Prussian and French Gymnastics.
--The Prussian soldier's period of service is so short (three years) that every agent to hasten his efficiency must be seized; and it has been found necessary to provide means, in the shape of large buildings resembling riding-schools, in which drill may be carried on throughout the year.
And as this gymnastic system is viewed but as drill, aims but at being drill, it is in winter carried on in these buildings, the few articles of apparatus employed, for the sake of the advantages which they specially offer to the soldier, being erected in a corner of them.
And this continuity of practice increases manifold whatever good it can yield; and thus although meagre and inadequate.
Its fruits are valuable.
It is found that no other form of drill so rapidly converts the recruit into the attained soldier and the greatest importance in attached to its extension throughout the army.
There is a general impression that this system forms the basis of the French
It would be difficult to make a greater mistake; for not only have they, either in principle or practice, nothing in common, but in many respects they are the very antithesis of each other.
So far from the boasted "simplicity" of the Prussian system, and the desire to limit it to "a few exercises to be executed with great precision," being adopted by the French
, they have elaborated their system to such an extent that it is difficult to say where it begins or where it ends; or to tell, not what it does, but what it does not embrace.
For quite apart from, and in addition to, an extended range of exercises with and without apparatus, it embraces all defensive exercises with bayonet, sword, stick, poll, fist and foot — swimming dancing, and singing — reading, writing, and arithmetic, if not the use of the globes.
The soldier is taught to throw bullets and bars of iron; he is taught to walk on stills and on page of wood driven into the ground he is taught to push, to pull, and to wrestle; and although the boxing which he is taught will never enable him to hit an adversary, he is taught manfully to hit himself, first on the right breast, then on the left, and then on both together with both hands at ones; and, though last, not least, he is taught to kick himself behind, or which performance I have seen Monsieur
as proud as if he were ignominiously expelling an invader from the "solsacre
" of La beile France