Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes

Standard

Despite my sense of personal accomplishment regarding the improvement of my kickboxing skills, there have been two particular problems that I have been having for a few classes that have made things somewhat challenging.

The first problem I have is always feeling awkward when we are doing the circle drill and we throw fake punches not aiming them at anyone. While other students are able to focus and throw their punches as though they are actually punching an opponent, I just can’t get over the fact of how weird I think I must look. It doesn’t matter if everybody is doing the same thing I still feel awkward. Luckily for me, today the instructor put two big punching bags out and said that when he said to punch those in front of the punching bags would get to punch those instead. The instructor also tried to keep us on our toes by quickly changing his directions. For example, he would tell us to go one way and almost immediately after would tell us to switch. This was amusing to me but I also realized that during kickboxing you will have to change what you are doing quickly so therefore there was a purpose behind what he was doing to us – or he was just trying to mess with us – I’m not sure.

Another problem I have been dealing with for a while is when I go to kick someone, I end up stumbling a bit backward. I knew that I was doing something wrong that was causing this to happen but I couldn’t figure out what. It was easy to think that it was just my clumsiness causing this problem because I didn’t see anyone else ever having the same problem. Being partners with the instructor, however, after he saw me stumble backward after kicking the kickboxing pad he shared some important information that none of my other partners ever told me before. The reason why I would stumble backward was because I was leaning backward. Rather, when I go to kick I should be leaning more toward my opponent. After he explained this to me, I tried to see if I followed his advice if it would work out because I still had a little bit of doubt it would solve the problem. To my surprise, I didn’t have to try and catch myself after kicking which boosted my self-confidence.

Today we focused on two different kicks that I had a lot of fun practicing.

The first one involved throwing two fake punches at our partner and then thrust kicking the kickboxing pad they were using to cover their stomach.

The second kick that we practiced was a bit more challenging for me to get a hang of initially. This move is done by throwing two punches and then moving one foot forward stepping sideways. After this, you are to bring up your other leg to kick your opponent.

It was explained in class that it is vital to know what part of your foot you should use to kick. You must be very careful because there is a possibility that you can break your shin or foot if you complete the move wrong. He explained that the best way to complete the kicks is to aim low when kicking your opponent and when coming into contact with your opponent to use your ankle because it is the strongest.

One important thing to remember about moves in kickboxing is that you need to be fast. It is natural for me to use my fists one after another to throw punches without much thought but after I am done punching it takes me a second to remember that I need to bring my leg up to kick afterward. One way that was recommended to me to possibly solve this is to recognize possible physical signs that will cue you when to bring your leg up. For example, I use my right fist to throw a punch first, therefore, a physical cue that it is almost time for me to bring up my leg to kick is when my left shoulder moves forward to be able to throw a punch with my left fist.

Also, when it my turn to practice drills, I often focus on just repeating the drill until time is up. However, this time, the instructor encouraged me to take a break and practice bouncing around on my toes to practice being light on my feet. By practicing moving around on my toes like this, it also helped me build up more energy for my next kick and be able to quickly transition into having my feet on the ground to kicking someone. Finally, one more important thing that might help in being more effective in throwing a kick when practicing these moves is to take a step forward before trying to kick your opponent.

I really learned a lot this lesson and the more I learn the more excited I become to head back week after week.

Stepping Up

Standard

At every class, one of the more awkward things is choosing a partner. Or in my case, waiting for someone to offer to be my partner. I don’t know anyone in class very well but I usually am good at remembering who usually partners up with each other. Usually one of the other girls offers to be my partner or if there is an odd number of people in class most times I am partnered up with the instructor.

I realized quickly that all of the girls who usually offer to be my partner weren’t at this particular lesson. I quickly scanned the room to see who I would potentially be partnered up with. I began counting and realized that there was an even number so I wouldn’t be paired up with the instructor this time. However, noticing this made me even more anxious wondering who the instructor would pair me up with. I looked to my left, and saw a boy who looked to be possibly in his early teens and was already taller than me. Before I had time to even contemplate much about how awkward I felt that he was taller, my instructor said that I would be working with the boy.

I honestly wasn’t surprise that I was partnered with him, because before the instructor paired us together I thought of two reasons immediately why it might be awkward to be partners. My first thought was I still get easily confused in class and I really didn’t want to confuse him. I knew that there was much more of a likelihood of me confusing him because he hasn’t been practicing kickboxing for as long as everybody else in class. My second thought was that because he hasn’t been practicing kickboxing for as long as everybody else he would probably not be able to offer as much guidance as my other partners have at past lessons. However, if he did have advice to give me, I honestly didn’t think it would make things much better because I would feel weird since he is younger. Therefore, I knew that I would have to step up this lesson by paying even more attention than I usually do in order to not confuse my partner and that I would have to possibly be more of a guide and source of encouragement to him if needed.

The first thing that we did in class was practice the duck and weave technique with our partners. One thing that was different about how we practiced this technique this time was one partner would swipe their hand over their partner’s head while their partner would practice ducking and weaving. I found this practicing this technique much more challenging because of the changes that were added to make the move more complex. First of all, the partner practicing ducking and weaving had to start on the opposite side of their partner’s hand. This confused me at times and I had to stop to think about if I was doing the drill right at times. My confusion only worsened when our instructor told our partner’s to speed up how fast they swiped their hand over our head for the drill when I was not able to duck and weave as fast as my partner was moving his hand.

One of the drills that we practiced with our partners included punching each side of the punching cushion they were holding and then using a front thrust kick to move them forward repetitively until we reached the wall on the opposite side of the room.

To do a front thrust kick you begin by standing in your fighting stance. You then bring your front leg in a bent position up to your waist. You then fully extend your leg to hit your opponent in their stomach. It really does not matter which leg you use to complete the move, so I recommend that you focus practicing with both in order to feel confident and well-prepared if you need to ever use this move to protect yourself.

I tried to encourage my partner as much as I could when I saw him putting more effort into his kicks or saw him improve, thinking that it would motivate him to do better as much as it motivated me when my partners encouraged me. I would also occasionally make jokes and he would laugh so I would like to think that I had a positive effect on his experience in class. I hope that through continuing lessons I will not just improve my skills but that I will also improve in being able to encourage others to try harder in mastering their skills and guide them if necessary.

Duck & Weave

Standard

This class began like most others, with the circle drill. Our instructor is usually very patient with us and spends much of his time repeating himself while we complete this drill. He often tells us to be in a wide circle so that there is space for everyone and we don’t run into each other. However, I’ve noticed that often there is one group of people clustered together on one side of the circle while the other is significantly spread out. One of the things that people seem to be having problems with, along with me, is remembering what direction we were going around in the circle before our instructor told us to stop. Our instructor has caught on to this, and usually has no problem giving us hand signals and telling us which way to move. However, this time, he put us to the test halfway through the exercise, saying that we would have to figure out without his help which way we would have to move next. If we were wrong, we would have to do push-ups. The pressure was on but luckily we were able to pay attention to our movements and survived another lesson without having to do push-ups.

The first thing that we went through in class after the circle drill was ducking and weaving. Knowing how to accurately duck and weave is important when it comes to kickboxing because it is a method you can use when you see an opponent getting ready to swing at you. To practice this, one partner will hold out their arm while the other person will practice moving from one side of the person’s hand to the other by ducking underneath their  partner’s fist and continually weaving from side to side. This is definitely one of the easier concepts we’ve learned in class, though I always find something that I need to improve upon.

When I was younger and I thought a ball was going to hit me in gym class I would flinch and look away. I have to admit that there were a handful of times where there was absolutely no possibility of me getting hit, but I still flinched and looked away just to be sure. My classmates often picked me last to be on their team in gym class, and it didn’t take me long to realize that this was probably one of the several reasons why.

In kickboxing, when we practice the duck and weave technique, our faces are supposed to be close to our opponent’s fist. One of the ways that I naturally handle having someone’s hand and arm so close to my face is to look down when I need to duck and weave. This is a problem because you are always supposed to keep an eye on where your opponent is and what they are doing.

One thing that we practiced in class included us standing very close to our partners. One person would put their arms on their partner’s shoulders and then link their hands behind their partner’s neck. The partner who had hands linked behind their neck would then put their hands on their partner’s lower arms in order to help them when their partner begins attacking them. The partner who has their hands behind their partner’s neck now must try and pull their partner’s head down and move around in order to develop control over them. Once we practiced this, the next step included pivoting on one foot while keeping our arms around our partner’s neck and then kicking them. When my partner practiced this drill with me her kicks almost landed right by my chin/nose. This is one reason why keeping your hands on your partner’s arms are important. By doing so, I was able to push down on her arms a bit to be able to lift my head a bit higher so her kicks would hit lower.

The last drill that we did before class was over included ducking and weaving once again. This time, one partner would swipe one hand over their partner’s head while their partner practiced ducking and weaving. After the partner swiped their hand over their partner’s head, they would then hold up one of their hands to have the partner who was ducking and weaving go for a knockout punch with their strongest hand.

To be honest, I still feel awkward most of the time when practicing new drills, especially when we have to stand so close to our partners in order to do the drill correctly. However, I know that with more lessons I will become more comfortable because I have become more comfortable with lessons than I was at the beginning. The biggest improvement that I have seen in myself so far is that after lessons I do not require as much time to recuperate as I needed after my first few lessons. This definitely makes me feel stronger and feel that I have come a long way.

The “Kick” in “Kickboxing”

Standard

All of the classes that I have been to so far have only focused on different types of punches that we can use when trying to defend ourselves. Though I know that this is very useful, part of me always wonders when we will get to practice different kicks.

Right before class I started to try and mentally prepare myself for the circle drill with the hopes to not feel out of breath afterward. However, just thinking about doing the drill made me exhausted.

One of the first things that threw me off with this lesson was that the director and the usual instructor were not there so we ended up receiving a lesson from an assistant instructor. We started off with some stretches that brought back memories of elementary school. One stretch we did was that awkward one where you take your arms and make big circles and hope not to hit anyone else in the face or get in the face by somebody else. That was always a fear of mine. Nobody else? Oh, never mind then.

Moving on, the assistant instructor said that we would be focusing on learning kicks today and my eyes lit up because I was so excited. He walked over to the wall and seemed to effortlessly lift his leg up to be perpendicular to the wall. I was literally in awe of how easily he seemed to be able to do this. He then proceeded to stretch and touch his hands to his foot positioned against the wall and after touched his hands to his foot on the floor. He then encouraged everyone else to find a section of the wall and try to do the exercise. I was apprehensive as I began thinking that there is no way I will be able to lift my leg even remotely as high off the ground. Surprisingly, it only took me one try to get in a comfortable position where I was standing far enough away from the wall to have my leg straight and not feel as though I was going to fall. In my opinion, this stretch looks uncomfortable and awkward at first but I got used to it rather quickly and enjoyed practicing it.

After this stretch, we practiced with partners going from one side of the room to the other using both punches and kicks. One thing I noticed that is important when going through drills is developing a pattern that works for you. Instructors will show you what the moves are supposed to look like so you know how to practice them with your partner but the specifics are up to you. For example, how many punches you want to throw at your partner before you kick them is totally your call. I found that most of the other people in class seem to know how many punches they want to throw each time before they go for a knockout punch when we practice the circle drill. I, on the other hand, forget to think of how many I want to throw ahead of time and hesitate before kicking wondering if I punched enough before. By not feeling prepared, I also tend to always throw the same kind of punches, right toward the middle of the face. The possible disadvantages of throwing the same punches include that my partner will catch on to this and realize where they need to block or where I am unprotected. By pre-determining how many punches I would like to throw before going for a knock-out punch or a kick, I will have the chance to think of when I can incorporate an upper cut or a punch to my opponent’s kidneys.

I never watched any fighting movies or television shows that talked about different moves in kickboxing but when my instructor said we were going to practice roundhouse kicks with our partners I got excited. I knew that it was a popular move and was interested despite the fact that I thought it would be tough because I thought it was a move only professionals would be able to do correctly. I did have some trouble but luckily the instructor was able to break down the move into a few steps that made it a lot easier to understand. One important step in this move is that when you are supposed to turn around before you kick your opponent again, you are supposed to stick your leg out so you are able to tell the general location of your opponent.

I am beyond thrilled that we are beginning to learn how to incorporate both leg and arm movements into kickboxing. In my opinion, it makes kickboxing more exciting and gives me hope that if I ever need to use kickboxing skills to defend myself and it looks like I might be losing against someone that I can come up with a way to turn the fight around and win.

Size Matters

Standard

All my life I have worked hard to not see myself at an automatic disadvantage because of my size. However, it is still a challenge when the first thing that people notice is that I am short and they frequently feel it is necessary to inform me of this fact as if it has never crossed my mind.

In class, the instructor usually encourages people of or close to the same height to be partners. The circumstances are always different because there are people of all different ages and heights and some people are not at all the classes. There is usually three other girls who are around my height however they usually have a friend who is the same height which leaves me with someone who is noticeably taller. This leads to problems, like when it is my turn to hold the punching cushion for my partner to practice, I often feel as though I have to try and push myself to hold the cushion higher because I would like them to feel as they are getting sufficient practice.

Although when I signed up for classes I anticipated getting injured at some point, I have managed to keep that concern out of mind in order to be able to focus on improving skills. Up until this class, I have survived unscathed.

After I practiced one drill, it was my turn to hold the punching cushion for my partner. It was difficult for me because you are supposed to hold the cushion by the side of your face. I often cannot get the cushion completely over by the side of my face and because of this it ends up covering some of my face. My partner who has had much more experience with kickboxing than me, punched the cushion a few times. Next thing I know, she punches towards the cushion and I end up getting hit by my left eye because of both the force and my inability to keep my hand secured on the cushion. My partner felt bad and asked if I needed a minute and went to go punch a punching bag while I took a minute to make sure I was feeling okay. Luckily, my partner was going easy on me with her punches so I was not hurting too badly and I took the time to try and get over the shock and laugh it off once I knew I was okay. The director walked into the room a minute later and casually said something about me taking a break but before I could respond, my partner turned around and said I got hit a little in the eye. I explained that I was fine and tried to put a positive spin on the situation by saying that it was a good experience to get hit in a safe environment and the director agreed and laughed. I often reflect on how much of the real experience I might be missing because people are going easy on me since I still have so much to learn. Therefore, although it might sound weird to say, I think this was an experience I needed. Yes, a good portion of being an effective fighter is knowing how to throw a punch and avoid getting hit I figure it is also important to know how to take a hit because if you can’t bounce back quickly and defend yourself, you’ve lost.

Furthermore, a lot of the time I am asked by partners if they are punching too hard for me because they could go easier on me if I’m having a hard time. I do have trouble most times because of how hard they punch and always think it is abundantly clear that I’m struggling. However, I never tell them to go easier on me. My perspective is that in a real fight if you opponent will not go easy on you and if they know you are struggling they know they are close to winning.

I have been paired with an instructor several times and have realized in one way that having an instructor as a partner serves as a disadvantage. This is because the time we are given for each drill is split in half so each partner gets to practice. However, when I am paired with an instructor they let me practice the drill the entire time. From my perspective, this is a disadvantage because I do not get to experience the feeling of getting punched or kicked, therefore I found this a very good experience.  Also, a big reason why I never say anything is because I would like to be able to handle how hard they are punching and the only way that I will be able to do so is by being continually exposed to it. I don’t want anyone to go significantly easier on me in class for too long because of my experience level or because of my size because odds are if I am to get into a fight I will be in a fight with someone taller than me.

It is extremely important to recognize your limits in a physically straining situation. Although I try to push myself as much as possible, there are times I tell my partner I need a minute to recuperate because my arms hurt too much. It is in your best personal interest and well-being to figure out your limits because only you know how you feel and can properly assess whether it is best for you to rest or try even harder.

Changing Things Up

Standard

Just when I thought that I was starting to get a hang of the class and found routine in the lessons more changes and different things to confuse me have come about to throw me off.

One thing that has been routine for the past couple of lessons has been the circle drill. When this started to become a regular practice I realized it must be because it serves as a warm-up before we get into focusing on main moves. We often go through this drill for the first 15 minutes of class but by the time that we are done I feel like enough time went by where it should be time for class to be over. Although routinely working on something is logically the only way to improve, repetitiveness eventually becomes extremely boring to me and then I eventually lose the drive to improve my performance. However, the instructor always finds other moves to incorporate into this drill that use the entire body and keep things fresh.

The first time we did this drill it simply consisted of circling around the room in our fighting stance. The instructor then added throwing punches and circling around the opposite way when we started moving again. Occasionally the instructor would say “ reverse” and that would mean we would have to face outside the circle and spin around while still being expected to keep moving in the bigger circle. The drill then started to include push-ups and squats. Also, sometimes when we are expected to do a squat, we are told to throw a punch every time we come up from the squat. Though I believe I strongly have expressed my hatred and inability to perform push-ups, being instructed to do them is a nice break because circling around the room gets exhausting. While the rest of the class is able to do push-ups, I attempt to do them but often end up just doing somewhat of a plank while bending my arms. Luckily the instructor has not noticed this yet because he often is too busy performing the exercises himself.

The first couple of times we did this drill the instructor would stand inside of the circle we created and throw punches at us that we would have to block by keeping our hands by the side of our eyebrows. It is important to get used to keeping your hands in this location because this is where your hands should stay when you are fighting. This is the ideal place to keep your hands because it is the softest part of your head and you can block your stomach while keeping your hands in this location. Often because of all of the movements, I find it challenging to remember when we go back into moving around in the circle that my hands need to go back by my head. While most of the drills we did with our partner were more practice of what we did last class, one of the employees would always come over when he saw me with my hands not by my head and move my hand up. This kept me on my toes because he did this several times when I did not expect it and when I realized that I did not have my hand in the proper position I would move it quickly so he did not come back to correct it.

Instead of having to remember that everything that I do has to be opposite of the instructor, my newest problem is imagining what the move would look like from a mirrored perspective so I don’t have to ask the instructor for help. No matter what partner I am with they always try to help me understand how to do the move but get confused because they are right-handed. During my sixth class, however, I was partnered with someone else who was also a southpaw. Although you would think that this would make the class easier, we still got confused how to perform the drills because we would forget what hand we needed to switch to when the instructor had us do the drill alternating which hand we use to punch.

Often when things are too confusing for me, I’ll admit I become too easily tempted to give up and walk away. I end up getting overwhelmed and start to think no time I give will lead to me understanding the task any better. However, there are other times where I become frustrated that a task is confusing because I want to understand it so badly that I become motivated to do whatever I have to for as long as I need to in order to understand it even if it feels like it will take me forever. Though I hope for one day where I will find routine and understand everything, the classes keep me wondering what will happen next and are never boring!

Inner Strength

Standard

I never contemplated saying aloud, “I don’t want to go to kickboxing” until it was time for my 5th lesson. The day before class, I had so much work to do and some could only be done at school so I stayed up until around 4:15 a.m. finishing some work and I was up again around 9:45 a.m. ready for my mom to pick me up from school. I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and my right arm was hurting for some reason I’m still confused about.

I mentioned how horrible I felt in the car and ended up sleeping until we were close to the class. My mom and I talked briefly about just skipping the class and going home. But no, there was a voice in my head that said I should go and power through how miserable I felt.

The instructor told us we would be going in a circle around the room to practice staying in our fighting stance again. He added when he said “punch” we had to stop and punch until he told us to go around in a circle again. I thought this would be no problem because we’ve done this drill several times. I couldn’t have been more wrong; first of all, the pants I had on were bigger on me than I remembered, so along with trying to circle around the room in my fighting stance, every time he told us to punch I would have adjust my pants rather than punching. On top of this, I quickly became winded and it seemed like we were doing this drill for a lifetime. When we went from punching to going around in a circle again, he would tell us to go in the reverse direction.  Almost every time I had to take a minute to think of what direction I just came from. When the drill finally ended, I was out of breath, exhausted and now both of my arms and the lower part of my stomach were in pain.  To make matters worse, only 15 minutes passed. During the short break we had I wondered how I was going to get through the other 45 minutes of class and contemplated telling the instructor I felt awful and had to go home.

Again, I told myself to power through how absolutely horrible I was feeling. We then were told to get with a partner and practice throwing punches at a punching cushion. I thought this would be easy but I had to hold the cushion with my right arm which was hurting before class. My partner was able to punch fast and strong which did not help my situation at all.  The next drill we did was one partner held a punching cushion in each hand and the other person would have to swat away the hand extended in their direction before it came near their face. Then, they would have to punch their partner’s other hand which the partner would hold adjacent to their face. This process was confusing for me, so rather than my partner switching which hand she would extend toward me at first, she only did it with her left hand. Once I caught on, we switched to extending her right hand, which meant I would punch with my left. When I made this transition, my punches had more force. The director, my partner, and the instructor all saw this and were extremely proud of me. The director was wondering where my aggression came from because usually I don’t punch with as much force and the instructor even patted me on the back.

The last drill we did was going from one side of the room to the other with our partner and practice punching with one hand. I began thinking about one of the women at my first lesson when we were doing seven minutes in hell and how she said imagine the punching bag/cushion is someone you hate. I began thinking about someone who negatively impacted my life. I then combined this resentment with my frustration about the constant stress of homework. I allowed myself to get as angry as I could and it motivated me to push myself harder in class.

After my lesson my arms were shaking and I was starving. Once I was home, I tried to eat but gave up shortly after because my arm was in too much pain and the action of feeding myself seemed too difficult to be worth the reward.

Despite the fact that I found the first part of the class challenging to get through, I was ultimately glad I didn’t accept any excuses I could think of for missing or leaving the lesson early. Although I kept pushing myself, I realize there are times where it is better to take a day away from exercise. I found through research  having back pain or feeling  a sharp pain after your previous exercise session are two signs to skip working out. This experience made me realize deep down I have the power to endure things I think I cannot at first and that mental strength is as important, if not more important, than physical strength.

Here is an interesting source if you would like to learn more about when it might be a good idea to skip exercising:

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/when-not-to-exercise?page=2