Physical Culture Shock: Indian Wrestling


Last week we talked about the physical culture in what used to be called Persia. This week we will talk a little about the culture of another country in Asia. India has some of the richest physical cultures on the planet and many people do not realize it.

Outside of the obvious yoga, they have been using clubs, gadas, and other tools to make some of the most significant wrestlers in history. We will go into some of how the people of this country train for life and other areas!

History Of India Physical Culture

India’s physical culture is shrouded in secrecy, or maybe ignorance is a better term. Considering many in the west do not want to look outside the borders of their own countries. However, India has a very deep-rooted physical culture that many would recognize all around the west.

Yoga is one of the most participated in past times. People all over north america are spending hours a week doing this art. However, it is originated in India by well-respected elders called Yogis They make yoga so much more than stretching. They connect it directly to their Hindu faith. They also practice a subset of yoga called pranayama which is the act of training the breath.

Not only do the people of India practice yoga, but they also have a foundation in the strength arts. When England colonized the country, they took back with them a variety of tools they found turning their citizens stronger. These tools were the Indian clubs. You could see the clubs being used in English gyms of the time.

They also developed the use of maces (Gada), concrete wheel, specialized shovel, and even homemade sleds. They knew all about the basics of physical fitness and what it took to become a great athlete.

Pehlwana Wrestling

The Pehlwana  Wrestlers of India are a people who are immersed in the physical culture. They are dedicated athletes who train for most of the day in the hot sun of India. This wrestling tradition dates back to the 13th century if not earlier than that. The traditions and training continue to this day. The systems have been passed down generation to generation.

How They Train

These are some of the hardest working athletes on the planet. You don’t, believe me, I will lay out a typical day for a Pehlwan.

  • 3am wake up ( Press-ups/squats/5 mile run/swim/ stone lifting)
  • 8 am Wrestle for 3 hours
  • 11 am Rest/massage
  • 3pm Train(clubs/gada/wrestle)
  • 8 pm Bedtime

This is a daily thing they do not take many days off. Their training regiments are very strict as well as their diets. They consume a diet slightly higher in fat because of the amount of work they are putting into their daily training.

As stated before these wrestlers use a variety of tools that are not often seen here in the west. They use clubs, Gada (mace), and a variety of concrete implements. They also move weights you wouldn’t think possible.

I have seen on youtube an older wrestler swinging a 50kg gada or mace. That is 110lbs doesn’t sound impressive but anyone who has ever swung a mace understand exactly how difficult that is.

They have far more ways of training that could outlast any article I could write. I am only a passionate onlooker on how important other cultures are. The wrestlers of India are no different. They know nothing else but becoming better. They are willing to do whatever it takes to dot hat, and they train accordingly.

What We Can Learn

Outside of learning how effective a mace, or clubs, or any tools these fantastic athlete use. We can take a page out of there book of work ethic. These athletes know that there is only one way to be the best and that is through training.

Not through social media posts, or false portrayal of hard work. Now they get up early every day, get all the job done that they need to, eat their food, rest when needed, and go to sleep ready to repeat it all tomorrow.

The athletes in this nation train in what is called an Akhara. This is much like the zurkhaneh of Iran. The only difference being that the Akhara is generally outside with sand pits for wrestling.

Like the athletes of Iran, the India wrestlers depend on a whole lot of upper body rotation strength. That is because when you are throwing an opponent in wrestling the muscle associated with that movement must be strong and ready to handle a variety if odd angles.

The Gada handles this exceptionally well. With the long shaft creating the immense force as the head travels down the muscles of the core, upper back, shoulders, and grip must be strong enough to bring the mace back to the starting position


The culture in India is totally different than what the outside world believes it to be. Inside this country rests one of the deepest-rooted physical cultures on this planet. They are very connected to how their bodies should be and how they can get the most out of the littlest amount of tools.

The Wrestlers of this nation show up every day ready to work hard in order to become the best they can possibly be. We could not ask for more than that for any of the youth growing up here in the west!

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