1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Swimming
SWIMMING (from "swim," A.S. swimman, the root being common in Teutonic languages), the action of self-support and self-propulsion on or in water; though used by analogy of inanimate objects, the term is generally connected with animal progression and specially with the art of self-propulsion on water as practised by man. Natation (the synonym derived from Lat. natare) is one of the most useful of the physical acquirements of man. There have been cases in which beginners have demonstrated some ability in the art upon their first immersion in deep water, but generally speaking it is an art which has to be acquired. For many years Great Britain held the supremacy in this particular form of athletics, but conti- nental, Australian and American swimmers have so much improved and have developed such speedy strokes, that the claim can no longer be maintained. English swimmers have, however, the satisfaction of knowing that in a great measure through them has come about the very great interest which is now taken in the teaching of swimming throughout the world, and more particularly on the continent of Europe, where they have made frequent tours and given instructive displays of swimming, life-saving (see Drowning), and water polo (q.v.); the latter a water game entirely British in its origin.
The teaching of swimming has been taken up in schools, and where the work is well done it is customary to use a form of land drill so as to impress upon the pupils some idea of the motions which have to be made in order to progress through the water. This drill is the preliminary practice to the teaching of the breast stroke. This stroke is about the most useful of all the known forms of swimming, more particularly when any one is thrown overboard in clothes; and though speed swimmers look upon it as obsolete, it is undoubtedly the best for a long-distance swim, such as across the English Channel, or other similar feats. A knowledge of it, as well as of the back stroke, is essential to the effective saving of life.
When learning the breast stroke, the first thing to avoid is undue haste and rapidity in the movements. It is this fault, probably born of nervousness, which causes many to aver that though eager to do so, they have never been able to learn to swim. Rapid action of the arms only exhausts the learner, whose breathing then becomes hurried and irregular, and as a consequence he fails to preserve the buoyancy necessary for carrying him along the surface. When starting for the first stroke the beginner should draw the elbows nearly to the side, at the same time bringing up the forearm and hands to the front of the chest with the palms of the hands downwards near to the surface of the water, the fingers being extended and closed and the forefingers and thumbs nearly touching. The hands are then pushed forward in front of the body to the full extent of the arms, the palms of the hands are turned slightly outwards, and the arms swept round until in a right angle with the shoulders, when the elbows are dropped and the hands come up in fiont of the chest for the next stroke. The arms should not be kept rigid, but allowed to work gracefully. As the arms are swept backwards the legs are drawn up, the knees being turned out- ward to the right and left and the heels nearly touching. The legs are then kicked outward and swept round as the arms are being pushed forward to their fullest extent, a " flip " being given with each of the feet, which must be kept loose at the ankles and in the same position as when standing. All beginners have the great fault of trying to make the limbs too rigid, thereby causing stiff- ness and possibly cramp. Another difficulty with them is the question of breathing, but if the learner will remember to inhale when making each backward sweep of the arms, much of the difficulty usually experienced at the start will be overcome. Expiration should be carried out during the other portion of each stroke. The important thing is to keep the body as level along the surface as possible, and at the same time get regular and natural breathing. The holding of the breath for two or three strokes will exhaust the beginner more than anything else.
A knowledge of the back stroke can easily be acquired by those who are able to swim on the breast, for the leg action is very similar and the principles relating to the use of the arms are almost the same. The arms, instead of being moved through the water, are lifted in the air and carried out to beyond the head with the palms upwards. The palms are then slightly turned and the arms swept round. Just as this action is being made the legs are drawn up as in the breast stroke, the body being allowed to travel on with the force of the kick as the arms are extended beyond the head. The great difficulty that a back swimmer has to contend with in open water is that of steering, and the best way to overcome it is to take an object for a guide before starting and hold the head slightly to the side so as to steer by it.
At one time the side stroke was the great racing stroke; the body being placed on the side, the upper arm worked from the head to the upper side of the body, the lower arm taken down- wards through the water to the underside of the body and a scissor-like kick made with the legs; but this has now been generally given up in favour of the over-arm, trudgen and crawl strokes.
In the over-arm stroke the body is usually turned on the right side. . At the start the lower arm is pulled downwards towards the hips, the fingers being kept closed and the hand flat, so as to present a large surface to the water. When the stroke is finished the hand is turned quickly palm upwards, so that together with the lower part of the arm it cuts the water sideways, the arm being almost bent double. Then, as it is shot forward, the hand is' gradually turned from palm upwards to palm downwards, until, when it arrives at its position beyond the head, it is ready for the next stroke. The recovery and the pull ought to be effected as quickly as possible. The upper arm stroke is started when the downward stroke of the under or right arm is finished. It is started in front of the forehead, the arm being slightly bent and the fingers pointing downwards. The hand is pulled past the face and chest with the arm bent at right angles and swept back in front of the body, the arm gradu- ally straightening as it leaves the water opposite the hip. When the hand is opposite the hip it should be brought quickly out of the water and sent forward for the next stroke. When the upper arm is opposite the shoulder in its pull through the water the legs are kicked wide apart and closed again at the moment when the hand leaves the water. The kick is completed and the legs straightened before the left hand is replaced ready for the next stroke. As the legs are opened the upper leg is kicked forward with the knee slightly bent, and the foot kept in its ordinary position. The lower leg is bent double until the heel approaches the thigh, which is brought backwards slightly. In the actual kick the upper leg is sent forward, and as it is straightened vigorously the under leg from the knee downward come/forward to meet it with a vicious kick; the swirl of the feet/Shd closing of the legs drives the body forward. This is what has come to be known in Great Britain as the " Northern Kick," by reason of its first being introduced by Lancashire swimmers.
The trudgen stroke, more commonly known as the trudgeon stroke, and on the continent of Europe as Spanish swimming, was first made prominent in England in 1873 by a swimmer named J. Trudgen, who stated that he had acquired a knowledge of it while in South America. It was, however, known to Clias, a writer on swimming, who described it in 1825 as " The Thrust." Trudgen's speed was so great for his time that swimmers quickly copied his style, and it is from this stroke that the crawl stroke has been developed. When swimming Trudgen kept on the chest and lifted the upper part of his body at each stroke out of the water, and at each swing of the arms pulled himself forward, a considerable swirl of the water occurring as each movement was finished. The arms were brought forward sideways, each completing a circle on each side of the body, and the head kept completely above water. Those who copied Trudgen soon found it was less laborious and equally as fast to use a double over-arm stroke with the head and chest well down, and thus have the body supported by the water, using the ordinary over- arm leg kick. At first it was considered a stroke only useful for short distances and for water polo where speed is essential, but the idea was quickly dispelled, and several men, as well as women, have swum as far as fifteen miles with this stroke.
The crawl stroke is, like the trudgen, an adaptation from native swimmers. It was not generally known in Great Britain until 1902, when Mr Richard Cavill came from Australia to compete in the English championships, but it is said to be common with natives of the South Sea Islands, and from there introduced into Australia about the year 1900. From thence it came to Europe, and there Mr C. M. Daniels, the American amateur champion, made so excellent a study of it that he not only so greatly increased his own pace as to be able to win the English championship, and beat the world's record for a hundred yards, but also introduced various improvements upon it. This stroke is distinct from any other form of swimming: the legs from the knee upwards are kept in line with the body and almost closed; there is no opening of the legs or drawing up of the knees as for the breast, back and side strokes. The swimmer lies flat upon -his breast on the surface, the lower part of the legs from the knee downward are alternately lifted above the surface up to the middle of the calf and then they are struck down upon the water with the instep with all force possible. This striking is done from an upward to a downward direction, one leg at a time. The arms are used somewhat similarly as in the trudgen stroke, they are bent at the elbows, dipped in just beyond the head and drawn smartly backwards till they come out of the water at the hips. The right arm is dipped in when the left foot strikes downward and vice versa. The result of this movement is that when one or the other of the limbs is pulling or propelling the body through the water at the same moment another limb is being recovered for the next stroke, most of the limbs are recovered through the air, fewer dead or retarding points are produced than in any other stroke, and less resistance is caused in the line of progress. In performing any other stroke most of the limbs are recovered through the water.
One of the most useful accomplishments for a swimmer is that of floating, but curiously enough many of them cannot acquire a knowledge of it. It is purely a matter of buoyancy, and requires constant practice before one can become perfect in it. In learning to float the beginner experiences great difficulty in overcoming the tendency of the legs to sink, and if after frequent trials they are still found to sink he should get some one to hold them up or else place them on the steps or behind the rail of the bath, and thus assisted learn to balance the body on the surface. Before doing so he should completely fill his lungs, spread his legs wide, and then lie backwards with the arms extended in a line with the body and beyond the head, with the .palms upwards, care being taken to throw as much weight beyond the head as possible. Furthermore he must lie perfectly still and take care not to hollow the back or raise the abdomen above water. One may sink for an instant, but if the breath be held the lips will come above the surface, when easy breathing may be indulged in. Only the face, chest and toes should appear above the surface of the water. Jf the feet still have a tendency to sink after they have been gently released from the step or rail, more weight should be thrown beyond the head by turning it well back and lifting the hands out of the water, which will raise the feet. A knowledge of floating is of good service to those attempting to save life and is also essential to those desirous of making a study of the many tricks and scientific feats which are performed by swimmers.
The usual method of entering the water is by what is known as diving; some think that it should be termed "springing." The best method of learning to dive is to stand on the side of the bath or on the bank of the river, and then stoop down until the body is nearly double, stretch out the arms in front of the head, sink the head between them and gradually fall over into the water. The ability to enter the water head first will then soon be acquired. To begin, the legs should be placed together and the body kept erect, then a few short inspirations should be made and the lungs cleared and inflated, the arms should be swung from the front and a spring made from the diving base. As the feet leave the base they should be thrown upwards, the body straightened and the head placed between the arms, which should be kept at full stretch beyond the head, with the hands palm downwards and the thumbs touching so as to act as a cut- water. Immediately the body has entered the water, the bands should be turned upwards and the body will then come to the surface at once. In high diving a leap is made into mid- air, the body straightened almost to horizontal level, the arms and head then declined towards the water and the legs brought up. This action causes the body to shoot towards the water at a proper angle and the dive is thereby made clean and effective. A useful accomplishment is that known as surface diving, be- cause it enables you to find and bring an object to the surface. The correct method of performing it is to first swim a few yards on the surface with the breast stroke, take a breath, then suddenly depress the head, look downwards, elevate the body at the hips, and at the same time make a powerful stroke with the legs and an upward stroke with the hands. The impetus thus obtained will suffice to take the swimmer to the bottom in 10 ft. of water. Once under the surface it is only necessary to keep the head depressed and swim by means of the breast stroke in order to find the object of search. When about to rise to the surface, the head should be turned backwards with the eyes upwards, and a vigorous stroke made with arms and legs. Plunging is not very generally practised, though there is a championship for it. A plunge is a standing dive made head first from a firm take off, free from spring. The body must be kept motionless face downwards, no progressive movement must be imparted other than the action of the dive. The plunge terminates when the plunger raises his face above the surface of the water. With the idea of preventing long tests without breathing, it was deemed in 1893 advisable by the swimming association to impose a time limit of one minute in all competitions. Yet even with this time limit, over 80 ft. has been plunged. In Sweden and Germany skilled forms of acrobatic and gymnastic diving have been more largely practised than in England, and as a consequence diving in those countries is in a much higher state of perfection than in England, though even in England great improvement has been made owing to a large influx of Swedish teachers.
Most of the principal races are decided in baths, but there has been a tendency of late years to revert to open water in the summer and also to encourage long-distance swimming. The first public baths in Great Britain were opened by the corporation of Liverpool in 1828 and the Baths and Washhouses Act was passed in 1846, the first of the London parishes to adopt the act being St Martin's in the Fields, who opened baths in Green Street, Leicester Square in 1846. Since then public baths have been erected all over Great Britain and Ireland, and bath swimming has become, by reason of the lack of reasonable open water accommodation, the principal means of the teaching of the young. But open water swimming, and more particularly swimming in the sea, is the best training and practice for tbose who really love the art, because they arc able to swim under normal climatic conditions, instead of in tepid water. Many persons in England bathe in the open all the year round, notably in the Serpentine in London, on the sea-coast and in various inland waters.
When bathing in the open, care has to be taken to avoid weeds or undercurrents. In the event of accidentally getting hold of a bed of weeds, the swimmer should cease kicking and work with the arms, and the current will then take him through. If he tries to swim the weeds will entangle his legs and put him in an awkward plight. If he be carried away by a current in a river, he should select a spot on either bank and swim diagonally towards it, never minding where he has left bis clothes. When in the sea, the conditions are not always the same, though the general rule of swimming diagonally for shore also applies. For sea bathing, however, it is far better, no matter how good a swimmer one may be, to have a boat in attendance. Before bathing in any strange place, the swimmer should make himself acquainted with the currents and the direction of the tide. When the tide is going out the course should be made along the coast, close in shore. In a rough sea the swimmer should not attempt to breast the waves, but as each wave rises he should swim through, thereby saving himself from buffeting, which if long continued would cause insensibility or else great waste of physical power. When using a boat for bathing the best way is to dive from the stern, to which some steps or a rope ladder should be fixed, in order to aid the swimmer when getting in again. Failing these being at hand, the best way is to lay hold of the stern with both hands and then, making a hard rising kick, raise the body till it rests on the edge of the hips. Then smartly slip the hands a little forward, turn to a sitting position and enter the boat.
Speed swimming records are so frequently altered, that students had best obtain the Amateur Swimming Association's Annual Handbook, in which are detailed the accepted records up to date. The improvement in speed has been most remarkable. In 1877 the mile amateur record was 29 m. 25 ½ secs.; and that stood until 1892. The record in 1907 was 24 m. 42 sees, made by Mr D. Billington. The hundred yards record has been similarly reduced. In 1878 it was 1 m. 16 ¾ secs.; in 1888 it had been lowered by Mr J. Nuttall to 1 m. 6 ¼ sees.; and :n 1907 Mr C. M. Daniels, of America, created a world's record of 55 secs. The records over intermediate distances have also been considerably lowered and many long-distance swimming records have from time to time been created. One of the most remarkable of these long-distance swims is the race which is known as the " Swim through London," from Richmond lock and weir to Blackfriars, which was instituted in 1907 and won by Mr J. A. Jarvis of Leicester, in 3 hours 24 minutes 6 sees. In this event 34 started, and 21 finished the distance, which goes to show that much attention is being devoted to long- distance trials; in this event Miss Lilian M. Smith finished fourteenth. Much interest has centred in attempts to swim across the English Channel; Captain Webb, D. Dalton and F. Cavill, all claim to have done it, but only the swim of Captain Webb has been accepted as genuine. The first recorded attempt was made on the 24th of August 1872 by J. B. Johnson, who started from Dover, but remained in the water only 65 minutes. It was on the 12th of August 1875 that Captain Matthew Webb made his first attempt. He started from Dover and remained in the water 6 hours 49 m., when the weather became too rough for him to continue. It is estimated that he was about 13J m. across when he had to give up. On the 24th-25th of August 1875, he swam across the English Channel, diving from the Admiralty Pier, Dover, and touching Calais sands, France, after swimming for 21 hours 45 m. It is the greatest swim ever recorded, and at the time of the accomplishment created a great sensation in England. Since this great achievement, numerous unsuccessful attempts have been made, the best being those of Montague Holbein, Jabez Wolff and T. W. Burgess, and their efforts created an interest in long-distance swimming in all parts of the world, which has resulted in the accomplishment of trials and tests once thought impossible.
Bibliography.— The literature of the subject of swimming is considerable; the most useful work of general reference is Swimming, by Ralph Thomas (London, 1904), with bibliography. Other chief works on the technic of swimming that may be mentioned are: Thevenot, The Art of Swimming (London, 1789); Steedman, Manual of Swimming (Melbourne, 1867); W. Wilson, The Swimming Instructor (London, 1883); A. Sinclair and W. Henry, Swimming (Badminton Library, London, 1893); C. M. Daniels, How to Swim and Save Life (Spalding's Library, London, 1907).