Kickboxing improves physical, mental health

Kickboxing improves physical, mental health

WATCH AND LEARN: Demonstrating a tornado kick, Master Ray Kyi slowly walks through each step of the move to ensure that the students understand how to execute it perfectly. Kyi is a certified martial arts instructor at Akyi Martial Arts on Waukegan Road. Photo by Katelyn Luckey

Lauren Frias, co-a&e editor

With kickstands reaching up to my five-foot stature, it was hard to ever see myself joining a martial arts school. However, after making my New Year’s resolution to get in better shape and try new things, kickboxing seemed like a good fit for my ambitions. Driving into the parking lot of Akyi Martial Arts, I observed kids half my age sparring in their white taekwondo uniforms, or doboks, and was inspired to be just like them, oddly enough.

I went into lessons in late January, thinking I was going to break four-by-fours in half and do mid-air kicks in no time, but I started out not being able to lift my leg higher than waist-level. Master Ray Kyi, an instructor at Akyi, took time to carefully critique and readjust my kicking form. He works with each student individually in class, making sure that we are using safe and proper posture as we kick.

Master Ray’s philosophy is as follows: “I am committed to learning, to free my spirit, so I can become the best I can possibly be. Only then can I help stimulate, inspire, share powerful ideas and lead others to become the best they can possibly be.”

His supportive teaching helps students of various skill levels reach their highest potential.

During the lessons I had three times a week, all I had echoing through my head were the words, “Pivot your foot when you roundhouse,” or “Make sure you turn your shoulders when you kick.” Advice was given to me left and right, and I took it to my advantage to work on the things I’ve been doing wrong and not let my pride get in the way of my learning. I made sure to listen carefully and pay close attention to demonstrations of moves that we were doing in class. I made sure that I was performing the right kick in the right sequence, whether it be punch-punch-kick, kick-punch-kick, etc.

Though the learning of kicking and punching seems juvenile, it took a lot more concentration than I had initially guessed. My motto throughout the hour-and-a-half long lesson was, “Haste makes waste.” Never did I try to pull off a kick too fast or attempt a mid-air move just to look cool in front of the younger students (who, by the way, still could kickbox better than I could at this point). After a painful experience with kicking the plastic part of the kickstand versus the cushioned part, I learned that I should calculate my moves first, then pick up the pace once I established the basics.

Now in my fifth week of lessons, I believe that I have improved immensely since my first week, but it wasn’t a one-man effort. With the helpful support and instruction from Master Ray and other advanced students, I am one step closer to becoming as skilled as the kids I saw on my first lesson.

Looking back on the time I spent at Akyi, I noticed several benefits that kickboxing has, both mentally and physically. Kickboxing can definitely be deemed as an intense workout. By the end of each lesson, I was out of breath and ready to pass out (not literally, though). Physically, however, participating in kickboxing not only improved my coordination, but it also increased my flexibility as well as my endurance.

Concentrating on the specific steps it takes to perform a single move helped improve my focus. Moreover, it’s a great stress reliever to kick and punch targets with all your might.

The fact that I know how to defend myself alleviates my worries that I won’t know what to do if I ever get attacked. This sense of security also boosted my self-confidence. I broke the social norm that a five-foot girl can’t defend herself, yet here I am with the capability of surprising a guy twice my size with a single punch. All of this wouldn’t be possible if I had not received the prime education at Akyi Martial Arts.

As a whole, the atmosphere at Akyi both comforts and challenges you. Surrounded by people of varying skill levels, I found myself both playing the role of the teacher and the student—helping students who are struggling learning a certain move and taking advice on how to better my stance. Kickboxing lessons never fail to be the highlight of my week. With continual practice and education, I can see myself in the near future breaking stacks of four-by-fours and doing mid-air kicks like a martial arts professional.