Sunday, June 18, 2023

Georg Hackenschimdt

When we think of someone who was transformational in the early 20th Century world of strong men and wresting, Georg Hackenschmidt comes immediately to the fore.  A Baltic-German-Estonian-Swedish hybrid, he had success as a strong man, world champion wrestler, author, sports philospher, and trainer.  He was a close friend of both Harry Houdini and George Bernard Shaw, and posed for impressive beefcake photos into his 50s.  Mr. Hackenschmidt was quite a guy!



  1. Is that leaf drawn in? It looks "fake" somehow.

  2. There was a time when a man could know all there was to know. By the Victorian era, which effectively invented modern education to impart a formally classified inter-disciplinary curriculum, those who could travel across those academic disciplines were held in high regard and were called "polymaths" - from πολύς (polus) "much" and μανθάνω (methano) "to learn" - also known as homo universalis. The saddest day came when Edward De Bono coined the phrase "lateral thinking" because that was at one time the very essence of what was regarded as "education".

    The Victorians were the first since Classical times to understand the value of a physical education and believed very sincerely in the concept of Mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body). I was at the tail end of that world, when you were expected not only to partake in sports but to excel to the same extent as your academic performance. The rot soon set in this side of the Atlantic in the 1980s, when the Thatcher government abandoned the gold standard of O-Level (Ordinary Level) General Certificate of Education in favour of the General Certificate of Secondary Education and introduced a National Curriculum from which sport was absent. By the end of the decade, teenage boys were dapping balls in playgrounds - school playing fields had largely been sold off to real estate prospectors - under the non-tutelage of feminist teachers because "everyone was a winner" and sports encouraged toxic male aggression.

    Georg Hackenschmidt was not a "phenomenon" for his time. He was a strong man, world champion wrestler, author, sports philosopher, and trainer because he could be. He could hob-nob with global literary talents such a George Bernard Shaw because the latter did not see any conflict at all between physical accomplishment and academic or intellectual performance. To him, as to the rest of society, changing rooms and sports pavilions were not filled with sweaty, grunting thickos but well-rounded, educated men.

    It's just a shame Mr Hackenschmidt wasn't beneath the tree to catch him when George Bernard Shaw decided to fall out of it at the age of 94.

    1. Enlightening commentary, Julian. Thanks! I would have been at home in Mr. Hackenschmidt's world. Like you, my best athletic efforts were in running. Even so, the best my gym teachers could rate me was "above average."

  3. Georg Hackenschmidt, ett mycket vällevt liv.
    Ett skåpporträtt som var så vanligt på 1900-talet särskilt av skickliga starkmän.
    Hans robusta och starka fysik avslöjas väl, vi kommer inte att se hans like igen.