Indian Clubs, Inversions, & Jazz Hands
Photo Courtesy of Senior RKC Steve Holiner “Coach Fury”
As I mentioned in my previous post Indian Clubs & Turkish Get-ups, this past weekend, I attended an Indian Clubs Workshop in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania taught by Dr. Ed Thomas and Brett Jones, Master StrongFirst (SFG) Instructor.
While I was writing this post I had hoped to capture how this weekend was not just educational, but also very entertaining and I had the following exchange with Eric:
Me (as I write a blog post): “I wanted this post to be exciting and funny and it’s not, it’s boring…”
Eric: “So put some Jazz Hands in it!” *makes jazz hands*
Which was both hilarious and actually quite appropriate because this past weekend I’m sure many of us felt like we were making jazz hands at times while we were learning Indian Clubs. Especially on Saturday afternoon when our brains were completely fried from information overload. Jazz Hands make everything better… So here are some Jazz Hands…
Thank you Christina DeVos for gifting me with this picture!
“SIMMA DOWN NA’!”
Traveling to Philly was relatively uneventful except for the fact that our plane was delayed by two hours because of rainstorms in the Philadelphia area. This turned out fine because we were able to catch up on work in the airport, but the trip back was a whole other story.
From my experience flying in and out of Philly, the Philadelphia airport is a constant confused sea of people no matter what day or time you fly (I have a different phrase for this but it involves a four letter word starting with the letter “F” and is preceded by the word “Cluster”). When we arrived at the airport for our flight back, all you could see were endless, unmarked, check in lines and frustrated people. Over and over again I kept hearing:
“What line is this???”
“What does that mean???”
“Where is that lady???”
While we were waiting in line to check in, we had been standing in line for so long that people started coming up to me and asking me for information and directions and by that time I knew which line was what so I could actually be helpful. All I needed was a pair of Indian Clubs so that I could direct traffic effectively.
From the shuttle bus line to the rental car lot (who accidentally charged us for 6 gallons of gas at $5.83/gallon by the way, which I am still waiting to be credited for!), to the check in line, to the security line, I kept waiting for Cheri Oteri to jump out and exclaim: “SIMMA DOWN NA’!”
Someone needed to tell these people to SIMMA DOWN NA’!
The shuttle bus from the terminal at Logan Airport to the Economy Parking Lot once we arrived in Boston was a whole other debacle. Eric and I got on the bus early on and sat down in seats in the center of the bus. As the bus driver went through the bus stops, people literally pushed, shoved, and packed themselves onto the shuttle bus, with their suitcases, like it was the subway. And I mean, PACKED themselves in like sardines making it impossible for anyone to get off when they arrived at their stop.
Human behavior never ceases to amaze me.
Despite the hectic travel, it was an amazing weekend for many reasons…
Eric and I were able to attend a workshop together, which rarely happens. Before the Original Strength Workshop this year, the last workshop we attended together was our RKC Certification in April 2011 **! It’s great when we can go learn together because we each take a different learning experience from the workshop that we can share with one another.
The other fantastic aspect of this workshop was that many of us were colleagues from previous learning engagements or certifications, so it was great to catch up with familiar faces and meet new ones.
Also, we had the opportunity to learn from Brett Jones, and to meet and learn from Dr. Ed Thomas, as well as many of my colleagues who assisted at the workshop. It was incredible to be able to learn a very unfamiliar (to me) skill from colleagues that I knew very little about, but that many of them had been practicing for upwards of four years.
Wegman’s & “Skinnylicious”
After Eric and I checked in at the hotel we decided to eat dinner before we went to the grocery store because it was 6 p.m. by that time and we were starving. It’s never good to go to the grocery store hungry. We decided to go to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. I have not been to a Cheesecake Factory in the longest time and they actually had a lot of good choices. They have this new menu now called “Skinnylicious” which has a lot of healthy options like asparagus, parmesan, and pine nut salad with a fried egg on top (not listed online for some reason) and a bun-less burger served with a salad (and no they are not paying me to advertise for them :-)).
After we ate dinner we headed over to Wegman’s to pick up a few groceries for lunch and snacks. We didn’t have a fridge in our hotel room so we didn’t get too much, but we did pick up, water, fruit, almond butter, dark chocolate (the fifth food group), pepperoni (that didn’t need to be refrigerated), spinach, tomatoes, and avocadoes for salad as well as hard boiled eggs. We filled one of our lunch coolers with ice from the ice machine to keep the eggs and spinach cold. We had also packed a bunch of Lara bars and Dale’s Raw Food Bars so that helped out in the snack department.
Saturday night we had a group dinner at a local sushi restaurant and had the privilege of sitting across the table from Dr. Thomas. On Sunday after the workshop finished, we indulged in pizza, which I rarely if ever eat – like once or twice per year, if that.
Indian Clubs have been around for a number of years. Below is a video of a children from 1904 demonstrating Indian Clubs…
Brett Jones and Dr. Thomas led the Indian Clubs workshop. Dr. Thomas holds a Doctorate in Physical Education and is a leader in Indian Clubs education and instruction. He is a brilliant, and balanced man, sure to enlighten you, and if you ever have a chance to learn from him live and in person, I strongly suggest jumping at the opportunity. As Dan Crawley, (my friend, colleague, and owner of Alpha Fitness in Rhode Island) said,
“Dr. Thomas defies description, he must be experienced firsthand…”
For those of you who have yet to learn from Dr. Thomas in person, he shares a little bit of his knowledge with us on Gray Cook’s Movement site HERE in Chapter 3.
Learning Indian Clubs was a humbling experience. You definitely had to leave your ego at the door (although, there were not any egos present in this group) and empty your cup so that you could fill it with new knowledge.
Per Brett Jones, Master SFG, within the systems of physical education, there are three content areas, Martial, Restorative, and Pedagogical. Indian Clubs fall into the content area of Restorative exercise, which Brett Jones defines as “Techniques, obvious or subtle, that bring the body toward its optimal state of harmony, and compensate for stresses of daily life.”
This weekend’s focus was not just on learning the history, how-to, function and application of Indian Clubs, but also on restorative exercises as a whole, from meditation, inversions, and practices such as yoga and qi gong. The Greeks recognized that there is a mind/body connection and that one’s mind cannot be healthy unless one’s body is also healthy. Both mind and body must be in harmony for optimal health.
“The Greeks were thoroughly convinced that the mind could not possibly be in a healthy state unless the body was likewise in perfect health, and no means were thought, either by philosophers or physicians, to be more conducive to preserve or restore bodily health than well-regulated exercise.” (1)
I am very in tune with this concept as it is in line with my philosophy of having mind, body, and life balance from training to nutrition to mental peace. Even though I advocate lifting weights, I also advocate the importance of rest days, sleep, and incorporating at least one day per week of yoga, martial arts, tai chi, or an equivalent.
For me Indian Clubs combined the meditative aspect of learning a martial arts form, while simultaneously helping to improve shoulder mobility and function. As I mentioned in my previous post, training with Indian Clubs is a fantastic balance to kettlebell training (and lifting weights in general!), where hardstyle kettlebell training focuses on tension and power, and Indian Clubs training is considered “soft style” as it focuses on joint mobility and tension release.
On Saturday we learned five fundamental movements, including warm up and movement prep drills. In addition, this was the first time that some of us (like me!) had even touched an Indian club so it was the first time that we were learning how to hold them and maneuver the tool in our hands. Needless to say we were all baked ziti by 2 p.m. that day.
Fortunately at 5 p.m. Dr. Thomas led us in an exercise of meditation, which involved us lying on our backs on the floor in shavasana or savasana, (for those of you who practice yoga) or corpse pose.
NOW, in meditation, you are not supposed to fall asleep, you are supposed to clear your mind and meditate, but of course it sleep was inevitable for this group at this point in the workshop. I think maybe 10-20% of us managed to meditate properly, but the rest of us, including me, fell asleep. I won’t lie, as soon as I laid down and closed my eyes I was fast asleep, only to come in and out of sleep on occasion and hear Dr. Thomas speaking and one of my neighbors snoring.
When I woke up I was one of the last people to sit up because I was so fast asleep. I did feel refreshed though. After this meditation session we were asked to share what we felt. Many of us admitted to falling asleep and other had a significant meditative experience.
As I mentioned earlier in this post, along with Indian clubs and meditation, uncommon postures such as inversions fall into the category of restorative exercise.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Dr. Robert M. Martin reintroduced off-the-ground training such as brachiating and inversion. Per Dr. Robert M. Martin there are three common postures, Flexion, Horizontal, and Upright, and there are three uncommon postures, Extension, Brachiating (which is hanging from the limbs), and Inversion. According to Martin, practicing uncommon postures offset the spine compressing forces of gravity (2). This theory of incorporating inversion and brachiating to fitness regimens (for example inversions are practiced in yoga) contributes to overall body wellness or a holistic approach to fitness.
After the workshop on Sunday I was speaking with Dr. Thomas and he asked me if I had ever done any partner inversions. I told him I had not. With that he invited me to do a partner inversion with him. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous, but heck if I was going to decline this opportunity. He asked me to stand back to back with him and he then interlocked our arms. From there he hinged over and told me to relax and he picked me up onto his back. Our backs were back to back and he was bouncing me around while I lay there on his back. It was quite a scene!
Photo Courtesy of Ed McKay, Owner, Results Driven Fitness Systems
After he let me down, he reached around my torso from behind and picked me up and my back released. Something from the inversion triggered this release.
Also, I was telling Eric that my body temperature went up while I was on his back and I was perspiring. I thought it was just because I was nervous, but Eric commented that it could have been something from the inversion that triggered my body temperature to rise. He’s right; inversions and brachiating elicit interesting and often intense responses from the human body.
Dr. Thomas swings Indian Clubs, stays active, meditates, and sits on a “disco sit” (which improves posture and promotes core training) throughout his day at his job working for the State of Iowa.
He can also roll another human being onto his back for a partner inversion without a second thought, without any fear of not being strong enough or without fear of getting hurt. Whatever Dr. Thomas is doing, we should all be doing because he is in great health so he must be doing something right.
When you get a group of fitness colleagues together, especially kettlebell instructors who like to swing iron and lift heavy things and put them down, the topic of lifting weights is going to come up, naturally.
After the Indian Clubs Workshop on Sunday I was talking to my colleague James Neidlinger. I met James at my RKC Level I Kettlebell Instructor Certification in April 2011. He was an assistant on my team. I had not seen him since and I was really excited to see him at this workshop and to learn from him. In addition to Indian Clubs and kettle bells, James is a high level martial artist who studies Filipino stick fighting (Kali-Eskrima), amongst a few other styles of martial arts, and is a member of the Inosanto International Martial Arts Instructors Association and an instructor under Guru Inosanto.
Photo Courtesy of Senior RKC Steve Holiner “Coach Fury”
It was great to catch up James and he inspired me to learn Filipino stick fighting. Learning Indian Clubs made me very nostalgic for martial arts. Since I have been working towards finishing my goal of the Iron Maiden Challenge I have not had time to train in martial arts as much as I’d like to and I’ve been itching to get back into it. I’m very much looking forward to getting back to kung fu and to learning Filipino stick fighting once I cross the IM Challenge off of my goal list.
Also, as we were talking we had the following exchange:
James: “Artemis, you’re proof that women can lift heavy weights & still look like a woman.”
Me: “Yes, if you are a woman & you lift weights, you will not lose your lady parts.”
We laughed, but it’s true. There are some women who think that they will start to look like a man if they lift weights and heavy at that, however there are many factors that contribute to how a woman’s body takes shape from lifting weights. I wrote more about this in my posts Myth Busting Series – Part Two: Lifting Weights Makes Women “Bulky” and “A “Bulky” Myth Tale“.
Do I look like a man as I kettlebell front squat 106lbs at 117lb bodyweight here?
Do I look like a man in this picture with two other men?
No. I look like a woman with strong arms, but I look like a woman.
So ladies, do not fear, if you lift weights you will not lose your lady parts.
and remember, #BeXena, in the weight room, in life and when driving. This is Xena driving… She’s very serious.
Picture Courtesy of Josh Halbert, Performance Coach, Director of Education at Kinetic Systems Strength & Conditioning
(1) Smith, Dr. William. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. London: John Murray, 1875. Web. 15 July 2012 <http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/SMIGRA*/Gymnasium.html>.
(2) The Inversion Exercise. Web. 1 July 2012 <http://umanitoba.fitdv.com/new/articles/article.php?artid=709>.
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