Samurai Sword Fighting: Part I

It was one of the first really cold nights of the winter, last Thursday, when I found myself wondering one of those typical weekday-evening questions: What does one wear to engage in some samurai sword fighting?

I truly had no idea what I had signed on for when What’s Up Yukon hooked me up with this assignment. Unlike other active pursuits I’ve written about, I had zero experience in sword fighting or in any other martial art, for that matter. However, in the spirit of Let’s Do It!, I was up for playing the role of “newbie”.

But, what to wear?

Reasoning, If it works for weddings and the office, why wouldn’t it work for samurai sword fighting?, I eventually settled on the Yukon standard-issue uniform for all occasions – a hoodie, Carhartts, ball cap, skate shoes and a Che shirt that somehow seemed appropriate – and made my way over to the Boys and Girls Club (well, yeah – where did you think samurai sword fighting would take place?).

How best to describe the scene that greeted me there? You know how the word “Yukon” evokes certain qualities? – cold, laid-back, casual, etc. And you know how the term “samurai sword fighting” evokes certain images? – disciplined, formal, lethal, etc.

Well, mash up those two seemingly contradictory perceptions in your head and you’ll arrive at an accurate mental image of “Yukon Samurai Sword Fighting” … seriously.

First of all, it’s freakin’ freezing. We’re not so much “in” the Boys and Girls Club as we are in the huge unheated garage attached to it. It’s dark: “Ridonculously dark” as a What’s Up Yukon photographer and my Let’s Do it! co-conspirator, Ben (who was onhand to capture the event on “film”), put it.

Ramshackle skateboarding ramps, old weightlifting benches and discarded street signs are scattered about.

Happily, I was relieved to discover that I dressed perfectly because, as it turns out, anything goes when it comes to samurai sword fighting in the Yukon. The eight or so participants in attendance varied as wildly in age (from 14 to 60, to my eyes) as they did in dress: hoodies, jeans, sweat pants, Dickies work shirts and the occasional black ninja outfit thrown in for good measure, were all OK.

I should mention at this point that, far from feeling alarmed or nervous, I’m actually feeling pretty stoked about all this. Why would samurai sword fighting – Yukon style – look any different than this scene before me?

The warm feelings only amplified when the instructor, Sensei Vitold Jordan, arrived with a flourish (Carhartts, hiking boots and a sweater, in case you’re wondering), greeted the group enthusiastically and emphasized how welcome I was to join in. I felt totally at ease, a satisfied smile tugging subtly at the corner of my mouth. This was going to be sweet.

But then the swords came out.

(To find out if Ian and Ben survived samurai sword fighting with all limbs and digits intact, check out next week’s instalment of Let’s Do It!)

Got a suggestion for an active pursuit that could be profiled in this column? Want to draw attention to your sporting or recreational organization? Are you staying fit in some unique way? Drop me a line and tell me about it at yukonparker@yahoo.ca.