Introducing the BD-X Crossover Club with Tom Crudgington

Introducing the BD-X Crossover Club with Tom Crudgington

Tom Crudgington with pair of large BMF meelsTom Crudgington, founder of Body Development and one of the UK’s most respected teachers of Indian Clubs & Persian Meels, presents a new club in collaboration with Body Mind Fit: the BD-X Crossover Club.

Bringing together BMF’s passion for equipment innovation, with Body Development’s unparalleled understanding of strength & fitness, we set out to create a new shape that can be used for both Indian club & Persian meel exercises. We caught up with Tom to find out more about his journey into the fitness industry, how clubs and meels became a huge part of his PT & gym workout sessions, and why he wanted to create the BD-X Crossover Club.

“The way I look at strength now, is with an appreciation that strength is only useful if you can connect it to your nervous system and activate it across all the planes of the body.”

Tom, why did you set up Body Development gym?
I started working in gyms when I was about 16. The first gym I worked at was actually a ballet studio – where I ended up teaching martial arts as well as personal training. It was a great training environment so I ran Thai Boxing classes there as well. We had guys go on to fight internationally as well as nationally.

After 11 years at the ballet studio, I moved on to a mainstream Fitness First gym, working hard there for a few years, before leaving with enough money to open my own small studio, a kind of BD version 1.0! It was a tiny little gym a fraction of the size of my current gym, and we focussed on one-to-one training.

We soon needed a bigger space to fit in more equipment, train more athletes, and the opportunity arose to rent this place in Bath, so we went for it! Our primary driving focus is conditioning, so over the past few years we’ve trained a lot of athletes. We’ve had a lot of success – lots of fighters, athletes in sports including tennis & rugby, people going on to compete all the way up to Olympic level.

How have you applied clubs to your training?
Clubs were first developed as a strength-based component for training warriors. I see some great exercises being done, some great turns and flows – but as they gain popularity, I think many people lack an understanding of their original purpose.

One of the most common movements you see practiced all the time is the meel cast. This movement was developed to train warriors for both striking while grabbing an arm and gripping it with elbow to body. Many people are practicing casts but I think it’s important to consider why you are practicing the movement in order to build a practice that includes appropriate movements. Everyone’s doing inner & outer circles, turns and all that wonderful stuff, which is great. And it’s great physical practice, but my approach to applying clubs to training is focussed on the original thought behind the movements, and how to use clubs to train and condition the body for relevant sports.

How often do you teach & practice clubs?
Regularly – we have boot camp classes at the gym where we bring together the clubs, stall bars, Bulgarian bags, and kettlebells.

Why did you want to develop the cross-over club shape?
I got introduced to Zurkhaneh through my old coach Amir Esmaeli. He introduced us to the idea of heavy club training. His key principle when teaching us to train with clubs, was the idea that you were given one exercise and only when you could do 100 reps of it would he show you the next movement. That first exercise took me a year to complete, though it was using a pair of 10kg Persian meel clubs (20kg set).

Now obviously, I can’t train everybody like that. Everybody wants instant downloads and gets bored training in that way these days. So I started to think about what the ideal weight and size would be for beginners in order to practice high numbers of reps safely and build up muscle memory and conditioning. It needed to be a heavy but compact wooden club, which is a cross-over between an SD Kehoe type traditional Indian club, and a small Persian club.

What are the differences between training with the BD-X Crossover Club and a Standard Indian Club?
So in terms of the functionalities – it’s quite a bit heavier. It’s designed more as a compact club for the PT’s that I coach, so that they have something that they can use to learn and teach various movements with.

And then in terms of the name of the club, there is a lot of politics within the world of club swinging at the moment – which I’m not interested in. So I just wanted to go my own route, and come up with something that crossed that border without the label of ‘Persian’ or ‘Indian.’ There’s almost a racist undertone with things going on in the club world, and I think that it’s an awful shame. Clubs should be something that are there for everyone to enjoy & understand.

What does strength mean to you?
Personal physical strength was a necessity to me years ago when I worked on the doors, and when was working with fighters – to essentially have a control factor if ever needed.

The way I look at strength now, is with an appreciation that strength is only useful if you can connect it to your nervous system and activate it across all the planes of the body.

I’ve had some extremely strong individuals in this gym. Many of whom, won’t even attempt to swing a 10kg gada or mace. And that’s because they’re not strong in all the planes. A lot of people are very strong in sagittal plane. They might be strong to a point in frontal plane, but in transverse plane (which involves twisting & rotational movements) most are weak as hell. This overlooked area of movement in the body is why the use of club exercises are so important for achieving strength.

Shop the BD-X Crossover Clubs here.

How to maintain your wooden training equipment

How to maintain your wooden training equipment

Wood is an incredibly strong natural material and products made from it will give you many years of service when treated with care. But as a natural material, wood can be affected by its environment. That’s why it’s super important to make sure that your Indian Clubs, Persian Meels, & other wooden equipment is looked after. Here are a few tips to keep your BMF equipment in top condition for a very long time.

STORAGE

Do

  • Store in a cool and dry area that is less than room temp if possible. Over summer a garage is ideal, or simply a cool area of your home.
  • Keep your Persian Meels, Clubs, and Gada in one place – wood prefers stable & consistent temperatures.

Don’t

  • Leave in direct sunshine or by a window.
  • Store close to direct heat sources such as radiators and underfloor heating.
  • Keep your equipment in damp areas. Moisture is not wood’s friend.

OILING
Let’s talk about oils and how you can utilise them to maintain your equipment and ensure they continue to look and work their best for many years.

Danish Oil
Danish Oil is a hard drying oil, made from Tung or Linseed, and cures to give a light satin finish that resists liquids well.

Frequency: Apply a thin coat of Danish Oil using a rag 1-2 times per year. You may wish to wear plastic gloves when applying this oil to avoid sticky fingers.

Please note: Cheaper, low quality Danish oils often contain higher proportion of added toxins, so spend what you can afford. I personally use Rye Oil’s Danish oil but these only come in 5 litre minimm size. Rustins are Liberon are ideal alternatives.

Neem & Castor Oil
Neem and Castor Oil are unblended natural oils that do not harden. They are a more natural option compared to Danish Oil, and Ayurvedic practices even recommend using them as part of skincare & cleansing routines! The downside is they require more regular applications.

Frequency: Every other month/as soon as the wood looks dry. Mix 1:3 neem to castor oil and apply thinly with a rag. No need to wear gloves, let the oil nourish your skin as well as the wood.

Application
Apply either oil/blend thinly & evenly with a rag or old T-Shirt using a circular motion to really work the oil into the wood. Allow the oils to soak into the wood for 20 minutes before wiping off any excess with a clean cloth in the direction of the grain. Tip: final wiping stroke should also be from widest point of the club toward the narrow, so some strokes will be up the club and some will be down.

Danish oil takes around anything from 6 to 24 hours to dry, but I’d recommend leaving your clubs for 24 hours once you’re happy with the result. The neem & castor oil is a ‘wet’ oil application so doesn’t actually dry completely. Let your oiled clubs stand for 1 hour to let the oil settle before using.

I personally prefer oils over wax as they allow the wood to breathe while adding nourishment. You can use clear furniture wax or beeswax if preferred, and varnish for the most minimal upkeep. We rarely use varnish anymore, but you can apply it to a surface previously finished with oil after a light sanding if that’s your preference.

Hope that was useful, do comment below if you need any more information.

 

6 Tips for Home Workouts!

6 Tips for Home Workouts!

While our beloved gyms and studios are closed and look like they will be for a while, now is the perfect time to perfect your home workout practice.  We asked the experts for their advice on maintaining a workout practice from home. Here are our favourite pieces of advice.

1 – Create space
Even if you don’t have the resources to set up a full home gym it can be very beneficial to have a set space where you do your workouts. When you have “your” spot it can help with focus and staying motivated.

Don’t have an area you can dedicate to becoming a movement space? Find a way that you can easily adapt a space to make it your “gym” as needed. For example when it’s time to get your movement on, move the coffee table and set out a yoga mat. You’ve now made a unique space to move and you’ll get in the habit of knowing “when the coffee table is off to the side and the yoga mat is out, it’s time to work.”
Zack Yanyk | Owner & Head Coach | @frankenlegs

 

2 – Partner yourself
Use your reflection as a training partner for instant feedback to check your form. You can use a mirror, window, or shadow to do this. Make a private video of yourself training, then check and review your movements.
Analyse your mistakes, and work out what went wrong.

And if you’re practicing with Indian Clubs at home, try lifting the clubs rather than swinging them. Slow movements strengthen all the muscles you use to swing clubs. And to practice swings, use gravity pull and find the speed
that suits you, swinging fast is NOT always the best.
Paul Wolkowinski | Coach & Educator | @wolkowinski

 

3 – Get creative
You likely don’t have all the equipment that your big box gym does… So add in supersets, drop sets, tempo work, and unilateral work for maximum results. And love the process by committing a room or other space as your training area. Floor space & a mat reinforce your training ability.
John Parker | Personal Trainer & Health Coach | @johnparker__

 

4 – Write it out
I find using a whiteboard helps, so I sometimes write out my workout, which can include clubs, to help me stay accountable and motivated on the rainy days when my motivation is lagging. During quarantine, I have also found that calling a friend on Facetime for a movement break where we alternate picking exercises really fun!
Kelly Manzone | Personal Trainer & Coach | @kellsbells88

 

5 – Keep learning
I would always recommend some standing qigong exercises followed by a stretching/yoga routine to warm up. It doesn’t need to take that long… 5 mins qigong, 10 mins yoga, then you are ready to go on to whatever you’re working on.

Once you get into a routine, it’s like brushing your teeth every day! And I always try and learn something new every day. It makes me think, use memory and acquire new skills and movement. I also try to put something new together now and again, rather than going down the same old path. These exercises/routines/forms were put together by people like us 🙏Neil Genge | 31st Generation Shaolin & Teacher | @gengeneil 

 

6 – Take off your trainers!
While the gyms are closed, now is a great opportunity to simplify training stimulus. Take off your trainers so those 200,000 nerve endings can connect to the ground and give your whole body the feedback it was designed to receive. This applies whether you are heavy deadlifting or swinging light Indian clubs. Some will notice the instant strength increase.

Try also cutting out the music and move to the rhythm of your own body and breath. Music is a huge part of my life especially tribal beats, but it can be a distraction as well as a motivator. Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and breath in and out through your nose for greater core connection as well as audible sound. Listen and feel. You may soon notice how the breath helps to move your body, as much as the moving body assists the breath.
This can give a whole new dimension to your current exercises.
Stuart Ward | Personal Trainer & Movement Specialist | @nourishingmoves

 

Hopefully some of these pearls of wisdom will provide some useful ideas for you to explore during your home workout practices. We’d love to find out what else is keeping you motivated at the moment. Feel free to share your own tips on our Instagram post or get in touch if you’d like to submit a story for the BMF blog. Happy swinging!

 

And if you’re missing some equipment, here are some links to our product pages:

Indian Clubs

Persian Meels

Gadas + Maces

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10 WAYS TO BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

10 WAYS TO BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

The immune system is the body’s way of protecting itself against disease and other potentially damaging foreign bodies. When functioning properly it identifies and attacks viruses, bacteria and parasites. The immune system is spread throughout the body, comprised of many types of cells, organs, proteins, and tissues that work together to keep us protected and healthy.

When your immune system is weakened, your body is far more vulnerable to viruses, parasites, and disease. There is no single magic pill that will give you a perfect immune system, however, there are many ways to support it & help keep it running in the best conditions possible.

1. Probiotic foods
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are good for you. They feed the microbiome good bacteria, which in turn keep your body working effectively. Did you know that around 70-80% of the body’s immune cells are found in the gut? [1] It makes sense to take gut health seriously.

Sources of probiotics include live yoghurt (most yoghurt is pasteurised, so make sure you buy one that states ‘live’), kefir, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, and tempeh. Make sure you buy these products from the fridge to ensure it is living! You should be able to find most of these at your local wholefood shop, but it could be worth making your own if you’re feeling adventurous or running out of activities to do with the kids! BBC Good Food has a very simple recipe for making sauerkraut available here. You’ll need leave the cabbage to ferment for at least two weeks, so now’s the time to get started!

2. Prebiotic foods
Prebiotics feed and encourage the friendly probiotic bacteria in your gut. The main source of prebiotics is dietary fibre. Make sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and pay particular attention to those known for high fibre.

Some of the best sources prebiotic fibre include oats, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas, chicory root, dandelion leaves, apples, grains, nuts & seeds.

3. Sleep
Sleep enables the body and mind time to rest and repair. It is the time when the brain can process information & emotions gathered during the day, as well as when physical recovery can occur.

But how much sleep does our immune system need to run effectively? It is widely recommended that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

Top tips for a good nights sleep

  • Get to bed early: Research has shown that the sweet spot for deep restorative sleep is between the hours of 10pm and 2am.
  • Morning light: exposing your eyes and body to sunlight will not only help you wake up in the morning, but also helps the body maintain a regular circadian rhythm.
  • Wake up and MOVE: Regular morning exercise (outdoors if possible) will improve sleep rhythms by telling your body to release cortisol earlier in the morning, and produce melatonin earlier in the evening.
  • No caffeine at night: According to research, you should avoid consuming caffeine from around 2pm, or at least seven hours before bed, as it can otherwise negatively affect your sleep.
  • Screens off before bed: Melatonin is a hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark so turn of screens at least an hour before bed.

Essentially it is good practice to stimulate cortisol release early in the day, and to avoid creating stress in the evening. Melatonin and cortisol work together – in adults, the melatonin onset typically occurs during low cortisol secretion. Exercising earlier in the day, eating well and establishing a bedtime routine such as meditation, yoga reading a book will all help you ease into a restful sleep.

4. Breathwork
Breathwork has been incorporated into exercise and relaxation practices for thousands of years. There are many cultures with words for breath that reflect a deeper understanding and respect for the breath. In yoga, pranayama means ‘expansion of the life force and expansion of the breath’. Breathwork has seen a modern rebirth following the popularity of the ‘Wim Hoff method’, which has introduced thousands of people to breathing techniques, meditation and cold water dips/showers to strengthen the body and immune system.

The Wim Hoff Method app is a great place to start if you’d like to try some simple breathing exercises.

5. Supplements
Colloidal silver is the thing I’d first reach for if I were to contract the coronavirus. Many proponents claim that Colloidal silver kills bacteria and viruses on contact. I am no doctor but it had a profound effect on my health 15 years ago so I’ve just ordered another bottle.

The sun is now out again, but most of us are currently depleted in Vitamin D. Vit D + Vit K2 + magnesium, work together to make a strong stack that protects the immune system. Vit K2 is mainly sourced from animal based foods or fermented food (see probiotics in section 1). Cultured dairy is a great source so make sure your yogurt is with full-fat milk. Skimmed or fat free may contain only Vit 1 which won’t do it. Magnesium (chloride) oil is arguably the best way for the body to absorb. It is recommended to rub it on the soles of your feet before bed.

Olive Leaf extract are reported to be VERY powerful against any virus or bacteria. Do not take them if on blood thinners. I use Extract Super Strength 750mg, 60 Capsules, Standardized to 20% Oleuropein. https://www.about-olive-leaf-extract.com/natural-antivirals.html.

Medicinal mushrooms are another great way to really supercharge your immune system. I use a pre-made blend of Reishi, Turkey Tail, Chaga, Cordyceps, Lion’s mane and Agaricus from Detox Trading. Boil a spoonful of the mix with a tiny bit of coconut oil, before adding warm frothed nut milk and a tiny bit of honey & cinnamon to taste.

6. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is well known for its ability to support the immune system. As well as being essential for the growth and repair of tissue, it is also an antioxidant and fights free radicals in the body. It’s easy to find supplements but even better if you can eat foods that supply this vitamin. Good sources include broccoli, dark leafy greens, cauliflower, citrus fruits, strawberries, red & green bell peppers, and papaya.

7. Meditation
It’s widely accepted that meditation can reduce stress and calm the mind, which is true, but many studies now suggest that it can also benefit the body. Rudolph Tanzi, who holds positions both at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, said in a statement. “Meditation is one of the ways to engage in restorative activities that may provide relief for our immune systems, easing the day-to-day stress of a body constantly trying to protect itself. The prediction is that this would then lead to healthier aging.” It makes sense that any restorative practice that brings the body into a state of rest will help the body to heal & repair itself.

One of my favourite meditations is to sit in a chair with the eyes closed, and simply imagine tracing a figure of 8, breathing in on the upward curve, and breathing out on the way back down. If you’re new to mediation and need some guidance, the Headspace app has some great free beginner programmes.

My personal routine is to meditate in bed for 15 minutes in the morning and the evening with Zen12 brainwave entrainment. Technology has moved on since the early binaural beat soundtracks of 20 years ago. There are quite a few out there now that include options with guided meditation, music, sounds of nature or even white noise mixed with pulses at different frequencies in each ear. It is the differential between these pulses that encourage the brain into deep meditative states akin to Buddhist monks. It is said that 15 minutes of Zen12 meditation is equivalent to 1 hour of deep meditation.

8. Exercise
Physical activity is a powerful way to help out your immune system. It promotes the circulation of antibodies and white blood cells, which means they may be able to detect and attack threats to the body quickly. Being active also lowers stress hormones (such as cortisol) which will reduce your chances of getting ill.

But go steady. Whilst it might be tempting to squeeze in a HIIT session in the morning and a long run before dinner, it more important than ever to exercise in moderation at the moment. If you push yourself too hard, the stress on your body will actually depress the immune system. Aim for 30-60 minutes of some form of activity every day, and vary workouts to include cardio, strength, and restorative sessions.

9. Drink water
Keep sipping the good stuff! As well as keeping you hydrated, water carries oxygen to your cells, and flushes toxins from the body. Water enables the kidneys to remove toxins by helping them clear out waste products. The immune system also uses lymph to circulate white blood cells & nutrients throughout the body. Without lymph, white blood cells would not be able to travel through the body to fight disease. And to produce lymph, your body needs water.

Another way that water boosts your immune system is through continuously cleansing the body. Just as we wash our hands in order to clean of bad bacteria & germs, we need to do the same for our internal organs. Adults should be drinking 2-3 litres of water per day. Mix it up with herbal teas if you get bored of straight water.

10. Avoid sugar
We all know that sugar is bad. The amount available in modern food is nowhere near the minimal amount that we would find in the wild. While sugar gives you a nice quick hit of energy, refined sugar has some nasty side effects on the body:

  • Feeds bad bacteria: as mentioned earlier, around 70-80% of the body’s immune cells are found in the gut, and bad bacteria FEEDS on sugar.
  • Empty calories: unlike naturally occurring sugars in fruits & vegetables, refined sugar is nutritionally empty which means energy is released far too quickly and will not sustain the body for long. Do you fill your body with useful nutrients or empty calories?
  • Inflammation: refined sugars also create unnecessary stress on the body through causing inflammation. High fructose intake has likewise been shown to increase several inflammatory markers in mice and humans [2].

Whilst it is challenging to stay calm during the current situation in the world, anxiety and worry won’t help anyone. Take each day as it comes, do what you can, and try to maintain a calm, balanced, positive outlook. Your body is a beautiful machine. Look after it.

[1] A.K. Abbas, A.H.H. Lichtman, S. Pillai, Cellular and Molecular Immunology E-Book, Elsevier Health Sciences, 2017.

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24366371

Which Persian Meel weight do I need?

Which Persian Meel weight do I need?

First things first: What are Persian Meels?

Meels (or mils) tend to be larger than Indian Clubs, and generally weigh between 2 and 10kg each. Sometimes heavier! They originated in Persia (now Iran), as a key strength building exercise. They were developed in the 13th century during the Mughal (Mongol) occupation. During this period, Persians were not allowed to bare arms, so training spaces known as Zurkhaneh or ‘Houses of Strength’ were created under the guise of sporting arenas to enable them to maintain their strength & fighting capability.

Seven disciplines were practiced in these (sometimes secret) spaces, including Meel swinging, push-ups using raised blocks of wood (Shena), and heavy weighted shields (Sang). We could go into great detail about all of the disciplines and training equipment, but for today let’s stick to Persian Meels!

 

Persian Meel Training

The combination of weight with circular movements creates a resistance based physical practice that is challenging, yet dynamic & highly fluid. When practiced with dedication & determination, they will build incredible upper body, core, & grip strength as well as self-discipline.

 

Now, back to the original question – which Persian Meel weight do I need?

Just like selecting weights from the gym, there is no standard starting weight when it comes to buying your first (or fourth) pair of Persian Meels. Age, gender, current level of fitness, and injury history must all be taken into account before selecting Meels.

In general, a male aged between 18 to 50 with a good base level of fitness & strength should start no higher than a 6kg set (3kg each). In general, a female aged between 18 & 50 with a good base level of fitness & strength should start with a set no higher than 4kg (<2kg each). If you are male & over 50, I’d suggest starting with a 3.5 to 4kg set. Now obviously I am generalising here, and it is up to you to make an honest judgement of a suitable piece of equipment. For example, if you are a strong female Crossfitter with a regular weights practice, you are maybe ready to start with a 6kg set (3kg each) .

Now before you say, “but I can squat 100kg, I need 10kg Meels at least!” it must be remembered that Meel training is totally different to barbell training, so do not expect to swing what you squat! Persian Meel & Indian Club training is so different from most contemporary resistance movement. The circular movements combined with the distance at which most of the weight is from the body, mean that a great amount of torque is generated. The greater a weight is from the grip, the more force is exerted.

The axis of rotation is dynamic and can shift between grip, the shoulder and elbow. The torque itself is dynamic too, for example the magnitude is greatest where the relationship between axis and the force is horizontal. Add acceleration and deceleration to these forces and there is a lot to consider! It is important to remember that strength is only as good as its weakest link, and the wrist may not cope with the load as well as the shoulder. Wrist flexibility as well as strength varies for each of us, and is a widely neglected area in contemporary fitness practices. This alone, is a strong enough reason to start light.

Ultimately with all kinds of club work, far more stress is placed on the muscles and joints relative to the weight being used. And as we know, all progression of muscle growth comes down to the ability to continually put stress on the body. But be warned, putting stress on the muscles is quite different from putting stresses on the connective tissues of tendons and ligaments. Their conditioning takes much longer to develop than that of muscles. Months rather than weeks. A long but satisfying journey if you can resist the temptation to overload & potentially strain the body.

If you have reached a point at which you feel very confident practicing with your current weight of Meels, and are considering buying another pair, increase your weights in small increments – 4 to 5 to 6 to 8 to 10 to 15kg sets.

 

Injury & rehabilitation

It is incredibly important to seek medical advice if you have (or have recent history of) any form of injury or medical condition. If you have a shoulder, wrist, elbow, neck, or back injury, you must slowly build up strength before swinging Persian Meels. If you are looking for an appropriate movement practice for rehabilitation of any of the previously mentioned injuries, Indian Clubs on the other hand, can work brilliantly. Of course, only attempt to treat an injury following the advice of a trained physiotherapist or professional. Out of all the people I have trained with, the only trainer who has discussed at length the conditioning of connective tissues is Tom Crudgington, owner of Body Development gym in Bath.

 

In summary

  1. Start light
  2. Only increase Meel weight when you can perform 100 reps or 5 minutes continued practice
  3. Increase weight in small increments
  4. Maintain regular practice
  5. Drop back down a weight when learning a new move.
  6. Learn from a teacher who knows what they are talking about. And where possible, find a class or workshop. Practicing with a teacher in person cannot be compared to YouTube.

We have a wide range of Persian Meel sizes which are available here. Stock is added to frequently, so If you can’t see the size you are looking for, feel free to get in touch with me at: info@bodymind-fit.com.

Sim D Kehoe Indian clubs

Sim D Kehoe Indian clubs

We’re really pleased with the way our replica Sim D Kehoe Indian clubs have turned out. They top the scales at over 4.5kg each club so are really suited for the experienced club or clubbell swinger who prefers a more strength-based workout. They are a stand-out shape in the world of club swinging with a body shape that flares dramatically from the handle and quickly curves back to the base. This draws the centre of gravity toward the grip, which chokes the swing a little, while maintaining a heavy weighted club. The ones we have made here are particularly heavy with the density of timber used being far heavier than oak! They are also stunning works of art!

The originals date back to the 1860’s after the American Mr Kehoe visited Europe on a trip to discover gymnastic fitness techniques. Here he met the acclaimed fitness exploits of Professor Harrison, who swung giant clubs and was considered the strongest man in England. When he returned to the states, Sim made his own versions of Indian clubs in a series of shapes, which he sold the the American public. He also wrote a book in 1866 to promote the variety of exercises used and copies can still be found today.

5kg Sim D Kehoe Indian clubs

Global Training Traditions

Global Training Traditions

A few months ago, I had a call from Guy Lockhead, who created one of the first cooperative gyms in the UK, based in the city of Bristol. Guy has a diverse range of experience within the fitness world, and has explored all kinds of physical disciplines. This month he started a podcast based on people who work on the outer fringes of fitness. People who are open to methods of training from other cultures, from other ages and layers in societies from around the world. I am privileged to be the first interview. You can listen to it here https://www.guylochhead.com/podcast/peter-hodkinson

In this interview we explored my own journey within the fitness world, which came from a knee injury on the rugby field when I was in my late teens. It forced my premature retirement from contact sports, and left me looking for something to maintain my fitness level. I came across the little known Korean martial art of Sul-Ki-Do in London, headed by 8th dan Mok Yong Kim. I only knew master Kim a few months before he sadly passed away, however I was touched by the legacy he left, and the dedication of the senior black belt instructors including his brother, who continued running the organisation. Some years later I became a 2nd dan, and was beginning to understand the philosophy as well as the physical system we practised. I owe a lot to one instructor in particular, Christian Schelling-Tisza, who took me under his wing with a handful of others and began to show us a wider world than just kicking and punching. Christian exposed me to the Chinese healing meditation practise of qigong and set me off on a journey of learning about the roots of life, qi and unconditional giving. It is a path I am still on as you never stop learning. I was lucky enough to visit China for two long intensive training visits after being inspired by his own teaching. They were amazing experiences.

In 2005, Christian also introduced me to kettlebells. From here, I found Stan Pike, a gentle giant of a man who I describe as the UK’s ‘godfather’ of kettlebells, in order to become a kettlebell instructor,  I trained with him 1-to-1. During this time Stan also introduced me to Indian Clubs. I was particularly inspired by these circular practises, and after struggling to find the right weight ratio and shape I was looking for, I collaborated with a retired instrument maker & good friend, John Taylor, to come up with my first pair of turned Indian clubs. I had further teaching from Mike Simpson, and became more and more fascinated by this training method. Back then no-one seemed to have heard of Indian Clubs, and coaches and gym owners saw them as outdated methods that no longer fitted in the modern western world of fixed and free-weights. So I started my own fitness class in Bradford on Avon which I’m still running today. A couple of the original Bradford on Avon ‘swingers’ are still with me. The class is always evolving in order to maintain both mental and physical challenge  with a blend of bodyweight warm-ups, Indian clubs and kettlebell workouts.

I train for longevity and have evolved a movement style I am comfortable with to maintain a healthy body that is neither weak, nor burnt out from excessive training as I reach my maturing years. HIIT is good, but not necessarily for where I am now, in this 58 year old body. Resistance work is good, but I recognise that my muscles and joints don’t benefit from being pushed to failure too often. My background with qigong lies at the foundation of everything I do. It checks in with the ego when I am tempted to push for a heavier weight, and reminds me of the true meaning of a healthy body. So much focus these days is on how much tension people can generate in order to optimise strength. I really feel, that breathing and relaxation are seriously neglected here and more time should be invested in learning better practices for recovery, and removal of stress. There are many ways to create stillness, and relaxation. For me it is qigong. Others may find yoga, meditation, Wim Hoff or whoever. They are all a great places to invest.

I hope you like the podcast and follow Guy’s ongoing shares from people around the country. You can find it here: https://www.guylochhead.com/podcast

And you can find out more about Bristol’s Co-operative Gym here: http://bristolcooperativegym.org/

 

 

 

 

Tai Chi Ball

Tai Chi Ball

Although using Taiji balls is a new discipline for me, I have practiced qi gong for 30 years around Europe and the UK, as well as two periods of intensive study in China. It only seems natural to have come across them now, as the paths of physical and spiritual energy increasingly cross over.

The original name of taiji ball or Tai Chi ball, is “yin-yang taiji ball qigong” (yin-yang taiji qiu qigong). The training theory originates in both both Chinese martial arts and laymen societies, though each style of practice was kept secret, and only passed down to selected and trusted students.

The general training purposes of taichi ball qigong training in martial arts, was to create greater quantities of qi in the body, and ensure it would flow when needed in battle. The training methods not only support the circulation of qi, but also strengthen the torso, especially the spine and lower back, and condition the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments required for combat.

For the internal methods of practice, such as Taijiquan, Baguazhang, Fo Zhang (Buddha hands), and hu die zhang (butterfly palm) – balls made from wood are preferred. This is because, with wooden balls, the qi between the palms has a better connection than with balls made of metal or stone. An oiled finish is also preferred over the insulating lacquer finishes.

The balls we offer are finished with Danish oil or a blend of neem and castor oils due to their organic properties. The sizes are currently the Starter size diameter of 145mm. Regular is 190mm diameter, Large is 250mm and extra Large is 300mm.

Moving up a club/meel weight

Moving up a club/meel weight

This is a 4 week transition plan to move up from your current Persian meels weight to the next, when ready. How do I know if I’m ready? Well, you should be comfortable throwing 100 casts (or other exercise) with your current weight. If you are, and want to move up, then commit each session 2 or 3 times each week. This example shows a current weight of 3.5kgs each meel (7kg set), transitioning to 5kg meels (10kg set). Use your current meel size and work in the next weight up. Ween yourself in 4 weeks.

If you only have one pair, then build reps instead. Add 20 to 30 reps at the start of each week onto your 100 rep baseline. 

  • WEEK 1
  • 3.5kg meels x 40
  • 5kg meels x 20
  • 3.5kg meels x 40
  • WEEK 2
  • 3.5kg meels x 30
  • 5kg meels x 40
  • 3.5kg meels x 30
  • WEEK 3
  • 3.5kg meels x 20
  • 5kg meels x 60
  • 3.5kg meels x 20
  • WEEK 4
  • 3.5kg meels x 10
  • 5kg meels x 80
  • 3.5kg meels x 10
  • WEEK 5
  • 5kg meels x 100

Using this pyramid approach allows the lighter weight to warm up at the start and finish off when getting tired toward the finish. The heavier load mid-section increases throughout the month. Most important is to be honest with yourself. If you are struggling, then drop back and lengthen the transition period or stay where you are. 

Persian sang shields

Persian sang shields

The Persian sang is a large rectangular exercise board used for weight training Iranian style. They are used in pairs for strength and agility exercises, mainly while lying on the floor. It could be said they are the precurser of the bench press, and still practised widely today in Iran. They relate back to ancient warrior training for skilful use of shields used to ward off blows during fighting.

The Persian sang is one of the seven disciplines of the zurkhaneh (house of strength), the perfect accompanyment to the Persian meel clubs. The Sang, or wooden shield orginates from a large slab of stone used by the ancient Persian warriors to develop incredible strength as well as agility for the battlefield. Sang comes from the word sang-e zur (power stone) and represents the separ (shield). It is the first of the varzeš-e pahlavāni (heroic sport) exercises. One side of the shield is moved near the floor throughout the exercise is curved. There is a hole at the central part of each Sang with a bar across it that is used as a hand grip around this opening is covered by a soft material to protect the hand. The grip is focussed on the centre of the weight where the slightest movement applies a large amount of torque to the grip of the user. Once the sang have left the ground, the rules are that they must not touch each other, nor the floor, nor the body of the person weilding them. Attention is also given to keeping a flat shield totally parallel with the ground. Not as easy as it may sound.

Today, they are made of wooden planks, equipped with handles. The central wooden handles are often covered with felt to protect the hands while training. Each sang can measure up to 110 cm long and 80 cm wide. The wooden planks may vary in thickness between 3 and 6 cm with the density of wood further influencing the finished weight. Each sang can weigh anything from starter 5kg to 40kg mutant, together making 10 to 80kg sets. Traditionaly, the athlete will lie on his back on a blanket or carpet on the ground. Then, he takes the handles so that each hand is holding one sang before starting on a series of exercises.

Tom Crudgington shares his knowledge about Persian Meels

Tom Crudgington shares his knowledge about Persian Meels

Last week we caught up with Tom Crudgington of the award winning Body Development Gym in Bath for a chat about Persian meels. Tom has been in the fitness industry for nearly 30 years. He is a regular speaker at the annual Birmingham BodyPower exhibition showcasing Meels and Shena. In 2008 Charles Poliquin invited Tom to begin PT mentoring. He has continued mentoring alongside teaching his regular classes with wife Karen at the Body Development gym. On my first visit I was immediately taken by the friendly feel to the place and the support everyone here has for each other during some pretty tough workouts.

BMF: So what were your early experiences with Persian meels?

Tom: In 1997 I first experienced club training with Amir Esmaeli, a world champion wrestler of his day who was trained in the traditional Persian Zurkhaneh ways. I would always turn up half an hour early at his gym in Bristol wanting to learn as much as I could. However, it took 2 years before Amir would allow me to train with the clubs. How different things are these days!

The only clubs Amir had were his 40lb pair! I’ve since had made my own rough copies of Amir’s clubs – around 10kg each club.

I was training 4 to 5 days a week and my main training partners were Albi Breeze and Will Bundy. Will still trains with me to this day.

The first technique Amir shared was a simple cast over the shoulder. He wouldn’t teach any further techniques until I could do 100 reps. It took about a year to get there.

Amir would routinely use the clubs for abdominal conditioning. Most of the people I trained with there were professional boxers, fighters and rugby players.

Tom Crudgington with Amir Esmaeli
Amir Esmaeli (3rd from left) then next to him, Tom

BMF: 10kg seems quite a demanding starting weight for even the very strongest of people. What would you now consider a good place to start?

Tom: The way the industry has gone, people are poorly educated and not prepared to operate in the same manner. I can’t see many people going to a gym for 2 years, just to be accepted… and then start the serious training. People these days want an instant download! So these days we have had to adjust. The people who train at Body Development are all a committed group of people. The Persian meels weights they start off with are from 2 to 3kg each club and we build up from there. I have developed a set series of moves over the years to assess where each person is in terms of which size clubs to use.

BMF: From this huge wealth of experience you have gathered over the years, what are the main benefits can you get from meel training alone?

Tom: Persian meels train the whole body. People talk about clubs being good for the shoulders, good for the rotator cuff etc. But when questioned, they don’t really understand the mechanics of he rotator cuff or much else either. The idea of the meel is to train the whole body. It’s so easy these days to see the Zurkhaneh methods online and see the way they are moving… the posting on the leg, how the head movement is integral to it, how the body follows the head, the use of the mechanics. Don’t get wrapped up in awe when you see some guys with huge clubs as some can be hollow or simple made from lighter wood. I have a pair of clubs weighing 15kg each club with thick handles which not many people will ever really be able to swing. If someone is swinging clubs that are 3 to 4kgs each I think they are doing well. But I still like to build people up and expect reps of 100 – be it 10x sets of 10 or 2x sets of 50. This is not necessarily for any real endurance purpose apart from they’re perfecting their ability to transition from foot-to-foot weight displacement etc.

BMF: What is the most common error you see most people make when using meels?

Tom: For the meels it is always going too heavy too quick. It is also it is a lack of understanding around the glutes, the pelvis and drawing back in on yourself. This is the same in all the martial arts pulling back in when doing movement.

BMF: Can you explain what you mean by this?

Tom: You need to understand the mechanics of what you are studying – so you want to look at  movements and the muscles involved in movements, and how the nervous system interacts with the muscles in producing faster movements. I call this MMN – Movement, Muscles, Neurology. The fact is a lot of people don’t take the time to study the movement part, let alone the muscles. I believe that anyone who goes to the gym, not just PT’s, should learn movement. Flexion, extension, lateral rotation, internal rotation etc etc. They should have this knowledge of their own bodies. If they are PTs then they should understand the connections of the muscles within those movements. Advanced PTs should also have a base understanding of neurology. Then if they want to go on and talk to surgeons and other health professionals on a professional basis they should take it a step further again. This is across the board in all exercise, not just clubs.

The big thing is understanding how we produce movement and the club is just an extension. Like yoga or callisthenics, the clubs original purpose was to strengthen the warriors. Now, things have become a bit diluted in the industry. My real passion is to strip it back to basics, to get under the skin of it and find out what its original purpose really was. So when I have people like you who have big experience with clubs, they go “wow” as I peel it back a number of layers as they feel it hands on. This is how I like it to be.

BMF: There is a lot of information you have just shared. Could you strip down the basic foundations practitioners need to be aware of that would help them improve their practice with Persian meels?

Tom: Buy a lighter pair of meels of 2-3kg
Work on the basic foundation moves we work on at Body Development in our kettlebell and meels classes. We have a video of these on the BD Facebook site to take a look at. Or you can see them here on the BMF site.
The drills are:
• Door frame
• Alternating chop
• Block, sweep and chop
• Crucifix drill

BMF: You mentioned the importance of the position of the head in meel swinging. Can you expand on this?

Tom: Position of the head is crucial whether it’s using Persian meels, Indian clubs, mace or similar. It’s all about where you put your head during the movement. I can soon suss out somebody who actually knows how to swing a mace – whether through wrestling, Thai boxing, or whatever else because their head movement will be critical to how they actually develop force.

The best advice I can give is:
• Stay light
• Build a base layer of basic moves.
• The other thing is rest. Don’t start out swinging heavy clubs daily. Start with twice a week and build up from there. It is like anything else… you have to condition yourself. Be prepared to be in it for the long-haul.

BMF: So this is both mental and physical conditioning!

Tom: Yeah! You’ve got to be in it for a year to get the basics. There is so much out the about ‘getting fit in 6 weeks’ or whatever they say. Fuck that! Let’s give ourselves time to adjust and go through the motions and learn about what we are doing.

BMF: A big thank you Tom for sharing a bit of your knowledge. We hope to talk more again soon.

CLUB SWINGING COMPETITION

CLUB SWINGING COMPETITION

Introducing photo challenge to get us all outside. Share a photograph or video of you using your Indian clubs or Persian meels outside to enter. Now to keep things fair, if you don’t yet have equipment, improvise! Bonus points for interesting moves, and creativity. We will send the winner a £100 voucher* to redeem towards a pair of your choice! ? HOW TO ENTER: Email photos to info@bodymind-fit.com • Send photo/video via WeTransfer.com to recipient info@bodymind-fit.com • Instagram using the hashtag #bodymindfit2019 and tag us ( @bodymindfit ) • Winner will be announced 1st Feb. Have fun and good luck. *voucher may be used for complete or partial payment towards one pair of clubs or meels.
swinging Indian clubs on beach learn Persian meel swinging UK

GADA – adjustable 8-11kg

GADA – adjustable 8-11kg

Introducing our new wooden gadas (mace), made from 2 solid pieces of beautiful walnut – sustainably sourced. A screw in base plate covers the hidden chamber for weight adjustment. Adjustable so you don’t outgrow it too quickly! When chamber is empty the weight is almost 8.5kg. When full, it is over 11kg.

This is the first of a family of sizes to follow soon.

adjustable wooden mace

 

 

Spalding ES Indian clubs

Spalding ES Indian clubs

Introducing our newest family of Indian clubs for sale – based on the classic Spalding ES clubs. These are a nice addition to regular shaped clubs and for those wanting to access a greater range of swing performance. The Spalding ES shape utilises features of teardrop clubs and regular military style Indian clubs.  The result is a shift of the balance further away from the grip. This adds acceleration and momentum to the swing, and requires greater control, thus increasing the challenge while offering a smooth swing. This aspect is less noticeble in the Smallest of the family though far more pronounced with the Regular and Larger Spalding clubs.

Personalised fitness gifts

Personalised fitness gifts

So on the first day of Christmas… we decided to offer free initial embossing on all Indian clubs, Persian meels and shena purchased throughout December. Simply add ‘PERSONALISE’ to the basket, then, with all your items in the basket, apply the code “freeme10” for 2 letters of your choice. And remember, clubs aren’t just for Christmas!

A brief history of Persian Meels & Indian clubs

A brief history of Persian Meels & Indian clubs

In days gone by, some of the best physical training methods were designed for the battle field. Over time most cultures let them disappear for other, more ‘sophisticated’ methods. However, some populations stayed with them and added to them, though the essence stayed the same. The benefits continue to speak for themselves and Iran is a prime example with tools and traditions dating back to the Persian warriors of old. Techniques and equipment designed for the battlefield are applied to elite athletes – most notably power lifters and wrestlers. The rest of the world is finally waking up and the benefits are becomming far wider as more and more sportsmen of varied disciplines can confirm.

Warrior training

Warrior training

In days gone by, some of the best physical training methods were designed for the battle field. Over time most cultures let them disappear for other, more ‘sophisticated’ methods. However, some populations stayed with them and added to them, though the essence stayed the same. The benefits continue to speak for themselves and Iran is a prime example with tools and traditions dating back to the Persian warriors of old. Techniques and equipment designed for the battlefield are applied to elite athletes – most notably power lifters and wrestlers. The rest of the world is finally waking up and the benefits are becomming far wider as more and more sportsmen of varied disciplines can confirm.

UK Persian mils/meels

UK Persian mils/meels

To all who have waited for our larger Persian meel sets from 10kg, 15kg and 18kg pairs. Thank you for your patience. We have taken a while, but these monsters aren’t made overnight! Finally, we now have stock available of the heavier Persian mils/clubs.

10kg Persian meels in ok

First pair of meels, made from green oak by John Taylor, amazing musical instrument maker and recycler.

John Taylor ocarina maker

John Taylor, deceased. Maker of our first Indian clubs and Persian meels. Made his clothes, shoes and glasses frames too as well as the odd harpsichord!

BMF have been making Indian clubs and Persian mils for over 12 years and we have enjoyed the learning process from the very first pair of oak meels (inc. wonkey handle) to today’s made from various hardwoods. Timber is chosen from dense hardwoods that are sustainably sourced and suited for turning. Some wood can be super dense and a nightmare for our turner as the high mineral content can mean constant sharpening of his chisels! Last years pairs of 10kg ekki meels are very rare!

Our meels evolved, with handle girths to suit each weight… too wide a grip is not right for the lighter clubs… too thin will be painful to the hands for the heavier clubs over a long session! We also taper the handle neck to create a stronger bridge between body and handle. This refinement came from a broken handle last year. The guy did drop it on a hard surface though, so beyond expected resiliance!

The batch we have currently made are from Indian walnut, offering beautiful dramatic grain. Individual clubs weigh from 4.5kg to 13kg and all are paired according to the closest gram weight. Matching aesthetics comes second though they are all made from a single piece of the same wood. Each piece is unique. Some may have wavey grain, some more linear. See your clubs as yin/yang partners.

We hope to complete the range with some lighter mahogany Persian meels from 2kg to 4kg (4kg to 8kg mil sets). They are currently being worked on an will be available very soon. Exact date unknown. Making them is an art!

7.5kg Persian mils/meels

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