Functional fitness the Indian wrestling way
Just over thirteen years ago I was working in London getting my career off the ground in a promising graduate position for a famous professional services firm. It was a gruelling three-year apprenticeship period with oodles of internal training, external training at specialist colleges, and competive exams. This on top of an already-challenging full-time job that criss-crossed London. I was pretty drained. What fitness I’d won at university through boxing and circuit training was steadily eroded until I was getting pretty pudgy and creaky.
Finally on the day I achieved my professional license, I quit and hopped on a flight to Okinawa to teach English for a year in a tiny subtropical island. The itchy feet could no longer be denied. Trading the high-pressure hustle of grey dreary London, overnight, for the balmy 30+ sunshine and beaches of a small rural community came as quite the shock, and relief. It also presented a fitness challenge.
How would I recover my fitness when there’s no gym on the island?
All I had to work with was a tatami-matted spare bedroom and my own body. I couldn’t even rely on mail-ordering equipment because everything would need to be shipped in on a prohibitively expensive two-hour ferry. This was before the internet became ubiquitous, before youtube was full of training videos. I had just a 56k dail-up modem on my Sega Dreamcast.
Luckily, I found my way into functional fitness through bodyweight exercises. Initially through a guy called Matt Furey who was touting the dinosaur training of old-school strongmen like Otto Arco, Maxick and George Hackenschmidt. He’d also recently gotten the nod from an ageing Karl Gotch to begin marketing his old catch-wrestling workouts. This was back when Furey still had good material to sell, before he branched out into some fairly questionable internet marketing off-shoots.
The old timers are incredible. This was the era before steriods, human growth hormone and ephedrine. Back then “bodybuilding” was called “physical culture” and was inseperable from good long-term heath. The old timers spent as long practicing deep breathing and muscle control as they did pure strength gains. I was never interested in a gym body with huge muscles and low bodyfat, having been introduced to physical training through boxing where the world “musclebound” is an insult. I wanted a body that could respond to all my daily needs with spring and vibrancy.
I trained three times a week with a hardcore session that left me so drained I could see Jesus walking on the water. I’d usually do another light session to round out the week. For one calendar year I did these workouts:
- Variation A: Royal Court: 500x hindu squat, 100x hindu pushup, 5 minute neck bridge
- Variation B: The Gotch Bible: work through a deck of playing cards doing the number of reps on the card face (picture cards = 10, ace = 15). Black is hindu pushups, red is hindu squats
- Variation C: 250 Pushups: combination of push-up variations in sets of 10.
The results were immediate and significant. I became much fitter and stronger than when I’d dabbled in weights as a teenager and all round felt great. I wouldn’t particularly recommend high-rep workouts anymore but my knees are great without any soreness thirteen years after hitting them hard with 500-rep squats. I’ve since moved my training more towards kickboxing and isometrics, but encourage you all to try the Royal Court.
There’s something special about knocking out 500 non-stop squats. First time took me 35 minutes, and my peak it took 11. You’ll start off scoffing at it’s ease, then begin to feel the burn in your quadriceps as you approach 100. By 150 you’ll be wondering if you can finish and by 200 really beginning to marshall your mental discipline. By 250 you’re over the hump and beginning to zone out. 400 is the home stretch and you feel great. By the time you step off the mat at 500 you know you’ve acheived something beyond 90% of men. For months after you can look back and think “I have the mental discipline for 500 squats, so I have the mental discipline for anything.”