Kettlebells Throughout World History

Kung fu martial artists in China practicing with the stone locks.

Kung fu martial artists in China practicing with the stone locks.

 In martial arts, training can be split into two main areas.. One aspect is your technique, how smoothly you can pull off the movements, how clean your form is. The other aspect is your conditioning, how strong you are, how much power you can generate, how much endurance you have. Of course these two areas interact with each other. The more in shape you are, the faster you’ll learn and improve on technique, and the better your technique is, the more efficiently you will utilize your conditioning and energy reserves. The right kind of conditioning provides more meat to your technique, and prevents injury. The wrong kind of conditioning does the opposite.

With strength and conditioning knowledge becoming more and more advanced, ironically many athletes and martial artists are exploring more traditional methods to train their movements and develop their strength, endurance, agility, speed, power, flexibility, mobility, and dexterity. The “old school” bodybuilding approach that produces “show muscle” over “go muscle” is going by the wayside, and tools such as the kettlebell and its close cousin, the stone lock, are undergoing a revival in recent years.

Stone locks have a long, proud history of being a dependable tool for martial conditioning in China, with its history dating back to at least the Northern Song dynasty approximately 1000 years ago. It is shaped like a large padlock, usually carved from stone or concrete, and is held by a handle across the top. Traditional Chinese martial artists use them for strength and

Stone Locking in Brazil

Coach Helder practicing Stone Locking drills in Sao Paulo, Brazil- No Kettlebell, No Problem.

conditioning to this day, such as Shuai Jiao (Chinese wrestling) fighters, and Hung Gar fighters. Both

Mixed martial arts legend and Russian Sambo fighter Fedor Emelianenko posing next to kettlebells at his gym.

Mixed martial arts legend and Russian Sambo fighter Fedor Emelianenko posing next to kettlebells at his gym.

systems are known for their emphasis on strength, durability, and power. The exercises are very similar to kettlebell exercises, such as the swing, the flip, and the catch.

Like stone locks, kettlebells have an ancient history. Although they are commonly associated with Russian combat history, there is evidence that they were used during the ancient Greek era, and appeared in Russia at the beginning of the 1700s. Today, the Russian military still uses kettlebells as a tool to both train and test their soldiers’ physical fitness. Soviet era wrestlers used kettlebells as well as a part of their regimen. More recently, Fedor Emelianenko, considered by many to be the greatest mixed martial arts fighter of all time, used kettlebells as a part of his fight preparation.

It is no surprise that stone locks are also sometimes called “Chinese kettlebells”. Indeed, they have many of the same effects for martial artists and fighters with the same goals!

 

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