Getting comfortable with the plateau”. Our ability to do simple things well lets us, in the words of Thomas Myers, – “adapt to the demands of our environment with ease and imagination”.

Movement, Mindfulness and Maintenance, that’s the mantra of Simple Strength.

Our workshops and community provide people with the tools and confidence to take charge of their own health and wellbeing, focussing on breath work, mobility, body-weight training, Kettlebells and a variety of challenging yet interesting tools. Simple Strength – For average people looking for exceptional results.

Simple Strength is responsible for the 100 Rep Challenge, a daily resource of training information, tips, drills and articles that encourages all of us, whatever our situation, to get a little movement in our day.

“Rannoch is a passionate fitness expert who has dedicated his life to helping people get physically and mentally fit, strong and healthy. He has explored many fitness, exercise and movement modalities to retain only the most effective and meaningful methods and approach. A top-notch coach who will skillfully and genuinely guide you in achieving your full physical and mental potential.” – Erwan Le Corre, Educator, Teacher and Founder of MovNat – www.movnat.com

“Rannoch’s energy, passion, work ethic and community spirit shine a bright light. When you need a teacher to show you the Way of the Kettlebell, look no further ” – Steve Cotter, Director, International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation – www.ikff.net

“Rannoch’s approach to improving movement and developing resilience is highly effective. As relevant and valuable to the sedentary man and woman as it is to those we might call “athletic”. A simple,progressive, purposeful, enjoyable, and habit forming approach: to breathe, to move, to explore, to be  mindful, to gain resilience.” – Jonathan Lewis, Director Balance Performance, Movement, Strength & Conditioning Coach –www.balancephysio.com

“In this world of internet experts that have done nothing of substance it is hard to find a man making a difference in his community and in the industry.  I’m happy to have met such a man in Rannoch Donald who brings his decades of experience in martial arts, strength and conditioning, coaching, and business, to his community and to the industry with style and determination. I speak from experience when I say that he’s one of a kind and a true coach and colleague!” – JC Santana – Institute of Human Performance –http://www.ihpfit.com

“Rannoch Donald is a consummate professional. Simple strength is a great resource for no nonsense training! I recommend it highly, Rannoch is a great trainer that knows exactly how to inspire others and bring out the best in them” – Mike Mahler, author of Live Life Aggressively! What Self-Help Gurus Should Be Telling You – www.aggressivestrength.com

“Simple Strength pulls away from standard conventional forms of exercise to effective, inspirational training. Rannoch is a man worth listening to” – Douglas jay, Fitness/rehab supervisor –www.thepolicetreatmentcentres.org

“Rannoch phoned me within minutes of emailing him out of the blue 5 years ago. I was in a plateau with training, mobility and thought processes to reach these goals. I was looking for something different but achievable.Something I could grasp , enjoy and use whilst teaching physical eduction. I must say Rannoch provided this – and more! Now a close friend and someone who I have no hesitation in contacting for some wisdom and well placed advice. If Rannoch doesn’t know, he knows someone who does!” – David Jenkins – Director / Owner Sports Therapy Scotland Ltd – www.sportstherapyscotland.co.uk/

“I went to see Rannoch to learn how to use Kettlebells as they were totally new to me. What I quickly realised was mobility was what I really needed to work on first. What you think you want to do is not always what you really need to be doing. I found this personalised approach really good for me and a refreshing change. I wish more people in the Industry were like Rannoch. Thanks for your help!” – Scott Taverner – Former All Natural Body Builder


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