Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Charles A. Smith Letters, Part Two - Dennis Weis

I'll remind you that some of what you read may not be to your liking. Some of the chapters of History can be unpleasant and, where some of us have a fixed image of what a man is like, can be somewhat creative of a feeling of being let down.

Take Sandow as an example. 

He was, and still is in some quarters, treated like a tin god. The fact remains that he was an arrogant German bastard, led his wife a dog's life and died of a heart ailment - aortic aneurysm that is caused by contracting SYPHILIS. His wife was so antagonized by his behavior that she refused to have any headstone placed on his grave and his surviving family - yes, some of them are STILL alive - refuse to discuss him. 

So you should remember that what I write may seem like knocking but is just telling it like it is and as it was. 

As for my remark to the effect that I sometimes see what I have told people appearing in articles as their experience and discoveries of the authors, let me assure you nothing personal was intended. The other day I got a copy of a British magazine and saw therein some words taken from an article I had written for ____ on steroids - "they take steroids for a trophy whose shine will one day tarnish and for a reputation that will one day be forgotten." This sort of stuff, without a word of acknowledgement as to source gets me considerably irate.

Doc Tilney - ah, the good Doc who wasn't a Doctor at all, but a soi distant doctor. He came from Norwich, England - came over here in the early 1920s. 

One of those self-styled "naturopaths" and like the early gym goers of the 1890s who had the "professors." Doc was concerned in the Atlas  course and thereby hangs a tale. Atlas, aka Angelo Siciliano, used to demonstrate weights and clubs in a Coney Island storefront, as did Liederman. Somehow or the other Doc got tied up with that wily old snake oil saleman Bernarr MacFadden who was running a show at the time. Someone or the other had suggested that Atlas put out a course. Doc, Charles Roman and Atlas got together and mapped the course out. When someone asked, "What apparatus shall we sell?" Doc is reputed to have said, "Send nothing. Let them use free standing movements and self-resistance --" so you see -- again nothing new. 

They now call it isometric exercises. MacFadden got in on the act by promising to let Atlas win (America's Most Handsome Man - 1921; America's Most Perfectly Developed Man - 1922) in return for the advertising of the course in his, MacFadden's, magazine. Atlas did, Macfadden did and the course took off and made Atlas a millionaire and MacFadden wealthier than he already was. Ottley Coulter, who took part in the contest, says that Matysek was by far the better build than Atlas. Yes Charlie boy did use weights although he claimed he didn't. Just as Sandow sold chest expanders and two pound spring dumbbells claiming that that was how he built up HIS muscles.

Then, as there is now, so much bullshit was floating around that I have never seen it stacked so high since I was in a barnyard. 

I met Doc (Tilney) several times and he and I got on well together. But as for his knowledge of physical culture and weight training, in my opinion he knew little or nothing and was what he liked to call himself - a nutritionist.

As for Jowett. Let me quote you some of his claims as to the titles he had won. These are direct quotes from one of his ads in a 1936 magazine BODYBUILDER. Junior International Gymnastics Champion. World's Champion Welterweight wrestler. World's Champion Middleweight wrestler. World's Champion Middleweight Lifting Champion. First in America to lift double bodyweight overhead. Only heavyweight to break Arthur Saxon's record. (He doesn't say what record it was.)

Nowhere does he state, or ever stated, where these records were made, where they were won, who were the judges and officials etc., etc. And no one has ever been able to find out. True, he did wrestle under the name Little Hackenschmidt. He also claimed to have trained other famous lifters who said they had never met him. And had never heard of him. The medals he displayed were given him by Bill Pullum for publicity purposes.

Did he write his books and courses? 


That is, write them in toto. Last week and for the next couple of weeks I have been going through a load of correspondence between him and Ottley Coulter dating from early 1922 on the 1925 when Jowett is trying to get Coulter into business with him in courses and booklets. One of the propositions that did come to fruition was the series of MOULDING A MIGHTY THIS OR THAT. These booklets were written mainly by Ottley Coulter with Jowett describing the lift and and the way it should be performed. Sorry to be such an iconoclast, but THERE THE HISTORICAL FACTS ARE.

As fore the Jowett Institute courses. Jowett didn't write them and Jowett didn't run the institute. The Jowett System was run by a man named Ben Rebuhn who later changed it to Ben Rayburn. He paid Jowett for the use of his name and once remarked to me when we were meeting over a proposed magazine deal, "I've made more money for Jowett than he's ever seen before in his life." As to where you can buy or borrow his courses I don't know, but will ask around (letter dated 1986). You might try Bill Hinbern or Angelo Iusipa, but I imagine these worthies would ask a bundle. Same goes for those little bodypart courses - written by Ottley mainly with a little thrown in by Georgia Boy. 

I met Jowett many times and he and I got along well. What impressed me about him was his powerful HUGE hands and fingers. My hand which isn't small, was lost in his. That he was powerful is also evident. the the KEY TO MIGHT AND MUSCLE was one of the most inspirational books I have ever read is also true, so far as i am concerned. But he told so many bouncers about himself that when he did tell the truth, few believed him.

Is it true he grabbed a 175 lb anvil by the horn etc., etc.? No it isn't. 

The anvil weighed 125 and I am told he did swing it to his shoulders holding onto the horn and then pressing it. I have also been told the picture was faked, that the anvil was planted by the art of the photographer in Jowett's hand. But in all fairness I must say I believe him to be capable of doing this stunt and will tell you why.

I served in the Royal Navy for six years - all of them combat duty and have seven decorations for what they called "bravery" but which I now call stupidity and foolhardiness. I did three Murmansk convoys in a British Cruiser. On one of the convoys when we were forward cover for the convoy we came under extremely heavy attack and shot every round of ammunition. We docked in Murmansk to refuel and take on ammunition. Our load of 6-inch shells came aboard and were put onto the forecastle. These shells weigh 120 lbs each. I saw a Russian workman  - his back to me, clad in a hooded duffel coat, around six feet high, grab hold of two shells - one in each hand - with his fingers, wrapping the thumb and first two fingers around the shells pointed noses and lift them and place them a few yards away from the others. 

Then "HE" turned around and I saw it was a WOMAN. So I'm willing to believe Jowett did do the (125 lb) anvil trick. He sure had the hands AND fingers to do it. Also he did, in the presence of Sig Klein, do a perfect one hand military with 100. 125 in a looser style should have been no problem.

The best I have ever done squats (to the absolute bottom) is 30 reps with 300 at a bodyweight of around 170 in the 1930s. No one would believe me, since to squat ONCE with 300 then was quite good.

There is nothing wrong with taking several deep breaths between each squat.

This again is not new. Joe Assirati 

and I were doing exactly this in 1934 when we came under the spell of Joseph Curtis Hise who believed in dropping to rock bottom in the squat, rebounding up to starting point, taking three deep breaths and continuing to squat. This system was applied to curls, presses and other movements and was called the Rest Pause System. It enabled you to grind out more reps and eventually handle more weight. 

Again, nothing new. 

The expression we used about going so low in the squat was not getting splinters in your glutes but "If you go much lower your arse will close over a daisy and you'll never get up." 

Just to set your teeth on edge and get you into a snit fit, Joe Hood, our 220 lb power lifter here at the U of Texas, the other day did 4 sets of 3 with 610. If the money had been there he could done 8.

Joe recently did a dead lift with 793 at 220 DRUG FREE. This is the first time Goerner's record has been equaled in SIXTY SIX YEARS.

Several people have squatted with 800 and more but most of them - I'd go so far as to say ALL of them - used steroids. 

As for 20 inch arms, I'd be a very wealthy man if every one of those who claimed to have 20-inchers paid me 20 bucks if they hadn't. For some very strange reason most of them I tried to measure and who claimed to have 20-inchers ALL had some excuse as to why I couldn't put the tape around them. When it comes to this sort of claim you have to show me. As an example, I once taped the arms of John Davis when he weighed over 210, was pressing and snatching way over 300 and cleaning and jerking 400. Measurement of his right arm 17-5/8. Left arm slightly less.

There is nothing in this world so precious as your family - if you are lucky enough to have one. It comes first and foremost above everything else. Sadly today family seems to have little or no meaning or value. What a pity. But that's the sort of rotten, greedy, competitive world we live in today, when black is white, right wrong, day night and good values get you tabbed as a square. 

First, I have never believed that what will suit one man goes for another. Once past the beginner's stage the basics are used and through with, then each man presents an entirely different problem and should be considered as such - one man's success is another man's failure. What suits you might not suit another. 

There are many factors to consider when working to improve your bench press. Concentrating more on shoulders and arms and less on the lower body might make a considerable difference to your bench. But there are other factors to be considered. It doesn't necessarily mean that because you are a good two hands presser, you are automatically a good bench press - and the reverse goes. 

As an example, my best bench was 390 and I was way over 40 when I did it. My best standing press was 220, but then I hardly ever practiced it. So not only skeletal structure, leverage and genetic factors come into play or significance, but also YOUR LIKING FOR A LIFT - your mental attitude. If you don't care to do the exercise you tend to regard it negatively and avoid doing it at all if you can overcome the pangs of conscience.

Take of of the greatest bench pressers I've ever seen, known or trained with - Marvin Eder. In my opinion, and I may be wrong, Marvin improved his bench by practicing parallel bar dips and presses from behind neck. But few people have the time or the energy to train as Marvin did. 

Let no one tell you high intensity level training is a thing of the present. It isn't. It was being used in the 1930s and Marvin was using it in the 50s. He started parallel bar dips in the morning with 300 lbs tied around his waist, did a set of 10 reps, rested a few minutes, did another set, and continued this ALL BLOODY DAY. Lately the Bulgarian lifters do similar. They train intensely for 45 minutes, rest half an hour and continue this all day when they wind up soaking in a hot tub and then having a complete massage.

So I suggest isolated exercises for the triceps and deltoids - and let the pecs go their own way. They play a minor role in benching anyway. It's the triceps and delts that do the work. Dips, dumbbell French presses and behind neck presses as assistance exercises MIGHT bring your bench up. The other way, as I see it and from what you have told me, is to give benches as much attention as squats. 

Another way is to use power movements. That is, taking your limit and pressing it an inch or so off racks and at the final rep hold it locked out as long as possible.

Another method is to develop what Ron Walker called a "contempt" for the weights. Let me illustrate this further. I devised a set of power exercises in an old Weider magazine in which the bar was supported on two heavy boxes - way above my limit - around 420-450 and pressed it out a fraction of an inch. I also did this with dead lifts. I'd take 600 placed on boxes bringing the bar to knee height and lift it from this position. But I did better. I got to lifting the 600 and holding it as long as I could. I held 600 for one full minute. After doing this for some time I started back on hang cleans. The first one with 220 nearly went through the roof. 

So what I learned is that the MIND has to get used to handling heavy weights as well as the muscles. That 600 made the 220 feel so light -- although it actually wasn't - that I unconsciously felt I was stronger and thus handled 220 easier. 

So, as far as your benches are concerned, more time and effort and some assistance exercises appear to be indicated. 

TRAINING ALONE may be part of the problem, but here again personalities enter into it. Some guys LIKE to train alone. Others can't work out without a training partner. Some guys perform wonderfully in the gym, but bomb out in a contest. Now, Joe Hood is exactly the opposite. What he does as limits in training, he can bet he'll top by 40 or 50 lbs in competition. He REACTS to audience stimulation. Others don't. 

So there are many factors to be considered. This is why I get so hoity toity when I see ads that guarantee you INCHES of muscle and pounds of weight in three months. It's very much like the bald guy who tried a certain brand of hair tonic. He rubbed it into his scalp religiously for three months. At the end of that time he was as bald as ever but had hair three feet long on the palms of his hands. You aren't taking me seriously, are you? 

Let health be your priority rather than greater strength and bigger muscles. Strive to build great health while you build strength and muscle.

This I've learned after having lived 75 years. With health and a good, tight knit family, you have everything. 

God, I've lost count of the number of articles i wrote for the _____. They must run into the thousands and I never kept a single copy of any I dashed off -- sometimes at the rate of two or three a day, at one time, 30 and 40 a month. What a fool I was to let him have me so cheaply.

All water under the bridge now. At least I can console myself with the thought that I more to get him to where he is today than any other man he has had working for him.

About me. I worked for _____ as his editor in every magazine he had for eight years, then told him to shove it and came to Austin. I had no future with the ______ and my wife was ill, so i came to Austin where I thought the climate would help. It didn't, and she died on Christmas Day 1959. I went into law enforcement for twenty years, rising to head the police department I was working for, handling narcotics and juvenile cases -- all of 'em, until I got sick and tired of seeing justice done to the rich and the poor getting the jolly old shaft. So I told them to shove it and since have been retired, getting along on a minuscule pension, helped out with the occasional article, studying history, social studies, etc., etc., trying to figure out who I was and who I could blame for it. 

The loss of my wife led to my beginning to drink heavily until my health - thought I'd have it forever- collapsed and as a result I am now missing a leg, part of a hip and am in a wheel chair. 

I have a daughter who is a graduate of the U of Texas in nursing sciences, is an RN and a certified cancer chemo therapist and recognized as tops in her field in the Austin area. She has three kids of her own, a girl who will be 11 this October, two boys, little imps, who will be six this November and four this August. The girl is into music, gymnastics, stamp collecting and an honor student, two grades above her age and will enter high school at 12, reading at 12th grade level. The boys are into everything and making straight A's at being little pests. 

If there's any question I haven't answered, just holler, best of everything to you. 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 


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