Monthly Archives: January 2013

Cloud Hands of an Angell

By John McKean

Steve "THE PEACEFUL WARRIOR" Angell, on holiday, performing Tai Chi on the beach of Sri Lanka.

“THUMP!!” Ohhh, seein’ stars and feelin’ pain! This new training equipment is gonna kill me yet!

Strangely enough, I’d not yet started my morning workout; rather, good wife Marilyn was busily twirling her arms in our kitchen, intent on swinging the very well sculpted, long chunks of wood known as “Indian Clubs.”  She CLAIMED that her eyes were closed while thriving within the healing, calming powers of the circular motion, obviously not sensing me walking in when her “war club” bounced off my noggin!  (But why was she grinning??) And to think this handsome set of clubs, recently obtained from that master purveyor of old time gear, Roger LaPointe, had been my loving, thoughtful birthday gift to her! Actually Marilyn has greatly enjoyed this 2500+ year old exercise mode, also finding it necessary and beneficial to stabilize a recent arm/shoulder condition.

This is just part of Steve's Indian Club collection.

My own major incentive to employ mere 1 to 2 pound wooden weights as a huge improvement to my weightlifting program came from an Angell! No, not a vision from a winged and white gowned type, but directly from a LIVING LEGEND of All-Rounds, England’s super strong Steve Angell !! Through his insightful “Peaceful Warrior” concept, which tones mind, body, and spirit through such disciplines as tai chi, gigong, yoga, Indian Clubs, and high rep kettlebell work, Steve has found the way to acquiring  physical/mental BALANCE to help recuperate from years of overzealous max poundage weightlifting. This well thought out and age-proven regimen hasn’t exactly diminished Steve’s awesome strength or mind blowing physique, if you’ve seen photos of last season’s “impossible” 20 reps with the Dinnie Stones, or his impromptu all-round successes!

Emailing back and forth with mighty Steve came encouraging words that very few ever need employ more than a pair of one, two to three pounders for healing, warm-up, shoulder restoration, and a terrific sense of well-being. Then, while discussing this matter, we both arrived at a theory simultaneously that most martial and meditative arts may well have been derived from ancient club training! (History shows that all martial arts forms originally traveled from India). In fact, Steve had an instant epiphany on this thought, realizing a vital movement known as “Cloud Hands” from Tai Chi, was also one of his very favorite traditional maneuvers with wooden pins! It would be a bit hard to describe Cloud Hands, even with photos, but fortunately Steve made a dynamite YOU TUBE video for me that you can see here –

Hmmm, although I doubt that those 20” guns came exclusively from club work,  you can readily detect the dreamlike, circular toning (the gigong effect) and rhythmic tranquility of deep breathing  that Steve and I (and Marilyn, when she’s not intent in whacking the crap outta me-much as I usually deserve it!) enjoy daily.

So our little home garage gym has what can be considered “unusual equipment” by today’s standards, with my growing collection of Indian clubs.  I doubt you’ll find many commercial gyms, high tech spas, or even old time “pits” which have rows of these well-balanced chunks of wood that once surrounded lairs of Goernor, Saxon, and Sandow!

Following Steve Angell’s lead, I, too, looked to various martial arts to discover circular strategies of movement for my lightweight clubs. Some traditional Indian and British exercises are often used, but prove boring within the necessary high rep format.  However, from the concise rotational motions of Indonesian “Silat” jurus (forms) came a more meaningful, often thought provoking, type of exercise. Also this proved to be a refreshing and needed change from our usual linear weightlifting, and tends to heal through more gentle pressure of leverage resistance. Now, at last year’s Bowling Green, Ohio meet, ole Roger took a video of my unique Silat club program, so hopefully sometime soon he’ll release this on his Atomic Athletic site (put McKean on screen and there goes the business, Rog is probably thinking!!).

No, I’ll never get near the phenomenal Indian Club endurance record of Australian Tom Burroughs during the early 1900s of over 100 consecutive hours of swinging a pair of 3 pound 6 ounce clubs (no food or water breaks, no sitting or resting, no pause whatsoever in achieving an average of 80 reps per minute!). By the way, Indian club work was Tom’s primary and most beloved form of exercise to achieve world class status also in boxing, wrestling, swimming, fencing, gymnastics, and track! For me, if it keeps this cranky, crotchety senior citizen from feeling any older from day to day, I’ll be content; however, last year it did get me down, with little effort, into a lower weight class, gave relief to my always aching shoulders, instilled some of the best warm-ups ever prior to lifting, and seemed to yield a special form of energy for everything I did! The only downside to club training that I’ve found is worrying about  my nicely curved “bowling pins” getting smudged when training at the Ambridge VFW; not that the old gym isn’t always kept spotlessly well maintained, just that prodigious bowler Art would get chocolate on the wood, when he tried to roll a donut between them!

2012 USAWA Year In Review

by Al Myers

The 2012 Year In Review is dedicated to the late, great John Vernacchio.

For the fourth year now, I have done a 2012 USAWA Year In Review.  This book contains all of the information that has been placed on the USAWA website throughout the prior year.  If a blog was written – it is included in this review book.  All together, this review book is 476 pages and contains 164,701 words!!!  Definitely not something you would get read in one evening!  I have had a few copies printed and bound, so if anyone wants one send me an email with your request.  The books cost $50, payable to the USAWA.  This was the cost of the printing so no money is being made here.  Of course, if you just want the file I’ll email it to you free of charge and you can print it out yourself.  The book is printed in black and white.  Color printing would have been 3 times as much! 

This book is not edited.  I just copied and pasted from the website.  I do this monthly as a way of backing up the website, so making this book is not really that much work for me.  And after the problems with the website this past week, where we lost over a days worth of material, it goes to show that the internet may not be a permanent source of this important information.  Having a hard copy book that you can place on your bookshelf will still be there in 50 years!!

Bob’s Bombs

by Al Myers

Dino Gym member Ben Edwards lifting Bob's Bombs at the 2013 Dino Gym Challenge.

I’ll start this writing contest off by writing about a piece of equipment in the Dino Gym that is very “dear to my heart”.   I’m talking about Bob’s Bombs.  Yes, that’s right – these are actually bombs!!!  Years ago we lost a very special friend and training partner Bob Maxey.  Bob was the type of training partner that would NEVER miss workouts, and always knew how to motivate the rest of us to push ourselves in our workouts.  Because if we didn’t – Bob would “call us out” – and you didn’t want him to do that because he knew how to speak his mind in such a way that it bordered on being rude, but wasn’t. He didn’t “suger coat” it when he thought we were slacking.  He simply knew when we were capable of giving more effort than we were giving, and we knew he was right. 

One night Bob brought these beautiful pair of blue bombs into the gym (they were empty training shells thank goodness!!).  For a while in Salina Bob had ran a bar which he named the “Blue Bomb Bar”, and these bomb shells hung from the ceiling as decor.  I’ll never forget Bob’s request to me.  He wanted me to fill these bombs to 100 pounds  each and attach handles so he could use them as farmers walk implements.  Of course, I obliged.  At the time I had no idea what training Bob was expecting to do with them, but I never questioned his training methods which were ofter quite bizarre and unorthodox.

It took me that week to get them “in working order” for him.  I filled them with sand and perfectly center balanced the handles. Well, the first night in the gym after I finished them Bob revealed what he was going to do with them.  He planned to carry both of them to the “top of the hill and back” behind the gym every Tuesday night as a way of giving  himself a little cardio.  For those of you that have been to the Dino Gym know that this is no small feat.  I’m talking to the fence at the top of the hill.  This means down through the raven, pass the ballfield, pass the shelter, pass the throwing trigs, TO THE FENCE.  That’s a total distance of 200 yards, and then you have to walk back.  But when Bob set his mind to something – he was intent on accomplishing his goals.  That first night I had to watch him just because I didn’t believe he was going to try to carry 200 pounds over a distance of a quarter mile over rough up and down yard terrain.  I have no idea how many times he sat the weights down and rested (quite a few), but 30 minutes later he was back to the gym with the BOMBS in hand!!  I also want to mention for those of you that didn’t know Bob, that he was a large man at around 400 pounds.  He was “huffing and puffing” – but he accomplished what he set out to do.  That alone was worth the effort it took me to modify those bombs into farmers walk implements.  He repeated  this feat  several times over a period of 3 or 4 years.

Today Bob’s Bombs sit in front of the Dino Gym as a memory to him.  Occasionally I get to tell someone new to the gym this story about Bob, and remind them of the challenge that Bob left all of us with his pair of bombs.  The blue paint is now faded on them, but I will never repaint them. They are part of the lifting legacy of my great friend Bob Maxey.

Franks BBC Record Day

by Al Myers


Frank Ciavattone, owner and Club President of Frank’s Barbell Club, has sanctioned a record day at his gym on March 16th, 2013.   Most  lifts can be contested for USAWA/IAWA records, but to be sure I recommend you contact Frank beforehand.  Below is the contact information for Frank:

Frank’s Barbell Club
204 East Street
East Walpole, MA 02032
Phone: (508)-668-5200

There is no entry form for this record day. Contact Frank directly for further details.

A Day in the Life of Eric Todd

by Ben Edwards

Give this video 5 minutes of your day if you have ever wondered what a high level strongman’s normal day looks like. I’ve had the pleasure of competing in a few of the same USAWA contests as Eric. He is a very nice guy who has encouraging words and motivational wisdom for everyone around him. He’s also a Special Ed teacher, which isn’t what most people would guess a strongman would be. Not all strongmen are bouncers in other words. I hear that a lot from people who just don’t know how sterotypical and outdated that is on many levels.

(WEBMASTERS COMMENTS:  This was written by Ben on Facebook, and I just think it needs to be shared here in the USAWA Daily News for those who missed it.  It gives a little insight into the life of ET, who has been a big part of the USAWA this past year.)

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