BY MARCUS MITCHELL
Past the whirring of the treadmills, a group of students stand firmly in a back room of the McNiff Fitness Center. Their bodies lightly bounce to Lil’ Wayne. The music fills the room and sweat pours off their body as if they just ran a marathon. They all stand in the same pose: bent at the knees and their arms tensed like coiled up springs. In unison their feet fly back as they kick behind them high into the air, standing on one foot effortlessly after the sudden explosion of energy. Their legs come down from the strike and each person takes their same stance as before.
To a stranger, this looks like something straight out of a karate movie. But to the students taking McNiff’s kickboxing class, this is just another Thursday night. With an average of 15 or so students in attendance each session, the kickboxing class has become a favorite for students looking to break away from the monotony of treadmills and weights.
“I thought it would be interesting to try something new and to switch up my workout routine a little bit,” junior communication major Courtney Hart said. “I work out five days a week for like two hours at a time, but I thought it was a decent class that gave an intro into boxing.”
The class stands out from the other group fitness sessions offered by McNiff such as yoga, cycling and zumba. Despite the name of the session just referring to kickboxing, the session contains much more than the kind of kickboxing routine found on at-home workout DVD’s. Although the session is just 50 minutes in length, the kickboxing class is jam-packed with self-defense techniques from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai and taekwondo.
The session is led by USF graduate and Tampa native Zack Milliron, who has been instructing since high school. On top of being a certified martial arts instructor, Milliron also holds black belts in Jhoon Rhee Taekwondo and Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, both prestigious honors in the martial arts community, and has trained in Muay Thai kickboxing as well as judo. By combining all of his training, Milliron is able to give students a session that benefits all areas of their body.
“Kickboxing and martial arts overall is one of the best full body workouts around,” Milliron said. “Physically, it build muscles from abs to arms, butt and back. Mentally, it builds confidence, self-esteem, and most importantly one can learn a lot of useful real world self-defense techniques in my workout class.”
While students are expected to burn close to 900 calories per session due to the intense cardio aspect, the techniques that Milliron teaches are what truly separate his class from others. Through the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques, students will learn about armbars and chokes in self-defense scenarios and through the Muay Thai teachings they will learn how to strike. As the class goes on, students will eventually spar against one another with boxing gloves or against strike targets. The intensity of the session is dependent on the fitness level of the student, according to Milliron.
“If you are a beginner, then you will learn new martial arts techniques. For more advanced returners, they can build on techniques learned from previous classes by adding different set-ups,” Milliron said. “An example would be day one someone learns how to do a back kick and a side kick. During future classes, one will put these and other techniques together to make strong combinations of kicks and punches.”
Not only will students use their learned combinations in spars against one another, but Milliron also encourages them to fight him and go all out in order to both alleviate stress and burn calories. It is one tactic that Milliron uses that makes him an instructor that goes above and beyond to strengthen both his students muscles and willpower.
“I believe [kickboxing] is the best kind of workout one can do because I as an instructor challenge the abilities of my students,” Milliron said. “I push them beyond their comfort fitness zone and pushing them is what in the end helps them reach their fitness goals, become more confident and learn more useful self-defense techniques”
Pushing a student to their absolute limits is what Milliron does best through hands-on teaching of self-defense and intense cardio that leaves students dripping in sweat. In less than an hour, Milliron leaves students both exhausted and ready for more. It’s 50 minutes of nonstop movement, quick exertion and intensity that causes students like senior psychology major Samantha Curley to come back week after week.
“We are always moving and working multiple muscle groups while having a blast and learning self-defense skills,” Curley said. “Zack is great and always willing to help us out if we need it. He is really enthusiastic and passionate about what he does and that reflects on all of us.”
For those interested in taking the session, it is held at the McNiff Fitness Center at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday nights. The schedules for all sessions offered by McNiff can be found on http://www.ut.edu/mcniff/ or at the front desk in the McNiff fitness Center itself.