Kicking it Old School

Hockaday girls try kickboxing as a form of exercise

A search on Yelp reveals 72 locations for kickboxing around the Dallas metroplex, and the number is only rising as crowded gyms branch into different neighborhoods, promoting their popular martial arts classes. Joining their fellow Dallasites, Hockaday students are participating in this fervor for a more exciting workout—one kick at a time.

Working at about 80 percent of the maximum heart rate, kickboxing is recommended by coaches, parents and students alike. An hour of kickboxing burns about 350 to 450
calories, roughly the same as 60 minutes of brisk walking or light jogging, only simultaneously improving strength, flexibility and coordination.

“It’s a different form of working out—more interactive,” said Crystal Pollard, a boxing coach at Equinox Fitness in Dallas. “It’s a form of fitness that really works different aspects of your body.”

Pollard, who began attending kickboxing classes after college, said the group fitness inspired her to start teaching a class. She also says that there are no physical or skill
requirements to join her class except for an “open mind and to realize that your body moves together.”

Kickboxing refers to a group of combative martial arts originating from Asia and evolving in
various forms from karate, western boxing and Muay Thai (Thai boxing).  Muay Thai, believed to be a descendant from the inception of Indochinese martial arts (and was supposedly used to train Siamese warriors), includes more integral training that has students learn core principles and then apply them to a fight instead of memorizing the fight.

“It focuses on interval training,” said Hockaday coach Adaku Achilefu, “which
increases your heart rate, brings it down and then brings it back up so that
you’re not staying at the same intensity level the whole time.”

Anger and stress are some of the factors that encourage people to take up kickboxing,
but self-defense is another strong motive. Learning different ways to fend off an attacker is always a valuable skill to know, even to Pollard, who wants her students to be able to apply her lessons in the real world.

“I want to make it functional,” Pollard said, “so that people aren’t just going through
the motions.”

Sophomore Sarah, who started kickboxing in seventh grade, attends classes at Trainer’s Elite in Addison three to five times a week. As the only female member of her class, Sarah often spends this time sparring with middle aged men. But instead of shying away from the older competition, she welcomes it.

“It’s good practice because the person that attacks me is probably going to be a guy, he’s probably going to be bigger than me and stronger than me, and I’m actually more prepared for that than people who [spar] with kids their own age,” Sarah said.

Her favorite routine is using the kick shield. Unlike sparring, where only so much force can be used without injuring the partner, the protective padding allows people to kick with full
force 20 to 30 times in a row. A typical workout for her includes warm-ups (with or without light weights), technique training, strength training and finally stretching. This outline is not the ultimate guideline for the class, which varies intensity level from day to day.

“We mix it up a lot; there’s not a typical workout,” Sarah said. “There are so many aspects to it. It’s the perfect sport for someone who’s just in it for fitness or for the actual combat aspect. It’s a cardio workout but it’s also a mental workout.”

“It’s a really intense feeling and it’s so hardcore!” Hannah said. “You’re running the
whole time during the warm-up, [then] you do high knees, then pushups, and then
you’re jumping up and down and running and sprinting.” The students then put on
their gloves and take to the punching bags hanging from the ceiling. They practice different hits for a few minutes and then are back on the ground, building muscles and strengthening the core. With an emphasis on power, kickboxing prefers techniques that center on strength over speed, but it ends up being “up and down nonstop.”

For Hannah, the class itself, while “hardcore” and “exhausting,” makes her feel good
afterwards, like she can “do anything.” She plans on continuing classes in college.

“Whenever I leave,” Hannah said, “I’m like ‘Yeah, I could totally kick someone’s butt right