THE BLOG
09/19/2011 08:15 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

We Tried It: Forza Samurai Sword Class

I've previously expressed my penchant for high-intensity workouts, and on my last vacation I shot both a bow and arrow and a gun, so when the opportunity to add "wield a samurai sword" to the list of things I've done in the last month presented itself, I was all "game on!"

I popped up to the Equinox in Columbus Circle and grabbed a wooden sword, ready to thrash wildly. I had absolutely no idea what was in store. I was expecting to sort of bounce around the room randomly stabbing the air (perhaps I had samurai swords confused with fencing?), but the class was focused and disciplined beyond anything I could have imagined.

There are three basic movements in the Forza class: half-cuts (chopping the sword from overhead so that the tip is level with your neck), full-cuts (where the tip of the sword lands at the navel) and diagonal cuts (coming over either shoulder). They sound basic, but the precision was crucial, and I was surprised how difficult it was to master the motion. Plus, you hold on to the sword for the entirety of the session, meaning you get no break or change to reposition as you progress through the workout moves.

That said, I was at a disadvantage from the start, since everyone else seemed to have their full-cuts and half-cuts down pat. I frantically attempted to copy everyone's motions while squatting and pivoting and lunging for 45 minutes (not shockingly, multi-tasking your upper and lower body is not the best way to learn proper form). I even got called out by the instructor at one point because in my furious efforts to correct my stance, I had migrated so far from my original location that I was inches from whacking another class-goer in the head.

It's definitely not a class where "beginner's luck" exists. I'm used to being able to jump into a class and pick up fairly quickly, especially since an instructor can usually make adjustments for multiple fitness levels. This wasn't a matter of being at the wrong fitness level -- the moves themselves, while definitely comprising a good workout, weren't torturous or impossible -- but just that I didn't know how to do the moves in the first place, which of course just takes repeat visits to learn.

I'd definitely go back -- and try to bring my sense of patience this time. Despite the fact that it sounds like a butt-kicking weaponized class, the performance is surprisingly zen, and since i went in hoping to slice through the air with reckless abandon, I think I was in the wrong mindset.

Immediately after the swords were back in their bucket, the instructor launched into a kickboxing class, and since I was still standing in the back of the room I joined in for a few minutes. And it did feel good to get those kicks and punches out of my system.