|The symbol or logo for Pyri is a combination of three geometrical shapes: a circle inside a diamond inside a square. It is called the “Sacred Geometry” and is depicted in many different forms, variations, and manifestations. The Eye Logo and Sun Burst are two common representations.|
Pyri is a comprehensive fitness program that captures the spirit of the ancient Greco-Roman warrior for the modern age. It incorporates both high and low impact exercises, as well as sword drills and dance sets performed with wooden swords (Roman gladius) as props. Unlike a Pilates, Tae-bo Kickboxing, or spinning class, Pyri uses the progressive evolution of achievement and advancement (similar to the Martial Arts) whereby as you progress and advance, the exercises and movements become more complex and difficult commensurate with your increased level of strength, balance, speed, flexibility, and endurance. The result is an empowering workout that offers the thrill of combat, the grace of dance, the moving meditation of yoga, and the strength of cross-fit training. All members of Pyri are referred to as either a Pyro (male) or a Pyra (female).
Sword Dance Sets
There are 5 standard Sword Dance Sets or Forms referred to as the Madera. Once these are mastered at the 5 levels of proficiency as described, members create their own sets/forms as an outward expression of the self and inner emotion, and to stimulate their own sense of the “creator” within similar to dance, figure skating, or any other body movement art form. The dance sets are based upon the movements of ancient Greco-Roman swordsmanship set to music of various rhythms and intensities.
At the higher levels of Pyri (commencing at the 4th level), members begin to perform “Paired Sets” whereby they begin to interact with another Pyro/Pyra of similar ranking in a more elaborate pre-arranged, choreographed series of attack and defend movements (at the lower levels, Pyro/Pyra also engage and interact with other Pyro/Pyra, but in more simplistic singular movement sword impact parry drills). At an even higher level still (the 5th level) Pyro/Pyra then begin to engage in multiple attack scenarios to further advancement and develop proficiency. And to signify progress and achievement, instead of using the Martial Arts standard of colored belts, colored wrist bands are used, moving up the spectrum of light akin to the 5 major chakra points in Yoga and other forms of Asian energy-channeling (some systems use 7 points, but 5 are the major ones): red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. These also correspond to the 5 major elements of the planet: Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and Sky. Once Pyro/Pyra have reached the highest/5th level, they can then elect to become certified as an instructor which is both a physical and written exam. Instructors are awarded Gold bands as their symbol of achievement. Instructors are collectively called the Magi (Magus in singular form), and all new beginners or entry-level Pyro/Pyra are referred to as Pages.
The 5 standard Madera Sword Dances are named as follows:
- Offering to the Gods
- Mounting the Dragon
- Serpent Holds the Moon
- Summon the Storm
All Pyri Academies (known as a Ludus) and the overall program are governed by a Council of Magi instructors. Currently there are Ludus in NYC, Charleston SC, and Rome, Italy.
The 5 F's
Unlike most one-dimensional fitness or exercise programs which usually focus on just one or a few aspects of physical fitness, the fundamental core of the Pyri program takes a greater holistic approach and more comprehensive focus on what is referred to within the world of Pyridom as the 5 "F's":
- Fun – one should have fun while in the process of getting fit; Fitness does not have to be boring and tedious; Many people are no longer satisfied with the usual going to the gym, pumping weights, running on a treadmill, or cycling in place for long periods of time. Fitness can be much more, and it can be fun!
- Form – everyone experiences life differently, and what people want out of life can be very different; so for some people the sword drills and sword dance movements take the form of a slow Tai-Chi or Yoga-like series of movements (there are many Yoga-based postures and movements as a brief limbering warm-up to get the muscles warmed-up and flexible to prepare for the more intense and demanding high-impact cross-fit and interval bodyweight movements), and for others they can be kicked up to an amazing heart and lung pounding whirlwind of overall body movement
- Fortitude – the immersion in sword movement practice awakens, ignites, and summons forth a primeval feeling of confidence, inner-strength, and an overall intensely focused spirit; basically unlocking the hidden female warrior-archetype lying dormant within many women of today.
- Friends – through the practice and evolution of Pyri a bond of kindred spirit and mutual camaraderie begins to grow between the practitioners (Ie. Pyra address each other as “Sisters of the Blade” - or abbreviated - S.O.B's J)
- Free – the physical, mental, and spiritual transformation one undergoes while traveling down the path of the overall Pyri program actually instills a renewed sense of freedom from the everyday stresses and pressures of life providing both clarity and the ability to take action; “free to see” and “free to be”, and in fact that is the Pyri slogan …be free
Pyri was created by Dominick Gallo, the son of a native Japanese mother and an Italian-American U.S. Marine. He was raised in the traditional Japanese way of the warrior (Samurai), which included all forms of martial combat (sword, archery, hand-to-hand combat, and more). After many years of research into the war arts of European antiquity, it was during a trip to Greece, where he was studying ancient Greco-Roman sword methods and techniques, that he first encountered stories of what was once called in ancient Greek, Pyricchios, Pyrrhichios, Pyrrihos or the War Dance. These dances were pre-arranged sets of combat movements that ancient Greek warriors (both men and women alike) would practice in full battle armor, with weapons in hand, to the backdrop of war drums and music as a preparation for actual battle. They could be performed with individuals paired against one another or even against multiple opponents to simulate actual combat.
Dominick saw that within these very ancient movements and strategies lay the foundation from which even Eastern sword/weapons arts could have possibly been derived/distilled. These movements were simultaneously both graceful and powerful, as well as ingenious from an overall fighting perspective, and they were as intricate and complex as any Eastern fighting art he had ever seen or in which he had engaged. In wielding both wooden and metal replicas of ancient Greek and Roman swords he found that the swords not only acted as points of focus for increasing accuracy and hand/eye coordination, but the weight of the swords also provided resistance similar to moving your body while holding a dumb or kettle bell. The sword added weight to the limb extended away from the point of force, causing the muscles of the hand, wrist, and arm to work harder and the central nervous system to fully engage all the other muscles of the upper body, the core/abdominals, and the hips, buttocks, and legs. In moving the body in so many different ways and quickly changing from one plane to another, first from sagittal to frontal and then transverse, this further increases the difficulty and intensity of the workout and enhanced functional flexibility, balance, and most of all endurance (VO2Max).
Inspired by this revelation, Dominick created a comprehensive fitness program that truly captures the spirit of Pyricchios for the modern age and includes specific sword-based, cross-fit exercises and drills as well as complete sword dance forms or sets. These dances resurrect the ancient movements of Greco-Roman swordsmanship set to music of various rhythms and intensities. He took these movements and consolidated them into separate sets or dances with names, and also developed supplemental drills and exercises that could be done with the sword.
In addition to the sword sets/dances, each class features both low impact, flowing movements and high impact, intense, metabolic-stoking cardio training along with a variety of offensive and defensive sword drills. The result is a total-body workout that combines the thrill of combat, the grace of dance, the moving meditation of Yoga or Tai Chi, and the strength and conditioning power of cross-fit training.
1. Charleston News and Courier <http://www.charlestoncvb.com/visitors/events_news/charleston-events/new_york_s_pyri_sword_fitness_program_exhibition-6544>