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Blow darts for the elderly

30,000 members (and growing) in Japan with an average age of 70 years - sociable, fun and the genius part: strengthens the cardiovascular system of the blow darter......

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The ancient Borneo rain forest tradition of blow darting is picking up new fans thousands of kilometers away in Japan, where it is a rapidly growing sport among the nation's elderly.

In just five years, nationwide membership in a blow dart club has tripled, on target to hit 30,000 members this year. The average age of enthusiasts is 70.

"Older people are really getting into it because it's easy for anyone to do - whether your legs are playing up, you're confined to a wheelchair or missing an arm," said Nobuhiko Yamada, a blow darting instructor.

"In fact, you can do it even if you have no arms. It's just that little puff of air."

Though popular culture has placed blow darting - or "fukiya," as it's known in Japanese - among the arsenal of ninjas and nighttime assassinations, actual historical records of it are few.

The meditative movements of the sport that the elderly now enjoy were created in 1998 by a Japanese man looking to liven up his daily breathing exercises.

Gathering in a gymnasium, they insert plastic darts - with blunted tips - into .51 caliber, 120 centimeter-long hollow poles, and shoot them at a target.

"It's different because you can do it at a pace that suits your own body. It's down to the individual, not a group activity," said 79-year-old Yoko Onmyoji.


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