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— AXfia, or the exercise of leaping, ranked second, and was generally performed with oral weights of lead, having holes in them through which the leapers put their fingers, and by these they poised and assisted forward their bodies. The proficiency of some of these was very great: Pausanias assures us, that Phaulus of Crotona leaped fifty-two feet.—The hurling of the discus ((Woe), a quoit of stone, brass, or iron, was among the most ancient of these sports. It was thrown under the hand as the quoit is now in England, and the object was to hurl it further than another could do.
The wrestling of the ancients (raXn) required equal strength and agility. They never encountered till all their joints had been fomented and suppled with oil to prevent strains, and to elude the grasp of their antagonists. After having anointed their whole bodies, they rolled themselves in sand to prevent excessive perspiration, and were then considered ready to enter the lists. The victory was adjudged to him who had given his antagonist three falls. Tlvyuaxia, or the exercise of boxing, was the last both in order and in estimation. As well as a certain fleshiness of arm, and stoutness, if not corpulence of body, to increase the force of their own blows and to lessen the injury of their antagonist's, a certain regimen was requisite, regular sleep, rest, and provisions,which but ill prepared the combatants for the privations of war. In this exercise also the victory was never decided till one of the parties fairly yielded, either by holding up a finger, or demanding quarter. This, however, seemed so contrary to the obstinate character of Grecian valor, that one of the parties was generally slain; and the laws of Sparta absolutely prohibited her citizens from ever engaging in it, as a Spartan was 'taught to disdain saving his life by yielding to bis opponent, and the life of a Greek was not to be sacrificed to the amusement of an hour.'
At first they used never to box but with naked fists and arms, afterwards they covered the wrists and hands with leather thongs, and at length fought with their arms and fists perfectly cased in leather, loaded with plummets of lead. These tremendous gloves were called Csestus, and the following description of those of Eryx, the brother of Acestes, king of Sicily, sufficiently proves the direful nature of the combat:—
In medium geminos immani pondere exstus Projecit; quibas acer Eryx in prslia suetns Fcrre manum, durnque intendcre brachia tergo. Obstupuere animi; tantorum ingentia septem Terga boom plumbo iniutu ferroque rigebant.
JEneid lib. v. 1. 401.
■ — He threw
Two ponderous gauntlets down in open view.
The Pancratium also (Gr. jrayrponov) is worthy of notice. It was a contest in which both wrestling and boxing were united, and the combatants often threw themselves upon the
ground, and continued the fight by biting, scratching, pinching, kicking, or any other method of annoying their antagonists. This was continued till one of them yielded; and it often happened that he who in wrestling would have conquered, was, in the Pancratium, compelled to give in. In the time of Homer all these exercises were performed in drawers, which, indeed, were not laid aside before the thirty-second Olympiad. One Orseppus, a wrestler, is said to have been the first who introduced the practice of contending naked: for, having been worsted by his drawers entangling him, he threw them aside, and the rest afterwards imitated him.
From the Greeks the Romans derived these exercises, and improved them to the highest degree of magnificence. But the declension of the empire involved the ruin of the arts, and, among others, that of gymnastics. The attempts to revive and improve them, at the close of the last century, it is now our business to notice.
Germany was the first country that attempted the revival of these ancient and manly sports. At Schnepphenthal, near Gotha, Salzman first framed a course of gymnastics, which was improved and arranged by Gutsmuth, who published the first modern treatise on the subject in 1793. In Denmark the government, intent on a plan of public education, issued an order that a piece of ground should be allotted to every public school for the practice of these exercises; and, in 1804, no less than sixteen of these establishments were formed in that kingdom. In 1810 a gymnasium was erected at Berlin by the Prussian government, and placed under the direction of M. Jahn, by whose exertions several similar institutions have been formed in various parts of Prussia and Germany. In fact, no large academy is now considered perfect in those countries which does not include a course of gymnastics in its system. In IB 17 appeared Gutsmuth"s complete System of Gymnastic Exercises, to which, in the course of the article, we shall find it necessary to refer.
Early in the spring of 1826 a meeting was held in London at the Mechanics' Theatre, Southampton Buildings, Dr. Gilchrist in the chair, to consider of the practicability of establishing a London Gymnastic Society. Professor Voelker of Germany came forward and offered to give his instructions gratuitously, and another gentleman present advanced the money for the erection of the apparatus. A society was soon formed, and they purchased a piece of ground on the higher part of Spa Fields, near Pentonville. From its elevation it is dry, and capacious enough to accommodate about 300 gymnasts. These are arranged in classes according to their size and capacity; and the various poles, 8cc, are constructed of different sizes accordingly. At the ringing of a bell each class changes the exercise in which it has been previously engaged, and begins a new one, according to a plad prescribed by the director. The success of the undertaking has, we think, exceeded even the expectation of the most sanguine of the projectors. In about two months they numbered 700 pupils; and it was soon seen that similar places might be erected with advantage in various parts of the
suburbs of London. Similar societies have been formed at Hackney, Bethnal Green, Knightsbridge, &c.
DESCRIPTION OF THE MODERN GYMNASTIC EXERCISES.
The ancient and modern gymnastics must not be confounded. The present professors of the art entitle it 'a revival of the ancient exercises of the Greeks;' but he who should visit Pcntonville with the hope of watching the striving of the dusty wrestler, the combat of the Pancratium, or the hurling of the discus, will indeed be disappointed. He will see but little in the 'leaping stand,' or the 'climbing scaffold,' of the London gymnasia to remind him of the Grecian academy or the Roman amphitheatre. The ancient gymnastics fitted men for the field, and for the fatigues of war—the moderns- profess Only to improve the constitution; to enable men to encounter without injury the close air of the counting house or the drawing room; to endure without trouble the fatigues of a city life. To strengthen all the muscles of the body being their object, the. exercises are necessarily of different kinds. The principal ones are six in number: we commence with the most simple and natural.
As it is evidently necessary to the performance of several of the other exercises, the young gymnast must particularly endeavour to acquire a swift and easy method of running. The most common fault is the taking 'too short and swift steps, which soon fatigue, and the progress is not so great in proportion as when the steps are longer though less quickly performed. It is also more difficult to breathe in time with such steps, and the runner consequently sooner loses his wind. About 350 or 400 feet i3 the best length for a course; though for very young or weak pupils 250 may be found sufficient, and when a party first begin this exercise, they should start in the military 'double-quick time.' This will prevent strains, either from the violence of starting or the sudden exertion of the race, for which the body migSt be unprepared. Indeed sufficient attention has never been paid to swift running in time, and consequently a line can scarcely be at all kept by persons when running with only a moderate degree of swiftness.
Leaping is the best bodily exercise for the lower members, and therefore occupies a very prominent place in all modern gymnastics. In order, however, to practise this with ease, initiatory exercises are often necessary. We frequently meet with persons of considerable muscular strength, who, from their habits of life, are so sluggish and unwieldy that they know not how to exert it. The ploughman, who with ordinary fatigue would guide the plough all day through the hardest furrows, would be unable probably to leap a ditch to save his life. These preliminary exercises are hopping, and striking the lower part of the back with the feet and the knees again*'. >'r.e brcMt. In hopping cam should be Vol.x. VV 8
taken to make the steps short and quick, keeping the arms crossed and the head erect. After these exercises have in some degree brought the muscles of the thigh into play, and rendered the knee-joints sufficiently flexible, the pupil may begin leaping. Of leaps there are several different kinds, viz. the long leap with or without a run, the high leap with or without a run, the deep leap, or the same leaps with a pole, all of which are very differently peiformed.
1. The long leap without a run is an excellent exercise, particularly for the muscles of the feet, calves, and thighs. It is performed merely by the elastic power of the feet, assisted by a swinging of the hands. The long leaps are best performed over a ditch about a foot deep, and increasing in breadth from one end to the other thus :—
taking care that the margin of one side, A, be composed of loose sand to the extent of about two feet and a half, in order that a slip in descending may not strain the feet of the leaper. The broadest end of the ditch need not exceed twenty feet, and the breadth should diminish gradually to about four and a half. Continued jumping from one end to another of a loDg piece of ground is also recommended as an excellentpreparatory exercise.
2. The high leap without a run.—In order to practise the high leaps it is necessary to construct a leaping stand, which is generally made in the following manner:—Two upright posts, a and b in the diagram, are fixed in the ground at the distance of about twelve feet from each other, anil having holes drilled in them at every inch for the insertion of the pegs c, c, over which a cord is kept extended by the two weights fastened to its extremities:—
The leap over the cord must always be made from tho side of the stand, opposite to which the string is laid, in order that it may give way if struck by the feet. This stand therefore allows of leaping from one side only, and even then the weight often occasions the string to entangle the leaper, although his feet carry it off the pegs. A better stand may be made (if the leapers are not very numerous) with poles that shut up in three joints, one within the other, similar to some fishing-rods. These being drawn out to any required length, and supported in their position by means of small pegs, a thin light catie in place of the string is laid along the top of the two poles, which are slightly grooved to receive it. See plate II. Gymnastics, fig. 2. This will he found to fly oft' with the slightest touch, and never to embarrass the pupil: a circumstance worthy of consideration, as a 'fall when leaping to the height of eight or ten feet often produces serious injury. This stand may also be used with equal safety from either side; but the poles cannot be set so far asunder as in the other, it being difficult to procure a thin cane that is straight above five feet in length. In order to learn the high leap without a run, the pupil is directed to place himself at about the distance of four feet from the stand, and having excited the elastic power of his feet by a preliminary leap of about three feet, he springs over the cane. The two leaps should be made very light, and follow one another instantaneously, that the force of the first spring be not lost. It is better for young pupils to begin this with the cane no higher than the knees; but many persons will spring over a cord at the height of the pit of the stomach.
3. The deep leap is a spring from one side of a ditch to the other, which is considerably lower, or indeed from any high place to a low one, and is best performed with the assistance of the hands. By contriving to throw himself partly on his hands, and let the weight of his descent thus gradually pass over to the feet, the gymnast will soon be enabled to leap from a height, that to an unpractised eye would appear dangerous. By continual practise on the ladder of the climbing-stand (see plate I. Gymnastics), for instance, he will in time be enabled to leap with comparative ease from a two pair of stairs window, and thus have a considerable advantage in case of five over the idle or the sedentary man, to whom a leap from the first floor would, be often fatal. For exercise this leap is often performed without the assistance of the hands, and great care must then be taken to fall on the ball of the toes, instead of the heels, as otherwise a very considerable shock may be given to the body. Dropping also from a height is often connected with this exercise, and great care must then be taken to keep the knees slack, and the body rather forward-in the descent. These exercises must on no account be performed after a meal, as the shock on a full stomach may sometimes occasion hernia.
4. The long leap with a run is to be practised over the ditch shown above, and the run should never exceed twenty-five feet. The steps should be small, and increase in rapidity as they ap
proach the leaping-place; long steps are to be particularly avoided, as they considerably diminish the force of the run: As it is evident that the spring can be finally made with only one foot, and most persons leap best with the right, some little practise is required to enable the leaper to so far measure the distance with his eye, as to bring that foot forward to leap with. When descending, the feet should be kept close together, the knees slack, and the chest well thrown forward, and on arriving at the ground a light spring should be again made to lessen the shock of the- fall; though if the opposite margin be formed of loose sand to the depth of about three feet, as before recommended, no shock can be felt. Many young leapers, however,. by throwing the feet too forward, fall backward on coming to the ground, or by separating the legs give to one of them alone the whole weight of the descent, and'thereby are apt to receive some unpleasant strains. But, of all the faults of young beginners, the most common is that' of endeavouring to hurl themselves along without leaping to a sufficient height: they thus come quickly to the ground, and generally fall on their faces by the strength of their own leap. A person who can leap three or four times the length of his body, may be said to be a good leaper, though he will remain as a gymnast far behind Phaulus of Crotona, who leaped fiftytwo feet at the Olympic games.
5. The high leap with a run may be performed either by bending the legs under the body as close as possible, immediately on leaving the ground; or by throwing the left leg over the cane, and drawing the right sharply up to the bottom of the back; or by throwing them together, either to the right or left side, to prevent their catching against the obstacle over which you leap* The ran, &c., is the same as in the preceding exercise; and many leapers will in this manner clear a wall considerably above their own height. At Greenwich this exercise is combined with a game of carrying off a ring on the top of a sword while in the act of leaping, and this accustoms the pupils to spring with great precision and coolness.
6. The long leap with a pole.—We are now come to Teaping with a pole, which has been said to be ' vaulting, in which the leaper, instead of supporting himself by an intervening object, carries with him a pole, which he places in w hatever spot he chooses.' This is, however, by no means cqrrect; the support given by a wall, bar, or other fixed object over which you have to move, and on which the hands must be moved, bears but little resemblance to a moveable pole which swings with your body, and on which you in a manner hang. The pole should be from about six feet to ten, or even thirteen, feet long, and about two inches thick at the bottom, tapering to about an inch at the top: ash is the best wood, as fir, though more easily procured straight, is more liable to crack. This pole is held with the right hand about the height of the head, and the left a little higher than the hips. The run is the same as before, but the leap must be made with the left foot. The leaper then swings round to the right of the pole, making a turn, so that his body faces, on his reaching the opposite