Everyone gets excited over free gifts or complimentary services. Who doesn’t? Most business pair their products and services with complimentary gifts to further entice the masses and make their deals appear more attractive. The fitness industry is no different. These days, it is common to see fitness studios tagging their membership premiums with a plethora of complementary services and added benefits, such as a specified number of free personal coaching sessions and complimentary in-house classes, such as yoga, Zumba or cardio kickboxing.
Sure, those complimentary cardio kickboxing classes that are often offered in your membership package when you sign up with a fitness studio, but they do not necessarily make you throw killer punches. Today, we are going to look at a couple of self-defence disciplines that can help you protect yourself and make you stronger.
I have been in a workout rut for a while and needed something fresh to motivate me. I personally signed up for cardio kickboxing classes on and off over the past couple of years and although it is a great form of workout, I got bored after some time. Throwing punches into the air was not challenging anymore and I found myself literally going through the motions.
Fortunately, an old girlfriend of mine from the university has been actively involved in taekwondo. While I have always been fascinated with the high-flying kicks and swiftness of the movements, I was intimidated to walk into a proper class — until recently. For one, I thought I was going to be the only woman there, and I was afraid of the very things I hoped to accomplish with martial arts. Yes, I wanted to learn self-defence but I was not ready to get my butt kicked. I liked the discipline, but I could not make the time commitment. The physicality was appealing, but I was not sure I was up to the challenge. And the biggest factor of all: All the sports that I have always participated in, such as step, cycling and kickboxing classes, walking, jogging and swimming, required little or no contact with anyone else. Taekwondo was going to force me to interact with others in the class. So, when my girlfriend finally convinced me to visit her taekwondo gym, I did not realise that I was in for a surprise. Not only was I not the only woman there, but about half the class was female.
With the toned physique that I have sculpted over the years, I consider myself to be pretty fit, but nothing prepared me for taekwondo, a Korean variation of Kung Fu which translates to “the way of the hand and foot”. A relatively modern martial art, it is known for its powerful high kicks and hand strikes. I thought my kickboxing experience would help me out, but nothing could have been further from the truth.
Taekwondo requires much more focus and control because you throw punches and kick at pads and sparring partners. I felt the impact through my entire body. Making contact with something while punching awakened muscles I never knew I had; my arms, hands and shoulders ached and burned. My knuckles were bruised from a couple of misplaced punches (and no, I did not hit anyone). My hips were sore and my thighs burned from the repeated kicking. Nothing says “thigh workout” like an hour of kicks. I was literally drenched in sweat at the end of each session.
Every class began with running laps across the room, followed by a massive amount of sit-ups and push-ups (on our knuckles, no less). We also did a lot of stretching and for the first time in years, I started to feel limber. Then, we would work our way through a series of punches and kicks in various combinations. Near the end of the class, we paired up and practised the combinations with each other. Generally, we would spar with partners of equal skill, but the more advanced students moved around and worked with those of us who were just beginning. I was nervous at first, but after a while, I realised that I was safer with someone who had more control. Yes, it still hurt, no doubt, but at least I suffered no accidental punches on my face.
Taekwondo is not just about self-defence. It teaches you to set and reach goals and to not limit yourself. My instructor regularly reminds us and stresses the importance of goal-setting. He would tell each student what he thought we should try to accomplish in the next class and how to achieve it. And it actually felt really good to have a purpose for my workouts. When I first started, I have to admit that I was afraid of getting hurt, but I learned that I can handle myself when it comes to physically demanding and stressful situations.
Let’s wrap up this guide with part 3.