Gyanshankul Singh and I met in Varanasi during my 2014 Indian Clubs World Tour. We spent a lot of time training and talking about various aspects of the Akhara. I’m delighted to bring you this interview with Gyanshankul where he talks about his journey into training at the Akhara, which started at the tender age of 14 years old.
When did you first start training in an Akhara? What was your age?
Gyanshankul Singh:- I was about 14 years old when I first went to an Akhara by the name of Shri Shri Hanumaan Ji Vyaamashalaa. At fourteen years old a boy is in early stages of manhood and his body thin and not developed.
Can you outline the training structure in an Akhara?
Gyanshankul Singh:- An Akhara is not only a traditional gymnasium but also a temple. The temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman the God of Strength. When a Pahlavan first enters an Akhara, he will go to the shrine of Hanuman and ask for a blessing before starting his training.
The Pahlavan will start his warm up by doing a 100 Hindu Push-ups and 100 Baithaks.
Next he will swing the Gada one handed in a ladder starting from 5kgs and progressing through different weights to 15kgs.
If the Pahlavan is a Jori swinger, he starts training with Thin Jori ranging from 10 kg to 20 kg as a ladder style warm up.
Time wise this takes about 40 minutes so far. Then he works on Heavy Jori swinging, building on weights and reps according to his capability.
Next the Pahlavan goes back to the Gada and starting with 20kg works his way back down to 5kg for body relaxation (at this time without counting the numbers of reps)
If the Pahlavan is a Gada swinger he uses the same warm up process with the Gada. Then he trains ladder style with Gadas ranging from 25kg up to 50kg, using both hands he tries to increase his repetition count with each weight. Once the training is complete the body relaxation process is the same as the Jori.
When did you start swinging the Gada and Jori?
Gyanshankul Singh:- I was 14 years old at that day on wandering though the Ghats of Varanasi, I found an Akhara name Shri Shri Hanumaan Ji Vyaamashalaa which was very near to my home, literally about 50 mtrs away.
What sparked your interest in Gada and Jori?
Gyanshankul Singh:- I used to play cricket in those days and I was a good fast bowler, however I suffered from a painful shoulder. The resident Pahlavans said that it would help if I were to learn how to swing the Gada and Jori Clubs. As a fourteen year old boy I was frightened of the Gada and Jori, but this did not put me off, I would wait to see the older more experienced Pahlavans train and learn by observation. Then I would copy what I had seen.
Can you explain the traditional Akhara way of learning the Gada and Jori?
Gyanshankul Singh:- You cannot just start swinging a Gada or Jori because you want to.
The traditional way to learn Gada and Jori in an Akhara, you first need to be perfect in doing Hindu Pushups and Baithaks. Your strength will improve and you will mentally prepare to swing the Gada and Jori. You will progress by swinging the Gada two handed, then one handed, only then do you step up to the Jori. Learning is a slow process and you have to become competent at each stage.
Hence the Jori is the last thing we learn, as it is the most difficult to master, because you have to swing two heavy heavy clubs from your shoulders. Thousands of repetitions of Hindu Pushups, make your wrists and shoulders strong and fit enough to swing these large clubs.
There are three types of Jori, THIN, FAT and NAIL, can you explain the purpose of each one and how they are used in training?
Gyanshankul Singh:- There are three types of Jori, THIN, FAT or Persian Meel style and the NAIL Joris.
Thin Jori is an Indian style of club which has a heavy iron ring at the base, the idea is to give the club more load to swing. The Pahlavan swings each repetition of the Thin Jori with a jerk style onto his shoulder. My research has shown that this style of club is only found in India and it is not used in Iran.
Fat Jori or Persian Meel style are designed to be difficult to handle because of their width, and do not have an iron collar at the base which makes them closer to the Persian Meel. They are very hard to mount onto your shoulders, and keep in a static position whilst the other club is swinging. These clubs also can catch on different points of your body, in particular at the hip and back side of the knee, which interrupts the flow you try to establish during a swing making them very difficult to handle.
Nail Jori are simply covered in protruding nails, which means the Pahlavan has to swing the clubs without touching the shoulder and body. The Pahlavan has to eyeball the Jori on each swing to make sure that the club is launched in the correct manner and therefore avoids ripping the skin on his back. The Nail Jori is a technique training club and is the lightest out of the three Jori styles, yet the hardest to swing. The swing style is similar to the Persian Meel, where body contact with the club is and should be avoided.
In your opinion, what are the benefits of Gada and Jori swinging?
Gyanshankul Singh:- The benefits of jori and gada swinging are…..
- Increase in stamina
- Makes for powerful triceps ,biceps and shoulder
- Improves grip strength
- Develops an extremely strong core
- Weight loss and fat loss made easier
- Improves overall flexibility and mobility, especially in the shoulder region
- Develops a very strong back targeting, traps, lats, rhomboids, erector spinal muscles and all the way down to strong glutes
- Great for people with a heart condition and high blood pressure, but only light weight up to 10kg
How do you combine Gada and Jori in combination with other training?
Gyanshankul Singh:- There is great advantage for many sports to adopt the practice of Gada and Jori swinging which will help better performance and prevent injury.
A lot of sports that have adopted the practice of club swinging in India:
- Table Tennis
- Wind Sailing
All these various sports have a heavy emphasis on shoulders, and Indian Jori swinging will give them extra strength and mobility. It is worthwhile adopting using Jori, Meel and even Mace drills in to your daily practice along side all the other forms of lifting you are currently practicing.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Gyanshankul Singh:- In these modern times, people love to go to the gym for good body shape. They all love to drink protein powder shakes and inject steroids. There are no short cuts for success.…. We must secure and preserve our traditional games, Indian Jori and Gada.
Gyanshankul Singh is based in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India
Paul Taras Wolkowinski:- Modern day Western Gyms are on a massive increase in India, and the Akhara (northern India) and Garadi Mane (southern India) are being closed due to lack of local support and in favour of the Western Gyms. However I am very happy to report that I have had many Indians contact me via my YouTube channel, commenting that they had no idea about Traditional Training in India. Better still many have now gone ahead and made their own Clay Pot Gada according to the instructions I was given in Varanasi, and many have reverted to the Ancient and Traditional methods.
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