The War On Fat: The Way of the Samurai

A little over a year ago I declared war on the softness of my exoskeleton.

May 3rd, 2006: Seems everyone has got their “War On” these days – and I’m a follower of the Faith of Conformity, so I’m starting my own war. Dubbed “Operation: Reclaim Waistline“, my War On Fat shall combat the Axis of Evil (The Democratic People’s Republic of Lethargy, The Sovereign Kingdom of Crap Food and Not Drinking Enough Water – ok, that last one didn’t have the PR department that the first two had…).

Well folks, I’m here to tell you … I failed.

I did initially lose a bit of weight, but getting my ass out and jogging in the public eye proved more of a deterrent than I anticipated. Now, despite not having a scale to prove it, I’m quite certain I’m over the weight I was then.

But greater men than I have failed at things, and that didn’t stop them – well, not all of them – so why should it stop me?

As part of this second offensive, I’ve called upon some tough warriors of old – the Samurai – and am going to learn Kendo:

Kendo is a physically and mentally challenging activity that combines strong martial arts values with sporting-like physical elements. Kendo embodies the essence of Japanese fighting arts. Practitioners of kendo are called kendoka (one who practices kendo) or kenshi (swordsman). The latter may also be applied to practitioners of other traditional Japanese sword arts. Around eight million people world-wide practice kendo with approximately seven million in Japan. – Wikipedia.

When I told Maggie that she’d very possibly have the opportunity to hit me with a stick, she was all for it and we signed up together.

At first it was a bit tough to locate a dojo in Suzhou, but the Internet prevailed and we found one not far from where we used to live in Suzhou’s New District (SND). It’s a bit of a hike to get there, but as it’s the only one in town, we’ve little choice.

We had our first class last night and it is damn tough. Our teacher is great though and showed much patience. A Chinese, he studied in Japan for several years and conducts his classes in both Chinese and Japanese. Note the lack of English. It makes it interesting (and all the more motivation for me to study Chinese as well).

As SND tends to be the “Japanese” end of town, and Kendo being a Japanese martial art, most of the students are from Japan, which adds all sorts of confusion when I try to say “Hello”, “Ni Hao”, “Konnichiwa”…

Due to her work schedule, the only class Maggie can make it to is on Saturday nights, but I’m hoping to get down there two or three times a week (as it is important to my ego to not have a wife that can kick my ass with a sword – and I need more exercise… yeah, mostly the exercise thing).

As far as the class goes, I’m still a little lost and so am not fully able to explain it here. Basically, you stomp your foot, shout and hit your opponent with a stick. Do they make better stress-relievers than this?

To give you a better idea what it’s all about – here are some cool videos I found on YouTube:

Kendo Sparing

Kendo Championship

A music video with a Kendo theme

8 Responses

  1. Hey Eric, good advice. The thing about it is, I know with a solid amount of certainty ‘how’ to lose the weight. As anyone that’s battled with weight loss does, I’m sure.

    For me, it is most definitely a lack of exercise and too many carbs in the form of rice and noodles (where do I live? haha).

    I don’t eat perfect, but generally I eat quite well. I rarely, if ever, eat simple sugars other than honey, I drink low fat dairy (in small amounts), no cheese, bla bla bla.

    The problem is I sit on my ass all day. Kendo is giving me a much needed reason to get out and move around. Plus, I get to swing a sword around and wear really cool clothes!

  2. Hey Ryan,

    I think the mixing studying with working out / losing weight is a very good idea.

    Just got back from my brother’s wedding in Germany – and one of his friends is a true expert in one of the many forms of ninjitsu. This guy was in amazing shape, and looked like he was always prepared (for anything). My guess, and based off of stories from my brother, is that he could kick some ass when necessary.

    Posts like yours and meeting up with him are kind of pushing me in the direction of looking for a place to study martial arts – I used to put it in the kind of semi-“nerd” category – but the more I think about it now the more it makes sense – learning self-defense, a centered state of being, and getting in shape at the same time. Good combination.

    Push yourself hard to do this well.

  3. Hey Jeremy, I have sort of maintained the same opinion about Westerners who practice martial arts. Sort of a yellow fever of a different kind, and I was reluctant to join their ilk.

    But what you’re saying about learning self-defense, a centered state of being and getting in shape are much better reasons than some stupid stereo-type I have in my head.

  4. I wanted to learn Kendo when I got out of the Army ages ago, but only found one school in the Washington DC area. It turns out they didn’t want any white students, so I ended up learning Gung Fu at another martial arts school. Strangely enough, that’s how I ended up coming to China in the first place.

  5. Alright Ryan-San,
    this is the spirit. Don’t give up this neverending fight. If you want to leave some fat in our dojo – you’re welcome.
    “I suppose the traditional way to conclude this is, we cross Hanzo swords.” Kill Bill, Vol. 2

    • Wish I had better news, but kendo practice fell by the wayside many many moons ago. We just lived too far from the classes, and then moved even further away. Now we’re in a smaller city with virtually no Japanese population, so not much chance of finding a dojo here.

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