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The Pangymnastikon : Introduction

in Br Dio Lewis, The New Gymnastics, Ticknot & Fields, Boston, 1864

Published on: Saturday 31 January 2004

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 On : All Gymnastic Exercises brought within the Compass of a Single Piece of Apparatus, as the Simplest Means for the Complete Development of Muscular Strength and Endurance.
 By D. M. SCHREBER, Director of the Medical Gymnastic Institution at Leipsic.
 Illustrated with 107 Wood Cuts.

We welcome German gymnastics as an earnest of a revival of the ancient, German, national spirit. During the long centuries of the dark ages, the Germanic soul struggled with ignorance and superstition; culninating at length in the «Thirty Year’s War», during which, four-fifths of the German people were destroyed, and numberless towns utterly annihilated. At last, the worst of all possible results befel the German nation, in the suffocation of its national life. Until the year 1618, the German national spirit still existed, though restrained in its manifestations. There was a noble consciousness of physical and spiritual strength. This consciousness had been preserved through the military habits of the people. Arms were kept in every house. Target shooting was universal. Women and children became comrades in arms. Physical vigor was an object of general emulation. Every house in town and country had its bath-room; organized and incorporated bodies superintended the bath. They were known as the «Society of Bathers». Numberless sports were introduced, and received the patronage of the government. The present English habits are to some extent a reflection of the German life during the period of which we speak. Of all these beautiful blossoms of the German national life, none survived that dreadful war. During a long reign of terror, this noble people was overwhelined by hordes of foreign tyrants, who reduced the German nation to a shrivelled, timid, narrow-minded people, smirking and bowing down to foreigners. A long, long time elapsed ere a few small flames began to kindle in the mass of smouldering ruins, in whose depths the national spirit of olden time had yet continued to glimmer and glow. Two centuries passed, before the regeneration of the German national life could commence. All praise to God, the present generation has crossed the threshold of the new era. The new creation received its noblest impulse through the priceless labors of Gutsmuths, Jahn, Eiselen, Spiess and their fellow workers, who inaugurated the present gymnastic revolution. Gymnastics are therefore not a mere passing thing of fashion, but a renovated, enobled instinct or germ, from the old, yet vigorous root of the ancient German national life. Man may indulge lofty conceptions and aspirations, but without physical vigor he must ever prove a very imperfect being -a tree which bears forced blossoms and dwarfed fruit. What is true of the individual is true of a nation. What the primary school has accomplished for the intellectual life of the nation, the gymnasium is achieving for its physical life. The primitive and aimless field sports no longer suffice. The intellectual life of the nation having reached a higher plane, system and science are demanded for its physical development. Besides, the demands made by a higher mental culture are so manifold and absorbing, as not to allow sufficient time for the primitive exercises which belong to field-sports.

In this work, it is my purpose to present the claims and elaborate the uses of the Pangymnastikon, so called lIecause it possesses the advantages of all other gymnastic apparatus. I would not underrate the value of other apparatus and modes of exercise. Holding the position of president of one of the oldest and most advanced gymnastic clubs in Germany, and deeply impressed with the importance of constant variety and change in apparatus and exercises, I offer the Pangymnastikon, not as a full response to the public demand,but as the most complete «multum in parvo» in the gymnastic field, and as most admirably adapted to the wants of those who cannot avail themselves of the advantages of a gymnastic institution. To all such it is a God-send.

It is comparatively easy to devise gymnastic exercises which shall interest a social class, enlivened by music. But what shall those do, who, finding it inconvenient or disagreeable to visit the gymnasium, would cultivate muscle and vigor at home ? In the absence of social stimulus and music, the exercises themselves must possess peculiar fascination. If, in addition, they bring every part of the body into varied action, giving the left arm, shoulder-the entire left half of the body as much and as varied exercise as the right, we should have the model home gymnastics. The Pangymnastikon meets these indications more successfully than any other apparatus yet devised. While the first exercises of the first series are simple enough for children, the last exercises of the last series are beyond the reach of all except those who have a favorable composition, and are very much in earnest. For clergymen, ladies and many others, who would carry on the work at home, this invention is the most complete means imaginable.

Two large hand rings suspended from the ceiling by ropes, which, running through padded hooks; are carried to the walls. Two other ropes extend from the walls directly to the hand rings. A strap with a stirrup is placed in either hand ring. By a simple arrangement on the wall, the hand-rings are drawn as high as the performer can reach, or let down within a foot of the floor; or at any altitude they can be drawn apart to any distance. The distance between the stir rups and rings can be likewise varied. The usefulness of the Pangymnastikon depends upon the facility with which these changes can be made. The rings must be raised, let down, drawn apart, the stirrup straps changed, or removed altogether from the rings, each and all with a single motion of the hand, and in a moment. There are various simple mechanical contrivances by which these multifarious changes can be made. An ingenious mechanic can scarcely be at fault. I will suggest that in splicing the ropes into the rings, the splice should be long and drawn close ; else giving way, an unpleasant surprise may occur. The ropes should run through strong, padded hooks at the ceiling, which are fastened on the upper side of the timber with thick nuts. The fastenings on the wall must be made secure. The ropes with which the rings are separated, should be armed with wrought-iron snap-hooks, which can be caught into wrought-iron rings, which have been firmly lashed into the suspension rope, at the point where it connects with the hand ring. The stirrup straps must be of very strong white leather, with edges so rounded that the pants will not be worn. In shortening the straps, a buckle should not be used, for, in removing the straps from the hand rings, much time would thereby be lost ; nor should a simple hook be employed, as the leather is liable to give way, and the hook to slip out. A brass H, with one side sewed into the end of the strap doubled, and the other slipped through slits in the body of the strap, is a perfect thing. With this simple contrivance, the strap can be altered or taken out altogether in a second, and can never give way. The stirrups should be very strong, with serrated bottoms, and fastened into the ends of the straps with strong sewing and copper rivets. The Pangymnastikon cannot be put up in an ordinary gymnasium ; the ceiling is too high. The best height for the ceiling hooks is twelve feet ; a ceiling as low as eight feet will do. The apparatus can be used, however, in a gymnasium, or in an open yard, by the erection of a simple frame work. If suspended in an ordinary gymnasium, from a ceiling eighteen or twenty feet high, a large number of the most valuable exercises cannot be performed advantageously.

Upon a close examination of the Pangymnastic exercises, the conviction will be forced upon all, that by no other means can such a variety of valuable exer cises be reached. A vain boasting over muscular strength is vulgar. I regard with disfavor the cultivation of mere strength, without a noble carriage, freedom, security, agility and grace. Still less do I approve of a mere display of feats. But what thoughtful person can reflect upon the objects of human life, without seeing that not only is the highest development of the muscular system a great advantage to those who follow mechanical occupations, but of vital importance likewise to those who fill the ranks of intellectual life, and who require as a condition of success, good health and strong vitality. Only a whole man is capacitated to perform in the best manner the tasks of life. Is it not an aim worthy our highest efforts to develope our whole being to its fullest capacity ? To carry forward to full fruition those germs, which, like the slumbering buds of a plant, exist within us, awaiting the period of their development and ripening. That which man is in himself, that which he possesses in his own person-his intellectual and physical capabilities, constitute his only permanent, reliable capital! If then a method is opened for the development of his physical strength, not at the cost, but to the advantage of his intellectual powers, would he not prove himself a simpleton if he refused to follow such a path? The anatomist, in examining the exercises here introduced, will not fail to discover that each and every set of muscles has received studied attention, while at the same time the general development of the MAN has been kept in view. This universal development is especially provided for in the Pangymnastikon by the union of the stirrups with the rings, from which results an infinite combination and variety of exercises. The main value of the Pangymnastikon rests upon this union of the stirrups with the rings. I believe the gymnasium receives in this apparatus a larger circumference than is offered by all other gymnastic utensils combined. The muscles of the lower part of the body, and the nape of the neck, are more thoroughly trained than by any other means. The extensor muscles of the fingers, hands, arms and legs, which are never brought into vigorous play with other gymnastic apparatus, enjoy, in the use of this apparatus, full play. The rotatory and diagonal movements of the muscles, which are particularly effective in the production of symmetry, figure prominently. Pangymnastic exercises derive great advantage from the fact that the points of support as well as the points of grasp are moveable, whilst ordinarily these points are fixed. The advantage of the Pangymnastikon is, that these points are fixed through a varied action of the muscles. This compels an almost infinite multiplication of the direction and manner of muscular exertion. The Pangymnastikon, as I am convinced by a wide experience, possesses strong attractions to lovers of gymnastic exercises, on account of this great variety, and the graduated difficulties to be overcome. It will everywhere prove a source of unlimited interest in private houses. Nothing could be more admirably adapted to ships, where invigorating exercises are greatly needed to pre serve health and to prevent sea sickness. The Pangymnastikon is therefore to become the means of an unlimited generalization of the gymnasium. The pupil must observe the gradual method of advancing. Beginning with the most simple, and at last reaching the most difficult. He must proceed from exercise to exercise, from degree to degree, from series to series.


In : Br Dio LEWIS, M. D., Professor of the Essex Street Gymnasium, Boston.
 The New Gymnastics (For Men, Women, and Children).
 With a translation of Prof. Eloss’s Dumb-Bell Instructor and Prof. Schreber’s Pangymnastikon.
 Ticknot & Fields, Boston, 1864.

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