Tucked away in a suburban strip mall, (next to a Starbucks, of course) is a Cardio Kickboxing gym. I came across it about a year ago with my family, and grabbed an info card as I nodded to the kind receptionist that I’d give it a shot. I didn’t.
A year later, my body and I got bored with the classes at my LA Fitness. Remembering the kickboxing place, I found it online and signed up for a free trial class that Friday.
I arrived 20 minutes early (as their website suggested) for an orientation before class. Tons of sunlight reached in through the wall of large, storefront windows. I felt a slight breeze from four fans mounted near the ceiling, about 10 feet apart each, as they kept the room cool. The entire floor is this soft-ish, black gym mat material, similar to the 40 giant bags hanging over it from metal chains. The bags had “CKO Kickboxing” on the sides in large white and yellow letters (I still don’t know what the “O” is for… Cardio Knock Out?). Despite the warmth from the sun, the room didn’t smell like a gym; it’s odor was more like some sort of sanitizer. A small personal training center sat tucked in a corner, laden with free weights and work-out equipment. The reception desk touted yellow and black rubber CKO bracelets, other related paraphernalia, and a jumbo bottle of hand sanitizer. I was once again welcomed at the door by one of the very fit owners, who also happened to be the instructor that day. With a big smile, she handed me some smelly, slightly used boxing gloves and began to show me the basic moves.
“When you hit, you aim with your first two knuckles, like this,” she demonstrated, then punched the bag with her left hand. “That’s a Jab. Always bring your fists back to protect your face. For a Cross, you pivot your back leg and hips, and punch with your right fist.” I watched as she expertly punched and thought, I got this! How hard can punching shit be? Then she continued, “For a Rear Roundhouse, you step your front leg out, and twist your hips, bringing your back leg up to hit the bag with your shin. Not your toes. Just shin.” I tried to copy the Sporty Spice look alike… Jab… Cross… Rear Roundhouse, and my wrists and shin bone screamed like a child forced to eat brussel sprouts. With my last kick, I resigned myself to looking more like a toddler having a tantrum than like a badass ninja.
Members slowly started filing in as the instructor finished showing me more moves. Hook, Upper Cut, Elbows… “One minute!” She announced into her Brittney Spears mic. I truly had no idea what to expect. Are we really going to do this – punch a bag – for an hour? I looked around at about 15 nonplussed men and women as they wrapped their wrists while bouncing back and forth on their toes.
“All right, let’s go! Everyone start jogging around the bags to your right. I wanna see some Butt-Kickers. Now High-Knees! Let’s go! Let’s go! You came here for a reason today! Let’s do this!” We started with about 15 minutes of various cardio exercises while jogging around the row of bags, punching the air, side stepping, swinging our arms in circles, etc. Once we were finished warming up, She-Woman instructed us to get our gloves on.
We spent the next half hour doing various combinations of punches and kicks. “Jab Cross Jab! 10 Push-ups! Go! Hook Hook Upper Cut! 10 Squats! I wanna see some Power Hooks now! Give me all you got! Attack that bag! Go go go!!” Amid the instructional shouting and fast-paced music, my ears were continuously hit with the “pop-pop-pop” of gloves and limbs pounding the bags. It was delightfully chaotic. As I punched and kicked, I let my imagination run wild, and I pretended I was hitting all kinds of things: people, monsters, bad feelings… But my favorite was when we did “Call Outs”, where we’d bounce on our feet like real looking boxer-types (I was channeling Hilary Swank) until quick combinations were shouted. “Jab Cross! Jab Cross Jab Cross! Rear-Roundhouse! Shove that bag!” The Call Outs seemed to make it more of a game than just a serious (yet positive) way to expend aggressive energy.
We spent the last 15 minutes of class* doing various cardio moves like sit-ups, push-ups, squats, planks, jumping jacks, and mountain climbers. (*I’ve since had classes where at this point, you have to do some of these moves with a partner: my least favorite part. My introverted self does not want to interact with or touch other sweaty people. Blech.)
The class finished once the instructor demanded that we “Starfish!” (you lie on your back all spread eagle, with arms and legs spread out, um, like a starfish). The last couple of minutes, we did a bunch of cool down stretches, and then dangled our monkey asses while gripping the top of the bags. Finally, the instructor shouted “Bring it in!” Everyone slowly milled to the middle of the room and formed a hokey pokey circle with one arm in. “On the count of three… raise your hands for Friday Funday! One, Two, Three… FRIDAY FUNDAY! Woohoo!” And thus, the hour long class was cheesily concluded.
I signed up as soon as I could feel my arms again. 🙂