If you’ve never heard of Mallakhamb, you aren’t alone. More phenomenon than sport, this ancient practice can only be learned in one place on Earth.
Understanding This Ancient Sport
Mallakhamb is an ancient Indian sport performed by acrobats. It combines aerial yoga poses and wrestling grips on a stationary pole or hanging rope, and it is often performed by children. It combines elements of gymnastics, contortion, and feats of strength. Competitors are judged on speed, grace, and level of difficulty.
Mallakhamb is largely contained to one region of India, Maharashtra, where it is a Marathi Hindi practice that children begin learning at a young age.
History of Mallakhamb
Mallakhamb can be traced back 900 years in India, but it hit the world stage at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. It is said to have thrilled Adolf Hitler, who bestowed honorary Olympic medals upon each Indian performer. Mallakhamb never truly caught on anywhere else, however, so it remains an insular sport unique to India.
Type of Exercise
Akin to gymnastics, Mallakhamb is considered a sport of discipline. It takes many years to learn, and it features stunts performed more than eight feet in the air. Aside from some similarities with gymnastics, the sport has roots in Hindu monkey god mythology and ancient fighting traditions. It showcases strength, grace, and flexibility.
How To Prepare For Mallakhamb
You won’t find a class on Mallakhamb at your local gym. If you want to learn, you’ll need to travel to India and work with a Mallakhamb coach.
Traditional gymnastics tricks are a great foundation for success in this challenging sport, so you should brush up on your hand stands and splits before attempting it.
Just How is Mallakhamb Done?
Mallakhamb routines last 90 seconds and feature death-defying skill combinations in front of a panel of three judges.
In one popularly performed trick, the acrobat flips forward from the ground toward the Mallakhamb pole, catching it in his thighs four feet in the air.
Since Mallakhamb is connected to the Hindu monkey god in mythology, several rules must be respected in Mallakhamb performance:
- Women never compete on Mallakhamb Pole, as the pole is meant to reflect the monkey’s phallus
- Mallakhamb Rope can only be climbed with the toes, and not the soles of the feet, as the latter would be disrespectful.
The Benefits of Mallakhamb
Mallakhamb is a full-body workout – to the extreme. Competitors typically have superior upper and lower-body strength, in addition to strong core muscles.
In addition to physical fitness benefits, Mallakhamb also offers the following:
- An opportunity to learn discipline and work ethic
- An embodiment of a unique, ancient Indian tradition
- Bragging rights – Mallakhamb is no walk in the park
Three Variations Of Mallakhamb
There are three variations of Mallakhamb, each featuring a different apparatus upon which the acrobat performs:
- Pole Mallakhamb
- Hanging Mallakhamb
- Rope Mallakhamb
Each of these variations comes with its own set of rules, commonly performed tricks and scale for judging.
If you’re bored with traditional fitness regimens and sports, and you have natural gymnastic ability, perhaps Mallakhamb will be the perfect fit. Of course, you’ll have to travel to India to find out.