Okay, I'm not a ninja. But I am now a first degree black belt in Haidong Gumdo, a Korean martial art with swords that is non-combative. Using swords, we learn different forms, but we don't fight each other. We begin with a wooden sword (mokgum), and then we move to using an aluminium sword (gokgum) which is not sharp. Eventually we do use sharp swords for specific skills, like cutting bamboo (see video below).
Why do I do this? When we moved to Moncton mid-pandemic, it was one of the only physical activities I was doing. My yoga practice suffered greatly — I was at home practicing by myself and sometimes following a video or online class, but it lacked the both the vigour and the calming effects it often has had. My cousin (centre in the photo above) has practiced Gumdo for years, and she and her friend Jessica (left, above) invited me to join them. Three times a week we went to class, moved vigorously and joyfully, often letting off steam, frustration, anger through movement. The added load of the sword has helped stabilise my wonky shoulder (there's nothing really wrong with it, it just feels, well, wonky). When I'm in Gumdo I feel strong and resilient. And my brain enjoys the challenge of learning the forms.
It's felt good to achieve something so outside of my normal box. I'm glad that restrictions have lifted, that COVID is doing so much better where we live, that our renovations are getting "close" to finished, and that I'll be able to teach yoga classes here in my new community soon. But there won't be classes Tuesday or Thursday evening, or Saturdays at noon. That's when you'll find me upstairs at the Chung Won Institute, with Grand Master Chung, swinging my sword.
These are four forms I performed in my testing.
This is my teacher cutting a tree with three different cuts. He is using a sharp sword.