Body by Mao: CIA archives contain a copy of the young revolutionary's exercise routine

Body by Mao: CIA archives contain a copy of the young revolutionary’s exercise routine

Among the Agency’s earliest translations of Mao Zedong’s writings is a 1917 treatise on the benefits of physical education

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Edited by Michael Morisy

Within the Central Intelligence Agency’s declassified archives there are two volumes of the “Collected Works of Mao Tse-Tung 1917-1949,” originally translated by the Joint Publications Research Service in 1978 and declassified in 2008. While there’s nothing particularly surprising about the CIA’s interest in Mao’s body of work, it is notable that one of the earliest samples of that work is rather literally about Mao’s body.

“Study of Physical Education,” published in 1917 in New Youth magazine, outlines a 24-year-old Mao’s thoughts on what he perceived as a decline in physical education, particularly amongst the educated classes in China.

The essay rather quickly goes from philosophical musing to personal account, as Mao shares what he learned as a self-described weakling trying to study his way to fitness.

Those lessons, broadly, are that sometimes less is more …

try to exercise consistently (ideally, either in the morning or before bed, wearing light to no clothing, and for around 30 minutes) …

give the exercise your full attention …

and most importantly, be “barbarous and solid.”

The essay ends with the routine Mao developed himself, the “six-section exercise.”

The six-section exercise is embedded below. To echo Mao, we are curious to hear from readers both more knowledgeable and healthier than ourselves as to how “Body by Mao” compares to, say, Tae Bo.

Image via Wikimedia Commons