Winter is coming.
I know that’s a tag line of a popular series of novels and a television series on top of that, but the Starks are inevitably right. Winter is coming. It can be hard to get out of bed, hard to go to work, hard to go out and do anything. Hard to go to the gym, to stay limber, to do much of anything but wait for the world to thaw.
The simple reason is that the gym is boring. Admit it – if you force yourself to go, you go out of a sense of obligation. There’s no other way to get your exercise in and be an adult.
… and be an adult.
Okay, let’s start there. We’re all adults now, right? We get to decide what that means. And, yes, pumping iron is all well and good. It’s something you should do, but it’s repetitive and dull. If you dig it, cool, but if you’re looking for something to get your blood pumping and your body moving, maybe you should consider something a little more adventurous.
Maybe, if you live in Vancouver, you should step to the Proving Grounds.
Proving Grounds is an unassuming place huddled out among the edges of New Westminister, a secret tucked in along the borderlands of Coquitlam, Burnaby, and Surrey. It’s right beside the Columbia Skytrain Station, maybe a block east of that strange place. And what it offers? Stranger still.
Full contact melee weapon fighting.
Swords. Warhammers. Daggers and axes and maces. Hard foam weapons that can take your full strength while giving whoever is being struck nothing more serious than a light bruise, and that’s on a very good hit. The weapons are all weighted and cut like their real-life counterparts, too.
Quoth one of the people we brought with us to check Proving Grounds out, “I thought a sword was just a hunk of metal. I didn’t expect them to handle differently.” And yet, a rapier is different from a katana is different from a bastard sword, and Proving Grounds has a host of different blades to try, to say nothing of those aforementioned axes, warhammers, staffs, daggers, and a host of other weapons.
Never used any of those weapons before? That’s not surprising. The modern world has distressingly few moments in which one’s skill with a sword are called upon. Thankfully, techniques honed on a thousand battlefields over the centuries have been preserved, and Proving Grounds offers instruction in quite a few different disciplines in between testing those lessons in a practical setting.
Wanna know what it’s like to engage in a katana duel without the loss of limbs or blood? Proving Grounds is your hook up.
Looking for classes on Kenjutsu – the art of Japanese sword fighting? Knife fighting? How about hand-to-hand self defense – BJJ and MMA? Proving Grounds does all of this. Drop-ins are welcome. The instructors are friendly, professional, and willing to work to enhance what strengths you have naturally.
That last bit is an important tack. Too often, instructors in self defense will demand certain things be done a certain way, whether or not such techniques work with your body or not. Proving Grounds will cater to you, and help you develop a style that works for you while giving you a safe space in which to test and refine it.
All by itself, that one quality puts them in the running for one of Vancouver’s best dojos.
They’ve also got combat archery. Bows and arrows. The writer of this article got an arrow to the face – it was like being attacked by an itinerant pillow. It took me a few moments to understand what had happened, and it didn’t even hurt. I wear glasses and they were fine, too.
Archery, as it turns out, is a lot of fun and much more involved when you’re running about, avoiding zombies, while attempting to line up a shot.
Oh, yes, Proving Grounds also does games. You can book sessions for games which run from shurikan tossing to zombie hunting to king-of-the-mountain style challenges. They’ve got full day programs, partial day programs, whatever works for you. They’re accommodating people. You can even set up group rates for your friends and go out in groups of six or more, having a blast and hacking at one another without blood loss.
And you want a work out? There’s nothing quite like maintaining balance while swinging a sword around, trying to keep up your own defenses while hacking through those of your opponent. There’s nothing like the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat – the knowledge that you’re testing your might and skill against someone else in an equal place.
Those muscles you’ve honed? The cardio you’ve done? The iron you’ve pumped? Even the stretches, the running, the everything is put to the test at Proving Grounds.
Safety is a concern, of course. The instructors are first aid certified, but of the eight hours we spent hacking at one another, the only injury we suffered was when one of us tripped – after the game was over. Both instructors present were still quick to jump to the aid of our fallen friend, and we were back up and playing with all due haste.
You can find the Proving Grounds website by clicking here, and find their pricing by clicking here. Clicking here will not physically take you to them, but will show you where they are on Google Maps. That’s nearly as good.
This is a place we would recommend checking out. Come for the novelty of it, but stick around because they’re awesome and one of the best work-outs you’re going to find in all of Vancouver. Boys and girls welcome, the space is friendly and the game intense.
Step on up. Proving Grounds. Tell your friends.