Tonawanda News

April 1, 2013

Fitness programs turning to martial arts

By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Three months into 2013 and those of us who made resolutions to lose weight and work out more might still be feeling the burn, but maybe also a little boredom.

Susan Bardack, public relations specialist for Best Fitness, said that these days, fitness often involves combatting the monotony of simply walking on a treadmill or using an elliptical machine. 

"Fitness is becoming much more about tapping into things people are interested in," she said, adding that people are turning to dance-related workouts like Zumba and choreographed martial arts programs.

"I think the industry is seeing these are really popular programs because it's something everybody can do and it's set to music," she added.

When it comes to martial arts, it's not just about learning how to take out an opponent and it's not just for the already fit. Sometimes it's a way to keep people interested in their workout routine.

Lauren Kanouff, an instructor at Jindo Martial arts in the Town of Tonawanda, said the majority of her students sign up for kickboxing, kettlebell and cage fitness classes for the fitness aspect. No one goes to classes with the intention of actually decking another person.

Mostly, it't just "a great stress reliever," she said.

Student Heather Fleming said she finds the kickboxing class to be a lot of fun and a great way to work off the stress of the day.

"I have one, two, three, four faces ready to go," she said with a laugh, pointing at different markings on a punching bag.

Kanouff has seen an uptick in interest for martial arts-related fitness classes in recent years in part because of the growing popularity of mixed martial arts fights and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. 

"I think with those type of sports now being so mainstream, there's been a lot more of a draw to martial arts to get fit," she said. Plus, "you get the opportunity to hit something."

Jeremy Ramsey, personal training director at Best Fitness in the Town of Tonawanda, said the gym has recently launched a new martial arts fitness program that draws from karate, kickboxing, boxing, taekwondo and tai chi into something called BodyCombat.

BodyCombat is a Les Mills program offered at a variety of gyms throughout the nation. All gyms that offer the choreographed routines are on the same three-week cycle

"Let's say you went to Best Fitness in Albany, you could then go to a gym in Florida that offers Les Mills BodyCombat and find the exact same choreography," Ramsey said. "Every three months (Les Mills) sends a new CD (to all gyms) with new choreography."

"Classes, which are set to driving music, involve punching, kicking, striking and approximately 1,700 crunches in an hour," a release from Best Fitness said about the BodyCombat program.

Ramsey also pointed to the rise in popularity of professional martial arts fighting as a reason for the uptick in such programs.

"It's becoming more mainstream and honestly, it's fun," he said. "You can be in a room with music and do jumping jacks or you can feel like a fighter in a ring."

Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.