Friday, November 15, 2013


It started with a Groupon.

I bought 10 kickboxing classes for $15 or $20. The classes were held at Amerikick South Philly on Synder Ave.In my very first class I had to do 50 jumping jacks in the warm up. I was so proud of myself that I could keep in step with the the instructor. Many classes made me want to vomit and since my name is pretty unique, the instructor called me out all the time. Mary Anna, those aren't high knees! Mary Anna, put your butt down in that push up! Mary Anna, keep up! I seriously wanted to change my  name by the end of it. However, despite the fact that this energetic Vietnamese kid who tested our limits weekly was screaming at me, I loved it and I fell in love with kickboxing.

My Groupon expired and I found another deal and signed up for that. Being cheap, this was my way of cheating the system. The owner of Americks was kind of annoyed. He redeemed my voucher but called the master company to cancel all future Groupons. My instructor would be leaving in a month to work the Monorail at Disneyland. Kickboxing would be over.

In the very last class, the only kickboxers who came were myself and a girl named....get this...Anna Marie. The instructor tried to slaughter us one more time and we ended class with a very sweaty group hug.

Fast forward to Christmas 2012. My mom and I are driving to my work after my Christmas break in Virginia and we spot the Philadelphia Martial Arts & Kickboxing sign. My mother encourages me to call them, asking if they have deals for the New Year. I hesitate for a month before I work up the courage to make a stupid phone call. The owner makes an appointment for me to come in and discuss my goals.

I was nervous. I didn't want to be buffaloed into an agreement on the spot but I have a horrible time saying no. He told me the class schedule (3 a week) and the price (high but not out of my range) and next thing I knew I signed a contract and had plans to start up in four days. I returned the next day to put down my year deposit and purchase my very first pair of boxing gloves (we didn't train with them in South Philly).

My first class at the new gym was at 10am on a cold wintry Saturday morning. I had to get up early, take several modes of public transit and drag myself into the studio. There were only two other students, girls that had been taking the class since the owner opened the gym in October 2012. They were better than me but, ever the zealot, I had to prove myself. So I kicked harder, and tried relentlessly to prove to the instructor that yes, I may be fat and awkward but I trained in South Philly and I KNOW how to kickbox. Look at my form! I'm awesome.

He kept trying to reassure me, telling me that I was doing a great job in my first class and silently hoping I'd stop trying to show off and just learn something. haha

For the next 7 months I got up early on Saturdays (unless I was out of town) and took the Monday night or Thursday night classes. My own determination and consistency surprised me. I made some friends, enjoyed partnering up with various "classmates" when we had partner drills. I sort of became a cheerleader for others, encouraging my partners whenever I could.

Then in September, I ran a 5K on a whim and tore my LCL after a klutzy accident. I had to take a month off from kickboxing to tend to my injury. When I finally felt able to return, I learned they cancelled Saturday classes. The 10am class was now a 9am class if you confirmed ahead of time (Thurs) that you would be able to attend. I went on Thursday only to find out the class had been cancelled due to Halloween.

Then I registered for classes for my final semester of graduate school. I scored a spot in a coveted web design class but it met not one but two nights a week. That plus my other class meant I'd be working late, running the tutoring programs at work on Mondays, be in class Tue-Thurs, and then the only opportunity I would have to kickbox would be on Saturday at 9am.

I had to make a hard decision. It was time to quit.

As I walked to my final class, I listened to "Scream and Shout" by Britney Spears, a song that I listened to in order to pump myself up when I first started at this gym. I got there, shed my outer layer of clothes and met with the owner to inform him of my cancellation.

After that business was addressed, I took the floor to begin my last workout with Philadelphia Martial Arts & Kickboxing. To my delight, my favorite instructor would be teaching the class that evening. I informed him it was my last class and he said in a low voice, "Well Mary Anna, what would you like to work on today?"

I smiled. That meant a lot. I told him I wanted to do a lot of roundhouse kicks and bag work, my favorite things to do in the class. He assured me we'd have a great bag workout and he was right.

My last class was similar to my first. I was overweight, determined to keep up and overcompensating in an attempt to prove myself. But instead of showing off, I took things easy as to not re injure my delicate torn LCL knee. I huffed, puffed and respected my limitations. In my last drill I gave it my all, performing my favorite movies with as much gusto as I could muster. The workout music was a mix CD they've had since opening and I even mused to myself during our ab workout as a song skipped and commented on how that song has been skipping for the past 7 months.

We stretched and clapped at the end. The instructor turned to me and said "So how was that?"

"Perfect," I replied. What a way to go out. I thanked him for his classes and the manner he teaches.

"I'm so thankful and it is just so fitting that YOU were the instructor for my last class here," I said with my voice cracking ever so slightly.

After a hug, I returned to the lobby, gathered my belongings and began the bittersweet trek home. Time to hang up the gloves for now.

I hope I can return to a different school after I graduate grad school and my schedule opens up. I love the feeling of punching, the gratifying smacking sound my leg makes when I connect with the bag, and the fact that...even after a months hiatus...I could still keep up and grab my foot in the stretches. (Before I started I could barely grasp my ankle).

It has been a good run.

Until next time...

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