Tarzan Skills: How to Swim, Dive, Climb, and Swing Like the Lord of the Apes

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For nearly
100 years, Tarzan of the Apes has entertained and captivated men
in print, radio, and film. To men who feel locked in an iron cage
of corporate and suburban life, Tarzan represents the possibility
of harnessing their primal side and escaping into the wild to revitalize
their man spirit. In fact, the character’s creator, Edgar Rice
Burroughs, created the Tarzan character as an act of liberation
from his disappointing and boring life. In an interview, Burroughs
acknowledged this motivation:

wish to escape not alone the narrow confines of city streets for
the freedom of the wilderness, but the restrictions of man-made
laws, and the inhibitions that society has placed upon us. We
like to picture ourselves as roaming free, the lords of ourselves
and of our would; in other words, we would each like to be Tarzan.
At least I would; I admit it.”

Tarzan represents
the idealized “noble savage.” The son of British nobility,
he is adopted and raised by a tribe of apes when his parents are
marooned and die on the coast of West Africa. Tarzan later meets
an American woman, Jane, whom he takes as his wife, and the two
attempt to make a normal life for themselves in England. But the
chafing constraints and galling hypocrisies of civilized society
drive Tarzan back to the jungle. Virtuous, heroic, and athletic,
only the wilderness offered the freedom and adventure that felt
like home.

When Burroughs
introduced Tarzan in a pulp magazine in 1912, he created one of
the first superheroes in America. Tarzan developed special talents
and abilities that allowed him to survive and thrive in the jungle.
He could climb trees and swing from branches in the jungle just
as quickly and deftly as the apes who raised him. Unlike his monkey
“family,” Tarzan was a skilled swimmer which turned him
into an amphibious killer. He’d dive from staggering heights
and swim great distances. In addition to his physical gifts, Tarzan
developed several mental talents. He could learn new languages in
days and could even speak with animals.

Boys and men
at the turn of the 20th century wanted to emulate Tarzan the Ape
Man. Tarzan’s physical prowess has inspired men for nearly
100 years to get in shape and harness their inner wild
. Today, we’re giving a short primer on developing four
of Tarzan’s key skills: swimming, diving, climbing, and swinging.
While you may never need to swing from a vine to save your lady
or climb a tree to save
your own life
, it’s good to know you could if you had to!

How to Swim
Like Tarzan

In Tarzan movies,
a frequent scene is that of the Ape Man diving into a river and
swimming briskly to fight an alligator that’s circling Jane.
Tarzan engages in an underwater battle with the giant reptile and
defeats it by snapping its neck or stabbing it with a knife. But
to get to the alligator before it eats his lady, Tarzan has to swim

In the movies,
Tarzan always uses the front crawl stroke (what we often call the
freestyle). And with good reason. The front crawl (aka the forward,
American or Australian crawl) is the fastest and most efficient
of all the swim strokes. Swimming is such an essential Tarzan skill
that the movie producers back in the 1930s brought in Johnny Weissmuller,
a five-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming, to play the role
of Tarzan.

The technique
for the Tarzan front crawl is pretty basic. Float face down in the
water with both arms stretched out in front of you. This is the
starting position. Flutter your legs alternately in short, up and
down thrashes. The arms move in alternating sweeping strokes. The
arm movement can be broken down into three parts: pull, push, and

Lower your
hand into the water so that your thumb enters first. This is called
“catching the water” and prepares you for the pull. The
pull movement follows a semicircle pattern under the water. It ends
at the front of the chest, as seen here:

The push begins
when your hand reaches about where your ribcage is. You’ll
feel your palm pushing the water behind you, instead of pulling
it towards you. The push ends with your arm at the side of your

The recovery
begins after the push. Bring your hand out of the water, bend your
elbow, and circle your forearm outward until it points ahead. The
arm glides out straight ahead to full reach in front.

While performing
the front crawl keep your face in the water.

Breathing is
done by twisting the head to one side, so that your face rises above
the water surface. After taking in air, the face is submerged again
and the swimmer exhales out his nose underwater. How often you breath
depends on your personal preference. Some swimmers take in a breath
every other arm stroke, while others will take in a breath every
third arm stroke.

How to Dive
Like Tarzan

Tarzan is constantly
diving into rivers to save one of his monkey friends or his perennial
damsel in distress, Jane. In Tarzan’s New York Adventure,
he takes a death defying dive from the Brooklyn Bridge in order
to escape the police, so he can save a jungle boy who was taken
by the circus.

Diving headfirst
into water allowed Tarzan to get to where he was going quickly.
Plus it just looks cool to do a swan dive from a tree limb.

the rest of the article

7, 2010

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