Kickboxing – or the martial arts from which it derives – has been around for many, many years, but it has only really been popular in the West for the last few decades. The style you will find in a typical kickboxing club in the UK now may have various martial arts underpinning it, as the word is generally considered in a fairly catch-all way by people today. These could include Muay Thai (or ‘Thai Boxing’), various disciplines of karate (which can differ substantially between themselves) and other styles. Although the kickboxing London clubs teach may draw on any number of sources, it’s probably fair to say that the popularisation of punching and kicking-based martial arts occurred in the 1970s thanks to Bruce Lee, who developed the hybrid Jeet Kune Do style, having studied Wing Chun to a high level in his native China.
‘Kickboxing’ is presently used of many different styles, which are often undifferentiated by the public – to the uninitiated, one kind of kicking and hitting is much the same as another. Alongside this, there are different governing bodies overseeing different styles and clubs, which have different rules associated with them (the use of the elbow in sparring being one major distinction that people tend to focus on). This means that if you decide to attend kickboxing classes, you might find any number of different expressions – although the same would be true of other martial arts, too, because any style that has been around a while tends to have different offshoots, in the same way that a language will have different dialects.
If you are looking for a class to try kickboxing, London is an excellent city to start, since there are many different kickboxing clubs within a fairly small area. You will need to decide what it is you are looking for. Kickboxing is evidently a sparring style, but people often try it for self-defence too. In addition, a growing number of people are looking to kickboxing for its fitness properties. The number of techniques it involves means that it offers an exceptional all-round workout, bringing strength, stamina and flexibility pay-offs. Add to this the camaraderie that often exists when a group of people gather to learn such a style (training with others is an integral part of learning), and you have another good reason to give it a go. If you’re in any doubt, it’s often worth going to a few classes – most clubs will offer free taster sessions – and see if you like what you find.
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