Have you ever wanted to channel your inner Jean Claude Van Damme?  I did and it was freakin’ awesome.


Back in May, my friend Dave – us Dave’s run in packs – mentioned that I should try different types of exercise and write about them.  I always say finding your fitness is the only way to get in shape.  He was nicely telling me to put my money where my mouth is.  


He suggested I try his kickboxing class.   


Challenge accepted good friend, challenge accepted.


Now let me preface this before I go on.  I’ve watched my fair share of UFC events, but I am not a fighter in any stretch of the imagination.  I took a four week Tae Kwon Do summer program when I was 10 and quit after the first week.  I also got into one fight when I was a kid which lasted just long enough for me to get punched in the nose.  My illustrious fighting career ended 0-1.


So to say this class was in my comfort zone would be the furthest thing from the truth.  Hell, I had never even taken a fitness class before.  I wasn’t even near my comfort zone.


I’m an athlete; put me in a football drills or basketball practice and I’m right at home.  Make me punch or throw a roundhouse and I look like one of these kids. 


Dave and I went to The Martial Arts Fitness Center in Smithfield, RI.  He’s been going here and working with the Chief Instructor, Rui A. Rodrigues, for around 20 years.


The class on the agenda was KBox Beast Mode.  I cried a little on the inside.




The first thing I noticed about the place is the sense of community and respect that is present here.  From what I remember of my extensive martial arts career, it was very hierarchical.  The instructors were like father figures and the students must respect and treat them accordingly.  


I felt Rui came at it as more of a big brother.  He knows everyone’s name and everyone knows each other.  Coming from a commercial gym this sense of community was weird but refreshing.


Rui runs classes out of an old factory which is a pleasant contrasts to the commercial Planet Fitness, ILoveKickBoxing atmosphere.  People are there to learn or get their asses kicked in one of Rui’s classes, it’s not a country club.




Going into the class I wasn’t 100% sure what was going to happen besides a few punches and kicks being thrown. I was nervous that I would look like a tool but I took my own advice and remembered to suck first so I could be awesome later.  Honestly, what was the worse that could happen – people realize I’m not a fighter? I think I scratched that career choice off a long time ago.


Talking to Rui beforehand, he mentioned that the workout is dependent on size of the class but it was going to focus on High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) either way.  Great for fat burning and losing your dinner if you made the mistake of eating before.


If the class was small we could use tires, the punching bags and do some different things that a bigger class wouldn’t allow based on spacing.  Our class had under 10 so I luckily (that’s a very subjective lucky) got to experience the full monty.


Before the class Rui helped me tape my hands and I immediately felt like Sagat from Street Fighter.  My badass level went from a feeble 1 to a strong 4.  


He got his headset, started the music and it was on.


First order of business was the warmup – grab a tire and do walking lunges with a twist towards the front leg.  Once you reach the end of the mat, drop down and do 30 crunches with the tire overhead.  This was followed by two more sets of twisting walking lunges and 20 crunches then 10 crunches.  


After the first five minutes I had done about 60 total lunges and 60 crunches with a tire you’d find on a Honda.  I immediately proceeded to curse Dave in my head.


From there we channeled our inner fighter and hooked, crossed, jabbed and kicked our way to a sweaty mess at the end.  Since I was the newbie in the group, throughout the class Rui would show me how to punch and kick correctly to get the most out of the class.


Here was the workout:



Lunge w tire twist superset with 30,20,10 crunches

High knee on tire




L Jab

L Hook

L Cross

R Jab

R Hook

R Cross

Combo L-R-L (Jab, Hook and Cross)

Combo R-L-R (Jab, Hook and Cross)


Round House Kick L

Round House Kick R

Front kick L

Front kick R

Box Jump w Burpee on Tire

Jump Lunge on Tire

Squat with Tire

Split Lunge with Tire

Tire Step Through

Tire Squat Push with Partner


All done for about 2 min with the last 30 seconds going all out.  All punches and kicks were thrown in a 1-1,2-1,2,3 pattern.  By writing this out it really doesn’t do it justice.  By the end my lungs were burning and I was hoping it was snowing out so I could cool down.  No luck, it was 90.


I remember at one point looking at Rui as he was explaining the tire step throughs like “Are you freakin’ kidding me?”  


There were a few times that Rui knew I was wearing down.  My arms were like noodles and my lungs burned.  He came up to me and said “The class is going to go on with or without you.”  


I knew I wasn’t the linchpin holding this class together but him telling me there made me feel a lot better about taking a break to keep my lunch down.


Once the class ended everyone in the class congratulated each other on surviving.  It’s that sense of community and belonging you don’t see in commercial places that I’ve been.  If you have a hard time sticking to something, find a community to keep you accountable.



I can honestly say I really enjoyed the class.  My main goal was to work up a sweat and not have a stroke mid class – mission accomplished.


I knew I was going to look awkward but I wasn’t there to be an accomplished fighter.  I embraced the suck and went all in.  I was uncomfortable and nervous but after Rui’s tips and remembering that everyone else is there for the same reasons I am, it became a lot easier mentally.  


I also liked the fact that I didn’t have to plan my workout.  Having programmed my own workouts for the past 10 years or so it was a relief to let go.


This class is not for everyone.  Rui makes you work.  He let’s you go at your own pace and like he suggested to me, if you need a break, take one.  If you’ve struggled to stick to a traditional gym, a class setting with a sense of community might be the thing that keeps you on track.  


I encourage everyone to try kickboxing at least once, even if you are less of a fighter than I am.  This isn’t bloodsport.  This is just an alternative to get in shape combining fighting with HIIT.  The class was non-stop action for the ADD in all of us.


According to LiveStrong.com a 185 pound person can burn up to 888 calories in an hour class.  Having experienced the class I would whole heartily agree with that.  I haven’t gotten my ass kicked like that in a long time.


If you are interested in giving a kickboxing class a try.  I suggest skipping the commercial places and going for a smaller martial arts place like Rui runs.  In a class like this, the instructor makes or breaks the class.  Having met Rui I feel like going anywhere else would be a giant disappointment.  Add to that the community aspect and you have the perfect recipe for a sustainable way to get in shape.


I would like to personally thank Rui for allowing me to experience one of his classes and kicking my ass.


If you are interested in the Martial Arts Fitness Center in Smithfield, RI, give Rui a call at (401)-949-3376.  He offers classes for men, women and children all day.  Don’t forget to Like them on Facebook and check out their website for the schedule and to sign up.




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