Yoga for Kickboxing
Just as yoga was practiced for centuries before its recent renaissance, kickboxing existed long before Billy Blanks started polluting late-night television. A hybrid of boxing, karate, Thai boxing, and tae kwon do, the competitive sport of kickboxing emerged in America during the early '70s and was popularized through Chuck Norris blockbusters like Good Guys Wear Black. (Though truth be told, Chuck was more of a karate than a kickboxing guy.) Like most martial arts, the sport's guiding tenets include self-respect, discipline, and control, while its style is best characterized as practical. "It's the most efficient way of stand-up fighting," says Guy Mezger, owner of Freestyle Martial Arts in Dallas and coauthor of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Kickboxing (Alpha Books, 2000).
As Billy himself tells you (admit it—you've sat through his infomercial at least once), kickboxing is also one of the most efficient ways of whipping yourself into shape. All versions of kickboxing, from fitness classes to light sparring to out-and-out fighting, require just about every muscle and ounce of energy your body has to offer. "The physical demands are tremendous," says Mezger, a world-champion kickboxer. "Not only does it work all angles of your body, but it calls on both aerobic and anaerobic reserves."
Kickboxing matches consist of 12 two-minute rounds, with a one-minute break in between rounds. Each competitor must execute—and defend himself or herself against—at least eight above-the-waist kicks per round, in addition to throwing various punches and knee and elbow strikes.
As for the demands of a noncompetitive class, you need only to check out the sweat-soaked T-shirts of the people streaming out of a steamy cardio-kick class at the gym to realize the sport is demanding.
The physical challenge is matched by a unique mentality which Mezger calls the fighter's edge—a fierce, no-quit, intense attitude. "In the ring, you don't just lay down when somebody whacks you," he explains. That mentality translates to those who never plan on being whacked: "You can be as competitive with yourself as you are with others," he says.
Two Disciplines, Too Different?
Technique is more valuable than sheer muscle power in both disciplines: You can twist further on an exhale in Ardha Matsyendrasana I (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose) than if you simply try to force yourself around. And in kickboxing, if a woman has better technique than a heavier man, she can take him down, according to Mezger.
On an emotional level, both yoga and kickboxing burn off stress and anger, albeit in different ways. Just as an hour of yoga often leaves you feeling calm and focused, blasting away on a punching bag can also melt away frustrations. "I was pretty intense as a youth," admits Mezger. "Martial arts gave me a way to constructively channel my energy."
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