Story by Bill Taylor
It’s a fact. The average American adult and child today are in worse physical shape then any other time in history. Obesity and diabetes now run rampant through our country. Most schools no longer offer daily physical education and exercise. While there are numerous opportunities for a family to get involved in an exercise program, many don’t.
With so many fitness programs available for both adults and children, how might you determine which program is best for you and your family?
One of the most important concerns, in my opinion, is in finding a program that you will stay involved in. We have all heard the clichés about gym memberships that are paid for but never used. What would make someone join a gym, go a few times and then lose all desire to attend? I think finding an engaging, dynamic, challenging workout system you actually look forward to attending can greatly help avoid this pitfall.
Cardio Kickboxing may just fit the bill for adults. Also known as Tae Bo, cage fitness or by any other of numerous names, most of these programs have one overall thing in common: they all use martial arts moves and techniques in order to exercise the entire body. What is different about these adult programs is that they use martial arts in a non-traditional manner—no uniforms, no belts, no bowing, no actual fighting required. The emphasis is on fitness and not on tradition. Every muscle in the body is used. The punches of boxing exercise the upper body, arms and chest. Martial arts kicks build a strong core as well as strengthening legs and buttocks. Endurance is improved using jump ropes or working hard on bag drills. Cage fitness bags allow participants to practice punching while on the floor. No muscle group left behind!
While all of this is going on, the participant is also learning simple, effective, hard-hitting self-defense techniques. While hitting the heavy bag, a cardio kickboxing student will learn how to throw a jab, cross, hood and uppercut. You will learn how to put these punches together into devastating combinations. Elbows, knees and kicks will also be exercised for fitness while also learning how to use them for self-defense striking. In personal self-defense, hitting hard is important. Practicing striking skills on a regular basis is not only fun and exhilarating, it is essential for self-defense confidence. As personal fitness improves, a person carries themselves with a new attitude of confidence, making themselves less of a target for an attacker.
If boredom is what often causes adults to give up on a fitness program, cardio kickboxing’s versatility may provide the answer to that problem. Since true cardio kickboxing is not rhythmic like aerobics, no two classes are ever the same.
For children, martial arts are a physical godsend! Children love the kicks and punches they see daily on TV. Parents can find a good, professionally run martial arts program, and channel their child’s enthusiasm into a hobby which will get them into better shape. Most martial arts schools also have programs for children designed to teach self-control, respect, focus and listening skills. Most schools should allow both you and your child the opportunity to try a free lesson or two so you can see what you think. Martial arts are one of the few activities you can practice alongside your child, no matter how young they are.
Bill Taylor with Bushido School of Karate in Murfreesboro is a seventh-degree black belt in Wado Ryu karate, an honorary sixth-degree black belt in Niseido Ju jitsu, and was the No. 3 ranked bantamweight in the world in full-contact karate during much of the 1980s.