Kendo: crossing swords, singing masks

Mon Sep 14, 2009 6:04am EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Kendo may not appear to be the most likely fitness regimen but the modern martial art based on ancient Japanese swordplay gives the entire body a workout, even the vocal chords.

"When you move in kendo you make a voice, almost like singing," said Noboru Kataoka of the vocalization that to the uninitiated sounds more blood-curdling scream than song.

"That makes your body very relaxed and soft," the master teacher, or sensei, of the New York City Kendo Club said in an interview. "If you don't make that voice the muscles get tense."

Kataoka learned the fundamentals of samurai swordsmanship as a 16-year old in Kochi, Japan. He has been teaching kendo, which means the way of the sword, for 32 years.

"You develop deep breathing," Kataoka said. "You use both arms equally, so even when you're older you can move your arms.

"Kendo is an even exercise. The whole body gets strong," he said. "It's a lean body, not like pumping iron, because in kendo you have to move fast."

There are as many as 8 million kendo practitioners worldwide, with about 3.5 million in Japan alone. Competitive tournaments are held worldwide.

But whether you aspire to tournament competition or just a flat stomach, fast is not nearly enough.   Continued...