Ancient swords fly with modern flair

 

Many might not want to admit it, but playing with swords is fun, especially without the risk of losing a limb.  

Every Monday, Thursday and Friday at the North End Studio in Burlington, certified instructor Stephanie Shohet takes participants back to the time of the Samurai but with a modern twist. Her unique fitness class, Forza, uses wooden Samurai swords and electronic beats from current songs to get the body moving.  

“You really have to focus, you have to keep your eyes straight ahead,” Shohet said. 

With each cut of the sword, she explained, you have to make sure the sword’s tip ends at the right point, whether it is between the eyes or at the shoulder. 

Not only does the class give a complete workout but it builds self-esteem. Shohet said that since being certified two and a half years ago her life has changed dramatically. The workout “really improves posture, it really helps with confidence, I stand up taller,” Shohet said. 

Forza forces participants to go beyond their comfort zone. Samurai sword training traditionally involves intense focus. 

“Its big thing is concentration,” Shohet said. 

The result is increased confidence, attention and reduced anxiety. She explained that the movements are repetitive and therefore meditative.  

The workout combines different cuts of the sword with lunges and squats to form dozens of different combinations. Half cuts, full cuts and horizontal cuts are some of the different moves done in the class. While cutting the arms must remain strong and the body tense to prepare for the next cut. 

Each sword weighs between 12 and 25 ounces but “after a couple of minutes that one pound might as well be 20 pounds,” Shohet said.

Shohet described the routine as a full-body workout that works on cardiovascular health, improves strength and tones muscles. The up and down motion of the sword works chest and back muscles while the fast pace of the moves helps to tighten the core.

Shohet has had all ages attend her class, from 12 years old up through 70. It is low-impact so virtually anyone can get a comprehensive workout without worrying about injury.

Classes also take place at Perkins Fitness Consulting in South Burlington. Shohet teaches the basics at the beginning of each class so any skill level can participate.