Saheb A Zaman Club Zurkhaneh
The Saheb A Zaman Club Zurkhaneh in Yazd is the only Zurkhaneh which permits women to watch. It is located in a beautiful old ice house (dating from 1580) with four magnificent Badgirs (Windward) inside an āb anbār (Cistern), water reservoir, gracing the roof. Certainly one of the most interesting and powerful things you could see in Iran is Saheb A Zaman Club Zurkhaneh. Of course, one can not be sure what modern personal trainers would say about their techniques but it is certainly interesting. If you have a chance, do try to get there.
Zurkhaneh is a traditional Iranian gymnasium for men. It is also called varzeshe bāstāni, ancient sport, and is often referred to as “Iranian yoga and martial arts”, which sounds like a good description. It is in the way that the men all stood in a circle, moved to the beat of the zarb, drum, did moves reminiscent of the ginga, and the fact that this sport is very much a discipline.
Zurkhaneh is thousands of years old, having its roots in battle and warfare. These physical activities were supposed to make warriors out of ordinary men and not only prepare them for unarmed combat, but also develop their endurance, concentration, flexibility, and speed.
Practitioners of the Zurkhaneh are expected to display a sense of duty for their country and community and respect the elderly. They are expected to be chivalrous, humble, and of high ethical virtue. Overall, they should be javan mard, a Gentleman.
The circular shape of the Zurkhaneh is symbolic of the sun and unity. The entrance has a low doorway, forcing one to bow his head in acknowledgment of a higher power. Then there is the Gowd, pit, or exercise area. Being below ground level, the Gowd also reminds the practitioners of humility. In fact, when they enter the Gowd, they must first kiss the ground signifying that we are from the earth, and one day we will return to it. The Gowd faces the Sardam, the podium where the Morshed, master, sits. Historically, the Morshed would have been the most fit and highest ranking of those in the Zurkhaneh. He plays his Zarb and Zang, bell, and sings songs from Ferdowsi’s epic Shahnameh or poems from Rumi, Hafez, Sa’adi or others.
Throughout the session, the participants use different equipment: Meel (club bell), Takhte shena (push-up board), Sang (shield), and Kabbadeh (bow and chain). They use each of these to perform their exercises along with other exercises such as stretching, squatting, aerobics, whirling, and juggling meel.
Zurkhanehs are traditionally only for men, but this one in Yazd is the only one in Iran that admits women as spectators. It has workouts that are just over an hour at 6am, 6pm and 8pm.