June 22, 2014 ◆ Deborah Klens-Bigman, Ph.D
So, one day, while trolling the web for something new and interesting to do, you come upon our Japanese Swordsmanship class. You take a look at the photos and video, and it all looks cool and exciting. It also looks exacting and difficult. How, you wonder, do I get into this? Do I have the time? The money? Are people going to look at me funny if I don’t have the right outfit? Where do I get the equipment? This post means to answer some of those questions.
The first answer is simple – you get started by coming to a class. Easy, right? Any Thursday night, at 6:30 – pretty much after work, allowing some time for transit. The journey from midtown Manhattan to Queensboro Plaza takes about about 15 minutes by any of three (count ‘em) THREE train lines – the 7, N or Q trains. Or, if it’s somehow more convenient, you can take the M or R trains to Queens Plaza, but you have to walk a little more.
I’ll tell you a secret – everyone in the sword class, with the exception of the teacher, has less than four years of practice in swordsmanship. Four years may sound like a long time – in modern martial arts, you should be starting your own franchise by then, if not your own style, but Japanese swordsmanship is different. The fact that Japanese Swordsmanship is exacting and difficult is the same reason why it is easy to start – everyone, including the teacher, is only as good as her basic technique. We never stop practicing basics. The most important kata in our style, Muso Shinden ryu, is the very first kata we learn. Come to your first class, and we introduce this kata, along with some basic cuts and stances. No one (and I mean no one) in our class complains that we are doing basic techniques in deference to a new student coming on board, because we do them virtually every week!
Time and money. For many of us, these two factors are the determinant of our lives. Well, each class costs the equivalent of about 4 lattes. And each class is 75 minutes long – I’ll bet you spend at least that much time on Facebook every couple of days. Of course, most people want to put in extra time practicing on their own, and they should, too. But look at it this way – Japanese Swordsmanship provides a workout for body and mind (and, some would even say, for the soul). I joined a gym over the past year – it’s a good workout, but if I ever see one more Robin Thicke video, it will be too soon.
Finally, no one will look at you funny if you don’t have the right clothes. In the first place, this is New York. In the second place, the only way you get to find out what to wear, etc. is by coming to a class. Everyone started out by simply walking in the door. Equipment is free to be borrowed for class. Links to online sources for equipment are freely given, and class members will, from time to time, sell gently used equipment to each other at very reasonable prices. A practice top, belt and hakama trousers cost about the same as a good pair of running shoes (and – bonus – we practice barefoot).
So, if you have an interest in Japanese culture, paired with an interest in getting off the couch/out of the office, you have no excuse, and little to lose by coming to at least see what a class is all about. And those rumors about using new people as targets for cutting practice are simply not true…
If you are thinking about taking a class at RESOBOX, but are still undecided, please check out our Groupon offer here. With the offer, you pay only $79 for five classes and a take-home sword, a $160 total value.