Steve Angell and I have met on numerous occasions during my Indian Club World Tours. In fact I have had the pleasure of meeting up with Steve on every trip so far. One of the reasons I wanted to interview Steve was to get a perspective of the benefits to Club Swinging from a Competitive Strength Athlete’s point of view, plus other questions.
Could you talk about your achievements in strength sports?
Steve Angell:- I am a life time Drug Free competitive strength athlete. I hate everything about the use of drugs in sport, and dedicated myself to purely drug free competitions. A brief run down of the competitions I have won are as follows….
|Junior, Senior and Masters County Hammer Throwing Champion.|
|British Junior Drug Free powerlifting Champion and British Deadlift record holder 280kgs @ 90kgs bodyweight at 19 years old.|
|7 times World IAWA weightlifting champion. 4 times best overall lifter.|
|IAWA world One Hand Deadlift Champion|
|British Deadlift Champion|
|9 times British Strand Pulling Champion|
|1997 drug free Britain’s Strongest Man winner (Only year it was run)|
First person to lift the famous Scottish Dinnie Stones into double figures (20 reps)
|Inductee to the IAWA & Grip Strength Hall of Fame|
|I have also broken over 80 world weightlifting records in the IAWA|
When did you start swinging Indian Clubs?
Steve Angell:- I started swinging wooden clubs around 6 years ago. I am a life long student of physical culture and been a competitive drug free strength athlete for 30 years. I have competed in just about every strength related sport you can think of from Hammer Throwing, Powerlifting, All-round Weightlifting, Highland Games and Strongman. I have also taken part in the oldest running strength sport in the UK Strand Pulling (Chest Expanders) winning multiple championship’s from County & National level to World Champion in all of these disciplines.
A student of physical culture, I had seen Wooden Clubs as training tools in pictures of old time strong man. Also as a Strength Athlete I have always looked for training tools and systems to compliment my strength training and to add an element of restorative Yin to the Yang of Strength.
What sparked your interest in Indian Club Swinging?
Steve Angell:- The physical culture aspect of Indian Clubs was probably the reason in the beginning. However in the beginning of my research into wooden clubs, I had to trawl through all the Clubbell BS first. As a complete traditionalist in all aspects of Physical culture, I hate all the modern rubbish and the bastardisation of these traditional training systems. As a traditionalist and true lover of pure physical culture, I get quite angry at times with the absolute rubbish I see.
All this Grave Digger, off set press stuff is just turning it in to Cross Fit. The same can be said about what is being posted with Clubs and Meels. It seems people are not prepared to spend the substantial amount of time necessary to master the traditional style of Club and Persian Meel swinging, so they create inferior ways of swinging them and use this “Unconventional & Functional” banner to promote themselves. I think there are two types of people in this area. The ones who want to take as long as it takes to become proficient in the use of Clubs, Meels, Jori and Mace, and the ones who have seen it and think they can earn money out of it. The latter unfortunately are the worst exponents of their use.
Can you explain why you enjoy Indian Club exercise?
Steve Angell:- I think they add a great Yin (soft, restorative) aspect to my strength training. I have really moved towards Persian Meel and Indian Jori training over the last couple of years and only use Indian clubs for warm ups and cool downs. I keep to the traditional heart shaped swing variations taught to me by Mike Simpson. A lot is written about Clubs, Mace, Meels & Jori being strength exercises but, you only have to visit the countries of their origin to know that they are not strength exercises, and all the strength athletes from these countries are now using real strength tools like barbells etc. What should be looked into and promoted to bring these ancient tools back to fruition is their wonderful restorative & conditioning properties.
Adding light heart shaped swings in to my training would have worked great, and as a Hammer Thrower, the Mace would have been a great conditioning tool along with Bulgarian bag training. Meels and Jori would have probably taken too much time to learn correctly back then because technically they are much harder to learn but, I am so happy that I have taken the time to learn the techniques, and they now play a massive part in my Yin, restorative training.
What do you think could be done to increase the use of Clubs with strength athletes?
I have had emails from strength athletes asking what weight club they should use. They normally tell me how much they can bench press and are then shocked when I say to start with a 2lb club.
Steve Angell:- Firstly, if someone emails you telling you how much they bench press, they are not strength athletes, they are egotistical gym bunnies. Secondly, most of them are probably only seeing this information being put out there by people who are not strength athletes. Maybe I should play a bigger part in the promotion of light Clubs for the restorative health benefits they will give to powerlifters, weightlifters, strongman/highland games competitors etc. Hopefully this interview could play a part bringing Clubs to a wider audience, and stop them becoming another functional, Cross Fit laughing stock tool.
Do you swing Indian Clubs one or two handed?
Steve Angell:- I swing light clubs both one and two handed. I stick to inner and outer heart shaped swing variations on both, just using basic front, back and over head hand changes when using a single club.
If you were to be cast away alone on a desert island, which pair of Indian Clubs would you choose to have with you?
Steve Angell:- It would be a no brainer for me. It would have to be my Perfect Persian Meels (PPMs). I was so blessed this year to be contacted by a wonderful Iranian chap by the name of Ahmad Afsari who now lives in Texas America. He emailed me out of the blue to tell me he liked the way I was a dedicated father and family man and kept myself strong and healthy for my babies. He told me he wanted to give me a pair of his absolutely wonderful hand crafted Meels, and posted them to me from America. Outside my family, they are my most prized possession. Becoming friends with Ahmad has also massively increased my knowledge of Zoorkhaneh, even down to my now using the pronunciation and spelling of Zoorkhaneh instead of Zurkhaneh. It also made me realise that whilst all those in the west think they are experts after a few years training, there are guys from these countries out there who have forgotten more than anyone of us from the west will ever know. When Ahmad watched a video of me swinging his wonderful Meels and gave me a REAL Persian seal of approval, it meant more to me than anything.
What are the characteristics of your favourite Indian Clubs?
Steve Angell:- Well, this is one of my biggest bug bearers in all types of club swinging. The amount of BS I have read about what a Club, Meel, Jori or Mace should be like is unbelievable. A Club has to have a certain ball knob, it has to be a certain length. A Meel should only be made of a single piece of wood, it should have a certain button end. Tear drop clubs are no good. Blah, Blah, Blah.
For me all this is complete and utter crap! The only thing that should be promoted in all of this is the wonderful health aspects of using them. I have a pair of Meels made from 160 pieces of wood that are better than any meel you will ever find made out of one piece of wood and aesthetically and visually they look and swing better that anything out there. Why? Because they were made by someone who loves Meels and Zoorkhaneh with a passion, and has forgotten more about them than anyone else out there promoting this or that, and who is just trying to sell you their Clubs, Meels or Training systems will ever know. I have spent thousands on my Clubs, Meels & Jori and none of them are superior or inferior to anything else. They all swing wonderfully and to me the health giving aspects of swinging them far out weigh all the BS being spoken about them.
Why did you decide to become a Indian Club trainer?
Steve Angell:- I am not a trainer but, instead am a life long student of physical culture. Clubs, Meels, Jori and Mace are only one aspect of a complete Yin & Yang training system for me. Clubs, Meels & Jori fall into my Yin restorative category along with Yoga, Tai Chi, Tibetan Yoga, Qigong and Somatics to name but a few. They compliment my Yang (Strength) training and create a complete system in my Yin & Yang lifestyle.
In your opinion, what are the benefits of Club swinging for the average person?
Steve Angell:- The benefits are endless. Better mobility, better coordination, a healthier all round body and worked in to a complete strength & conditioning program, will create health and well being long into old age. And the thing is, to add them into a complete Strength & Conditioning program. As you age, the most important aspect is to keep the body strong. In my opinion, you should absolutely add resistance style strength training into your life and balance it out with Clubs, Meels, Jori, Mace and other Yin style, restorative training.
How do you combine Indian Clubs in combination with other training?
Steve Angell:- Most of my training now a days is now more conditioning based. I like to create circuits with Bulgarian bags, Kettlebells, Battling ropes etc. I find adding Clubs, Meels, Jori & Mace into my workouts creates a kind of active rest in my circuits.
My favourite Meel & Jori style workout is my swing them out and swing them back workout. I have made the sacrifices in other areas of my life to have been able to afford and purchase over 10 pairs of Meels and Jori.
My swing them out, swing them in workout, is me taking one pair at a time out of my garage gym, swinging them, and continue until I have swung them all out. I then swing them all again back into my gym. If I am completely honest, one of the reasons I use this style of training now, is because it is a lot easier than strength training, and my main priority is to complete a workout, and be ready to train again the next day. I have not missed a days training in three years.
How do you think clubs have helped you as a strength athlete?
Steve Angell:- Unfortunately, my journey with clubs started just as I finished competing in strength sports, so I can only guess at how great they would have benefitted me in the build up to a competition. I don’t lift heavy anymore. Although I have a base line walk in the gym anytime deadlift of 600+lbs, I never really go much over 500lbs now. At 45 years old and being a father to a 7 year old daughter and 4 year old son, my main priority in life is to stay fit, strong & healthy for the rest of my life and to protect, provide for and help them as much as I can in their lives. I think Club, Meel, Jori & Mace training are absolutely wonderful training tools, and anyone would benefit from adding them into their lives and training. Just learn from the right people who’s main goal is to keep the traditional aspect of them alive and not those who bastardise them just to turn a coin.
Out of all the old books written about Indian Clubs, which one is your favourite and why?
Steve Angell:- I am more of a visual person in my training, and my learning to swing clubs has come from spending hours and hours watching YouTube clips. I did learn the basic Indian clubs swings from Mike Simpson, but there was no one in England turning Meels or Jori, so I have taught myself how to swing them by watching the Indians & Iranians using them. I videoed myself to find where I was going wrong, and after 4 years can now call myself a beginner 🙂
Location:- Steve Angell lives in the South of England
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