I just finished my first week of kickboxing at Redline Fight Sports, and I'm feeling good. At first, I felt completely wrecked all over after an hour-long class, but I'm gradually recovering quicker and feeling like I got a work-out rather than a hurt-out. Kickboxing works all sorts of muscles that I never use; I had a mysterious soreness in my hip flexors that caused me to want to walk around hunched over because it was painful to straighten myself. Surprisingly, the pain went away after a couple of days of stretching and more kicking. Already, I can see an improvement in balance and flexibility.
Redline primarily teaches Sanshou/Sanda, a derivative of Kung Fu, I guess. It's very practical, with no "flying dragon" or "drunken monkey" moves and no emphasis on "qi" or anything like that. That practicality appeals to me, especially when the instructor explains the mechanics behind the technique (for instance, roundhouse kicking is all about maximizing torque from the hips and pivoting leg, not flailing the shin around). In the first class, because I didn't even know anything about absorbing a kick or punch (there's no sparring in level 1, but we pair up and hit pads), I became exhausted getting pushed off balance every time. But this last class I started to get the hang of how to hold my legs to send the force of the blow down into the floor instead of into my lower back.
I picked this martial art because I wanted to be motivated to get into shape, and running just wasn't cutting it for me. I've always lacked the motivation to run, even when I was competing. And forget about lifting weights — I feel totally foolish pushing heavy metal things around. I'm fascinated by kickboxing (and hence, motivated to continue) because it's so demanding of correct technique. I'm learning about my body in addition to training it in very specific ways. With running, technique is important, but you can get by with the worst form (and probably hurt yourself, eventually). You might even be lucky enough to run quickly without correct form. Martial arts are different; even basic punches require attention to every limb. Continually learning how to control myself keeps me interested in all of the boring stuff (push-ups, crunches, squat jumps — stuff I'd never care to do otherwise).
It might sound silly that I'm just now seeing the value of learning a martial art, but I guess I never knew the point before. On the one hand, it would have been valuable to learn something like this when I was a kid, but on the other hand, there's a high likelihood that I would have been running around in a white suit, collecting colored belts, and learning how to bow to the sensei. Besides, as a kid, I didn't care about learning how to shape my mind and body. Who does? (Hell, for a while, I used to eat at McDonald's every day after school. Yikes!)
Just about the only things I have going for me now are a history of endurance training and naturally strong legs. It will take a while to work on flexibility and building up my feeble arms, but even gradual progress is exciting to see after being used to a sedentary lifestyle. Although I'll probably never be serious enough to compete (even sparring is kind of worrisome only because I'd have to remove my nipple rings, which would be very inconvenient after almost 7 years of having them), I'd like to be good at Sanshou. That's always my advice to myself: work hard enough to be good at the things you do, or don't even bother.