Guinea Pig #38: Budokon Mixes Martial Arts, Yoga and Meditation
Mindful Movement Centre’s Leslie Parker; photo, Laura Mroz
Two problems: I need more Zen in my life, and I really need to get back into shape. Plus, I have always had a fantasy where I do a High Round Flying Lotus Kick (yes, I made that up — work with me, here) and land perfectly on one leg, as if I was a gymnast/Buddhist monk/karate expert. I figure I can tackle the problems, and maybe the fantasy, by trying Budokon, a sport/exercise that combines martial arts, mediation and yoga. Founded in 2000 by Cameron Shayne, it’s a series of precise movements that help you to focus on alignment, balance and flow. It’s like
Kung Fu Panda everything I wanted, all rolled up together in a three-in-one combo punch: I get to kick ass and learn how to calm down, with the clear precision of a strong warrior. (Plus, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston have given the discipline their celebrity stamp of approval, so, it’s got to be good, right? Maybe I’ll assemble my gaggle of gal pals, for a faux Charlie’s Angels team…)
Budokon is pretty advanced. It’s all about “the way of the spiritual warrior” — translated from the three Japanese words that create the compound name, warrior (bu), way (do) and spirit (kon) — and alternates precise martial arts movements with yoga, finishing with breathing exercises to calm both mind and body. On my first try, it reminds me somewhat of dance and Tai Chi, but faster and, frankly, painful.
I visit Toronto’s Mindful Movement Centre and join a small class of a half-dozen or so people, taught by Leslie Parker, owner of the Centre and the only certified Budokon teacher in Ontario. The yoga mats put me at ease: I’ve seen this before, I can do this. This is what people call beginner’s confidence. We start off with “rolling waves,” which involves rolling from “downward dog” to “upward dog” in one fluid flow. It gets harder with the “dancing dog” series, where we move from a “downward dog” position, raise a leg, hook-kick it and then flip over to our side, balancing on that leg. Next, a three-part move comprised of roundhouse kick, spinning hook and cartwheel kick — which is pretty darn hard, though I think I got the general gist of it. Then, core exercises and one drill, where we mimic different forest animals (stalking like a gorilla, jumping like a frog, etc.). Finally, the wind-down: We all sit in child pose (my favourite!) and stretch while meditating and breathing deeply.
If you’re interested in trying a Budokon class — and you should be! — do yourself a favour and build up to it: it’s definitely not for the novice. Having an intimate knowledge of yoga certainly helps. Because my workout regimen had lapsed, my Budokon experience kind of felt like my first-ever fitness class, where everyone else was svelte and athletic and super-competent. The exercises were excruciating; I could keep up for a while but would have to take breaks and just watch everyone else. Still, it was worth it. Perhaps the best part about Budokon is that it makes you think: You must be constantly aware of where you’re placing your limbs and how you’re moving them. More than just a new sport, it’s like learning a new language. Hmm: I wonder if they have their own word — and way — for High Round Flying Lotus Kick…
Jen Tse is a fashion stylist and writer living in Toronto. Her work can be seen in/on DAZED Digital, NOW, Ukula, Toro and Gloss.
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