Last week, The Greatist Team ventured a few blocks from our office to study the way of the samurai. We got in touch with our inner warriors by learning traditional Japanese sword fighting, including stances, poses (or “katas”), and simulated attacks that would make any evil ninja nervous.
After greeting our teacher — or Sensei — Yoshi Amao, we eagerly accepted our very own swords, complete with foam “blades.” To the beat of classic Japanese drum music, we lined up and sat down to meditate. After a few minutes, we all rose and drew our swords (or “katanas”) out of mock sheaths (made by placing our thumbs and index fingers in an “O” shape on our left hips). Yoshi demonstrated the proper sword grip with the hands spaced slightly apart, right hand above the left. Shuffling our shoeless feet, we lifted our swords, and prepared for battle. For the next few minutes, we practiced spatial intelligence in the small studio by trying not to hit each other (that part came later). As we learned to slash downward and sideways, we began to get the hang of stabbing invisible opponents. Doing our best to suppress giggles, we took turns running toward a single opponent, yelling “Ki-yaa!” as they blocked each blow. We sped up our attacks and the studio started to look like a scene from a martial arts movie, with the hero fighting off a horde of (very) beginner samurai. As our skills increased, so did the probability of “dying.” We practiced taking a sword in the side or being slashed across the belly and falling dramatically to the ground. For the final part of the class, Yoshi choreographed a battle scene for us to perform. In the scene, we took turns acting the part of “hero” or one of two sneaky villains. The lone Samurai would be confronted by the two attackers, and then quickly dispatch of them by utilizing the blocks and blows we’d practiced earlier in class. The battle over, the victorious Samurai re-sheathed their sword and walked away into the night. Want to give sword fighting a try? Classes are led by Yoshi Amao every Friday and Saturday at Peridance in NYC. Visit Yoshi’s website or Facebook page for more information on how to get your Samurai on. What’s the most dramatic fitness class you’ve ever tried out? Tell us about it in the comments below!