Indian clubs derive their name from the much larger and heavier objects of similar shape traditionally used by martial artists and Kushti wrestlers in India to train for strength. The practice of swinging such clubs to develop physical fitness was first introduced to England by British soldiers who had studied the discipline while stationed in India during the 1800s.
They were exceptionally popular during the health craze of the late Victorian era, used by military cadets and well-heeled ladies alike, and even appeared as a gymnastic event in the 1904 and 1932 Olympics. Gymnasiums were built just to cater to club exercise groups. The popularity of the Indian Club waned in the 1920s and 1930s as organized sports became more popular. Regimented exercise routines, like those requiring Indian clubs, were relegated to professional athletes and the military, who had access to more effective and modern strength training equipment.
While torches and other sticklike objects have been used in juggling for centuries, the modern juggling club was inspired by the Indian club, which was first repurposed for juggling by DeWitt Cook in the 1800s.
There are current physical fitness enthusiasts who have revived the popularity of Indian clubs in the modern day, citing the aerobic exercise and safety advantages over traditional free weight regimens. There are nostalgic replicas of the original clubs being manufactured, as well as modern engineering updates to the concept, such as the Clubbell.
"We Wanted Those People to See That Indians Aren't Stupid": Identity, Representation, and Resistance in the Cultural Tourism of the Wapato Indian Club
Sep 22, 2012; In the 1970s a group of American Indian junior high school students requested that their public school, located on the Yakama...
One Yakama's Legacy -- Thanks to the efforts of Sue Rigdon, the Wapato Indian Club is helping to keep alive the heritage of the Yakama
Oct 28, 1999; VOICES CORRESPONDENT WAPATO - When the students in the Wapato Indian Club told adviser Sue Rigdon that they wanted to dance,...