Kickboxing, Martial Arts and Self-Defense Tips

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Feb 26

Coppell Personal Trainer Tip –
Week #4 Tip – Self Defense Tip – Punches

Week #3 Tip – Self Defense Tip – Knee Kick

Week #2 Tip – Self Defense tip – Front Kick to shin

Week #1 TipKickBoxing, Martial Arts, and Self-Defense

Since the program this month is on incorporating some moves from exercise kickboxing into our workouts, I wanted to write an article that would clarify the difference between kickboxing, martial arts and self-defense. Over the last 25 years, I have been involved in teaching all three of these disciplines although today my main focus is women’s self-defense. I am often asked during exercise kickboxing classes if the punches and kicks we are practicing will work in a real life attack. While these moves can get you in great cardiovascular shape, it’s very different from the real life skills required for effective self -defense. So, what’s the difference between these practices?

First, let’s look at a little history. The martial arts in various forms have been around for thousands of years, some Chinese forms dating back to 4000BC. These traditions were formed to teach combat methods used in wars between nations, groups or individuals. There are hundreds of martial arts and they are different from one another in their focus. There are “hard” styles, which utilize kicks, hand strikes and blocks, such as Japanese Karate or “soft” styles, such as Aikido, which teaches students to redirect their opponent’s momentum and end the attack with a throw or a joint lock. Many martial arts are associated with a spiritual component that practitioners use to center their mind and spirit as part of the training.

The popularity of the martial arts has grown immensely in the last century in the United States. Schools representing different styles began to populate America as practitioners from Asia and other places came here to open schools. Americans admired the discipline and physical fitness required for many of these arts.

Kickboxing is a group of stand up combat sports that involve various forms of kicking and punching originally developed from Karate, Muay Thai, Taekwondo and western boxing. The term kickboxing can be used in a specific way or in a broader sense. The specific use defines some of the martial arts that identify as kickboxing, such as Japanese and American Kickboxing. A broad use of the term encompasses all standup martial arts contests that allow both punching and kicking such as Muay Thai, Indian boxing, and full contact karate.

In recent years, the term kickboxing has been used to represent a form of exercise instead of a competitive sport, usually with no contact except for the student hitting pads. The fitness community embraced the exercise aspects of kickboxing in the early 1990s because it was fun, different, and an amazing workout when done with intensity. Classes using kickboxing techniques were everywhere from DVDs (remember Tae Bo?) to every gym offering some form of a fun kickboxing class.

The popularity of these classes is still strong today. Many gyms offer boxing classes where you learn to punch, block and move quickly on your feet. The standard techniques taught are the jab, cross, uppercut and hook. Boxing requires strong cardio endurance and most instructors will have you jumping rope for several minutes at a time along with your boxing workout. Punching in the air can be a great workout, but it gets even more challenging when you start to strike pads for impact. It’s a great stress reducer and sometimes it just feels good to hit something!

Proper form in boxing takes some practice and it is important to protect your hands when you start to hit a hanging bag or pads held by your instructor. The joints in our hands are delicate and if you aren’t punching with good form, you will likely end up with an injury. Competitive boxers wrap their hands and then put on a large padded glove, not to protect the face of their opponent, but to protect their own hands from being hurt. (Mike Tyson got in a bar fight many years ago and broke his own hand after just one punch.)

Exercise kickboxing adds kicks, knees and elbow strikes in addition to the basic boxing punches. The intensity of the workout increases when we use the large muscles in our lower body for kicking and striking. As with boxing, kicks are mastered first in the air and then students’ progress to a bag or hand held pad. Martial artists spend a great deal of time learning proper foot positioning, so they can kick in bare feet without incurring an injury. Those throwing kicks against bags for exercise also need to understand proper foot positions and should wear shoes or special pads to protect their feet as well.

The intensity of an exercise kickboxing workout comes from the effort you put into it. Punches and kicks are thrown with the idea that if you were hitting a person instead of a bag, you would hurt them. It’s a lot of fun, a great stress reducer and requires focus and concentration.

So, if you were to invest some time incorporating exercise kickboxing moves into your regular routine, you’d be getting a great workout and learning self-defense, right? While it seems logical that learning to punch and kick would be an asset to your personal safety, the reality is that self-defense skills are very different. In a real life situation with someone trying to cause you physical harm, everything changes. When we fear for our safety, our bodies are under stress and behave differently due to the effects of fear (adrenal stress) on our bodies. The surge of adrenaline and other chemicals prepare us for fight or flight from the threat. Our sensory perceptions change, breathing and blood flow are altered, as well as our ability to process information. Most importantly, we are dealing with a violent person who wants to hurt us, not merely compete with us. And in the real world, there are no rules.

Research shows that the best strategies to disable a bigger, stronger threat are focused strikes to vital targets, such as the eyes and throat. If you get your finger into your attacker’s eye, the situation ends. The biggest, strongest bad guy can’t keep coming when his eyes have been injured. The same goes for the throat, as even a light strike can cause the trachea to spasm or collapse. Effective self-defense involves several layers of strategies including vocal skills and other evasion techniques. Understanding how predators operate and the techniques they use is another important part of learning self-defense.

Some of the best self-defense techniques are the simplest to learn and don’t require strength to do well. More importantly, women need to have some tactile practice in the ways that they are commonly attacked. Women tend to be grabbed and contained and verbal threats are usually part of an attack. It is also critical to understand the use of weapons, whether by you or the attacker. The majority of sexual assaults that happen with young women tend to involve alcohol and drugs, where prevention skills are more critical than physical skills.

If you enjoy some of the kicking and punching we do in class, you may want to try out a class that will help you develop more exercise kickboxing skills. If you want to learn self-defense skills, invest some time in a class that will teach you how to address the real life skills you will need to survive. Please plan on coming to the self-defense seminar I will be doing for GYIS members to learn more on this topic.

Written by: Meg Hinkley

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Meg Hinkley

Get You In Shape Coach Since 2014
15 years experience in teaching self-defense classes.
Meg Hinkley, owner of Athena’s Strategies, has been teaching women to separate fact from fiction as it relates to their safety for over 15 years

Meg is excited to be joining the Get You In Shape team as a Coppell trainer.

Fitness has always been a part of Meg’s life.  She was a competitive swimmer for many years and then became very involved in martial arts where she met her husband, Paul.  Meg graduated from SMU and worked for 10 years for IBM before leaving to raise a family.  While at home, Meg began teaching self-defense classes and currently teaches courses at several high schools, colleges, and private groups.  Meg has also taught kickboxing for a number of years and  incorporates a few of those exercises into the Get You In Shape program.
Meg and Paul have two children and live in Coppell.

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