As the dance music thumps away, Steve Baez leads a group of women through a rigorous set of rhythmic punches and kicks. Women of all ages are throwing their fists and letting their feet fly, building up a sweat as they kick repeatedly -- front, back, sides.
This may look like a karate class, but the students aren't bowing or breaking boards or suiting up in loose-fitting white uniforms for a round of sparring. They are, however, getting a workout.
Baez teaches his Kardio Kickbox Aerobics class at Master Baez Tae Kwon Do and Family Fitness, his father's martial arts studio in Cooper City. Aside from the big, friendly smile, the first thing you notice about the nineteen-year-old is his high, graceful kicks. When not demonstrating, he meanders through the crowd clapping, counting, and reminding students to take breaks if they need to.
"Knee! Knee! Knee! Knee!" he shouts to the beat of the music. He's urging students to mimic pulling an opponent in close and thrusting a knee into his gut. "March it out," he says, and students walk in place between sets for a brief breather.
Master Daniel Baez, Steve's dad, is a black belt in tae kwon do, but he knows that the discipline and formality of martial arts aren't for everyone. So he's offering exercise classes that enable a student to punch and kick her way to a toned, healthy body. Kardio Kickbox Aerobics, a noncontact program primarily for women, combines karate kicks with the jabs and uppercuts of boxing -- all set to the music-fueled pace of aerobics. Each hour-long class draws about twenty women, and pushups, abdominal exercises, and stretches round out the routine.
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A group of students lingers after this particular class, talking about how much they prefer the simple but intense workout to others involving dance moves. "I don't like [other types of] aerobics," says Renee Clough, age 25, of Cooper City. "I'm always looking at the clock. I feel that [Kardio Kickboxing] also tones your muscles much more than [other] aerobics."
Clough and a group of her pals, all in their twenties, take the class together. Some have even gotten their moms into it. Although the punching and kicking cross generational lines, mothers and daughters don't agree on all aspects of the program. Charlene Hall, a mom who confesses to being only "over 40," says the workout is exhilarating. But, she adds, "The music is horrible."
-- Patti Roth
Kardio Kickbox Aerobics is offered at Master Baez Tae Kwon Do and Family Fitness, 9450 Griffin Rd., Cooper City, every Tuesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The fee is $6 per class. For more information call 954-680-0249.