Forget Samurai Camp, Here’s Jazz Shaolin

Jul 07, 2010
*Special to asia!

After Samurai Camp, where fitness enthusiasts wave fake swords to techno music, which ancient martial art will we plunder for our gyms next?


Faux katanas, techno music, and svelte bodies in sweats, give gyms in Tokyo a new edge.

Faux katanas, techno music, and svelte bodies in sweats, give gyms in Tokyo a new edge.

Illustration by Debby Ng

It all really took off somewhere between kick-boxing and bikram yoga, we reckon – the ad hoc mixture of Eastern warrior practice and Western workout regimen, of the classical and the commercial, of the temple and the gym.

The latest craze seems to be Samurai Camp. Japanese women, apparently, are flocking to fitness classes where they tone their muscles while brandishing fake samurai swords to techno music. The fat, apparently, just rolls away, as testified by one devotee in this AFP news clip.



Well. What next? Which time-honoured martial art, which traditional Asian philosophy, can we plunder to be repackaged into thrice-weekly, 1.5 hour-sessions at your local Planet Fitness? Here are some ideas.


Wake Me Up Before You Taekwando-do: Start your mornings with the rigours of the South Korean national sport, slightly simplified and put to the nostalgic bad-boy riffs of Wham!

Puncher Silat: A heady, hugely addictive cardio workout consisting of a thoughtful blend of Western-style boxing and age-old Indonesian fighting practices. Plastic kris provided.

Hip-Hop-Zen: A stunning – some practitioners have called it “devastating” – medley of street dance, breakdance and improvisational rap, interspersed by five-minute blasts of silent meditation.

Wushu Wonderland: The discipline of the Eastern warrior code meets the delights of Disney in this exciting, high-powered aerobic mix of kungfu moves done in a giant spinning teacup.

Mock Cock Fighting: A hit in Thailand. Participants are each given a live rooster, which they clutch while executing tricky, specially choreographed steps on the Stairmaster. At the end of each session, all birds still alive are set free, in the manner of doves on Vesak Day.

Sumo Like it Hot: Forget hot yoga. In this new wellness movement, women struggling with weight problems are invited to wrestle each other wearing only large nappies, in sauna conditions. Guaranteed to go viral on YouTube.

Jazz Shaolin: It’s not just shaolin, it’s jazz shaolin! In an authentically designed, air-conditioned monastery setting, practice the timeless moves of the Chinese martial art to the rich, contrapuntal notes of jazz. It may take you years to master the Mingus Mantis pose, or the Parker Panda, or the Coltrane Cockroach. But persevere.


clarissa tanClarissa is a journalist who focuses on travel and the arts. As a desperately hopeful author, she writes short stories and is working on a novel. Clarissa won the Spectator’s final Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for travel writing.

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