The Gada in Vyayam

By William Calvani

William Calvani started wrestling at 8 years old in the hale and hardy New Jersey wrestling scene. His experiences and other interests provided the intuition that in traditional cultures wrestling is a spiritual path and was codified, validated and known as such in those cultures. This can still be seen in Japanese Sumo, Iranian Zoorkaneh, Laamb from Senegal and Indian Akhara, Kushti.
Joseph Alter’s book The Wrestler’s Body and Scientific Wrestling‘s video of Karl Gotch’s Conditioning for Combat Sports led to an autodidactic exploration of the excercises of the Akhara, called Vyayam and their effectiveness in promoting strength, dynamic movement and longevity in relation to grappling. William is a brown belt in BJJ under Gordon Emery at Charlottesville BJJ, a submission grappler and catch wrestler.
Working to promote a heretical version of this tradition under the name Waryoga,
the focus of his regime is Dand, or Hindu Pushup, Bethak or Hindu squat, Gada or mace swinging, Gota or stone lifting, Asanas, or postures and Gar Nal, stone necklace and most importantly, grappling.
His experiments, excercises, insights and musings can be found on his Facebook page under William Calvani

The Gada or it’s modern counterpart the mace is a minimalist tool, providing maximum benefit. The tool has begun to make its way out of its traditional context as an Indian wrestling exercise implement and is beginning to appear as a supplementary exercise in gyms and as a training modality on its own. The Gada is essentially a weight at the end of a lever. The traditional excercise is the Swing that has been dubbed the 10 to 2 to by Jake Shannon, an early proponent and first manufacturer of Steel maces. When done with proper technique can benefit the grappler or combat athlete in the following ways: Developing grip strength and grip intelligence by requiring one to handle a dynamic offset weight in various vectors over a given length of time and repetitions. By grip intelligence I mean the ability to micro adjust the amount of force in the grip through the movement which applies directly to grabbing and holding an opponent. Shoulder Health through traction in full range of motion. Hip drive and amplification which works towards… Unifying the body to efficiently unfold complex movement Rhythm and timing: repetitive technical and orderly unfolding, a tonic to the CNS, a neurological routing for other techniques. Although others have begun to expand the buses of the mace, I train exclusively the 10 to 2 swing. I believe that the ancestral developers and practitioners of the Gada assessed and deemed this swing to be the most “bang for the buck”. Combined with other basics of the Akhara training system such as Dands and Bethaks or the Hindu pushup and the Hindu squat, a well-rounded, minimalist, Dynamic exercise regime or vyayam can be performed to great benefit.

The gada has become my training partner, an extension of myself. It’s effect is physical, making a tenacious strength, but also something else. To set it in motion I must set aside time and the wandering of the mind. I must be present with it. I lift it and begin. I find the rhythm of the fight, till it is no longer a fight but the interplay of forces, levity and gravity and myself the fulcrum. Like a mantra, a mudra, a mandala, it’s motion is meaningful, but without explanation, an expression of reality. I am that still point in the center, the Pole Star, around which this microcosm turns. Here in the midst of the simple swing, mind and body are connected in the technique and for a moment is produced the Knowbody.

William Calvani swinging a Gada

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