girl doing kick boxing at the gym

You can get a kick ass cardio workout while learning to actually kick some ass with kickboxing. You’ll increase your strength, flexibility, and coordination while decreasing stress levels and your waistline making for an effective full-body workout you’ll actually enjoy doing.

Kickboxing has exploded in popularity and the term has come to encompass all sorts of different types kickboxing classes, focusing on everything from a killer workout, to teaching you basic elements of martial arts, to dance and even a little self-defense. In some countries, kickboxing is synonymous with competitive, full contact fighting sports like Muay Thai. In America, however, kickboxing is more of a blend of boxing and karate and is most widely taught as a fitness class in gyms and studios rather than a serious sport to be trained for in a competitive arena. With such a wide range of classes and options, it can be difficult to know where to start. Whether you want to learn some serious skills or just work up a serious sweat, here’s what you need to know before you jump into kickboxing.

1. Decide what type of class you want to attend

If your main concern is weight loss and calorie-shredding, look for cardio kickboxing classes, which are generally offered in gym settings as part of their group fitness class offerings. You will either punch and kick the air, or a heavy bag, with some body weight strength training, like push-ups, mixed in. These are solo workouts, with no contact whatsoever. If you are interested in learning the sport of kickboxing, and want to learn real technique in a competitive atmosphere, consider taking a kickboxing class offered at a MMA (mixed martial arts) gym.

2. Know your punches

In a perfect world, every instructor would ask if anyone is a new to class, and in a perfect world, you’d bravely raise your hand to be taught the basics. But maybe your instructor sucks; or maybe you’re shy or late to class. The classes build upon fundamental skills, which will be called out in combinations for your repeat, so it’s a good idea to know what to expect. You’re not trying to knock anyone out; the main thing is to learn the moves and not to hurt yourself.

Boxer’s Stance: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and then staggered, so one foot is in front of the other. Bend your knees slightly and stay light on the balls of your feet. Keep your shoulders down with your arms up, fists on either side of your face for protection. This will be your starting and ending position for each strike. When using one arm, always remember to protect your face with the other.

Jab: a quick punch with your dominant arm straight out at shoulder level while you shift your weight to the ball of your front foot.

Cross: Just like the jab, but you punch with your back arm, pivoting on your rear foot and rotating the torso.

Hook: Bring your dominant in line with your shoulder level and swing across the front of your body while pivoting your front foot.

Upper Cut: Dip low through the knees and leading with your shoulder, pull your front elbow behind you, and then punch upward with your fist, using your hips for power, as if you were aiming right under someone’s chin or gut.

Common punching combination include jab, jab, cross, and jab, cross, hook, upper cut.

3. You’ve got the basic punches, but now you need to know the kicks

Keep both arms up to protect your face at all times.

Front kick: Stand square to your opponent or heavy bag and lift one foot off floor, leaning back slightly, while you pull your knee into your chest. Then kick forward with a flexed foot and quickly pull your foot back in to return to Boxer’s Stance. The goal is to push your opponent back to create space while giving them a good hit to the gut.

Roundhouse kick: From a boxer’s stance, shift your weight to your back leg- your body should be perpendicular to your opponent. Lift your front knee to side, and then kick in a circular motion in front of you. Aim to make contact with your shin, not the top of your foot, which can cause pain and injury. There are many little bones in your feet but your shin is solid like a baseball bat, making it the perfect striking surface.

4. Respect the sport

Remember kickboxing is not about fighting. Even if you take more skill-based kickboxing classed at an MMA gym, while you’ll learn to throw a heck of a punch and kick, the goal isn’t to learn how to hurt someone. Martial Arts are called an art for a reason, and will take much discipline and dedication beyond learning to throw a few punches. If your serious about the history, the lifestyle and the philosophy of martial arts, go for real training.

5. Be prepared for the cardio workout of your life

If you are thinking to yourself, “You’re standing in one spot, how hard can that be?” you’re in for a rude awakening. Continually using both your arms and legs in a cardio workout is pretty rare, and not only will you be using both the entire time, you’ll be using them to perform explosive and powerful movements. Your arms contain relatively small muscles, but they are so close to your heart that they jack up your heart rate and keep it there. Throw in the kicks, which use the largest muscles of your body, and you’ll be surprised how hard of a cardio workout you can get in 2 square feet of space. Kickboxing isn’t much resistance training in and of itself, but many fitness classes will throw in pushups, squats and crunches to add a little more muscle work into the mix.

6. You probably don’t need any gear

Most places will give you everything you need, or if you do need to bring your own equipment, they should tell you ahead of time so check the website or ask. The most common gear are kickboxing gloves, which protect your knuckles from abrasions from the heavy bag. While some people tape up to support the wrists and knuckles, this is usually reserved for more experienced athletes. Do wear loose but comfortable clothes, nothing too baggy nor restrictive, and any athletic sneaker will be fine; you’ll probably be asked to remove your shoes anyway.

7. Eat food and bring plenty of water

You’re going to be sweating buckets, so bring plenty of water and drink it often. Even if you’re taking a class first thing in the morning, make sure you eat something to fuel you through the workout and give you the strength you need to strike with force

8. You won’t get hurt

Cardio kickboxing classes are non-contact, so you never have to worry about hitting or being hit by another person. They are 100% solo, so don’t be scared. Even if you go the MMA gym route, you won’t be asked to do anything, like taking a punch or kick, before you are ready. New students are there to learn a new skill, get a good workout, and have fun. While the contact aspect can be intimidating, it is not necessary to enjoy kickboxing.

9. Ever wanted to go home after a tough day at the office and beat your computer/pillow/next thing that crosses your path senseless?

Now you can, with positive consequences. Not many people start kickboxing simply for a safe environment to beat something up, but it is a big bonus, especially if you are high-stress or high-anxiety individual. The best release for stress is through intense physical activity and if that activity includes punching and kicking, all the better! Feel the rush of feel-good endorphins melt away your stress while helping you get a better night’s sleep.

10. Improve your self-defense

While being strong enough to carry all of your groceries in one load can boost your confidence, imagine how empowered you’ll feel when you can fight for your very survival, and win. While the goal of the class is not to teach self-defense in a traditional sense, knowing you can fight off a would-be attacker with a devastating kick or punch will leave you holding your head a little higher. A tip for you women if you’ve never taken a self defense course: a good offense is the best defense. Attackers look for “easy targets”: women who have their eyes down and avoid eye contact, are unaware of their surroundings and walk with hunched shoulders. Do not make the mistake of trying to make yourself look smaller or not call any attention to yourself to go unnoticed- that’s exactly what makes you stand out. Make eye contact with creeps, especially if they cat call. It will not provoke them, like many women think, it will actually tell them you are strong, you will put up a fight and you will be able to give a full description to authorities afterward. Knowing this will hopefully prevent you from ever having to use any of those kicks and punches.

About The Author: KELLY TURNER

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