Fitness trends come and go, from the popular Couch to 5K that’s just about still kicking around to the obscure dedicated area trainers that circle the internet, are used once before being shunted into the back of the cupboard and forgotten about. But there’s one fitness craze we’ve seen grow increasingly popular here in London and it’s combat training.
The intense full body workout that targets all areas of your physique, the term ‘combat training’ is often associated with the army service and their intense fitness programmes, but in the mainstream world, it’s also a type of fitness training that incorporates various fitness techniques and styles, from martial arts to self defence and boxing.
When we say ‘craze’, you might be thinking we’re noting that it’s only just started gaining traction but combat fitness has a long history largely stemming back to Asia and the prominence of modern martial arts in the continent. Its history dates back thousands of years, from the Ancient Greeks and cave paintings found to be dating back between 10,000 and 6,000 BCE, however in East Asia the popularity of martial arts as we know it today, came into its own during the early 20th century. Soon came an eruption of Westernised interest, bringing with it American kickboxing, karate classes, boxing and of course Bruce Lee who became one of the first to teach Chinese martial arts to the Western world.
Fast forward to now, and it’s picking up steam once more here in London, with specialists offering training techniques and sessions for beginners. One fitness fanatic, fighter, trainer and all-round inspiring woman who is helping to bring this style of working out to centre stage in London is Frances Katz (@frankatz_).
Having grown up surrounded by fitness, competing and becoming a National Champion in swimming during her teenage years, Frances’ interest in fitness has only ever soared. “Personally I view the term fitness as a lifestyle that has got to do with moving your body daily, being adaptable to your circumstances and having the dedication to explore your body as an incredible machine, which I believe is where my passion stands,” said Frances.
It was around five years ago that she entered the world of combat training and she hasn’t looked back since. “I officially started training in boxing and martial arts when I decided that I wanted to get into the world of action and stunt work for film and TV,” said Frances before continuing. “Five years ago I found my boxing coach, Paul Clark (of Legacy Martial Arts) and he’s the one who has pushed me and developed the fighter who I am now.”
As a fitness trainer, Frances has gone on to travel the world and showcase classes including boxing, indoor cycling, dance and barre, as well as developing her brand POW, an online studio dedicated to helping women become badass, confident and powerful fighters. “It all started over lockdown, previously I was doing face to face sessions and classes. But thanks to the pandemic, I launched my brand GET IN THE POW where my clients could pre-download and workout with me live,” Frances explained. “The magic of what my online studio offers is a full diversity of fitness training.
“As I say, ‘move gracefully, train like an athlete and have the soul of a warrior’. These are the fundamental words that I go under when delivering workouts." And it’s not just online classes Frances offers too, she offers events and workshops in person too so you too could get your combat on.
Combat training isn’t all just about getting fit though as Frances explains, “not only is it great cardio but it also works out your brain, your motor skills, spacial awareness, coordination and best of all, it will release you from a lot of unwanted energy.”
Across London more and more combat workshops and classes are popping up, from Frances’ training programmes where she takes Londoners out into the park and work on their techniques, to Gymbox’s killer combat sessions which FIENA members can look forward to getting stuck into in the autumn and the Shaolin Temple UK, the official home of Shaolin Kung Fu and Qi Gong in the UK.
If you’re new to combat training, fear not as anyone can join in as a beginner. “I believe that learning a new skill, especially as we get older, is key to the growth of your physical and mental wellbeing,” Frances said. “My advice would be to start off with a face-to-face session with a coach who can give you some fundamental technical pointers and then from there practice and more practice. You will feel so good once you understand how to throw a punch!”