I heard that Forza, a group fitness class at Equinox gym, was martial arts inspired but I had no idea it involved a sword. When I walked into class, I thought this is going to be a piece of cake. C'mon...how much can you really move with a big, heavy stick? Well, I got my answer within minutes as Stephen Bel Davies, a Forza certified instructor, began to lead the class through a series of fast-paced samurai sword routines.
Forza is a full-body, cardiovascular workout that involves quick arm movements and rotations to make warrior-style "cuts" in the air. It's actually pretty cool--when else do you have the opportunity to wield a sword without being laughed at? The Forza sword is called a bokken, modeled after a Japanese Katana and made from either plastic or wood. Plastic bokkens are heavier (they have a metal rod center) and provide a more challenging workout. Wooden ones are recommended for beginners. I found using the bokken comparable to working with free weights except it's more fluid in motion and a lot more fun, in a bad-ass kind of way.
When you take Stephen's class, he'll guide you through a 1 hour warrior practice with hundreds of cuts to fire up your arms and footwork that will keep your bottom half working just as hard. It's definitely a nice change from the rigamarole of everyday sculpting classes. As a workout that's designed to strengthen the body, quiet the mind and burn 500 calories/hr, Forza is an enchanting addition to group fitness.
Forza was developed by fitness empress, Ilaria Montagnani and can be experienced at Equinox clubs throughout NYC. Stephen Bel Davies, a martial arts expert and Julliard graduate, currently teaches Forza at the following locations/times:
Equinox 44th / Lexington, Mondays 7 PM
Equinox 17th St / 10th Ave., Sundays 11:30 AM
Stephen is extremely friendly, knowledgable and passionate about the Forza workout which makes you feel like his student, and not just a member of a gym. If you don't belong to Equinox, you can Forza-it-up in your living room with Forza The Samurai Sword Workout by Ilaria Montagnani. Just don't break anything and maybe hold off on this if you live in a studio apartment.
Bokkens are provided at Equinox but just in case you're in the market for one, you can find one at Honda Martial Arts Supply. Or perhaps you'd like something more original like the Gungfu Asian Ebony Tiger Bokken. I highly recommend wearing lifting gloves to Forza, especially to your first class to protect you from getting blisters. I particularly love these stylish fitness gloves by Sweaty Betty. Since the bokken grip is unique and probably not something you experience everyday, your hands and arms will feel sore the following day. Just remember, you're a warrior. You can take the pain.
Martha Stewart learns to Forza