If you love the burn of a gym routine but hate the monotony, it’s the perfect solution
March is finally here, and it’s the time of year when most of you have some clarity about how close you are to fulfilling those New Year’s resolutions. If yours involved getting fitter but your gym card’s been gathering dust since you signed up on January 1, we don’t blame you — it’s tough motivating yourself to exercise.
But what if you had a workout that allowed you not to focus on how many squats, lunges or miles you have left before you’re done, and instead, lets you learn a new skill, enables you to defend yourself and gets you ripped and lean — without you even noticing?
Originating in Japan in the 1960s, kick-boxing, as the name suggests, combines the striking of boxing with kicks thrown in for self-defence. There are several variations including American and Japanese styles, with Thai kick-boxing or Muay Thai being one of the most popular, but the premise remains the same for all: this is a standing combat sport that allows you to strike with both your arms and legs. Kaboom.
The first step is to understand why you want to do it, and pick your style accordingly. “Analyse your motivations,” says Ramakrishna Reddy, a Seattle-based mixed martial arts (MMA) expert and instructor at Bengaluru’s Fitness Fight Club, an MMA gym. “Are you trying to get in shape or do you want to compete?” He recommends cardio kick-boxing if you’re just trying to get rid of your muffin top, while those looking to take up the sport more seriously might want to check out a few schools to see if they meet your needs. While the former will get you in shape, training to kick-box at a competitive level, even an amateur one, is as much a mental endeavour as a physical one. You’ll learn things about yourself when you face your opponent in the ring, while training for the lead up to the fight will push you both physically and mentally, the way little else can — so consider going for the whole experience.
“Kick-boxing offers a stable balance between cardiovascular and muscle endurance, active flexibility and explosive strength,” says Reddy. “In terms of muscle groups, it’s pretty much a full body workout. Your first couple of weeks are going to be pretty sore,” he warns, but stick to it and you’ll see results: just an hour-long session of kick-boxing can burn anywhere between a whopping 750 and 900 calories.
Finally, there are the obvious benefits of learning a martial art — self defence. Knowing you have a higher chance of being able to protect yourself when confronted by danger is invaluable, and this comes not just from learning how to punch and kick, but from learning how to do it with an opponent. “Sparring is a key component of kick-boxing,” says Reddy, “so you’re going to know, day by day, which techniques work for you in a live situation”. Over time, he says, this translates into confidence and, most importantly, the ability to defend yourself under pressure. So don’t let this beautiful sport intimidate you. Regardless of how unlike you it may seem at first or how new, eventually, reassures Reddy, “you will amaze yourself”.
How to choose a gym
Whether or not you’d like to pursue the sport competitively, it’s especially important to scope your gym out first. Reddy recommends keeping an eye out for things such as structure: “Does the school have a curriculum in place?”; diversity: “Are there young and old, newbies and veterans, male and female members?”; progress: “Are the staff and students sharing their knowledge as openly as possible?”; and finally, warmth: “Is everyone nice and friendly despite repeatedly punching one another in the face?”.
Where to go
Mumbai: Total Combat Fitness, Tel: +91 98332 16866; Delhi: Simna Martial Arts Organization, Tel: +91 88006 28553; Bengaluru: Fitness Fight Club, Tel: 080 4099 0028
Photograph: Branislav Simoncik