Forza: The way of the stick

Mon Aug 31, 2009 8:36am EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) In many gyms these days, the aspiring samurai can learn the art of the sword by way of the stick, and also get a fierce cardio workout.

Forza, the name is Italian for strength and power, is a group fitness class based on the principles of traditional Japanese swordplay.

"I want to bring the world of martial arts to people who don't want get a black belt, people who don't want to hurt their knuckles or other people," said Ilaria Montagnani, the black belt who created the workout.

In Forza, students wielding 40 inch wooden practice swords, called bokken, learn the basic cuts and strikes of the samurai while burning an average of 500 calories an hour.

"The workout is extremely authentic. Nothing has been watered down," said Montagnani, a native of Florence, Italy.

Montagnani fashioned Forza from the principles of iaido, the ancient Japanese art of drawing the sword, engaging in sudden attack, and resolving the situation as the sword is returned to its sheath.

"In iaido, one strick and it's over," she said without a trace of a smile. "It's very sudden."

"Here we don't do any combat. It is "Kill Bill," she said, referring to the Quentin Tarantino movie, "in that it's Japanese, it's that kind of swordplay and that kind of intensity.   Continued...

<p>Ilaria Montagnani leads a Forza class at Equinox Fitness Center, New York City, in this 2007 handout photo. REUTERS/Handout</p>