08 April 2020

Getting started – kickboxing

December 4, 2009

Tired of the same old workout? With plenty of teaching clubs throughout the UK, kickboxing, a combination of martial arts and boxing, is an easily accessible sport for all abilities and fitness levels.

kickboxingWhat’s it all about?

Kickboxing is a sport which combines martial arts and boxing. It is often practiced for self-defence or general fitness as well as the full contact sport. Within kickboxing there are different styles – Japanese, American and European – each having their own rules and disciplines.

The basic moves are kicking, punching, jumping and blocking. The kicks are very similar to the martial arts of kung fu, taekwondo and karate – front kick, side kick, roundhouse kick and back kick. The punches are the same as in boxing – jab, cross hook and uppercut. The arms are held up next to the head to guard the face and prepare for any block manoeuvres.

Another element of kickboxing is sparring and there are two different types – full contact and semi contact.

How far can I take it?

Progression through kickboxing can be measured by a series of belts. Most clubs follow a 10-belt syllabus. Some start with the white belt but for most, red belt is the first stage and you finish with the black belt. With regular attendance, it usually takes about four years to complete. Once you have acquired all the belts there is the option of going for your 1st black, also known as 1st degree/dan – black belt. It’s a gruelling 2.5 hour assessment which will push your body to the maximum.

The sparring skills that you learn in kickboxing can be put to the test by entering tournaments. You can find out more information from your instructor.

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The basics

What are the benefits?

Kickboxing hones your balance, flexibility and co-ordination. It builds up your confidence levels and gives you a boost after completing each belt. A lot of the moves and combinations in this sport help with self-defence and are a great stress buster! Learning a new discipline can give you more focus and motivation to your fitness regime. If you feel up to it you might want to enter competitions to really challenge yourself.

What can I expect from a typical class?

Different instructors use various teaching techniques and class structure. Most classes last an hour. A typical class will always begin with a warm up – jogging round the room, stretches, press-ups, dips and crunches.

Once warmed up there might be someone who needs to be graded. Grading is when someone puts themselves forward to try out for a belt. There will be a series of moves and combinations you need to be able to do to pass. The class sit to one side as the person takes their grading. Some find it helps to have their gradings filmed so they can watch it back and see what techniques they need to build on. It can be quite nerve-racking being graded in front of the class but it gives you more of a sense of achievement and helps build your confidence. Just remember, everyone in the class has been in your position and we all have to start somewhere.

After the gradings, the class practice a certain combination or technique as a group. This could be a self defence move or punch and kick drills. As there are normally varying levels of students in one class, each student is given time to practice the combinations and drills needed for their belt level. The class then re-group for pad-work or glove up and pair off to practice punch and kick drills.

Can I get hurt?

There is a level of sparring involved in kickboxing and it isn’t optional. Sparring starts at the orange belt with a two minute round of light contact sparring. As you build your technique, skills and confidence the sparring will move up in intensity.

In training, opponents are padded up and wear gum-shields. There is always the risk of injury in contact sports. The sides of the legs are the areas with least protection so bruising may occur. Also, your feet and toes can get quite sore with certain kicks.

Sparring is the only time you will come into contact with another person. All other combinations and drills are performed individually without contact. The self defence manoeuvres are done to someone but with minimal force so you won’t get thrown across the room!

Is there an alternative to sparring?

Unfortunately you do have to spar to pass the third belt and above. If you are more interested in the self defence and fitness side of things then cardio kickboxing could be an option. This is more of a workout class than a discipline such as karate or taekwondo. They incorporate the punches, kicks and movements into a routine to music. Body Combat is another class which incorporates the same ideas.

What fitness level do I have to be at to start?

The good thing about kickboxing is that you can start from the beginning and build your way up in your own time. As you progress, your levels of technique and ability develop and improve. For this reason there is no specific fitness level required to start kickboxing.

What equipment do I need and what do I wear?

The best thing to do if you want to learn kickboxing is join a club. Buying DVDs might be cost-effective but you’ll never know whether your technique is correct. This means that you won’t have to buy any of the apparatus or padding needed as this will be provided in the class. To begin with all you need is some comfortable gym wear. Further down the line you may want to purchase your own gloves and you will most definitely need a gum-shield for sparring. Some clubs also have their own uniform (t-shirt, trousers) that you can buy. The gradings and belts come at an extra cost.

Courses and classes

There are many governing bodies and kickboxing associations and it’s quite easy to get confused as to which is the best or more suitable. ISKA and WAKO are the two main ones.

To find your local club visit http://www.iska.org.uk/

Kelly Bunyan’s Kickboxing classes – Central London


Locate your nearest Body Combat class:


To find out more information on competitions or tournaments in the UK:


Danielle Lee, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

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