If You're Thinking About Trying Kick Boxing

When you walk into Victoria Martial Arts, you are met with everything you might expect to find in a boxing gym after only having seen them in the movies. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors cover one wall, reflecting the heavy and light punching bags lined up along the opposite side of the room. The red and black floor mats are well-maintained and give off the scent of perspiration and exertion. Along the back wall are shelves bearing pads for training punches, kicks, and knees as well as loaner gloves for anyone who needs them (read: you). Finally, in the back corner, so as not to be in the way, yet still commanding the attention of anyone who enters the building, is the four-sided boxing ring. Even empty, you can feel the intensity of the fights that have been exchanged here.

But that isn’t for you. Not yet, anyway. You are just stopping by to have your first lesson with the coach who runs the gym. The idea is that you get a grasp on the basics with him guiding you in a smaller, shorter class so that you will be able to keep up when attending the regularly scheduled class sessions. It’s a class structure that you immediately like. You don’t feel comfortable doing drills or sparring with another student until you have a grasp on the basics, and in even the most welcoming of first classes, it can be easy to feel like you aren’t getting enough attention from the instructor to really learn confidently, especially when what you are learning could potentially lead to you or another person getting hurt.

First thing to look at is footwork. You start with your feet shoulder-width apart and take a half-step forward on your dominant side. To move while maintaining structure, you don’t so much step as you do push off with the foot opposite the direction you want to move in, all while up on the balls of your feet to allow for quick reactions. If your opponent rushes you or another attacker appears on your flank, you can pivot on either foot to let them move past you while facing them straight-on.

 

 

Next, you start on punches. When at rest, you keep your hands against your cheeks, along the lower ridge of your jaw with elbows tucked in to protect yourself. The hand that matches your forward foot fires quick jabs, while the one that matches your back foot does more powerful straights. Their power comes from pivoting your rear foot to carry the force of the motion up from the ground all through your core and into your target. This is your bread and butter.

Jab.

Jab-jab.

Jab-straight.

Jab-jab-straight.

Every hit you land has a satisfying impact that reverberates through your chest.

Then you add to it.

Right hook.

Left hook.

Uppercut. Coach says you’re a natural at it.

Next are knees. Throw your leg up while keeping your foot under you and toes pointed, hit the pad in his hands with a clap. He says try the other leg, switch your stance and at the same time grab his shoulder with your hand to pull him in. It hits even harder, even if you can’t do it smoothly yet. You never thought you could hit this hard this quickly, but the footwork is so quick and precise that every exercise feels as much like a dance as a fight.

He brings you over to the heavy bag against the far wall; time to practice kicks. He says the trick is to make the point of impact the top of your shin—not your foot—so it hits like a baseball bat. You picture that as you lay into the bag. Your first kick was a bit low, on your foot. It’s already red. Try again, hit with the shin and the sound reverberates through your body.

 

 

There’s one more part of the basics to cover: the push. When you’re in a fight in kickboxing, you can shove your opponent away to make room, to change your measure with them. He puts on more pads, says he’ll call an action and you do it.

Jab-jab-right-knee-shove-kick.

Do it again, and again. By the end, your shove is losing force and you can’t stop your hands from shaking in their gloves. Forty minutes have gone by, but it’s felt like nothing at all. He offers a high-five and congratulates you for doing well in your first class, and you let yourself feel proud. Get changed back into your street clothes, thank him for his time and promise you’ll be in touch soon for another class. Mean it. As you leave the gym, you feel strong for the first time in a long time. The world is a scary place, especially for marginalized groups, and it can feel like a fight could happen at any time. But right now, you don’t feel scared.

You feel like you can win.