Anyone who has played in soccer, baseball, or any other team sport knows the lessons and values that they teach, namely commitment, patience, and teamwork. And while the idea of walking as a sport seems strange from a Western perspective, all these concepts come into play as well, most specifically in Japan.
Walking Is An Athletic Sport In Japan And They’re Taking It Very Seriously
Part sport, part performance, Shuudan Koudou was invented almost 50 years ago at the Nippon Sports Science University in Tokyo. At present, the university produces many Japanese physical education instructors, trainers, and coaches, as well as Olympic gold medalists in gymnastics, swimming, and sumo wrestling.
Students who have been involved in the annual Shuudan Koudou performance train for months, rack up hundreds of miles as they strive to create patterns that mimic the fluid movements of a military drill team (minus, of course, rifles). While initially only open to men, the sport was eventually opened to women in 2011.
It’s called “Collective Action” in English, Shuudan Koudou is the Japanese art form of synchronized walking. It has dozens of uniformly dressed students walking backward, sideways, or whichever way— all in precise unison. It also has gained massive popularity after a YouTube video went viral. As much as we’ve vouched for the health benefits of walking, we still wouldn’t exactly call it a sport. Not surprisingly, the Japanese would disagree with that. That is even though Nippon Sports Science University said they’ve been doing this since 1966.
On the viral video, it took the 77 students of the Nippon Sports Science University 5 months-3 days a week of exercises to put them in condition for the spectacular performances. Their experience required them to walk up to 1,200 kilometers (720 miles) in total-about the distance from Paris to Rome. The performance gathered 11,000 spectators to watch them walking.
Shuudan Koudou and its show of grace and harmony performed with such exquisite precision. Of course, the art form can be more generally attributed to Japan’s love for uniformity, order, and discipline. For instance, in many Japanese schools, assemblies require students to stand equidistant from each other.
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The Japanese take this culture of uniformity very seriously, and it’s always fascinating to see them produce something so beautiful and novel out of what most people would see as mundane routines.
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