Next to students stepping away on their Stairmasters and peddling their lifecycles this weekend, two opponents stood across from each other, swords drawn, and paused for a moment before rushing in to attack.
The sounds of kendo sword strikes filled the Malkin Athletic Center this weekend at the first intercollegiate kendo tournament ever held in the United States, sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Kendo Club.
Kendo is a form of Japanese fencing in which combatants score points by striking certain parts of their opponent's body with a shinai, a bamboo sword.
The Harvard tournament featured teams from Boston University, Cornell University and New York University, as well as two teams from Harvard.
The Harvard A team won the collegiate division title and the Harvard B team took second place.
Club President Eugene A. De Angelis '98 said he was happy with the outcome of the tournament.
"Since this is the first tournament of its kind, we were happy to get these opponents and are looking forward to doing it again next year," De Angelis said.
Club Treasurer Jesse D. Austin '98 said the tournament was a big step for the club.
"This was a good way to raise awareness of kendo, as well as to test our ability," Austin said. "I would love to see the club eventually orga-
De Angelis said that the club had made a conscious decision to become more active this year.
The addition of experienced kendo competitors and local residents Eric Piesner and Susan Choi as sempai, or instructors, has increased participation at the club's weekend practices.
"Since Susan and I are black belts, we are able to teach the members proper form and basic strikes," Piesner said.
Aside from the physical challenge, the sport requires mental discipline, said Aaron S. Galaznick '98.
"Kendo requires you to focus, look for tactical advantage, and, when your moment comes, attack all out," Galaznick said.
In kendo matches, physical strength does not provide any advantage. There are no divisions based on size or weight, and it is not uncommon for women and men to compete against each other.
According to graduate student and kendo club member Heather J. Russel, the differences in gender are unimportant. However, the fighter's size does affect technique.
"There are different targets for people of different sizes," Russel said. "Taller people strike at the head, while shorter people strike at the torso."
In April, the club will hold a training seminar featuring the coach of the Japanese national team. There are also plans for some of the club members to travel to Keio University in Tokyo next summer