Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Instructor teaches fitness, swordplay

Jenn Zukowski Boughn wanted to develop a fitness class that was both fun and effective.

So, rather than dumbbells, she had students in her NinjaFit class use wooden swords to tone muscles throughout the body.

The use of swords is in keeping with the atmosphere of the Boulder Quest Center in Boulder, Colo., which offers To-Shin Do martial arts, meditation and yoga in addition to Boughn’s NinjaFit course offering.

Boughn has a background in dance aerial flying, martial arts, yoga and Pilates, and teaches liberal arts courses at DU’s University College.

She wrote the book Stage Combat: Fisticuffs, Stunts and Swordplay for Theatre and Film (Allworth Press, 2006) and previously taught the art to theater students at DU.

NinjaFit, offered from 5:45–6:45 p.m. on Fridays (except for the last Friday of every month), incorporates elements from dance, martial arts, yoga, Pilates and actor conditioning systems. Cross training contributes to overall wellness and fitness, Boughn says.

“Overall fitness is a combination of being flexible, strong and having a good, centered breath, so I like my classes to have a balance of mellow stretching, intense ab work and anaerobic exercise,” says Boughn.

NinjaFit’s repertoire consists of controlled movements aimed at strengthening and stretching muscles. During the workout, as the stomach trembles or muscle fibers in the legs painfully lengthen by increments, Boughn coaxes students to imagine funneling the oxygen from each deep breath into the part of their body experiencing discomfort.

In this way, students learn how concentrating on the rhythm of their breathing can trick their bodies into surpassing perceived physical boundaries.

For a finale, students are given wooden swords and instructed in the proper way to wield their weapons. Per Boughn’s instructions, students practice manipulating the awkward weight of the sword. Whether bringing the weapon from overhead and sweeping it downwards in an aggressive full-bodied chop or slicing it from side-to-side, the swordplay engages muscles all over the body.

From the first deep breath to the final “hi-yah,” Boughn’s wide-ranging skills and knowledge make NinjaFit unlike its counterparts.

Anyone interested in sweating through NinjaFit can sample the class for free at the Boulder Quest Center, 1200 Yarmouth Ave. Call 303-440-3647 or visit for more information.

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