Kickboxing is a very general term for a growing sport. Kickboxing is a component of mixed martial arts and is only recently gaining popularity on its own merits in the United States; the sport has a big following in many other countries, including Japan and the Netherlands. Some folks, both men and women, start the game for cardiovascular exercise, relaxation and stress relief, coordination and confidence, self-defense, or for the ultimate thrill of one-on-one competition. It's a sport that can be enjoyed by both men and women of all ages.
Beginners to the sport usually start out with simple activities such as stretches, warmups and eventually throwing jabs at a punching bag. Even experienced participants know they have to begin with warmups, which can include running, lunges and jumping jacks before gloving up and hitting the bag using jabs, hooks, uppercuts, elbow strikes, kicking and kneeing. After several rounds of working with the punching bag, core-strength training and stretching helps to strengthen the body and keep it limber.
Marie, a veterinary technician in Maryland, recently started kickboxing lessons after losing a loved one. "I had a lot of anger after losing him and this was a way to channel and direct my anger. I always felt like hitting something and wanted to learn how to do it correctly. I have a wonderful personal trainer who encourages me. We're also working on strength and core training." She enjoys her time working out and learning how to punch the bag; she hasn't yet started the actual kickboxing phase but is looking forward to making that move. "There are a lot of benefits for both body and mind in the kickboxing discipline."
Sheila, an office worker from Los Angeles, has been practicing kickboxing for 20 years. "I've done different varieties of kickboxing workouts for the past 20 years, from MMA-style workouts at the IMB Academy to taking cardio kickboxing classes at 24-Hour Fitness gyms, and for the past six years I have belonged to the UFC gym. I have done self-defense, martial arts and cardio kickboxing workouts and now heavy bag boxing and kickboxing." She explained why she got involved with the sport: "It's the workout that I have always loved to do. I am not a long-distance runner, and I get extremely bored on an elliptical machine! The ritual of wrapping your hands, putting boxing gloves on and hitting and kicking a 150-pound bag is my idea of fun!"
Kickboxing trainers make the following suggestions for anyone wanting to pursue the sport:
--Make sure that you prepare with the right gear for your interest. For sparring, get groin protectors, gloves, shinguards, headgear, and wrist wraps to protect yourself. Basic training requires things like focus mitts and heavy bags. In all cases, have comfortable workout clothes -- loose-fitting boxing shorts do very well.
--Begin every workout with a warmup and stretches. Concentrate on building your core strength, especially your abdominal muscles. Learn to stand in a fighting stance and keep your head down and tucked.
--When sparring, make sure to keep moving to avoid being a target. Keep your body relaxed and breath regular breaths; this will help you to maintain flexibility.
--Kickboxing is a high-energy cardio workout that will get your heart pumping. It is also a wonderful way to burn calories and tone your muscles. Unless you are already involved in steady cardio exercise, plan a visit with your doctor to make sure have no serious medical issues before you begin, but don't give up your dream. Work with your doctor and trainer and ease into the program. Remember that kickboxing is a wonderful stress reliever, and that is a terrific benefit.
"I am definitely in much better shape when it comes to stamina and conditioning. I've developed a lot of upper body strength and strong muscles all over," says Sheila, who recommends kickboxing to others. "I have recruited many of my friends, as well as my sister, who is now just as addicted as I am. I tell friends how empowering this workout is and to just give it a try."