After splurginf on holiday dinners, munching on calorie-laden Christmas treats, and sipping cocktails, I can t help but notice that my jeans are just a teensy bit snugger and my dryer seems to be shrinking my seaters again. Fortunatly, a few month ago I found an invigorating way to get back into shape, while combating the bleakness that winter days often bring-kickboxing. The sport is a form of martial arts that involves sparring with an opponent through a series of punches and kicks. Since this high energy activity conditions the entire body, kickboxing has become an increasingly popular fitness regimen. For further insight, I spoke to Gino Ascani, owner of NOLA Xtreme Fitness in Lakeview. Ascani, and MMA champ who is preparing for a fight this January opened the gym because of his enthusiasum for fitness and lifelong drive for success. “I was taught to never quit, and grew up trying to be number one.” When talking about NOLA Xtreme fitness, he proudly exclaims, “This gym, I have my name on it. I did it the way t should be done. “ By having his own establisher, he feels that he can share his attitude and expertise with others. “Being able to do things the way I want to do it, I feel like I can help whoever come to me to train.” He adds that, when it come to instructors, “I want to make sure that I have the best of the best.” In addition to offering an array of classes such as spin and yoga, several martial arts programs are available at NOLA Xtreme fitness. So when my interest in kickboxing struck, th is is where I went, equipped with questions and ready to attack.
Ascani, however, is not surprised by the surge of popularity in the sport. “Kickboxing is a fantastic class for so many reasons,” he contends. The class involves cardio, general body and physical conditioning and self defense tactics. Also it instills confidence in each fighter. When asked if this was just another passing fad, he replied, “kickboxing has been around for so long.” While trends come and go, it has “stood the test of time.”
Grady Savoie, who practices kickboxing at LA boxing in Baton Rouge, believe “Its great for toning, self defense, losing weight self esteem, getting in shape and staying in shape.” Savoie began kickboxing after he experienced shoulder problems that prevented stress release. Even more eager to strap on my gloves and start swinging, I signed up for clas. I took the majority of my classes with Edward Brennan, a former member of the Navy who has been boxing for more than 15 years. In addition working with Chief Ray Collins, a five time Navy Champ, he now trains under Steven “Spyda” Hemphill, a two time World Champion in boxing. Brennan’s instructions (and patience!) did not come across as a textbook tutorial, but as lessons from someone who hadperfected his skills through first hand experince. And he was quick to answer my many questions.
"Since I began, my body fat is now in the single digits and I've put on 10 lbs. of muscle. It's the best workout I've ever done." - Grady Savoie, recreational kickboxer
Class began with an overview of basic moves, which proved to be more difficult than i’d anticipated. Facing a large mirror, we would line up in rows standing in a fighters stance, eager to learn. I crouched to the right with my arms - clad in boxing gloves - protecting my face. When the instructor called for a jab, which is a straight punc, I immediately threw out my right - WRONG- arm. He explained that although im right handed, i should throw with my left arm. Throughout the entire class, I felt as if id developed a sudden case of dyslexia. Each uppercut, hook, jab, or roundhouse kick, required such mental focus to remember which way to defend or attack. I realized that not only does this make the difference in injuring my opponent, but it makes the difference in injuring myslef!
I also discovered the importance of foot and fist placement when i kicked the punching back at an odd angle, I put on a brave face and ignored the initial ache in my ankle when it first happened, but the following morning, pain shot through my leg, There was no way I was wearing heels to work that day. Fortunately, my instructor had caught my mistake and corrected my form. Savoie has a similat problem, in terms of which side of the body to use, and when. “I am left handed so it to ok a while for me to learn to do everything with the opposite hand,” addidngthat “ i still do the kicks backwards sometimes so that i dont hit anyone.”
After we mastered each punch and kick, we moved onto other drills. though these varied from class to class, the drills included shdowboxing, which is basically fighting with the air to perfect our form, strikes on the punching bag, jumprope and sparring with fellow students or instructors. Class ended with pushups, sit ups, and a few savory minutes of stretching.
When i arrived at my next class equipped with new f ighting skills, I was happy to see that a few girls had signed up. This class followed the format of practicing our punches and kicks, shadowboxing, with cardio and other exercises thrown into the mix. Now that I knew the moves, I could easily glide around the room, carefully placing feisty jabs and sidekicks into the air. By the end of class, my srms hung limply by my side and my clothes weere drenched, but i felt exhilarated at the same time.
That night, I fell into bed exhausted and slept deeply through the night. Even though my muscles were screaming out in pain when I woke uo the next morning, I still relished the gratifiying feeling of release. Savoie heralds kickboxing’s many benefits as well. “ This is honestly the best workout ive ever done. My body fat percentage is where it was in high school when I was keepig it in the single digits. Since I began, I have added about ten pounds of muscle, have never been ths well defined, and have a ton than with traditional workout. I would recommed it to anyone, as long as you have the discipline to commit to going on a regular basis.”
As my training continued, my body became acclimated to the intenses and I particularly noticed a change in my arms. My usual workout consist of three to four runs a week interspered witha spin or Zumba class. After f ocibly commiting to a once a week regimen of four pound dumbbell exercises and a set of pushups, every now and then id just about given up on achieving sinewy arms. But with kickboxing, each controlled arm movemnt tones and builds muscle without much thought. As I danced across the mat, gloves flying freely, I could feel my muscles flare with each throw.
Besides the physical benefit =, kickboxing is a excellent outlet for everday stress. After arriving to class in a particularly unpleasant mood, Brennansuggested that I let go of my worries with each strike. Soon, instead of focusing on what went wrong in my day, I concentrated on my technique and threw power into each strike. When a fellow student asked me, “Are you in here for self defense?” I knew I had succedded. After our lesson, Brennan asked us how we felt. Someone f rom the back shouted, “Like a champ!”
Ascanti attriutes some of the confidence seen in his students to the self defense-skills. “Anyone from off of the street can approach you, and they dont necessarily have to be a fighter.” The skills can benefit you in those situations. “Someone who walks around and knows how to kick butt can have all the confidence in the world, so i think that it ties into everyday life, just as much as it does in a fight.”
In addition to the physical and emotional benefits, kickboxing is a great way to incorporate a new activity into your regimen since its beginner-friendly. For the most part, kick boxing is a sport that any healty athlete can pick up. Ascani notes, that this “depends on the instructor and the pace that he puts you at.” he adds.
The first class can be akward and difficult, but by learning to laugh and work hard, kickboxing delivers mighty benefits. As Ascani states, kickboxing is “just like any other sport. The more you do it, the better you will get.