PUNCH IT UP –  The benefits of mixed martial arts fitness.

Looking for a new way to workout? Try getting in shape MMA-style. MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is a popular gritty spectator sport with UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fans, but it’s growing in popularity for everyday people as a way to keep fi t. Don’t worry – classes don’t involve knockdowns, or drag out fights in a fenced octagon (where the professionals duke it out), but happen in a controlled, results oriented environment with professional instructors.

Just like the acronym suggests, Mixed Martial Arts is a compilation of various disciplines including Muay Thai, Capoeira, Taekwondo and Boxing. It’s intense and demands every ounce of strength and endurance that you can give. While fi tness is obviously the overall goal, Jeremy Ennis, Member’s Services Coordinator at Para Bellum MMA in Oakville, says one of the reasons why people participate is because it’s a non-conventional way to get in shape and they learn something while doing it. “It’s ‘engaged exercise’, as we like to call it,” he explains.

Rather than feeling like a hamster running on a wheel, MMA is motivating and keeps the mind and body engaged. “I used to put my towel over the treadmill and just hope that when I moved the towel again, the time would be up, but it never was,” jokes Ennis. On the floor during MMA classes, people are engaged mentally leaving little to no time to wonder about when the class will be over. “Regardless of difficulty or time length – I don’t see anybody looking at the clock during a class,” he says. There’s a learning curve that everyone who does MMA experiences, from the weekend warrior to high-level professionals. “All of our classes are skill-based,” explains Ennis. “We don’t do any boxercise or box fit classes. We teach proper technical boxing, Muay Thai, Jujitsu, Krav Maga. None of these activities are focused on getting you in shape, but getting in shape is a byproduct of the skill implementation.”

A typical class has both a skill component and a conditioning element. Drills, where technique comes into play, take place during the conditioning portion of the class. Ennis says that it’s a regime that’s done with purpose rather than randomly moving around a gym from one machine to another. “All of the fitness you’re (getting) is related to the drill being done for the skills that you’re trying to perfect. You’re strengthening the correct muscles, and doing the proper kind of conditioning, which is plyometric,” he says.

Learning a new way to keep fit – and perhaps a few punch combinations – might seem intimidating at fi rst, but sometimes the hardest part is simply plucking up the courage to step into a new environment. “Just getting in the door, that’s the toughest thing for people,” states Ennis. “We want to welcome people and make them feel that they’re capable of doing this. They might see (UFC) on TV and they’ll probably formulate an opinion about it from a non-participant perspective. It can be intimidating, so I’d say the biggest hurtle is the one at the front door. We try to make it as welcoming as possible.” You won’t be stepping right into a class to learn a 42-punch combo or ninja-like spinning kicks, because nothing beats a solid jab, great footwork and solid conditioning. When people realize that, they think to themselves: ‘I can do this.’ Many facilities offer classes starting at age five but anyone can participate, according to Ennis. “Our oldest member at the moment is 65.”

Local Links:

Para Bellum MMA, Oakville

Buckley MMA, Oakville

Tap Out, Burlington

4 Kor Martial Arts Fitness, Burlington

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