Martial Arts Fusion Classes Are On The Rise
“Today’s martial-arts classes have progressed to a new level because consumers are looking for more and seeking greater diversity in their fitness activities. Instructors are fusing different types of martial arts with step moves, strength training, water fitness and kids’ fitness programs, among other things. We are also seeing the introduction of a wide variety of fitness equipment into martial arts classes such as resistance tubing, BOSU balance trainers, resistance balls, medicine balls and paddles,” says Kathie Davis, Executive Director of IDEA Health & Fitness Association.
Charlene Johnson, the creator of a martial arts fusion program called Turbo Kick™, says that, “the majority of our participants today are females who are not interested in learning to fight. They are drawn to newer formats that place more emphasis on the element of fun. These classes allow students to breakout of the military style of kickboxing and play with simple dance movements in between the kicks and the punches.” To accommodate her students’ desires, Johnson of Laguna Hills, California, created Turbo Kick™ which fuses elements of “dance, muay tai kickboxing, cardio kickboxing, athletic drills and kata-stylized kicks.”
At Fitness Express International in Miami, Janis Saffel and Guillermo Gomez offer a host of martial arts fusion classes. These programs incorporate circuit training, strength training, ballet drills, Zen breathing techniques, Pilates and step with traditional martial arts formats like aikido, tae kwon do, jujitsu and karate. “The biggest challenge we face is teaching multiple levels – showing modifications and keeping the die-hard gurus motivated while keeping everyone safe,” say Saffell and Gomez.
One thing today’s instructors are desperately trying to combat is the impression that martial arts are unsafe – a reputation that many say is undeserved since they are working to ensure that students perform new movements correctly in order to avoid injuries. “I start all my classes with techniques training and repeatedly explain and correct the moves, with particular emphasis on how to protect the elbows and knee,” says Ilaria Montagnani, an instructor in New York City who merges conventional martial arts moves with muscle-sculpting exercises in her “Body Strikes” class.
She adds that it is best to go slowly when fusing new formats into a martial arts class. “Each class should incorporate only a few new moves because it is unrealistic to expect students to be able to perform everything correctly.”
Music is another element in martial arts fusion, especially as a way to ease the transition from one format to another. “We use music recorded at about 138 beats per minute (bpm), but we also encourage our instructors to slow the music when kicking or when participants seem to be lacking in execution,” says Charlene Johnson. Janis Saffel adds that “music is very important … it sets the mood of the class and gets participants motivated to do their best.”
The comments of Johnson, Saffel, Gomez and Montagnani appear in the article, “Martial Arts Fusion Classes Pack a Punch” found in the October 2003 issue of IDEA Health & Fitness Source.
• Kickbox Step: kickboxing combinations on the step
• Lethal Legs: tae kwon do, ballet
• Martial Arts Flexibility: kung fu, yoga
• Martial Athletics: sport-specific kicking, punching and stance drills
• Powerstrike: karate, kickboxing, cardio format
• Turbo Kick: dance, tae kwon do, boxing, t’ai chi, hip hop
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