Martial-arts inspired class offers full body-mind workout

Need a striking new exercise regimen? Jungshin Fitness is a total-body workout that doesn't require dumbbells— just a sword.

“Essentially we’ve created a movement exercise that allows for the mind to take a break— allows for the human being to fully engage with simple moves,” Jungshin Fitness creator Annika Kahn told “And when the brain and the mind can focus on something simple, the whole nervous system relaxes. Anxiety decreases.”

Kahn, a fourth-degree black belt recipient in the Korean martial art of Kuk Sool Won, said the 50-minute workout combines ideals of typical modern-day martial art classes with elements of functional fitness and mindful movement. The class is designed to help participants prepare for everyday movement.

Jungshin instructor Stephanie Farassat, who co-owns Vibrant Body Fitness in New York City, one studio that offers the class, said the sword acts like a resistance tool as participants run through a sequence of moves.

“It creates a body that can more quickly react to things, and it helps to prevent any future injuries because you create these neural pathways which help you to more quickly respond to any sort of non-controlled environment,” Farassat told

The swords, made of oak wood, range between 2 to 5 pounds, and are used within eight basic stances combined with eight different strikes. Each move works the large muscles in your lower body, and stimulates the arms, shoulders and core.

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“You get your nice shapely, sexy arms and back without necessarily bulking up because we’re literally stretching while we’re moving with explosive power, so the muscles engage in a way that elongates instead of shortening,” Kahn said. “And because we’re lifting the sword over the spine for about 45 minutes, you’re getting a great abdominal workout as well.”

More advanced classes also include some light sparring, which can help sharpen the mind.

"I had to really stay mentally engaged, a lot more than I usually do,” Jen Feldman, a Jungshin participant from Long Island, New York, told “A lot of times I can zone out, think of my to-do list or start looking in the mirror, but I had to really focus.”

Jungshin is different from traditional martial arts practices that focus heavily on form.

“You get to learn basic and advanced moves without having to go through the ranks,” Kahn said, “whereas martial arts are really about the form and technique versus how can this stance and strike help your heart, your mind, your body.”

Each class always ends with light meditation to bring the mind back to a Zen-like space.

Jungshin Fitness is taught in several cities throughout the United States. The average price per workout is $16 to $22. However a DVD program is available for $87, which includes one long sword.

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