Bloody rampages can really get the blood pumping – in more ways than one. The hottest new fitness trend coming out of Japan (where else do all slightly demented yet meteoric trends come from these days?) is Samurai Training. The aerobics class, which is open to both genders but is almost exclusively dominated by women – and if that doesn’t tell you something about modern Japanese culture then I don’t know what does – promises to give you a good sweat while you cut a swath through the bad guys with your katana, the traditional weapon of choice for Japanese Samurai. Including Tom Cruise. I mean, he’s even got one in the movie poster and everyone knows movie posters are 100% historically accurate. (We’ll discuss later how I learned all my important historical facts from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and thereby humiliated myself during a family game of Trivial Pursuit by mispronouncing the famous philosopher as “So-crates.”)
A group fit class where you get a sword? Sign me up! Okay, so the sword is plastic but according to devotees of the new sport the emotion is so sharp that even Hello Kitty temporarily sprouts a mouth just so she can snarl while delivering “40 disemboweling thrusts” in rapid succession. Practitioners of the ancient-cum-strip mall sport not only get to disembowel imaginary foes but also get to behead them, stab them through the heart and hack off limbs (presumably the imaginary foes then cry, “Come back, I’ll bite your legs off!“). Samurai classes are not for wimps: “The sessions follow Mr Takafuji’s original, punishing take on kenbu — a macabre sword dance that he said was historically performed by samurai around the remains of their recently cleaved opponents.”
I want to try this class so bad that I might need to seek comfort in the styrofoam lap of my Japanese legs pillow to calm myself. Anyhow, while I’m waiting for this trend to hop the ocean, it got me thinking about, well, all the things I think about while I’m working out intensely. I don’t normally picture “recently cleaved opponents” – although perhaps now I’ll try and work that in to my next Turbokick class – but I do have some pretty violent fantasies. Indeed, working out my violent thoughts was one of the initial and very powerful draws of both kickboxing and Karate for me. When Turbo Jennie yells for us to grab someone’s head and pull it into our knee, I’m totally picturing it. My favorite is when we do a backhanded punch thingy – I can feel a nose cracking under my knuckles. I used to think this predilection was just me working out my sordid past but after reading this article, apparently I am not alone. Samurai girls don’t just kick butt, they slice it off and hand it to you on a platter.
While rolling heads and crushed bones are pretty much the exclusive purview of my martial arts classes, I do have quite the active imaginary life in all my athletic endeavors. When I’m running on a treadmill I’m imagining myself… running outside. Sigh. But when I’m running outside I imagine all kinds of scenarios: that I’m the last person alive running from a village under siege to warn the next village over (this one is particularly awesome for trail runs), that I’m a time traveler running to make my jump back into my own dimension so I can reunite with my lost love, that I’m running to a planet where pee-soaked playlands don’t exist and Chuck E. Cheese only exists in nightmares. You know, whatever it takes to get me up that hill. Sometimes I even like to imagine I’m on TV (yes it would be the most boring channel ever but it’s my fantasy so get your own cable station) with judges critiquing my form. “Look at that bicep curl! She’s so controlled and steady! Can she eke out one more rep? I dunno Bob, I see a bead of sweat… oh there she goes! I was wrong! What a feat! Can you hear the crowd? This is one for the history books!!” Like I said, active imagination.
So what do you think about when you work out? Anyone else fantasize about killing people during kickboxing? Running away from the Nazis during your jog through suburbia? Would you try the Samurai aerobics class with me??