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Forza: The Samurai workout

If you're into swordplay, then embrace your inner ninja.

Utilizing weighted wooden swords, these classes are designed to build muscle and strip fat. “It’s not just a cardiovascular workout,” says Forza inventor Ilaria Montagnani. “It helps you shape a very athletic, muscular body.” Sounds good to us. Here are the essentials you should know before you sign up at a local gym.

Nuts and Bolts

 Montagnani invented the workout in 1995, after earning a black belt in karate and finally being allowed to train with swords. Forza is based on kendo and Aikijujitsu, and classes are set to music so the students can synchronize their movements. “It wasn’t to create choreography or anything,” she says of song choices. Hour-long classes can burn upwards of 500 calories: “To stop the sword, you have to isometrically contract your muscles,” Montagnani says, “and you do hundreds of those contractions throughout the workout.”

Warrior Spirit

Something happens to people when they train with swords, according to Montagnani. “You can’t just wimp out,” she says. “It forges your spirit.” Despite the New Age sentiment, she does not get too deep during her classes. “I think it’s much nicer to develop that on your own,” she says, “so I try not to feed them empty words about warrior spirit.” The workout, which consists of numerous sword swipes with distinct starting and stopping points, requires tremendous focus. “Most people come to an understanding in class of how to overcome their fears,” she says.

Now, Do It!

If you can’t get to one of her classes in person, you can learn Forza through Montagnani’s videos and books. And don’t worry about having your own sword in the beginning. Montagnani often asks students to go over moves emptyhanded after classes to make sure they’re using proper form—so if you’re a newbie, you’re fine starting out that way. To master a basic move like the Full Cut, Montagnani says to stand with your right foot in front and your left leg back. “Hold your hands up over your head like you’re lifting a sword. Moving horizontal to the floor, make a slicing movement straight down, so the tip of your sword is aligned with your navel,” she says. You can also give the Half Cut a try: “Just trace a horizontal line from your right shoulder to your left,” says Montagnani. Both are excellent ways to train your shoulders, forearms, and core

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