1. What is Cardio Kickboxing? Cardio kickboxing is a hybrid of boxing, martial arts and aerobics done rhythmically to music. Cardio kickboxing is also known as aerobic kickboxing or fitness kickboxing. Offering an intense cross-training and total-body workout it utilizes the training routines used by martial artists in the sports of boxing and kickboxing. Unlike a traditional martial arts class, the music adds to your stimulation and motivation. Unlike an aerobics class, there are numerous techniques you can learn beyond the basics to maintain your interest level. Classes go by fast because there is so much going on. 2. What are the benefits of Cardio Kickboxing? These classes give you a full body workout and improve your physical fitness, flexibility, coordination, and balance. If you do the punches with precision and power, you will strengthen your upper body and eventually see more muscle definition. The kicks will strengthen your legs. And kneeing moves (a strike in which you thrust your bent knee upward) will firm your abdominal muscles; in fact, all of the moves, when done correctly, will make your torso into a solid base that lets you do day-to-day tasks more easily. Many cardio kickboxing classes also include bagwork that provides additional fitness and strength training benefits because of the “resistance” when punching or kicking the heavy boxing bags. Your cardiovascular system will benefit, too. Cardio kickboxing is a truly aerobic workout – it keeps you bobbing, weaving, and jumping amidst the punches and kicks, so that your heart rate stays elevated for most of the session. A good class will leave you drenched in sweat and energized. And your increased conditioning will be accompanied by an increased metabolism meaning you will burn more calories even when you aren’t exercising. A lot of people find cardio kickboxing a great way to release stress. The stress relief and the channeling of aggression can be as beneficial as the actual physical workout itself. The physiological difference between this workout and other cardiovascular workouts such as running or participating in an aerobics class can’t be explained with just the simple “release of endorphines”. A natural high is experienced after a class that lasts for hours. Civilized, as we’ve all been not to hit each other (which is, of course, a good thing), we’re still equipped with some natural aggression. You may find that planting your heel in the torso of a phantom foe 10 or 20 times leaves you feeling wonderfully tranquil. 3. Who should take a Cardio Kickboxing class? Anyone who wants to get in better shape. Although primarily designed for adults, cardio kickboxing classes can benefit teens too. Student athletes can train to improve their physical fitness and conditioning. And the resulting boost in self-confidence gives a mental edge when it comes to getting more playing time and performing well during actual games. Students who are home-schooled or who do not like to participate in conventional athletic programs can derive health and fitness benefits too. Exercise is important. And, because of the added self-defense benefit that comes as a by-product of the program, it improves a student’s self-esteem, channels aggressiveness, and enhances assertiveness. It’s recommended you check with your health-card provider before taking the class if you have not exercised regularly recently, and come in and talk to a teacher and watch part of a class if you have other questions or concerns. 4. What should I expect in a Cardio Kickboxing class? A typical class is a little over an hour-long. If you are going to hit bags, prior to the class, participants wrap both hands with cloth handwraps to help protect the knuckles and support the wrists (the instructor will show you how). Then with everyone facing the mirror, a teacher leads the group through specific punches and kicks, to the beat of dance-club music. The class starts with a warm-up period, moves to fast shadowboxing and kicking drills, then to heavy bag work, and ends with some strength building exercises and a cool-down stretch. Intermixed with this are aerobic conditioning drills such as high-knees, grapevines and jumping jacks. Be prepared to feel a little clumsy and lost at times – but don’t let yourself feel discouraged. Even if you’re a highly conditioned runner or you’ve been doing step aerobics for years, these moves may be new to your body. Pay attention to what feels right to you. Don’t do a move that hurts, and take breaks if you feel tired. Your muscles need time to develop their “memory”, and your reactions as the teacher calls out what to do (“jab, cross, hook, roundhouse”) will be slow at first. By the second or third class, the awkwardness will start to dissipate. 5. What will I learn? The first thing you’ll learn is the stance — a way of standing that maximizes balance and puts power behind your moves. Your feet are about shoulder-width apart and at a slight angle, one foot set back from the other. Your fists are up around your cheek-bones to guard your face (Don’t hunch your shoulders). This is the position you’ll return to after every punch and kick. You will also learn how to move, which is important because you use your momentum to generate power. This involves keeping in motion while staying up on the balls of your feet, which enables you to act or respond much more efficiently. The general rule for a powerful strike is to use your body’s weight and momentum, not just your arms. Engage your abdominal muscles and exhale the breath as you rotate and punch. The punches generally taught are the jab, cross, hook, and uppercut. The kicks will include the front kick, side kick, back kick, angle kick and roundhouse. But punches and kicks just don’t come in multiples of one. You will learn kickboxing sequences, how the jab sets up the cross, sets up the hook, etc. Each strike sets up the next so you can generate much more power by combos of two or more. The torque of your body helps to create this momentum. The individual moves are worked into swiftly executed combinations (for example: jab, cross punch, hook, uppercut, front kick). Different instructors have different takes on what they teach and the subtleties of techniques, but the basics that you learn from one teacher will hold up in all the classes. 6. What should I wear? Sweats, shorts and a T-shirt, an aerobic-dance outfit — whatever keeps you comfortable and cool. Wear well-made athletic shoes that aren’t too worn. Running shoes aren’t ideal because they’re not constructed for side-to-side movements. Basketball, tennis or other shoes designed for pivots and lateral movements are better. It is also very important that your shoes are clean. Barefeet are OK too. 7. Could I hurt myself? Yes. If you’re not careful, you could end up with a sore elbow or wrist, a pulled muscle, or one of the injuries that commonly occur in aerobics classes such as a sprained knee or twisted ankle. So adopt a protective attitude toward your body. If you can spare the time, arrive a few minutes early to get your handwraps on and warm up by gently stretching your legs (especially the fronts and backs of the thighs) and shoulders. Make sure you are and stay well hydrated. During the class, make sure that you stop the motion of each punch or kick before the joint is fully extended. Never kick or punch so far that you lock the elbow or knee joints. Also, start out focusing on kicking low and with control. Respect your body’s limits. Sure, you can change those limits — but it’ll take time, dedication, and a realistic attitude. 8. Will Cardio Kickboxing give me skills to defend myself? Since you will be working out anyway, learning basic self-defense skills at the same time is an added benefit. Over time you will develop strong kicking and punching abilities and learn the practical application of techniques practiced in the air on the heavy bag. It takes bagwork practice to gauge distance and effectively landing your punch or kick flush on a target. You just can’t just shadow-kickbox, you need the feedback of hitting something. Be aware though that the focus is on conditioning and not on self-defense, if you really want to learn self-defense tactics, take a martial arts or self-defense classes. 9. How can I get the most out of the classes? As with any other exercise, if you want to improve your cardiovascular condition or trim an inch here and there, you’ll have to do it regularly. Two to four sessions a week is probably optimal; in between classes it is good to mix things up. For example take a brisk walk or run, do some stretching or yoga to increase your flexibility, or simply take a day to rest. 10. How can I learn more? Go to a class!