A lake as a high-risk area: the ancient art of samurai swimming

Welch a luxury: We have a swimming lake in the middle of the city. No chlorinated tile bath. No fancy overflow basin. A perfectly normal lake with water supplied by a small stream, sometimes more, sometimes less. A lake, green, cloudy and beautiful, with algae and fish in it, a paradise for you – and for swimmers. But there are not so many on the road, because for God’s sake, you might come across a fish or an alga, a high-risk area, so to speak.

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That is why you almost only see intrepid swimmers in our lake. The triathletes, for example, sausaged in their wetsuits. Or the Schlammbeißer, a traditional troop of swimming veterans who have aged gracefully, the actual stars in our lake, on the way without closed lanes, without oncoming traffic, without hectic rush, without all the nonsense. One of the best things about our lake are the benches next to the lifeguard’s high chair.

I like to sit on one of these benches and do swimming style studies. From there you can see the common styles of normal swimmers, crawl, chest, back, but also old, almost forgotten styles from the veterans. The old German backstroke, for example, in which, in the supine position, a leg kick is combined with a two-armed arm stroke, as in breaststroke swimming.

The whole thing without a rear-view mirror, which in rare cases leads to two old German swimmers colliding backwards on our lake in super slow motion. Back crawl with both arms, like swimming forward in the supine position, is not the only attraction in our bathing lake.

An elderly gentleman with a pink hat

If you look closely, you will easily see reminiscences of the historical samurai swimming. The Japanese fighters were not interested in speed in the water either; they usually had to cover great distances in order to be as rested as possible in a moated castle or something similar. Since they had to have their hands free for swords and bows in an emergency, they could swim vertically, pure footwork.

In traditional Japanese swimming schools, the ancient art of samurai swimming is still taught today, in a meditative form: swimming in open water, head always above water, kicking the knee, inner calm, concentration. For exercise, the students sometimes wear a cup on their head.

What can I say, most of it can be seen in the lake. A presumably older man with a pink hat on his head swims every day for hours in any weather, as I think I can see from my bench. I’ve never seen more of him than his pink hat. Presumably it’s a mudbiter. Maybe the last samurai too.

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