Samurai Aerobics

Samurai Aerobics

Kenjutsu and Kendo are a few types of martial arts that were practiced by the Japanese people. Though it isn't used as much as it used to be, it is still quite popular. These martial arts involve the use of wooden sticks called Bokken.


imagecaption = Kendo Jodan Cutting Position using a Shinai
imagesize = 300px
name = Samurai Aerobics
aka =
focus = Weaponry
country = flagicon|USA United States
creator = Joseph J Truncale
parenthood = Kenjutsu, Kendo, Iaijutsu
famous_pract =
olympic = No


The ancient Samurai of Japan realized the importance of being in the very best physical condition. Though they may not have heard of aerobics, they knew in order to win and survive the long battles they constantly had back in the ancient times. They understood the concept of specificity of training. They would practice their sword cutting and thrusting techniques thousands of times every day to build their strength, power and endurance.

These martial arts are perfect for people who want to keep themselves physically fit and also want to learn the arts of patience and endurance.

Required Equipment

In all sport activities, there are certain uniforms and equipment that is required in order to practice. Initially the students used to wear the traditional Kenjutsu or Kendo uniform which consists of a jacket called a Keikogi and a pleated type skirt called a Hakama. This two-piece uniform is called a Dogi.

Future students would want to purchase their own Bokken or Bokutou (wooden sword). They can vary in quality, balance, weight and price. For example, a lightweight sword that is made out of less dense quality of wood will be priced very cheaply compared to a high quality Bokken or Bokutou. This is fine for beginning and intermediate students. However, advanced students are encouraged to invest in a heavier and more quality type of Bokken. For example, the Bokutou used in Kashima Shinden Jiki Shin Kage Ryu Kenjutsu will cost more than $100.00, but it will last a lifetime. The better quality wooden swords will not break when struck together, as is done in some of the kata movements. Some Bokken and Bokutou may have a hand guard (Tsuba) attached and other models may not. The instructor can advise you more on what type of Bokken or Bokutou would be best for the class that you go to. The photograph shows various models of Samurai training swords that can be used in an average classes.

Overview of a Practice Session

It is important from a health and safety aspect to spend 10 to 15 minutes warming up to prepare the body for more rigorous exercise, research in this areaFact|date=April 2008 has shown that stretching exercises should only be done once the body has been properly warmed up.

The Basics

Gripping the Bokken or Bokutou

Like most techniques in the martial arts, there can be disagreements on specific details. Depending on the particular school, a student may learn to hold a sword differently than in another sword system, but most schools teach a subtle variation on a loose grip with the wrists rolled so the forearm supports and drives the sword, rather than the thumb. Most of these exercises are practices using a two-hand grip on the Bokken. However, there are a few one hand sword cut movements. Whether it is a Bokken, Bokutou or real sword as shown in the illustration, the grip method is the same.

The Japanese teach the same sword grip whether a person is left or right-handed, as both hands are important.

The basic two-handed sword grip:

#The right hand is shaped like you are holding a pen, with the index fingure almost in contact with the tsuba (hand guard). If the Bokken does not have a Tsuba, place the right hand in the area just below the blade portion of the sword. The hand is rolled, so that a straight line can be followed from the wrist, up the hilt, and through the blade. The left hand is formed into the same pen grip, with the heel of the hand and little finger providing support. The hand is placed at the bottom of the tsuka (handle), almost in contact with the kashira (metal end to the handle).
#The palms of both of your hands are secure but not overly tight on the grip portion of the sword, with the little fingers only providing the pressure to keep the tsuka in place, while the other fingers reamin in contact in case finger work is needed for subtle sword movements later. [Klens-Bigman, D: "Omori Ryu: The Foundation of Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido"] , page 2, Paragraph 2]

Basic Postures

There are numerous positions or postures in Samurai Aerobics. The following are ten basic [postures|Kamae] .All of which should be practiced with a long loose grip (similar to the shap your hand would be holding a pen), with the heel of the hand and the little finger providing the presure to support the sword.

#Seigan No Kamae Tip of blade is pointing at the eyes.
#Chudan No Kamae Tip of blade pointing at middle of body
#Jodan No Kamae Sword is held overhead at 45 degrees.
#Gedan No Kamae Sword is pointed downward.
#Hasso No Kamae Sword is held next to head on either left or right side.
#Ichi No Kamae Sword is pointed straight at eyes.
#Waki No Kamae Sword is held to rear of body. Can be left or right sides.
#Kasumi No Kamae Sword is held in front of face with the blade pointed to side.
# Fudo No Kamae: Sword is held to the side with one hand. The left hand is held out to the side with index finger pointing out.
#Juji No Kamae: Sword is held in a cross arm way at chest level

Basic Footwork

There are six basic patterns of movement in the sword cutting exercises. They should be practiced as part of the initial warm up exercises routine before actual sword practice. These movements should also be combined with actual cutting movement exercises.

# Kendo Step Forward: Your right foot is placed just forward of your left foot. You should be slightly on the balls of your feet. Your left foot pushes on the ball of the foot forward, while at the same time your right foot slides forward. #Kendo Step Backward: Begin in the Kendo foot position with your right foot forward and your left foot to the rear on the balls of the feet. After completing the step forward, push back with your right foot sliding the left foot back at the same time. The Kendo step is a sliding step forward and back type of movement as you perform the sword cut.
#Kenjutsu Step Forward: You begin this movement in the traditional front stance with the left leg forward and the right leg to the rear. In a Kenjutsu front stance, the legs are slightly bent but not as deep as a karate type of stance. Take a full step forward with your left leg to complete this movement.
#Kenjutsu Step Backward: With the right leg now forward, stepback with your right leg so that your left leg is now forward.
#Right Side Step
#Left Side Step Step to the right with your right foot and then to the left with your left foot in this simple side step exercise.

Aerobic cutting practice

The suggested number of repetitions for each exercise can range from 25 to 100 times, depending on the student’s fitness level. However, very advanced students may do 500 to 1000 repetitions of specific cutting movements to improve themselves. Samurai Aerobics can be quite demanding, depending on how much energy and power is put into each cutting exercise. For example, 25 repetitions done with full power and extension will be more difficult than doing 50 repetitions done with little power or focus. Beginning students should start with 25 repetitions of each movement. Intermediate students, which are those with six or more months of training, should do 50 to 75 repetitions of each exercise. Advanced students should do a minimum of 100 repetitions of each cutting exercise. If you are fortunate to be taking Samurai Aerobics from a certified instructor, he or she can guide you toward improvement in these movements. The training should be intense but enjoyable for all who participate in Samurai Aerobics.

Daijodan kartatake wari

Begin this movement by standing with your legs shoulder width apart. Both of your legs should be bent (Kiba-dachi stance). The Bokken is held over your head in the Jodan position. The cut is performed in a straight line downward. You bend your legs deeper at the end of this cutting movement. The blade stops just before touching the ground. Perform 25 to 100 repetitions. NOTE: Make sure the sword is 45 degrees behind your head as youbegin ALL JODAN LEVEL CUTTING EXERCISES.

Daijodan Kendo

One step cut and come back to Chudan Position. In this movement, you step forward and perform a Jodan level cut. As you step back, you move the sword to the Chudan level. This completes one repetition.

Daijodan kendo

Two steps two cuts (forward and back). This movement is the same as sword cut #2(Daijodan Kendo one Step, but now you make another Jodan Cut as you step back rather than moving the sword back to the Chudan level)

Daijodan Makko Giri

In this movement you begin with your left foot forward and your right foot back. You begin the movement by raising the sword overhead to the Jodan position and you step forward with your right foot at the same time. At the completion of the cut you step back into the starting Jodan position. This completes one repetition.

Hasso Kesa Giri

The stepping forward movement in this sword cut is the same but you begin the cut from the Hasso position, with the sword next to your face at shoulder level. Rather than a straight down cut like the previous ones, this sword cut comes down at a slight 45-degree angle as you step forward. Once you completed the step forward with your right leg, place the sword on your left side and step back performing a cut on that side.

Hasso Gyaku

This sword cut begins in the traditional Hasso Position and the same forward step is employed. However, this cut sweeps upward at a 45-degree angle when stepping forward. At the completion of the first cut, change the sword to the left side and perform the same cut as you step back.


This is a two-movement exercise because it involves a block or deflection and a circle (neck) type of cut. Begin in a normal stance with your legs about shoulder width apart. Take a step with your left leg as you swing the sword to your right side so the tip is pointing downward. Once the block is made, immediately swing the sword in a counterclockwise circle around your head at neck level. Come back to the normal stance and perform the same movement on your left side.

Koshi Giri

This cut begins with the sword held at head level with the tip pointing forward. While taking a step forward swing the sword in a circle around your head. The cut swings at the neck level as you complete the step. The sword now is placed on your left side at the head level as you step back and swing the sword in a circle back from where you began the first movement.

Haneage Kirisage

This cut begins by holding the sword at the Gedan position. Take a short side step to the left with your left foot. At the same time, raise your sword overhead in a horizontal way with the sword tip to the right. Make a full downward cut so that you end up again in the Gedan position. Now take a short step to the right with your right foot. At the same time, raise your sword overhead in a horizontal way with the sword tip to the left. Make a full downward cut so you end up in the Gedan position.

Waki No Kamae Giri

You begin this cut by holding the sword behind your right hip. As you take a step forward, swing the sword horizontal across your body to your left rear side. Step back and swing the sword as you return to the starting position on your right side.

Nukiuchi Gata

This is one of the sword drawing cuts of Iaido and Iaijutsu. Though Iaido is practiced with a real sword, Samurai Aerobic students should use the wooden Bokken for safety reasons. Advanced Bushi Satori ryu students do practice this Iaido cut with real swords. This is a sword-drawing cut and can be done two ways. You begin this movement with the sword on your left side as if it is inside the scabbard (Saya). Grasp the sword with your right hand in a standard grip, and draw the blade upward over your head. Return to the starting position. The variation of this is to grip the handle (Tsuka) of the sword in a reverse grip and draw the sword upward over your head.

Nukitsuke Gata

This is the most common first draw cut of Iaido and Iaijutsu. Begin this movement with the sword on your left side as if it was inside the scabbard (Saya). Grasp the handle (Tsuka) with your right hand and draw the sword out at eye level with the blade facing outward on your right side. The point of the sword should be pointing slightly inward. Bring the sword back to the starting position after performing a blood removal technique (Chiburi). This is done by bringing the sword up in front of your face in a horizontal way with your palm facing your face. Now swing the sword downward in a counterclockwise way stopping just in front of your right (forward) leg. Now replace the sword on your left side as if it was going into the scabbard (Saya).

Kirioroshi Gata

This is the complete four-step movement of the Iaido/Iaijutsu draw, cut blood removal and replacing sword movements. Once the previous two drawing cuts have been mastered, they are put together into the complete four-step movement. They are as follows:
#Drawing Cut:----------------------Nukitsuke
#Overhead Jodan Downward Cut:------Kirioroshi
#Blood Removal:--------------------Chiburi
#Replace Sword in Scabbard:--------Noto


This cut can be done with any of the Kendo and Kenjutsu movements previously demonstrated. In this illustration the Kendo stepping method is shown. This is merely a one-handed cutting exercise with the sword. Begin with your left hand open held to your left side. The right hand holds the sword in the Chudan or Seigan no Kamae position. Raise the sword overhead at a 45-degree angle and cut forward as you take a short step forward. You can move forward and back as your perform this one-handed cut. Practice this cut using both your left and right hands.

Tachi Tsuki

This is a two-hand thrust technique of Kenjutsu. Step forward while thrusting the tip of the sword forward.

Suwari Zuki

Kneel as you thrust the tip of the sword forward.

Combinations and Direction Changing Techniques

Once Samurai Aerobic students have mastered all the basic cuts, combination type movements can be added to make the class more interesting. These combinations can include doing different cuts and thrusts with the Bokken. They can also include various foot movements such as turning to the left or right or to the rear while performing the sword cuts. Good instructors can use their own imaginations to create a productive and interesting workout program. The following are just a few examples.

#Forward two-hand thrust with the Daijodan Karatake Wari cut
#Two step two cut of Daijodan Kendo cut with a forward two-hand thrust
#Daijodan Makko Giri cut with a Hasso Kesa Giri cut
#Hasso Gyaku cut with a forward thrust
#Taihen Kaeshi Giri cut with Haneage Kirisage cut
#Koshi Giri cut with a forward thrust
#Waki No Kamae Giri cut with Daijodan Makko Giri cut
#Tachi Tsuki thrust forward, to the left side, to the right side and to the rear


One of the advantages of Samurai Aerobics is that you can practice the cuts in a very small area. In fact, many of the cutting movements can even be done sitting down if standing is a problem. However, whenever possible, foot movements should be done with the cutting movements. The basic patterns of movement have been covered previously. Direction change movements include the following: Forward facing to left facing. Forward facing to right facing. Forward facing to rear facing and combinations of turning movements. These direction-changing methods are usually only practiced by advanced students and are not required to enjoy and practice Samurai Aerobics. The following is just two examples of simple direction changing drills. 1. Step forward with your right foot during a Jodan cut and step to the left with your left foot followed by a Jodan cut. 2. Step forward with your right foot during a Jodan cut and turn your body all the way to the rear so your left foot is now forward and perform a Jodan cut. Numerous combinations can be added to these movements.


This breathing exercise is simple to learn and can be practiced both as a warm up and cool down movement. This breathing exercise is practiced in many Asian martial art and exercise systems. Tai Chi, Qigong, Kenjutsu and Yoga often employ similar breathing exercise methods. Even though this M.A. breathing exercise is shown standing up, you can also do this exercise sitting or even lying down. You will inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth in this exercise. It is important that when both inhaling and exhaling, you perform abdominal breathing. That means forcing the air downward to your lower abdomen area, which is located about two inches below the navel. (The Tanden or Hara) This is a simple four step breathing process.

#Stand straight with your legs apart and your open hands at your side with your palms facing upward.
#Slowly inhale through your nose, forcing the air into your lower abdomen.
#At the same time you inhale, slowly raise your hands in front of your body until you reach shoulder level. Now turn your palms downward
#As you begin to exhale through your mouth, slowly lower your hands to your side. Be sure to force the air into your lower abdomen (Tanden). This completes the first breathing exercise cycle. Perform ten to fifty times.

This is such a great exercise that you can do it whenever you feel the need to relax yourself. You can do it sitting and even lying down. In one text on Qigong, it claimed that if you do this breathing exercise one hundred times a day, you would live a long life and if you do it one thousand times a day, you would live forever. I am sure the author of that book was exaggerating, but doing this breathing exercise will give you a sense of calm peacefulness.


After the aerobic exercise session is completed, the M.A. (Martial art) Breathing exercise should be done ten times. The following stretching exercises should also be practiced at this time.

#Neck Turn Side to Side: All the neck exercises should be performed very slowly. Hold for two seconds on each side and perform ten repetitions.
#Neck Rotations: Slowly rotate your neck as if you were attempting to make a circle with your nose. Ten repetitions clockwise and counter-clockwise.
#Neck Assisted Stretch left side and right side: Turn your head to your left side as if you are trying to touch your ear to your shoulder. Use your right hand to gently push your head to feel the stretch. Hold for two seconds and repeat ten times. Turn your head to the right side and do the same stretch on the right side.
#Shoulder circles to the front and the sides Ten times clock wise and ten times counter-clockwise.
#Shoulder/triceps Assisted Stretch: Raise your left arm so that your elbow is close to your left ear. Use your right hand to push the left elbow up, hold for ten seconds and repeat for another ten seconds. Do the same movement with your right arm for two sets of ten second holds.
#Arm/Shoulder Crossover: Place both arms palm down in front of your body. Keeping your arms straight, pull them toward the center of your body, crossing your arms. Now pull both arms apart and stretch them as far to your back as possible. Repeat ten times holding each stretch to the front and rear for two seconds.
#Side Bends: Place your hands on your hips and bend your waist to the left and right sides ten times each.
#Waist Rotations: Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circle clockwise and counter-clockwise ten times each side.
#Hip Rotations: Place your hands on your hips and rotate your hips in a circle Clockwise and counter-clockwise ten times each side.
#Standing Toe Touching: Begin with your hands on your hips and slowly bend over with your hands forward until you feel a slight stretch in your lower back. If possible, try to touch your toes, but if you have back problems, DO NOT PERFORM THIS MOVEMENT.
#Seated Reach Over (Left and Right Sides): With your legs spread, reach to your left side placing your hands on the floor next to your hips. Do the same movement to your right side. Ten times each side.
#Seated Three-Way Stretch: With your legs spread, reach toward your left foot with your hands, hold for two seconds. Reach toward your right foot with your hands, hold for two seconds. Reach between your legs straight and hold for two seconds. Repeat the three way stretch five times. NOTE: Never stretch further than you feel comfortable in any of these exercises.

Advanced Movements

Besides the movements previous covered, there are many variations that can make the classes more interesting. An imaginative Samurai Aerobics instructor can devise various sword-cutting routines from the basic techniques explained in this manual. The following are just a few of the many routines Samurai Aerobic instructors can employ, depending on the space available and the level of skill of students.

#If there is a large area, students can move across the floor both forward and backwards as they perform the various cutting exercises.
#If space is limited, students can turn in a circle in their own space performing various cuts and combinations.
#If the practice area is small, students can practice the various cuts stepping forward and backward with each movement.
#If the practice area has a low ceiling, many cutting exercises can be done from a kneeling or sitting position.
#Advanced students can perform a wide variety of different cuts from the basic ten Kamae positions in a routine.
#If you have a good quality Bokken, advanced students can practice the cuts against another Bokken. In this case, actually striking with the practice sword should probably be done with two Kendo (Shinai) swords, which are made out of bamboo and are designed to be used to actually strike. It is highly recommended that serious students of Samurai Aerobics have at least two practice swords, one sturdy wood sword and one Kendo (Shinai) practice sword.
#Advanced students can also combine the Iaido drawing and cutting movements with their Bokken. This will consist of the drawing cut, called Nukitsuke, and the downward (Jodan) cut called Kirioroshi.
#Advanced students can also practice many of the cuts using just one hand.
#Advanced students can also practice using two swords in combination with their cuts. Japan’s greatest swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, who is most known for his classic text, The Book of Five Rings, (1584-1645) also created what is known as the “Two-Sword Style.”(Ni To Ichi Ryu)
# If the weather is good, Samurai Aerobics can be practiced outside. Running and cutting exercises can be done together. If the space is limited, you can still run in place and combine the Samurai Aerobics cutting movements.

The routines and cutting exercises of Samurai Aerobics are limited only by the instructor’s imagination. A good instructor will always try to make the practice interesting and enjoyable.


The number one concern of anyone who teaches or practices Samurai Aerobics is safety. The following are some of the safety factors to consider before practicing Samurai Aerobics.

#Anyone with shoulder, back or other injuries should check with their doctor before beginning any exercise program.
#Though Samurai Aerobics is safe to practice, it can be demanding and students should check with their doctor before participating in the program.
#Students should work at their own fitness level. Instructors should monitor students to make sure students are working at their own fitness level. Aerobic teachers of any kind should know how to check a person’s pulse rate during a workout. The standard method is to begin at 220 beats minus a person’s age. You can than figure 70% to 80% of that number to determine the intensity of the workout for that person. Example: 220 – 40(year old person) = 180 beats. 70%=126 beats 80%=144 beats a minute.
#As students become more proficient and in better shape, the intensity can increase in the exercises.
#Focus should be on correct form, performing the techniques in a smooth medium speed manner.
#Make sure there is enough room to perform the cutting exercises.
#Students and instructors should be aware of where other students are around them.
#There SHOULD NEVER BE FOOLING AROUND IN CLASS. This is why Samurai Aerobics was designed for mature adults to practice.
#Live or real swords should NEVER be used in a Samurai Aerobics class.
#Check with students before class to determine if there are any pre-existing or new injuries since the last class session.

Sessions should be fun and you can add the music you like when working out. There is a group called Hiroshima who has combined the Asian flavor with modern jazz interpretation in their album.

Student Rank and Instructor Certification

Anyone can enjoy and practice Samurai Aerobics all their life to keep in excellent physical shape. Most people who practice Samurai Aerobics are not concerned with being an instructor. However, for those who may desire to become an instructor or earn rank in Samurai Aerobics, there are specific guidelines.


* [Bushi Satori Ryu Shotokan Karate & Jujitsu |]
* I Teki Ken Dojo School of Traditional Martial Arts []


cite news
last = Klens-Bigman
first = D.
title = Omori Ryu: The Foundation of Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido
publisher =
language = English
date = 2002

cite news
last = Neporent
first = Liz
title = Swordplay: bringing out the samurai warrior in you
publisher = Muscle & Fitness/Hers,
language = English
date = April 2004

cite news
last =
first =
title = The samurai work-out is a cut above
publisher = Health and Medicine Archive
language = English
date = March 5, 2007

cite book
last = Suino
first = Nicklaus
title = The Art of Japanese Swordsmanship

cite book
title=Practice Drills for Japanese Swordsmanship
first=Nicklaus |last=Suino

cite book
title=Japanese Swordsmanship
author= Warner, Gordon and Draeger

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