I took a stab at sword fitness — and lived to tell the painful tale

by Wesley Oliver / / Source: TODAY

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Living in New York City today, there are a lot of weird ways to work out. You can do yoga in a pool, throw a few hatchets or pretend to be a drummer for an hour. You can also pick up a sword and instantly be transported to a Game of Thrones-like era.

As soon as I stepped foot into Sword Class NYC, I had a flashback to one of the best days of my middle school years: my first-ever trip to Medieval Times. Burly men in fancy costumes, gleaming swords brandished with exquisite brutality and the best ribs a chubby middle schooler could ever want.

But today, instead of gorging on ribs I was preparing to suit up for "battle" in nearly 80 pounds of armor.

My opponent? A 6-foot 5-inch human sequoia, a Navy vet and police officer. George was a gentle giant on the sidelines, but once the flag had been lowered, he was a beast.

Luckily, in this arena, it's not a fight to the death. The first person to lay a knee or palm on the ground loses. But oddly, my saving grace was that my helmet slightly blocked my vision.

I couldn't really see my opponent charging at me. I couldn't really see him winding up his arm. I couldn't really see his thorny mace swinging through the air.

That's me, making my descent to the ground.
That's me, making my descent to the ground.Zach Pagano/TODAY

But I could definitely feel its brute force, and certainly hear its arrival as it landed on my head. Or maybe that was the sound of the air being knocked out of my body.

I tried to stay on my feet, but with a helmet that stifled my breathing and footwear that seemed like concrete blocks, it was hard to stay up. In other words, Sword Class NYC is a great workout. You're lifting, pulling, squatting, pushing, running, jumping and in my case, falling.

The helmet was difficult to see out of ... which helped to subdue my fears.
The helmet was difficult to see out of ... which helped to subdue my fears.Zach Pagano/TODAY

I thought my Beyoncé spin classes were grueling, but they don't compare to George and his mace.

I got knocked down and went back for round two. I got knocked down and went back for round three. After withstanding several hits, I leapt to my feet and swung my axe over George's head, behind his neck. This forced his whole body forward, and I fell back, bringing us both the ground.

"Is it over yet?"
"Is it over yet?"Zach Pagano/TODAY

So I didn't win the round, but neither did he. A draw? I'll take it!

After what I went through, I think I've more than earned some ribs.

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