Kickboxing, as you might already know, is a terrific workout for strength training, cardiovascular improvement, and muscle coordination. What you may not have heard, however, is that it's also a butch booster. "Kickboxing makes men feel like they can kick some butt," says Rommel Malabanan, two-time Personal Trainer of the Year honoree by Fitness Professional Magazine. "It gives people self-esteem," he adds, emphasizing the fact that, while most people initially try the sport for the cardio benefits, kickboxing's "a complete arm and leg workout."
Like yoga, spinning, and good-old-fashioned aerobics, kickboxing (technically, a combination of boxing and martial arts) is taught at all different levels, making it accessible to the most macho-challenged among us. Cardio kickboxing is offered at most major gym chains (talk with a manager or on-site trainer; while some clubs offer specific kickboxing instruction, others incorporate the sport into more generalized fitness classes). You don't need a partner for this type of kickboxing, and the people you'll encounter are probably not determined to become the next Bruce Lee. Cardio kickboxing instruction usually lasts about an hour, starting with a warm-up of calisthenics before moving on to combination punches and kicking. Since these classes often hold up to 50 people, of varying age groups, the emphasis is on safe movements while increasing your heart rate.
If you become too advanced for gym classes, or decide you'd like to kickbox competitively, you'll need to find a martial arts or kickboxing studio in your area or enlist the help of a personal trainer. Your best bet in searching is to ask either a great instructor at your gym—if he doesn't offer private sessions, chances are he'll know someone who does—or simply approach the karate kid next to you and ask him where he got his chops. He'll probably be a better source than the Internet or the Yellow Pages.
The full-body benefits of kickboxing are found in the word itself. While kicking takes advantage of every major muscle in your legs, punching utilizes not just your arms, but also your chest, shoulders, and core muscles (the back and abdomen). Another advantage to the sport is that, unlike traditional boxing, you're punching at the air and therefore less likely to get injured (boxing bags can shock your muscles). You are, however, always aiming at a particular spot, which helps to improve your motor skills. Adding to the muscle-building aspect of kickboxing is the use of free weights; students often use up to eight-pound dumbbells when punching.
If you're still worried this sport sounds like it's more suited for Tom of Finland types—or Rosie—remember that any instructor worth his weights tailors his classes accordingly, spending time with individual students as needed and encouraging students to slow down (or stop) if an exercise gets too difficult. Note: If you have any knee, hip, or ankle problems, you should consult your doctor before taking a kickboxing class. The sport can aggravate your joints.
Now that you've got it down, go out and get some ass—to kick, of course.
David Toussaint is the author of the book Gay and Lesbian Weddings: Planning the Perfect Same-Sex Ceremony. A professional playwright, short-story and travel writer, he is currently at work on a novel. You can reach him at www.davidtoussaint.com.
Rommel Malabanan is a two-time Personal Trainer of the Year honoree by Fitness Professional Magazine and owner of Core Fit New York in Staten Island; 917-227-1737.