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Top world rally drivers struck at the heart of their rivals when they practiced the traditional martial art of jukendo in the lead up to the FIA World Rally Championship event, Rally Japan.

Drivers from both Ford teams and Kronos Citroen World Rally Team donned traditional jukendo outfits before learning how to wield mokujo, a large blunt stick representing a wooden replica rifle and bayonet, and striking jukendo experts from second-best Self Defence Force in the country.

Jukendo is the Japanese martial art of bayonet fighting, which developed in the 1880's from French bayonet fighting combined with traditional Japanese spear-fighting art.

VK M-Sport's Matthew Wilson was one driver who took the mokujo, alongside BP Ford World Rally Team rival Mikko Hirvonen. "It was actually really hard defending," said Hirvonen, "but it was a bit easier striking!" Hirvonen could find striking the podium at Rally Japan as easy as striking his jukendo target. Of his mokujo-bearing rivals, he is the only driver to have contested Rally Japan before, retiring in 2005 and finishing an impressive seventh on his debut in 2004. Sordo, who convincingly took to the jukendo outfit, said he only knows of Rally Japan from what he has seen in photographs, while Wilson has a new car (2006 specification) to master as well as a new rally.

Rally Japan is the 11th round of the 16-round FIA World Rally Championship.

The rally is held in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island from September 1st to September 3rd 2006.

Rowena Harding

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