There are certain things in life I feel you should never say no to. 1. Eating that last piece of cake – any cake; 2. Jumping off something really high for the sheer excitement of it; and 3. Learning how to swordfight.
In all honesty, the sword fighting scenario is a new one for me. But seriously, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to pretend to be Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, gracefully swinging her sword at enemies in pursuit of revenge and honour?
Anyway the point is, if you fancy a go at being all samurai ninja, this is totally something you can embrace doing in London. In particular, at the East London Buddhist Arts Centre where the teaching of the art of Japanese swordsmanship has become a regular occurrence. Mild-mannered sensei, John Evans, shares his knowledge of the art form of Battodo Fudokan nearly every week in Bethnal Green as he takes students through the principles of balance, focus, and of course how to get the better of your opponent should you ever be challenged to a Japanese sword fight.
Interestingly, Battodo is not an aggressively driven activity as you might initially presume from the fact it involves weapons but instead is one with a strangely calming and centring effect. And while you may not get a proper shiny metal sword to practice with, unless you happen to have your own stashed away somewhere, you do get a pretty sweet wooden version instead which is just as thrilling.
For new students, the art form they can expect to learn is graceful and highly skilled as the focus is on increasing awareness, strength and flexibility. The steady, thought out practice forces you to consider every minor action and its consequences to the full. For example, you need to be careful with foot positioning and weight distribution and if you are set to advance on an enemy you must also consider how you will retreat afterwards.
In just one class with John, I learnt how to respectfully draw out a sword, how to make my killer move against an opponent and of course how to withdraw my sword from my foe’s body quickly enough so prevent retaliation. After a mere 60 minutes my balance felt better, my mind sharper and I had a deeply profound respect for the ancient tradition of Japanese swordsmanship.
I wouldn’t say this is necessarily for people who get an adrenaline rush from controlled violent sports, such as boxing, but it is certainly something you should try if you fancy imagining you are one of those lithe fighting machines from Japanese samurai movies.
Ultimately though, Battodo is, if nothing else, a good workout for the arms and core muscles and probably good for those with busy minds that need something to focus them. Oh and of course it’s a useful skill as who knows when you might be challenged to your next fight with a samurai warrior – especially around east London way.
Battodo Fudokan London
First Floor Studio
London Buddhist Arts Centre
Tuesdays (from 12 February): 7-8am