Let me start by saying, I am not athletic. When I was in high school I would have done almost anything to get out of gym class so I could read instead. I’m a nerd, in the real sense, not in the cool hipster sense. I’m tall so people assume that I am sporty but really, I’m quite uncoordinated and my long legs only make things worst. As an adult, I’ve waged a war with my awkwardness, not letting it hinder me the way it did when I was young. I took up yoga and now I run (albeit badly) and I work very hard against the fact that I was born athletically-deficient. Seriously, you could probably get off your couch for the first time in six months and outrun me, and I run at least twice a week; this does not come naturally. In light of our whole team getting out of their comfort zones and trying something new – I tried kickboxing, something that I had always wanted to try. Not the cardio-focused, normal gym kick boxing but Muay Thai, martial arts, kickboxing. This means you’re training with the pros. Not doing random kicks to Madonna songs (not that I’m against one or the other.)
So after a couple weeks of chickening out and making excuses, I showed up at TKMT one afternoon, armed with yoga pants, adrenaline and the hope that I wouldn’t pass out. TKMT boasts itself as a gym with the most female participants out of all of the martial arts studios in the GTA and has a lot of beginner classes, making it a great place for anyone looking to breach the world of martial arts. I showed up early as the website suggested to fill out the forms and pay my $10 fee for my first beginner class.
The space was what I expected, not a GoodLife, polished and corporate, but a fighting gym laid out with a ring, matts and punching bags. I changed in the barebones women’s change room and clutched my water as I waited for the warm up to start. As I soon discovered, they run all levels of classes at the same time, the warm up and cool down are done together, while skills and training are done separately. Which means the warm up is done with beginners, intermediate and the pros. Within five minutes I was dripping sweat and wondering why I had gone temporarily insane and decided to try this. We started out with skipping, sound easy, right? Wrong. You may remember I mentioned that I’m uncoordinated? Well it turns out, I also don’t know how to skip. I started by kicking one leg back after another like a little kid does at recess. The instructor, a slightly scary but very funny Thai man and former professional fighter named Ajahn who yells a lot and indiscriminately calls everyone ‘Sir’ came over and gave me some pointers which was equally helpful and embarrassing. While I still wasn’t great, at least I could keep up… sort of. I also discovered in that moment that skipping is hard, and with the adrenaline already pumping from deep-seated nerd-panic, I was quickly out of breath. After several long minutes we moved on to sprinting, sit ups, push ups and planks often together, while crab walking to the opposite wall in a room roughly the size of a small soccer field. It was the longest hour of my life and ended with a five minute squat, and some awkward exercises where you partner with someone (in my case a very friendly and understanding stranger who took pity on me) where you do push ups while holding their feet as they do sit ups and many more awkward two person work outs. I can’t say I was the worst in the class as there were a couple of other beginners struggling along with me at the rear, but it didn’t boast my self-esteem much.
When we finally moved on to the skills portion, where I was safe with the other beginners, about a team of 6 of us, I had sweat more than hot yoga and was ready to crawl home in shame. However, this was the part I came for so I swallowed my pride and put on some boxing gloves. I was partnered with a very nice guy who was well matched in skill and height (that matters) and we were taught hitting. I quickly learnt I have a lot more strength than I would have thought.Turns out, even awkward me, when taught correctly can throw a punch.You take turns holding the pads, while your partner hits/kicks and vice versa. It was great to let off some steam and I have to say, it was fun. Our instructor Tracy was patient and a good teacher, despite getting repeatedly interrupted by Ajahn who kept jumping in from the higher level classes to correct our technique and explain things out of turn of what we had learnt. It was funny but also provided good pointers as we went along, like focusing your vision in order to keep your balance. After over two and a half hours the class ended with punches, burpees (because why not) squat jump things (because why not) and then a cool down with everyone. I walked out proud that I had tried it and glad that it was over. I felt great, until the next day when I discovered I have overworked my poor unathletic calves and proceeded to have trouble moving for three days afterwards.
Overall, it was a great experience but one I’m not sure I will repeat. For starters the class is too long, I don’t have that kind of time out of my day on a regular basis. Secondly the facilities were so rudimentary I would have to go home after the class to wash up, which isn’t always possible if I need to run to work. I really enjoyed the kickboxing portion and plan to find another gym with a shorter class time in order to improve.
So, what should you take from this? Get out of your comfort zone, go give something a try you’ve been curious about. You might just discover you aren’t the worst in the class. Also, if you decide to work out way above your ability – stretch properly afterwards or you may be walking funny for a few days.
Thanks to TKMT for the great class!