“Keep it real. Stay with the fight.”
The first time I heard these words was close to two years after I had already finally quit procrastinating and joined the gym. They were almost two years after I had found the class that had changed my life. And they describe Les Mills Body Combat perfectly.
Body Combat is an aerobic fitness class based on mixed martial arts, and includes elements of boxing, kickboxing, karate, tae kwan do, capoiera and muay thai. It differs from classes that actually practice these disciplines as there is no actual combat. You’re also not going to receive any belts, and there are no competitions, except with yourself — to kick higher, punch harder and give more than you did in the previous class.
Three years ago, I joined the gym because I was inspired by the abdominal muscles of Spanish actor, Mario Casas. I had no clue what to do after I joined, and I was at a loss on even the elliptical machine. The instructor who was helping me create a routine, or a tabla, as they’re known in Spain, suggested some classes for me try. As he showed me the gym, I thought the Body Combat class going on was amazing. I also thought I would never be able to catch on. But the instructor encouraged me to try the class. My life would never be the same.
I was completely lost my first class, which is normal, but as I started to catch on to the routines, punches and kicks, the left and right hooks, well, hooked me. Now it’s a part of my life. My third anniversary is in February, and I have seen 12 releases of the program come and go (I missed Combat 48 during a move and gym change.) During my search for a new gym, Body Combat was the one thing that was a must-have.
Every three months, there is a new release with new moves, new choreography, and new music to change things up a bit (as it’s always a good idea to switch gym routines from time to time). The music is a mix of Top 40 and classic rock, pop and dance hits designed to make you fight harder. An average class of 55 minutes can burn 737 calories and includes ten tracks. There are two warm up tracks, a mix of combat and cardio tracks, one pushup and abdominal work out track, and the final recuperation and stretching track. The instructors all have participated in standard Les Mills training and are at the best of their game.
According to lesmills.com, the benefits of Body Combat include improved heart and lung function, toning key muscle groups, developing co-ordination and agility, improved bone density, posture, core strength and stability and improved self-confidence.
However, most participants would say it’s just a fun way to burn calories.
The directors Dan Cohen and Rachel Newsham are constantly working current fitness trends into the class. The current abdominal workout includes a plank at the end when most class attendees are ready to pass out.
They also regularly tour fitness clubs around the world. I met Cohen in 2012, around the time he started using the phrase “keep it real, stay with the fight”, when he gave a class in my gym in Madrid. The class was a real experience, with the normal instructors giving the class in Spanish and Cohen speaking English.
“Jab-cross-jab, hook, hook.”
These words, part of a routine from the current release, Body Combat 58, transcend languages. Combat is a class I’ve learned entirely in my second language, Spanish, and most of the moves keep their English name.
Not all instructors are the same. The more energy an instructor puts into the class, the better the class. While all classes are given in the same way, not all classes are the same. A class full of beginners isn’t going to be the same as a class in New Zealand during the filming of the new release. Most classes have a good mix of levels, and the instructors will do their best to go slow enough for the newbies while pushing the veterans harder.
The class isn’t for everyone, though. Some of the kicks require balance and equilibrium, and an hour of intense cardio can be a deterrent. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t scare away the curious, as it’s very “go-at-your-own-pace”. The instructors do know the difference between your limit and when you’re just not giving it your all. Every time I want to take it easy, I get a glare and a “¡Más! ¡Más! ¡Más!” from the instructor.
Still not convinced it’s for you? Take a look at some of these more memorable tracks. This might just be the thing you’re looking for.
photo credit: Renée S. Suen via photopin cc