Martial arts-inspired group exercise classes draw from karate, boxing, taekwondo, tai chi and muay tai to give members a high-energy, high-cardio workout. This includes classes like Cardio Kickbox, Kickboxing Circuit, Boxing Circuit and Les Mills BODYCOMBAT, which get your heart pumping with a variety of kicks, blocks and punches.

Man boxing with dumbbell

Troy, a Kickboxing and Circuit Kickboxing instructor at the Y, loves to teach martial arts-inspired classes because they offer a full-body workout in a really fun environment. “You’ll work everything from your calves to your shoulders,” he says. “It’s a lot of cardio and conditioning your muscles. We’re always learning something new and challenging our bodies by working against natural resistance.”

The gear

You don’t need to be a boxer to try these classes. You don’t even have to own any gear. At the Y, we have punching bags, gloves, and jump ropes for members to borrow. Equipment varies by class: you may be hitting a bag in Boxing Circuit but using only body weight in BODYCOMBAT. Some members do like to bring their boxing gloves.

The workout

Members boxing

Similar to other YMCA group exercise classes, you’ll get out what you put into it in terms of burning fat and calories. Troy’s goal is to keep his participants’ heart rates in the target cardio zone.

“We do intervals to bring your heart from its aerobic to anaerobic state and then back again to build endurance. You can burn anywhere from 300 calories to upwards of 600 or 700 calories,” he says. “If you want to make it a light workout, you can make it a light workout. But, you also have the opportunity to make it an intense workout and burn the maximum number of calories.”

Improving coordination

Woman boxing

You’ll see members of all ages in a martial arts-inspired class. Troy has members who are anywhere from 18 years old to over 65 years old. Instructors can make modifications based on age, injury or ability. “Anyone can do these classes,” he says. “You can challenge yourself—throw some punches, do some kicks, do some squats and get your workout in.”

In addition to building endurance and increasing agility, classes like Boxing Circuit and Cardio Kickbox improve the coordination between different areas of your body, like eyes, arms, feet and mind. You may even see your reflexes improve. But, Troy says we’re mostly after a positive attitude: “As long as there’s a smile, we’re good to go.”

Building community

Troy sees the same members week after week in class, but newcomers are always welcome into the fold. When you do partner drills—like one person holding the bag while the other punches—you’ll make connections quickly. “I actually have participants who have become great friends after meeting in class,” he says. “I love seeing my students build community.”

Find a martial arts-inspired class at a Y location near you on our group exercise schedule.