A Handbook of Free-standing Gymnastics

A Handbook of Free-standing Gymnastics

Editor’s Note: On page 315 of Home Education, Charlotte Mason wrote, “For physical training nothing is so good as Ling’s Swedish Drill.” Although Mason referred to the method of Pehr Henrik Ling (1776–1839) as “Swedish Drill,” it was more commonly known as “Swedish Gymnastics.” It was described using that name in the L’Umile Pianta article “Harmonious Relations.” In a Parents’ Review article from volume 13, Helen Douglas described its history as follows:

Many years ago there lived a man in Sweden who realized that gymnastics should mean much more than the mere development of a few muscles, for instance, the biceps of the arm. Feeling convinced that—to do any real good—gymnastics must affect all parts of the body equally, this man—Peter Henrik Ling—devoted much time to the study of anatomy and physiology, in order to understand about the build of the human body and the different kinds of work it has to perform. It was only after he had thoroughly mastered those subjects that he began constructing his exercises, the result of which is that to-day every exercise used in the Swedish system is of distinct value to the human body, and has a sound scientific reason for existing. (pp. 178–179)

In the book review below, Mason recommended a specific book about the Ling system: A Handbook of Free-standing Gymnastics, by E. Adair Roberts. It is an impressive volume, with tables, charts, illustrations, and photos. It is not surprising that Mason wrote, “We have not seen a better manual of free-standing gymnastics.” A complete scan is available here.

The Parents’ Review, 1905, p. 637

A Handbook of Free-standing Gymnastics, by E. Adair Roberts (Sherratt and Hughes, 3/6). This volume has been adopted by the Ling Association of trained teachers of Swedish gymnastics, and that is a sufficient recommendation. Part I. gives a series of complete lessons on the lines of the model course of physical exercise issued by the Board of Physical Education. Part II. gives, so to speak, the theory of these exercises to further the intelligent work of teachers. The instructions are very clear, and the illustrations most assisting. We have not seen a better manual of free-standing gymnastics.

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