Thierry Sanchez suffered a serious mountain bike injury in his 30’s which left him weak, and in a lot of pain, and with limited mobility in his hips and shoulders. Thierry Sanchez turned a negative into a positive, creating the motivation to start his journey into strength training.
In 2008 Thierry Sanchez decided it was time to study more in depth. He studied for a year for a strength trainer diploma with DIF, the National Olympic Committee and Sports Confederation of Denmark. During that period, he became attracted to kettlebells and other ancient tools such as sandbags, and Indian clubs. I had the good fortune to meet Thierry Sanchez via Youtube, and then face to face during the Indian Clubs World Tour 2014.
When did you start swinging Indian Clubs?
Thierry Sanchez:- I first heard about Indian clubs in 2000 through one of Matt Furey’s newsletter. If you know him, you may laugh a little, but that was my first approach to some sort of systematised training. I did lots of Hindu push ups, pull ups, squats and bridges and felt great.
He mentioned the legendary Gama and Indian clubs, although he was not a big fan of them. I was working ski seasons at the time, so getting a pair of clubs was not realistic but I experimented swinging whatever sticks I could lay my hands on, hehe!
In 2008 I got into kettlebell sport and ordered a few sets of steel clubs from 3-20kg. Metal clubs were getting common place at that time, wooden clubs were more of a specialty item. I did end up selling all those clubbells but you can say that was when I first started playing with clubs.
However it’s only in 2013 that I started getting into swinging clubs more seriously, reading and researching all I could find. I first ordered some sets off the net but they were rather clumsy. So my good friend Ron Bader turned a pair for me, using dimensions I got from Izzy Barish. After that, Ron Bader turned more sets and we started a club. I have been teaching once a week since then, using them personally nearly on a daily basis.
What sparked your interest in Indian Club Swinging?
Thierry Sanchez:- I guess it looked different and interesting, that and all the tradition and history behind it. The challenge to learn new skills and making it look effortless also appealed to me.
Can you explain why you enjoy Indian Club exercise?
Thierry Sanchez:- You can swing as easy or as hard or as complex as you wish. Once you learn the patterns and can feel the club it becomes a form of meditation in motion. I love the recovery and multi-planar aspect of club swinging. You can also swing and move at the same time.
You have to stand tall, focus on your breathing and perform cross crawl patterns. This is enough to send signals to your brain to switch from the semi constant “fight or flight” mode we live in to a relaxed state.
There is less of a focus on numbers like in strength training. I do not have to achieve a specific goal in a certain timeframe, like for a competition say. I measure the effectiveness of this training in a more subjective manner: smoothness, well being, no achy joints, satisfaction but at the same time I still feel I am getting stronger in my grip and shoulders.
I think that in the future I’ll do less with kettlebells and more with clubs and bodyweight again.
Do you swing Indian Clubs one or two handed?
Thierry Sanchez:- I swing both single and double clubs, and some exercises with 2 hands on the club. I also throw and spin the clubs.
If you were to be cast away alone on a desert island, which pair of Indian Clubs would you choose to have with you?
Thierry Sanchez:- I do not know really… Anything made of wood that swings well. Metal clubs are just clunky and in no way an improvement over the traditional clubs.
What are the characteristics of your favourite Indian Clubs?
Thierry Sanchez:- For fancy moves and open style swinging, from 800g to 1,5kg and about 50-55 cm in length. Any shorter and they do not tend to spin so well, unless they are of tear drop shape. Of course this take consideration of my size.
For strength, closed style swinging, from 4 to 6kg and around 65-75cm in length. I am slowly gravitating towards meels.
They also have to be pleasing to the eye, usually there is a good chance they will swing well. I have seen lots of ugly clubs out there…
Why did you decide to become a Indian Club trainer?
Thierry Sanchez:- Good traditions are worth preserving. For me, one way to learn more about club swinging was to start teaching and let the process unfold.
In your opinion, what are the benefits of Club swinging for the average person?
Thierry Sanchez:- I think swinging clubs is accessible to anyone and offers great benefits.
It improves posture, coordination, body awareness, mobility and endurance. It also helps you switch off and be in the present, focus on your body instead of the constant distractions we are exposed to.
I remember teaching a workshop for Crossfitters with clubs weighing 400g. Those guys are used to train hard and at high intensity, I thought they were going to be bored or hate it. You know how hard it can be to coordinate a heart shaped swing in the beginning… Well, most of them walked to me at the end to thank me and told me how amazing their typically stiff and achy shoulders were feeling.
I wished more people would try it.
How do you combine Indian Clubs in combination with other training?
Thierry Sanchez:- I use them for warm up for kettlebell sport and sometimes at the end of the session. I tend to do meel style turns with heavier clubs on the alternate days, but nothing excessive so that it does not affect my recovery.
Most evenings I’ll swing light clubs for 5-10min before I got to bed, trying new patterns, as a way to unwind.
I also have a homemade steel mace but I do not swing it so often, I much prefer clubs.
Out of all the old books written about Indian Clubs, which one is your favourite and why?
Thierry Sanchez:- Actually I do not have a favourite. Although I love looking at the graphics I can hardly make sense of any of them, it’s not my way of learning. However, I do enjoy reading advice about the timeless, sensible and sustainable approach to health and fitness they provide.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Thierry Sanchez:- Thank you for reaching out to me.
People that might be interested in swinging clubs can easily build a set of makeshift clubs, you have a couple of tutorials on your site.
Ron Bader and I are now working on a project to raise awareness of club swinging. I do not want to say more than that at this point, but I am hoping you’ll have us for an interview at a later stage.
Apart from that, become curious, watch and read stuff from different sources. Each trainer conveys a message in their own style, and something might best resonate with you when put in different words or progressions, even though you have heard it before. With just a few tips you can start swinging, and then a long discovery journey starts.
Thierry Sanchez:- I am a kettlebell coach based in Denmark, and vice president for the IKMF International Kettlebell Marathon Federation.
I offer online training and workshops and was proud to host you for the first time in Denmark in 2014.
Location? Thierry Sanchez is based in Sønderborg, Denmark
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