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VF Reviews of Aaron's videos:

Power Kicks
Total Energy
Strong and Stretched

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WNK: What are your fitness credentials?

AL: I have been training in Taekwondo for 20 years with the best instructors in the world such as World Champion Wu han Jywe in Taiwan and Major Richard Scott, United States Special Forces, Retired. I have been a personal trainer to many athletes and professional people, plus my own personal experience of training for championship tournaments. I have coached several National Champions from my schools. This has really been my professional training (I have 2 years in college). Right now my wife and I are both getting ready to take the ACE test to teach and become presenters. I am hoping that I will have the chance to go back to college and finish up a degree in sports psychology in a few years.

WNK: How many years of training does it take to get a fourth degree black belt?

AL: It takes about 18-25 years on the average to do with a traditional program. In that time you have to learn a lot about the human body and training it safely and effectively. Once you get to a 3rd degree you should understand angles of attack and body movement. Then at 4th degree you have to show that you are using your skills to impact your community with your Martial arts. I have done over 1000 demos and clinics for women and kids and worked a lot with abused kids and women, rebuilding their personal power. I am a 4th degree right now and I will test for my 5th in 2000.

WNK: What is your own personal fitness regime like?

AL: I try to do a good workout every day. I like to run or kick mostly. Sometimes I just go over the moves I use in the tapes and my classes. One of my favorite workouts is kicking focus pads. It is a partner workout where one person holds small hand pads and you kick them at full speed about 20 times, then you trade with your partner. After an hour of this you are beat but your kicks are great. I cross train with a little weight lifting, but I don't really want to get to built from body building. I have the build I have from doing kickboxing. Good or bad, this is what I am and I like it. It bothers me when people lift weights and then say "you can look like me" by doing something else.

WNK: Do you have your own gym? How many classes do you teach per week?

AL: Yes, I have 2 gyms. I run about 15 kickboxing classes a week in my main gym. I teach 2 kickboxing classes and 18 taekwondo classes a week. My gym is geared for teaching martial arts to families so I teach kids classes and adult classes. My classes here in Salt Lake are more motivating than my videos. Sometimes I put on protective gear and the students take turns sparring with me (they are tougher than they think!!), or I will pull out some boards and have the ladies break boards. It is empowering and life changing in a great way.

WNK: There are so many boxing and martial arts inspired workouts on the market these days, I can hardly keep them all straight! How do they differ from each other, and how have traditional kickboxing and martial arts workouts been modified for the home exercise enthusiast in these latest video incarnations?

AL: This is a great question Wendy. There are so many different kinds of Martial Arts and they all focus on different ways to punch and kick. Since all people are not built the same, they all fit someone's needs.

Even Billy Blanks and I have different styles of teaching techniques. He says you kick and punch his way and I say follow my basic instruction for power then listen to your body and do what it says. A lot of people are hurting their backs and shoulders by not listening to their bodies. Your body will tell you what works and what doesn't.

Traditional training has been modified because of the aerobics influence. People in the Karate schools are listening to music while they train (they never used to do that). The home trainers (like VF faithfuls) are looking for intensity but not all of them are looking for self defense. So it's hard to balance the workouts out.

I think home training will evolve to a level where people will be able to choose the home workout they want whether it be more martial arts or just a good cardio workout using kicks and punches.

WNK: Billy Blanks has created a phenomenal following with his Tae Bo series, and created a legion of fitness kickboxing fans in the process. Do you think of kickboxing as a "fad" that will drop off the horizon in a few months, or as a form of exercise that will continue to be featured in mainstream clubs for years?

AL: Kickboxing hasn't anchored itself yet but I don't think it is a "fad." The main problem is that the health clubs and Karate gyms have been on opposite sides of the track from each other. The Aerobics community has always said using Martial Arts moves are bad for your knees and martial artists can't do their kicks without stretching that way. Now kickboxing is tearing it up and the health clubs don't have the instructors to cover it. Their "aerobics" instructors are taking a few classes on kickboxing, usually at a martial arts club like mine and then claiming to be "certified." I think this is part of the reason people are getting hurt. I am going to be "certifying" instructors but they have to do and learn more than just pay $50 and attend a seminar. No health club would let you teach a step class just because you had participated in a few hours of training. Yet, all over the country clubs are clinging to instructors who been "certified" by someone who has only trained a few months. It takes years to perform the techniques safely let alone teach the techniques safely. Teaching effectively and safely is more than just copying and imitating a few moves.

My instructors must be able to teach specific training techniques to a wide range of people. If a thin person and a heavy person are standing next to each other in a class, in order to be safe they should each kick round kicks differently. My instructors keep certifying to higher levels. Right now Billy Blanks won't even certify anyone to teach unless they are a black belt in martial arts. I hope that trend continues, but right now the demand is much higher than the supply of truly qualified instructors, so across the country clubs are using low quality instructors just to get in on the wave. If we can train better instructors then clubs will be able to raise their quality also and kickboxing will develop the staying power it needs to continue in the long term.

WNK: Do you think that Tae Bo's commercial success has helped to make exercising at home to videos more "acceptable" as a form of exercise for both men and women?

AL: Definitely Tae Bo's commercial success has changed both the health and fitness and Martial arts industries. I was talking to some infomercial people and they said he has also changed the infomercial industry too. I think DVD will take us to a new level of home training in the near future, but men still want be out and at the gym to train. There's nothing like heavy weights for men. I don't think they will ever be as big on home training as women.

WNK: Are you concerned about the unfit taking up kickboxing because of all the Tae Bo hype, even if they are not physically prepared for it? What advice would you have for exercise novices who would like to start out with kickboxing-style workouts?

AL: I am very concerned because even the "very fit" are going to be sore after doing a good kickboxing workout. My advice to any one is from my video: "GO AT YOUR OWN PACE." You can have an advanced kickboxing video but STILL go at your own pace. You can kick low and punch light. Build power and height only as you build strength and flexibility. If the idea behind kickboxing on video is brand new but you have to develop strength in order to keep improving and maintain safety.

My new tapes are designed to help people improve and be safe. TOTAL ENERGY is a good cardio workout with new moves. STRONG and STRETCHED is designed to be a once or twice a week workout to build strength and flexibility. As you feel better about your kickboxing do the strength workout less and less until your are doing it once a week just to keep relaxed. If people train my way fewer people will get hurt and they will build more confidence in themselves and their training abilities. I have never had an injury in my kickboxing program.

WNK: Kickboxing classes are popping up in nearly every gym and club these days. What should a consumer look for in a good kickboxing class?

This is good and bad. It shows you just how popular kickboxing is but the clubs are using the same instructors that were teaching step last week. The instructors in the gyms need to have either a solid 6 months of true martial arts training or an extensive specific kickboxing training course from a martial arts club. Kickboxing uses techniques from the martial arts. These techniques are simple in some ways and very intricate in others. Your hip position, your foot position, your base leg, your spine alignment, and many other details affect your technique. It takes much practice over a long period of time to fully understand them. I would recommend going only to a martial arts school based class, unless you are completely confident in your club instructor's credentials. Then be careful that the Martial arts instructors aren't doing weird moves that may hurt you either. REMEMBER, IF THEY MAKE YOU DO THINGS THAT HURT DON'T DO IT AND DON'T GO BACK.

WNK: How does kickboxing fit into the average person's fitness program? What does it do for the body that other forms of exercise do not?

AL: Kickboxing is great because it can be modified to a lot of levels. You want to be sure that you get in a couple of good strength and stretching workouts in there with it in your rotation. Something that you can do that will let you relax your mind so you don't burn out. If done right kickboxing will strengthen your tendons and ligaments as well as your muscles. I have seen kickboxers recover from ACL surgeries in just a few weeks because they are so flexible and strong from kickboxing. Martial arts was designed to work every aspect of the body and mind. In my workouts I tell people to focus on their snap so they can really focus on hitting the part of your body you want to work the most. If you snap out you work the front of your quads. If you snap back harder you work your hamstring and glutes. I think this gives you more control of your workout and allows you to train the parts you want. As you increase in speed and power you have a workout that never needs to plateau.

The other part is that kickboxing is, to say the least, empowering. You start to feel the mental benefits immediately. You don't get that immediate response from most other workouts. You feel great after training for an hour in the gym doing aerobics or lifting weights. Your body and mind are invigorated and you know you have changed the way you look. After an hour of kickboxing, if done properly, you have trained your warrior spirit, your body and mind are one and with each punch you have seen and felt a new spirit grow and you are ready to punch through your fears and with an indomitable human spirit. When you think back about you workout during your day you feel that same spirit. I think this feeling is hard to get with other workouts.

WNK: Could you suggest some ideal cross training activities that complement kickboxing workouts? What sort of strength training activities are best for improving kickboxing skills?

AL: This is another great question, Wendy. In STRONG AND STRETCHED I do alot strength exercises so people can rotate the two tapes. Cross training with running or yoga are quite complimentary fitness activities. Anything is good if you have fun with it. Remember it is a secondary activity and should be relaxing physically and mentally so you can be better when you do your kickboxing workout again.

WNK: What are the most common form mistakes people tend to make during boxing workouts?

AL: There are a few things you can do while you train to keep yourself safe.

If it hurts do it lower and slower! There are a million different body types out there and not everyone is going to kick like Jackie Chan.

Kicking is like running. You don't suck in your gut the whole workout! Relax and let your body move naturally. At the end of your punch and kick exhale hard. This is the time to tighten up your abs. Then relax and let your abs do their part in getting some speed and power into your moves.

There are alot things you can do to trouble shoot your workout. If your shoulders hurt, keep your elbows down. You might be clinching your fist to tight too. RELAX and EXPLODE. On the extension to 90% is good, not 100%. Don't flex and tighten in your fighting stance while you are not executing any technique. Relax, then you will last longer and you can explode with more speed and power.

If your joints hurt you are probably over extending.

If your back hurts, kick lower. You need to relax as you move and keep that spine in neutral position. A common mistake is to arch the low back even slightly during side and back kicking. This is hard on your back. Keep it neutral, or even slightly rounded forward, yes, just a bit hunchback. It's much safer to err a bit on the hunchback side, than to arch that back and pull a muscle or hurt you spine.

If any one has more questions please feel free to email me at aaronlankford@efortress.com or ask me on my web site at powerkicks.com.

WNK: Some Video Fitness readers with kids have expressed concern about young children watching their moms enjoy kickboxing workouts. They're afraid they may be sending the message that physical violence, kicking and punching others is somehow OK. How would you respond to their concerns?

AL: As you teach your kids about working out you can teach them that learning the moves doesn't mean that you are going to beat people up. But you are eventually going to need to teach kids how to stand up for themselves. Knowing that you can back up your talk with the walk means that a child can say no to peer pressure and turn and walk knowing that if they come after him he can defend himself and then run away as opposed to thinking if I say no these kids are going to beat me up and then feel trapped. If your kids are having a hard time understanding take them to a FULL TIME martial arts program and ask the instructor to take the time to explain his or her philosophy. You may want to put them in an introductory program so they can see that you can kick and punch but that doesn't mean you are going to go out and hit people.

WNK: Can women expect to find some of the kickboxing moves they've learned from videos useful for self-defense?

AL: Yes, but my program is about developing inner strength. Part of that is self defense (10 %). The other part (90%) is personal power, the courage to stand up and reach new levels of personal excellence. Of course the best way to develop truly great self-defense skills is by training in a traditional martial arts program for your black belt. However, this does take a great deal of time and dedication. Average time for 1st degree Black Belt is four years with consistent training 3 times a week.

I like what I hear from Power Kicks fans who are making changes in their lives and succeeding outside after their workout. Video kickboxers have a great advantage over the average person, however. Over time, their technique gets better and better, their bodies get stronger and stronger. Their bodies are going to be quite good at the physical skills. The only thing lacking is the "how-to," the mental preparation and the instruction of what options and defense will work best for you. I would recommend finding a good self-defense clinic to attend every 6 months to review your practical applications and of course keep up the kickboxing at home.

WNK: Tell me about your "CounterStrike" program.

AL: CounterStrike is a great program. It is very simple and uses very basic techniques. My first intructor was a Major in the Special Forces during the Vietnam War. Most of the moves are based from his teaching methods, which focus on survival. To summarize the basic theories:

  • Surprise is EVERYTHING
  • Go 110%
  • Don't stop

The most important thing about training is making yourself feel like you have a fighting chance. Walk tall and look like you know what your doing don't go through your purse while you are standing at you door. This attacker doesn't know if you are a black belt or not. Women have a lot of natural advantages over men but they are not used to using them for defense. An attacker counts on this and tries to manipulate the person into believing it too. But if you do have to protect yourself, it is always best to have already decided how far you are willing to go. Most people will chose to hand over the car, the purse, etc. This is smart. But if an attacker wants to harm you or your children, that is where your "Counter-Strike" plan comes in. You have to act fast and furiously. At the end of the clinics I have the women break boards. It is like fire walking to them, because they are so afraid to use their hands to break a board. But when they are done they have a whole new mindset. It is so empowering to see a physical and emotional symbol of your full strength. I have been teaching these clinics as a community service for the past 10 years here in the Salt Lake area, to women's church groups, community centers, junior high schools and other youth groups. For many women, facing their fears about being attacked is hard, but once they have some skills and a plan, it is awesome to see the change in spirit and attitude!!

WNK: Do you have plans for future videos?

AL: Yes, I am making more kickboxing tapes. I want to do some interactive workouts. Down the road I want to take people through a workout with some equipment that I am designing. I am learning a great and difficult lesson on these last tapes. I am taking my own advice and reaching for new levels of excellence, so I can hang with the quality of Video Fitness and Collage magazine.

WNK: VF readers like to know a bit more about the instructors they invite into their living rooms on a weekly basis. What activities do you enjoy when you're not working or working out? Do you have a family?

AL: I am really lucky. My wife Diane and I have been married for 7 years and have 3 kids-- a little girl, McKayla, who is 5 yrs old, and twin boys, T.J. and Caleb, who are 4 yrs. Diane is a black belt and the kids all do Taekwondo, too. McKayla is the current state champion in her division. They and the schools keep us running. When we are not doing martial arts and kickboxing we are remodeling our fixer-upper house that we bought a couple of years ago and we love the outdoors. Diane is a great water skier and the kids and I love to fish although I spend most of my fishing time worming hooks and untangling fishing lines as fast as I can.

We are really enjoying talking to so many people and making new friends through our kickboxing tapes. When we made this tape it was on a wild idea of mine that Diane was kind enough to go along with (any one married to a dreamer knows what I'm talking about!) We had no idea it would be this fun or successful.

Wendy and Video Fitness have been awesome to work with and the Video Fitness fans have been great. Please keep those calls coming and one of these days we need to have a big V.F. kickboxing workout!!

Aaron's new videos are available through his Web site, www.powerkicks.com.

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