CKO Kickboxing

Yesterday I braved the cold and rain to get in an early morning sweat session at CKO Kickboxing in Center city. It was my first experience with kickboxing and I didn’t know what to expect! If you’re a newbie like me and want to know what you expect, keep reading!


The Studio: Although CKO’s studio is in the basement of 1616 Walnut Street, but the ample lighting and spacious layout make it feel plenty bright. The front desk staff was friendly and did not make me feel singled out for being new. After putting my stuff in a cubby (they also have lockers if you prefer more secure storage), the instructor introduced himself to me and the other new client in the class. He went over the basic form and vocabulary for the punches and kicks before class started. This introduction immediately put me at ease and made my workout more comfortable. As for the facilities, there is a locker room with a shower that is fully stocked with shampoo, deodorant, dry shampoo (yay!), bath towels, etc. There’s also a water fountain where you can fill up your bottle.

The Format: CKO mixes elements of a traditional boot camp style workout with kickboxing moves at the bag for a complete, one-hour workout. Each person stands next to a bag they will use during class. During my session, we also incorporated jump ropes and medicine balls. The instructor told me that each class is different depending on the day and the instructor, so expect to mix things up! You’ll spend about half the class at the bag and about half moving (sometimes running!) around the studio. There is loud music playing through a sound system the whole time to keep the energy up. The instructor uses timed intervals to pace the workout. In my class, he spent a few seconds demonstrating each exercise while the clients did jumping jacks to keep our heart rates high. Then we took the exercises at our own pace for the designated timed interval. When the interval was over, the instructor yelled “TIME” and we switched to something new.

The Workout: We began class by alternating intervals of jumping rope with squats and lunges. Then we did a few laps around the gym – some with knees up, some side stepping, some butt-kickers, etc. After that vigorous warm up, we were ready to transition to our first punch combination at the bag. The instructor demonstrated the sequence and gave us some tips for proper form. Then we spent a few minutes at the bag repeating the sequence as many times as possible (while maintaining safe and proper form, of course). When time was up, we did burpees, planks, and push ups for another interval of a few minutes. We continued alternating kicking and punching sequences with cardio exercises (think: jumping jacks, jumping lunges, and laps around the gym) and body weight exercises (think: sit ups, push ups, squats) for most of the hour-long workout. Finally, toward the end of class, we finished with some partner conditioning work with a medicine ball. The other new client and I paired up – we figured neither of us knew what we were doing and wouldn’t embarrass ourselves in front of the pros!

The Pros: This class offered a great workout! The interspersed running, jumping rope, jumping jacks, and burpees kept my heart rate high throughout the hour. I was definitely winded! The sit-ups, push ups, squats, and lunges hit many different body parts and my muscles were always tired at the end of each set. I also love the idea of learning some moves I could use for self-defense! The instructor told me that he was a former marine and had actually used many of the moves out in the wild. Having a functional element to the workout is an added bonus!

The Cons: This workout requires special kickboxing gloves. Even though the first class is free, you must purchase gloves for about $22 in order to participate. I was able to borrow a friend’s pair, but at $22, the price of gloves basically negates the free class. I think it would be great if they would let new clients borrow a used pair for their first class. That way, people wouldn’t have to make an investment before they are sure they are going to come back. The other downside to CKO is that they don’t offer class pack options. The only way to take more classes is to commit to a monthly membership plan. If you love the free trial and know you will go regularly, this won’t detract from your experience. If you like to mix-up your classes or currently have memberships elsewhere, this set-up is less likely to work for you.

The Pricing: As each studio is owned and operated individually, pricing can vary by location. The prices discussed in this post are for the Center City Philadelphia studio. The first class is a free trial, but as mentioned above you will need special gloves. The gloves cost about $22, so I recommend borrowing a pair if at all possible. At the end of your first session, the staff will go over the membership pricing with you, since the rates are not accessible online. Right now, they are running a special sale: $99/month for a 12 month commitment (first month is free!) or $118/month for a month-month commitment (first month is $99, requires 30 days’ notice to cancel). As mentioned above, they do not offer class packs, so kickboxing regularly will require a commitment. However, the studio memberships do come with access to the weight area in the studio and small group class in addition to the unlimited large group classes. If you like kickboxing and are ready to find a regular workout spot, then CKO is for you!


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