Offering classes in Cambridge, Impington and Ely, Just Karate teach Shokotan, a popular style of karate which focuses on big, powerful movements and deep stances. Don’t worry if you’ve never done anything like it before or you’re a little out of shape, there are sessions suitable for complete beginners, from children to adults.
“Most people come to us with no martial arts experience at all,” says Ashley Martin, Just Karate’s founder and chief instructor. “We teach everything from the ground up starting with learning how to do the basic punches and kicks and then building up from there. Most learning is done together as a class but without a partner. That way you can build up the technique without having to worry about an opponent.
“When we do partner work it tends to be collaborative, especially for beginners. Obviously it’s a martial art so as you get closer to black belt level, it can get a bit more competitive, but even then there are always clear rules and routines to keep it very safe and under control.”
The benefits of practising karate are wide-ranging, from good joint mobility to increased flexibility and leg strength, but, says Ashley, there are benefits beyond the physical too. “Karate is a good confidence booster,” he explains. “The format of the classes is based around the karate belt system which is very incremental. This means that confidence and ability are built up gradually – you’re never thrown in at the deep end. Instead, you’re always presented with achievable challenges, gradually building up practical skills which is hugely rewarding. Every time a student reaches a new grade and is awarded the next coloured belt, it is a celebration of their achievements.” NF
:: Annual membership is £30 and taster sessions are available. www.justkarate.co.uk
Full Circle Fitness gym in Dry Drayton runs Alpha sessions: a no-nonsense strength-building programme which will get you stronger and leaner, making serious gains in minimal time. The classes, led by experienced coaches, will have you learning the basics of Olympic weightlifting – but if that sounds terrifying, chuck your preconceptions out of the window right now. Olympic lifting offers a dynamic, truly full-body workout conducive to fast, noticeable results for both guys and girls.
Learn your ‘snatch’ from your ‘clean’ and work it like a pro in classes small enough to get you lots of personal attention, but also give you the motivation and support network that the group element brings.
Full Circle also offers Met classes, geared towards helping you strip body fat fast (which let’s face it is exactly what we need at this time of year!) through exercises like squats, core work and circuits. NF
:: Both classes come in at less than a tenner a pop, and members get added benefits such as detox saunas and subsidised sports massages. www.full-circle-fitness.co.uk
If a barre class conjures up images of lithe ladies slowly stretching in metres of tulle you might want to check your expectations before heading to CamYoga’s hugely popular Barre Concept class. Run by former professional dancer and choreographer Amy Holly, expect to plié until your legs shake, sweating all the while to the tune of In the Navy.
Plié isn’t the only move you’ll do (the karate kicking was a personal favourite…), but it gives you a taste of the fun atmosphere in the packed-out class. Amy explains the key exercise principles worked in barre concept.
“We focus on movements in the full range such as a plié where you move through to the fullness of your ability; end range which are pulsing movements at the full extent of the movement; and static holds which push you that little bit further at the very end range.”
The practice is strong so you can expect to ‘feel the burn’ during and after but the encouraging, lively atmosphere that Amy creates makes it well worth the literal legwork. “Having open hips is really useful for a good turnout,” Amy explains. “So naturally it’s the perfect complement to yoga.” ZT
:: Drop-in classes are £16, a ten-class pass is £120 and valid for a year and memberships start from £45 per month. Various times. www.camyoga.co.uk
Build your upper body strength and embrace your inner monkey with bouldering: rock-climbing’s burlier younger brother. Those who may avoid climbing for fear of heights need not shy away from bouldering. In this permutation of the sport, walls or boulders are typically only a few metres high, so the need for ropes, harnesses and nerves of steel is eliminated.
As the only facility with a public wall in Cambridge, the Kelsey Kerridge Sports Centre is a great place to try out this fun sport. Manager of the centre Liane Shadrack reveals the key health implications:
“While pulling yourself up overhanging routes (or ‘problems’ as they’re known in bouldering) is a great way to gain strength, a lot of climbing is actually about flexibility so stretching is absolutely essential for skill improvement and to prevent injury.
“Climbing is about keeping your weight over your feet so core strength is crucial here; if you don’t have a lot to begin with, bouldering is a great way to rectify this.”
Bouldering isn’t really harder or easier than traditional rock climbing, instead it focuses on a different style, favouring stronger, more dynamic movements in short bursts as opposed to the long muscle endurance needed for a big wall, and the problems are set with this in mind so you may find yourself needing to jump or ‘dyno’ from one handhold to the next.
“We employ some of the best route setters in the country to reset all of the problems every six weeks, so there’s always something new to try. We’ve also recently purchased additional holds and volumes to enhance the variety of route sets,” Liane adds. ZT
:: Unlimited use monthly memberships are available from £15.75 but you can drop in as a non-member from £3.80 too. Open 9am-11pm every day. www.kelseykerridge.co.uk
Improve your flexibility and get a full-body workout at Flexitone, a brand new dance/fitness class launched by Sara Ford in Ely last year. Starting with a zumba-style cardio warm-up, Sara leads the class in a series of deep stretches with the aim of toning the whole body and slowly transforming you from stiff, desk-bound fitness phobic to limber, dancer-like goddess.
All ages and abilities are welcome, and don’t be put off by all the bendy people doing the splits and touching their toes: apparently they started off just like us and are proof, if anything was, that the class really works. Says Sara:
“A lot of the stuff we do in Flexitone is what I do in my dance warm-ups, and so many of my friends said they needed to get more supple that I thought, why not start up a class just for that?” She adds: “On top of aiming to make you a fitter and healthier version of yourself Flexitone is about creating a fun and friendly atmosphere. The class isn’t meant to make anybody hate the instructor or to dread the pain every week. All members are guaranteed a good giggle and hopefully to make some new friends.”
Sara is hoping to launch Flexitone throughout the UK in the New Year. “I put the feelers out on a fitness forum to see who’d be interested in becoming a Flexitone instructor in their area, and within a day I’d had a dozen replies. I’m hoping it’ll really take off this spring.” Could it be the new Zumba? Watch this space! JS
:: Classes run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays 7-8pm, at St Mary’s School, Ely. £5 per session. www.facebook.com/4DFlexitone
If you’re looking for a sport with a bit of finesse, which allows you to indulge your inner buccaneer, why not give fencing a go? Mistakenly seen as a public school sport, fencing is actually one of the most inclusive sports you could try, where men and women train together and all ages and abilities are welcome to join in.
Peter Lennard is chairman of the Cambridge Fencing Club, which meets on Thursdays at the Netherhall Upper School Sports Hall, Queen Edith’s Way. So, what makes a good fencer?
“Fencing is a very intensive sport and requires short bursts of energy – like a sprint rather than a marathon. Having good balance and co-ordination helps, but practice is the main thing.
“I’ve been with the club for seven years. I fenced at university in Reading, then had a break for about eight years, came to Cambridge and took it up again. It’s a nice friendly club. There are some people who want to compete but equally if you want to come along and have a knockabout with a sword and have a bit of fun, that’s ok as well.”
There are three weapons in fencing, and Cambridge Fencing Club lets beginners have a go at each. “Foil is a small, light weapon where you only aim at the torso,” Peter explains. “Epee is a heavier weapon and represents the old dueling swords. The whole body is the target. It’s based on how hard you’d need to hit to draw blood [also historically why fencers fence in white] but of course there’s none of that here!
“Then there’s Sabre which represents the cavalry officers’ weapon. The top half of the body is the target, and instead of landing with the point you hit with the side of the blade. If you’ve had a hard day at work, being able to hit someone and score a point is quite satisfying! It takes your mind off anything else that might be going on.”
Does it hurt? “Strangely enough it’s a very safe sport. You can get a few bruises, but fencing is probably safer than most other mainstream sports. You’re wearing padding and the worst you’ll get is a bruise or a sprain.” JS
:: The next beginners’ course starts on 22 January, and costs £92 for ten weeks which includes all equipment. There’s also a £20 taster session on 8 January for newcomers. www.camfc.org.uk/courses