You’ve been working on them guns. Now it’s time for a bit of Sword Play. Fronted by two of the country’s most talented Extreme Martial Arts performers, this choreo-meets-combat class has been gathering quite a cult following here at Gymbox. And if you’ve not been yet? Well, our blogger Lucy’s been along to tell you all about it – as well as chat to instructor Vitas LeBas about his impressive weapons.
In the corner of the studio, I can see it. The box of Bokken. I walk over – no, stride, over – with the power of Arya Stark-slash-Mulan coursing through my veins. As I reach down, I feel the one calling my name. I hold it aloft. To some, it may look like a wooden stick. But as I register the full-on Kill Bill pose my mirror twin is giving it right now, it’s much more than that. This is my weapon. And I have a very sudden urge to Instagram the shit out of myself.
I’m trying out Sword Play, Gymbox’s latest dance offering. Except, well, it’s not really. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been to a dance lesson that involves taking down hordes of invisible ninjas before. As my instructor/Sensei/Master Vitas LeBas explained when we caught up after class, it’s the fact that the session involves a set of moves to music that’s put it in this category. Otherwise, you should expect an extreme martial arts class that just so happens to use the sweet sound of hip hop to give you a beat. XMA x DMX, if you will.
Whether you’re a dancer, fighter or wannabe warrior, the format of the session has been designed for anyone to be able to give it a crack. Set movements broken down step by step, strike by strike, building you up to a routine that sees you finishing by wiping the imaginary blood of your enemies on your sleeve. Don’t get me wrong – within 30 seconds of diagonal slices and over-the-head swishing, I realised I’d wildly underestimated how un-co-ordinated I am. But as with all choreo, practice makes perfect – and by the end I felt I’d learned some skills that would be particularly useful in the event of a zombie invasion.
Seeing that improvement – whether for performance or survival reasons – is one of the things Vitas enjoys the most in his role as a teacher. As well as his Gymbox classes, he spends a lot of time 1-to-1 coaching people who want to learn the way of the sword. But teaching’s not the only weapon in his arsenal. In fact, just like the class itself, it’s kind of hard to put a label on exactly what Vitas’ profession actually ‘is’, as such. Break dancer, acrobat, trainee stunt man, film and TV choreographer, black belt… but he tends to go for “Martial Arts Action Performer” – aka, the destroyer of LinkedIn titles and full-time badass.
Starting out with MA as a kid, it would be fair to assume that it was here that he learned most of his craft. But no. While we all searched for lol failz and kids eating laundry detergent on YouTube, Vitas religiously watched tutorials that could self-teach how to use nunchuks, staffs, kamas and finally sword. It was combining this with elements of kudo, shaolin and wushu from experts he trained with, he discovered the importance of not only discipline, practice and commitment to training – but making sure you love what you do.
That all becomes a lot easier when you do that thing with your best pals by your side. One of them being Nilly, who shares Sword Play teaching duties at Gymbox. Having originally met through the breaking scene some ten years ago, the pair have always been there to help each other out, teach each other new moves and as all good friends do, fling deadly weapons around together. With the mad skills that basically make her the female version of Vitas, there was no pair of hands more trustworthy to get involved with creating our class. Proof that friends who slay together, stay together.
So… why should you come and give Sword Play a go? Well, as Vitas says, why not? There’s not many places that offer the chance to come and swing a sword around for 45 minutes. (Well, legally anyway.) Anyone can get involved – and under the expert guidance of two epic sensei, you’re sure to pick up some unexpected skills. So, do it to try something new. Do it to live out your Bruce Lee fantasy. Or, if nothing else, do it to look F*CKING COOL.
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