MAXICK (MAX SICK)


MAXICK: in David Webster's "The Iron Game", Irving, 1976

Born Max Sick in Wurtemburg on 28th June 1882, Max was a weak sickly child with lung trouble, rickets and dropsy. When 10 years old he made some weights but his parents destroyed them and from then on he concentrated on isometric and muscle control exercises. His voluntary control of the individual muscles was sensational and although small in stature, his tremendous physique was popular in German music halls.

Tromp Van Diggelen, the South African physical culturalist, saw Max, went to London and, with Sandow, discussed the possibility of bringing Max Sick to London at the of the proposed reformation of the BAWLA.

As a result of these deliberations, the little Bavarian arrived at Victoria Station, London on October 26th 1909. He was a comical sight, wearing a coat down to his feet and a funny little green hat with a huge eagle's feather in it. He also carried an umbrella.

His lifting, however, was far from comical, he was indeed a very serious contender for the world professional middleweight title. Tromp Von Diggelen tried, without success, to arrange a match between Inch and Sick but Inch didn't want to have any part in this and finally, in 1910, being a heavyweight by this time, relinquished his title and matched Edward Aston with Max Sick.

In the meantime, however, Max, with nothing to do, went with his South African friend to visit Monte Saldo (A.M. Woollaston) and Apollo (William Bankier) at their gym in Great Rupert Street, London and struck up a business partnership. Maxick, as he was now known in the business, made his British lifting debut on January 19th,1910. A double bodyweight continental clean and jerk left enthusiasts open mouthed.

After negotiations between Monte Saldo, acting for Maxick, and Inch on behalf of Aston, the match took place at the Granville Music Hall, Waltham Green, Fulham London on 4th August, 1910.The stake was 100 and a fine silver cup. This exciting match was strictly refereed by Tom Pevier, the undefeated amateur British heavyweight champion. It was a thrilling event in British lifting, but the Bavarian strained his shoulder in attempting 212 1/2 and 207 3/4 lbs. in the one hand clean and jerk. He tried to continue, actually doing a two hands clean with 264 lbs. but failed to hold the jerk and had to retire.

Naturally Maxick asked for a re-match and Aston readily accepted. The Edward Aston versus Maxick issue was still largely unresolved although many had believed Aston had shown his superiority. Maxick however, because of his wonderful physique, colourful personality and diminutive stature had the majority of fans on his side and haggled a little over conditions for the match. Aston gave way without complaint and this endeared him to many people. Maxick wanted four lifts selected by each man instead of three and because of this lengthy programme the competitors failed to finish the contest in the stipulated time and had to clear the stage before all attempts had been taken.

The reason for this abrupt finish was that the competition took place in the Holborn Empire on the afternoon of 14th December 1910 and the theatre was in use during the evening for the regular performances. It was a sad end to the rivalry for although it seemed evident that Aston was superior, anything could have happened in the last two lifts by Edward or the last one by Max. On the face of it Aston could not have failed to catch up on the 188 1/2 lb. difference on his one hand jerk from shoulders and two hands continental push, against Maxick's one hand anyhow. obviously Maxick was a lifter of great merit for that age, and at his own bodyweight, on his own special feats was unbeatable but as an all-round lifter he had met his match in the heavier Edward Aston.

Inch, Maxick, Aston ... became famous as "mail order muscle peddlers", advertising courses to develop strength and muscle.

Maxick went into partnership with Monte Saldo, another touring professional strong man of no mean ability, and their "MAXALDING" muscle control course is still on the market, being administered by Court Saldo, Monte's son [this was written in 1976].

When the First World War broke out, Maxick was interned in England. Stories went round that his sporting opponents and other business interests were glad to get the formidable Bavarian out of their way but this is definitely not the case. Max was voluntarily interned and his interest in the business ceased.

I have seen, in his own words, the reasons why he would not fight under the Prussians. In November 1914, he wrote that he had been in the Bavarian army, he could not think of himself as German, although he admired the average German, who was very different from the "Prussian bullies". On being released after the war he travelled the world but kept in touch with his old colleagues. At one stage he went back to his homeland, but, when the Nazis came to power, he hated their regime, and left to explore Central and South America.

His escapades in explorations on the Amazon and Orinoco rivers, in the Matto Grasso and other places would be worthy of a book in themselves, but Max wanted to keep out of the limelight and live quietly and peacefully.

His physique and strength were maintained at a very high standard and he practised muscle control throughout his life. It is tragic that the photographs he sent back to this country and those of Monte Saldo were destroyed when London was blitzed in World War Two. Max liked South America and stayed there.

In 1961 he died as he had lived, in perfect control of his senses and body. Nearly 80 years of age, he had, that morning, had a bout of arm wrestling with his good friend Droelich. Although his companion weighed 218 lbs. to Max's 110lbs., the little Hercules had no difficulty in winning as usual.

He cycled home, looking fit and well, but when Mr. Droelich called later he found him. lying apparently relaxed on his back, arms outstretched and a carefully folded farewell note under his right heel. "May 10th, 1961, 22 hours", the note read, "My heart is beating rather slow, I feel extremely cold, I think it will be over soon. Remember the infinite is our inner freedom manifested through the consciousness."

He had been a great little lifter, having put double bodyweight overhead in public on at least a dozen occasions and he gave the world the science of muscle control.

A strong man, not only in body, but also in mind.



MAXICK from David P. Willoughby "The Super Athletes", Barnes, New York, 1970.

While all the preceding subjects in this biographical series have been either heavyweights or light-heavyweights, here is a lightweight strongman whose accomplishments were so extraordinary that they warrant being included in any list of weightlifting records.

Maxick, whose name was "anglicised" from the German, Max Sick, was anything but a man in poor health! Paradoxically, he was to become known as "The Muscular Phenomenon." He was born in Bregenz, a town in the extreme western tip of Austria, on June 28, 1882. Although as a child he had been sickly and of poor physique, by long training in weightlifting and gymnastics he became a phenomenon of muscularity and strength. Although standing only 5 feet 3 3/4 inches and weighing at his best from 145 to 147 pounds, Maxick set records in weightlifting that few heavyweights of his day could equal.

Tromp van Diggelen, a Dutch strong-man and wrestler, who knew and in some cases acted as a mentor to a number of the greatest European strong-men of his time, brought Sick from Munich to London, where the two men arrived on October 26, 1909. It was shortly after this that van Diggelen and an English lightweight strongman named Monte Saldo, who was later to be associated with Sick in business, decided that the Bavarian athlete should have a name more in conformity with English usage. Accordingly, they shortened his two names into one: Maxick.

While Maxick, early in 1910, did some very fine weight-lifting in London, nearly all his greatest lifts were performed either in Germany (Munich) or in South Africa (Johannesburg), where in 1913 he visited Tromp van Diggelen.

Here are Maxick's weightlifting records. All were performed as a professional athlete and at a bodyweight that never exceeded 147 pounds:

Right Hand Military Press, 112 pounds ("performed with considerable ease").
Right Hand Snatch, 165 pounds. Right Hand Swing with Dumbbell, 150 pounds.
Right Hand jerk (shouldering the barbell with two hands), 239 pounds in Munich and 240 pounds in Johannesburg.
Two Hands Military Press, 230 pounds (made at a bodyweight of 145 pounds).
Two Hands Clean and jerk with Barbell, 272 pounds.
Two Hands Continental jerk with Barbell, 322 1/2 pounds in London and 340 pounds in Johannesburg. (In the Two Hands Snatch, he should have been capable of about 215 pounds.)

Of the foregoing lifts the most extraordinary were the one and two hand military presses and the one and two hand jerks.

Maxick's Two Hands Military Press of 230 pounds, which he performed in 1909, would be equivalent today to a lift in the same strict style of about 267 pounds, or to a Two Hands Olympic Press of about 312 pounds That is to say, in pressing power Maxick was the equal, in his day, of any of the light-weight Olympic champion pressers of the present time. In the One Hand Continental jerk, no such comparison can be made, since this style of one-arm lifting is no longer practised. In bringing a barbell "clean" to the shoulders with both hands, Maxick's record of 272 pounds would be equivalent to about 320 pounds today.

This, while a good lift, is a long way below the 360 pounds or more that the best lightweights clean and jerk today. It is rather in the jerk from the shoulders overhead that Maxick is seen to best ad-vantage, and his record of 340 pounds in this movement would be equal to no less than 400 pounds today. This is truly phenomenal lifting. It would appear to surpass by at least 20 pounds the best jerking ability of any present-day lightweight lifter.

Although in Maxick's day the great heavyweight professional Arthur Saxon was astonishing the world with his ability in the Bent Press, Maxick never cared about this lift. He felt that it was more a feat of long-developed skill than of straight strength. Be this as it may, Maxick must have developed a style of one-arm pressing that was nearly equal in efficiency to the Bent Press. This is deduced from the statement made by Tromp van Diggelen that in Johannesburg in 1913 Maxick "side-pressed" the 185-pound Van Diggelen no fewer than 16 times in succession with one arm. This repetition-lift was equivalent to a single one-arm press with over 270 pounds!

Outside of straight weightlifting, Maxick showed up equally well. Indeed, in hand-balancing and gymnastics he could perform some astounding feats. While I do not have any figures on his actual records in handstand press-ups, these can be deduced from his known ability to do a Two Hands Military Press of 230 pounds while weighing only 145 pounds himself. This lift, at that bodyweight, was equal to no fewer than 34 handstand press-ups on the floor, or to 21 "tiger-bend" press-ups, or to 22 handstand press-ups on a bench, touching the chest each time. And since Maxick was a skilled balancer, there can be little doubt that he was actually capable of these estimated press-ups.

According to Tromp van Diggelen, who so informed me in a personal letter about 1960, here are some of the feats that Maxick performed when he visited van Diggelen in Johannesburg in 1913:

1. In a contest at finger-pulling, in which Maxick was "unbeatable," Maxick could pull a 200-pound opponent clear across the table that separated the two men.
2. He pressed van Diggelen (185 pounds) overhead 16 times with his right arm, while holding in his left hand a glass of beer full to the brim, without spilling a drop. Earlier that same day, he had pressed Fred Storbeek (205 pounds), who was then the heavyweight British Empire Boxing Champion, 11 times with his right arm.
3. Holding van Diggelen aloft on one arm, Maxick ran up two flights of stairs with him and then ran down the two flights. Then standing on his hands, he in that position ran up the two flights and down againl These stairs were in the building known in 1913 as Chudleighs', but today as the Bazaar Building.
4. At the Carlton Hotel one night, six empty champagne bottles were put before him. Each of these he filled three-quarters full with water and then, taking bottle after bottle by the neck with his left hand, he brought down the palm of his right hand on the open neck, causing the bottom of each bottle to smash out!

As would he expected in view of his extraordinary strength, Maxick had a superb muscular development. So completely were all his voluntary muscles under his control that he could make any desired group "dance" in time to music. He was, in fact, one of the first great exponents of the art of "muscle control," and could do things in this department that astonished even the great Eugen Sandow, who himself was an expert in the art.

For many years, Maxick made his home in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he conducted a gymnasium and health studio. He also went periodically on exploring expeditions into the Matto Grosso of Brazil.

Maxick died in Buenos Aires about 1960, I believe, at which time he would have been about 78 years of age.

Of him it could almost have been said, "We shall not see his like again."

At least, during the period of nearly 60 years that has passed since Maxick was in his prime, no other man of his size has equalled him in all-around strength.


The above text and illustrations on this tribute page to Maxick were contributed by Harry Rothman, to whom many thanks.
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