Dressed in protective helmets and flowing uniforms, the students at Virginia Kumdo Academy charge at each other, bamboo swords held aloft. Their spars end quickly—after one hit from the weapon in a vulnerable spot, such as the head, waist, or wrist, they typically start over.
This Korean style of sword fighting, an offshoot of Japanese kendo, prioritizes mental focus and strong technique. The academy staff hones both during one-hour classes, which are geared toward levels from beginner to advanced. Regular visitors can take tests to graduate up a belt, as well as participate in scheduled league matches.