My new year’s resolution was to do more exercise because, at 22, I’m so unfit that making the bed gets me out of bleddy breath. I decided that kickboxing was the way to go, and after booking the class, the hands on the ends of my spindly chicken arms were tied; I’d have to get my heart rate past a gentle hum. I was terrified.
A hybrid sport, kickboxing is a mixed martial art developed from the practices of karate and muay thai, with modern kickboxing being a mixture of taekwondo and boxing. The exact history of the sport is difficult to define, but the general consensus is that the sport was established by a Japanese karateka called Tatsuo Yamada, who outlined a new sport combining elements of karate and muay thai.
Phoenix Kickboxing on Haydn Road seemed as good a place to start as any. Their website sees owner and fourth dan black belt kickboxing donny, Nicole Aylott, describe the organisation as a “family-friendly gym with a zero-tolerance bullying policy.” They also work on a semi-contact basis, so I probably wasn’t going to get kicked in the face, either. Sound.
Around twenty adults and kids – some of ‘em as young as six – all with various coloured belts, were waiting to start the class when I was greeted by Nicole.
“I don’t think I’ve exercised since I was twelve and I’m scared I’m going to be sick,” I blurted out.
“Just do as much as you can,” Nicole said. “Our warm-ups are very intense, so if you need to stop, just stop.”
She wasn’t lying. After pairing me up with a lovely woman named Vanessa – who has the patience of a saint – it was straight into a pyramid set: working our way up to ten burpees, in between throwing up to twenty punches, then burpeeing our way back to one again. I was dripping with sweat by six burpees and I felt like my kidneys were about to fall out my arse, but I did it. Every single punch and burpee with Vanessa cheering me on.
Heart suitably racing, I was ready to get stuck into earning my black belt. To my horror, Nicole announced there was a second round of pyramid torture to endure, this time swapping the burpees for stomach crunches. Holey moley did them much-neglected muscles have a shock.
I really began to enjoy myself with the kick manoeuvres. Exercising control to move in the right way, and willpower to push through muscle ache, was a thrilling combination. And the sense of bad-assery that comes with kicking something really hard made me feel like Lara bleddy Croft.
I’ve never had such a positive experience with exercise, so I’m going back. The class was dead supportive, with everyone going at their own pace while pushing themselves to work harder. The sense of achievement I felt when I held my round-kick stance without falling over, or completed a set of crunches, is something I’ve not experienced in a long time. And it’s summat that’s stayed with me, not unlike the muscle ache.
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