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Bill Hunt..."King of Grip Strength" by David Gentle
Only the toughest survive the rigorous demands of the sport of weight lifting. Thousands try training, hoping to become 'Hercules' or perhaps 'RAMBO'S overnight giving up the 'iron pills' at the first signs of muscle ache or small injury, Others last longer, perhaps months, or even years, usually giving up regular training because of domestic or other demands upon their precious time. A few stay with the IRON GAME all their lives, JOHN C GRIMEK (see his story later in STRENGTH ATHLETE) is one noticeable example ... WILLIAM J HUNT or 'Bill' to his friends, is another, and this is a tribute to Bill, all· round strength athlete, Herculean hand-balancer, weight lifter and the uncrowned KING OF GRIP STRENGTH. Seen right: Bill Hunt at over 40
Born 76 years ago in Princess Street in DARWEN, he first took interest in strength when about 18 years old, influenced by watching workmates lifting 56lb weights, a common poundage easily available in industry. Bill later in 1933 lifted in sets of 20 the same 56lb weight overhead 280 times every hour for a total of (in aggregate) 846,000 lbs, lifting from 9am Sunday until noon on the following Friday.
Seen left: A young Bill Hunt
He started training at Jimmy Shorrock's gym in the Bolton Road, and within a couple of years broke the II stone British Olympic press record with 220 lbs (done in military style), this was in 1938 and the record stood for over 30 years.
To commemorate reaching the then almost unobtainable target Bill was awarded a fine silver trophy....and he was to collect many more, some very valuable throughout the rest of his lifting and strength career.
Called KING OF ARM STRENGTH. his name was honoured by being included with those of Sandow, Grimek. Maxick, George Hackenschmidt and other legendary figures from physical culture history in David Willoughby's classic books KINGS OF ARM STRENGTH and THE SUPER ATHLETES.
In his time Bill was the only athlete to win two MAXALDING (a very famous muscle control and development course which ran for over 50 years), gold medals, one silver jewel and winner outright of the highly valuable silver challenge cup.
Seen right: The Omega Trio balancers with Bill supporting
He commenced early in his career with a hand-balancing act called THE OMEGA TRIO, his partners being John Parr and Dick Hawthomthwaite, both of whom are now passed away. They performed with many famous stars. and later Bill developed his own act which included standing jumps. stair climbing (all on hands), drop into handstand and high repetition Tiger Presses, a real tough exercise for the triceps and shoulder muscles. He could do handstand 'Jumps' over a 17lh inch hurdle and the tiger bends with a 75 lb weight held in his teeth. While an Olympic lifter he remained undefeated. with as I mentioned previously some of his lifts remaining records for many years after his retirement.
A Thumbnail Sketch
William James Hunt of Darwen, like most other healthy British youths took a keen interest in games and sports from his early days. He became a good all-round performer and 'lifter. But like so many others who are really keen to get on, he reached a "sticking point" past which he could not get. During his travels he met so many splendid athletes who spoke highly of the benefits to be gained from a personally planned course of Maxalding that he too decided to try this method.
His improvement was immediate and continued until he had reached world class as a strength athlete and performer. He has always given credit where it is due and in 1953 has stated:
"Without any shade of doubt Maxalding puts beginners into championship class and makes champions into 'champions of champions.' I am glad I took the Maxalding Road. It is the personal touch which inspires and gets these wonderful results." Seen right: Bill Hunt in a typical Maxalding advertisement taken from an old copy of HEALTH & STRENGTH.
One of his early shows was recorded in the reports of the HEALTH AND STRENGTH SHOW, which afterwards the then King sent his regards and thanks for such a good show. Bill's act was described as follows: "Firstly there is W J Hunt, a superbly developed athlete and one time amateur weightlifting champion who has brought the art of hand-balancing to an amazing pitch.
On a flimsy platform twenty or more feet from the stage level. Hunt takes two chairs and performs equilibristic feats that have the audience gasping. He dives from the top on to the stage and lands on his hands. hops down from the platform in stages and then wonderful to behold, he hops up again BACKWARDS."
Bill for some time worked as a brewery drayman. doing some durable stunts with the everyday barrels he had to handle. He has man-handled 500 lb barrels down flights of 12 steps alone. and lifted without rest for 4 successive trips 300lb barrels up 20 steps. This type of activity developed a naturally extra power in his hands and fingers which later stood him in stead when claiming his most famous feat, one constantly recorded in the Guinness Book of Records, the holding out of 6 billiard cues ... A stunt formerly practised to distinction by the MAN WITH THE IRON GRIP ... VANSITTART.
This feat of strength was carried out on June 25th. 1954 at the Unity Club, Great Harwood Lanes and witnessed by reliable witnesses. Bill levered six full size billiard cues AT THE TIPS with two fingers (forefinger and index finger) to a position parallel with the ground. This was a World Record and although some people claim to have since exceeded this lift, the exact STYLE has never been adhered to and many people still believe that the record should remain with Bill. and the controversy still rages ... Strong all-round. he could lift over single handed (in the side-bent press fashion) a pair of naval gun carriage wheels weighing 214lbs. lift heavy barrels by the rims, lift his challenge chair by one leg . . . the chair heavy enough as it is, is also weighted. Bill also has some of his own odds and ends. challenge weights that have to be lifted just by finger or grip power alone...and to date the only man to approach these stunts is Bill's own protégé MICK BOLTON, a scrap metal worker. Bill trains Mick currently with Mick holding a fascinating special Brick Lift, one wall brick held by finger and thumb in a pinch grip with one hand and other bricks are stacked on top - the lift has to be done in Bill's fashion, i.e. in military position. heels together and a straight back ... to date, Mick has lifted a total of 8 bricks in this novel fashion.
Still hale and hearty, still doing his best to pass on his knowledge of strength to younger men. WILLIAM J HUNT has been a credit to weight lifting and the world of physical culture and rightly goes down in history as a KING OF GRIP STRENGTH.
Bill Hunt..."King of Grip Strength" © Copyright by David Gentle All Rights Reserved
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