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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Column: Pugil-tastic

Pugilistic is my new favorite word. I love pugilism (another word for boxing). Seriously, it’s the adrenaline, strength and power it creates that makes it worthwhile.

Like most other bright-eyed and bushy-tailed kids, I took Karate classes growing up. Never made it to brown belt but still thoroughly enjoyed my shot at punching a bag.

My interest in martial arts re-sparked when taking Andrea Khoo’s kickboxing P.E. class. As much as I loved Khoo’s class, I have found it difficult to keep practicing my side kicks.

The term “martial arts” comes from a 15th century European term referring to historical fencing. Today its meaning is much wider, incorporating Asian fighting styles. The purpose of these arts can be competition or developing knowledge of how to defend oneself against physical threat.

Modern kickboxing is a hybrid art with influences from modern Muay Thai and Karate.

Although Andrea’s class was training-centered, it was also a great fitness class. Fifty minutes twice a week and I did not feel guilty if I didn’t work out the rest of the week. An interesting thing happened at the end of the quarter – the class ended. Shocking, isn’t it? I was pretty bummed.

Where else was I going to find an equally efficient and fun kickboxing workout?

In the midst of a set class time and big group of people it’s hard not to be motivated. Even though I knew the class would eventually end, I told myself I would stick to the same routine and just kickbox on my own – same days and same times as the regular class. My kicks were becoming higher, more powerful and precise towards the end of the quarter, and that was motivation enough to keep practicing.

As you might expect, that plan worked for about a couple weeks. I went to my apartment’s “gym” at 8 a.m. when no one was there, turned up the music and just went all-out.

Pretty soon, it became repetitive – I was doing the same few things I remembered from class and was good at, over and over again. I wasn’t learning anything new.

Group exercise or P.E. classes may be great to spark your interest or motivation, but they are only the beginning. If there is a class that you really love and want more of, you have to figure out realistic ways to keep it alive.

That is why I bought the Gaiam Kickbox-Yoga fusion workout DVD. It combined two things I love into one heated workout. And I have the luxury of doing it in the comfort of my apartment, anytime of day (or night). The DVD has nothing on Khoo’s class, but it goes through all the basics of kickboxing and keeps my heart rate up.

Every time I do the workout, I learn something new – something I didn’t catch before or finally understand how to do.

I love being able to channel the strength within my body into a kick or a jab; there is something about using the whole body and mind that sets kickboxing apart from other sports.

Martial art oozes of regality and wisdom. Whether it’s the ancient art being handed down in the Karate Kid or Jackie Chan’s ass-kicking moves, our culture is fascinated with this ancient science and art form.

And that’s why I feel like martial arts is a big part of American culture; so many people are involved in it from a young age. In Davis there are a handful of martial arts studios downtown and classes continually offered at the ARC and Experimental College.

Even though it is a big part of American culture, when people find out I used to do Karate or that I do kickboxing, they are so surprised. Apparently I don’t look the part?

Anyway, boxing (pugilism) is one of the most amazing sports out there and a great way to build strength.

As a form of exercise, martial arts workouts increase flexibility, strength, coordination and stamina. Different types of martial arts also have the potential to contribute to mental health, self-control and emotional wellbeing.

And from my experience with Khoo’s class, kickboxing (paired with a balanced diet) helps with weight loss and builds muscle like nobody’s business.

Pugilism is not effective if done half-heartedly.

The physical benefits only come if you get really into it – stem all the movements from your core, use the whole body in every movement and put power and force into all the punches and kicks.

Still, I have to admit, when I think of kickboxing, the first person that comes to mind is Billy Banks. Yes, Tae Bo was the highlight of my junior high P.E. classes.

MEGHA BHATT wants to see your best spinning side kick. Kick it to mybhatt@ucdavis.edu.

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