Pole gymnastics – Mallakhamb, Coach Le Le and strip clubs

by Trevor Aung Than on June 28, 2012

I want you to watch this video and tell me which muscles is he working?

My good friend Zhang Le from ZAiA hamming it up – boy is he strong!

If you started listing muscles and ended-up tallying most of the muscles in the body you would probably be right. Having been coached by Zhang Le for a brief period in Macau, this type of pole exercise or Chinese pole is the epitome of all-round, integrated strength. There is something primal and instinctual about climbing a pole, a workout can rarely be simpler. So much so, many cultures have their own native versions:

Chinese pole. Mast climbing. Mallakhamb. Pole gymnastics. Pole dancing.

Now the first time I came across pole dancing was not on the 2nd floor of some shady ‘late-night’ bar but it was many years ago when I was learning Chinese Kung Fu and we were training traditional Lion Dance, usually seen (and heard!) during the Chinese Lunar New Year. My sifu (or instructor) at the time had us climb a bamboo pole, similar to the brave guy in this video here;

Yes, that is a Lion on his back!!

Needless to say it was tough training!

My brother-in-law sent me a text saying he just watched Mallakhamb and it was the bomb. I had to check it out. This is what I saw:

Mallakhamb – traditional Indian pole gymnastics

Wow, now that is impressive! The music might not be to everyone’s taste but I think we can all appreciate now difficult that actually is.

From what I can gather, various pole pursuits originated in the West from our maritime history and in the East as additional training for martial pursuits, such as wrestling.  The Indian sub-continent has a strong wrestling history, with the Great Gama considered one of the best wrestlers of all time.  That actually gives me an idea for another post…

So, want to go out and try pole gymnastics and be like Jay Shen? – probably the craziest stuff you’ll see:

Chinese pole by Jay Shen

If you live in a reasonably big town there might be a circus school that teaches Chinese pole. Maybe I can get Zhang Le to do some video tutorials from Beijing? Now that would be cool…

Till next week, I’m out. Next week, who knows what I may post? But I have had interest for the top 5 exercises for fascial fitness. Next week, promise!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Xin July 2, 2012 at 10:41 am

What the! Mallakhamb is not only the bomb, it is the A-bomb. You find some remarkable things which everyone should see. I am humbled to see such strength (without the unrealistically proportioned bodies that traditional weight-lifters tend to have).


Trevor Aung Than July 2, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Yeah it is pretty nuts. I have some other videos from my Cirque days which are pretty impressive – stay tuned!


Rebecca McMahon July 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm

We are a Perth based circus group that teaches and performs the rope version of Mallakhamb. We learnt our Mallakhamb skills from an Indian Dance Company that did a skills exchange with us, so as far as I know we are the only group in Australia that does it. In Indian culture, the Mallakhamb rope symbolises Hanaman, the Monkey God’s, tail and it is therefore a sacred object that cannot be touched with the soles of the feet. This means all the skills (climbs, drops etc) are performed with the rope between your toes – ouch!


Trevor Aung Than July 6, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Hi Rebecca,

Mallakhamb in Perth!! Awesome! Who would have thought? I think I’ll be getting in touch ; )



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