The main difference between a fitness class and real Muay Thai is that you won't get hit in the face.

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I FULLY expected kickboxing to be hard. I’m into a challenge.

Twenty-four minutes into an hourlong class, breathing heavily and dripping sweat, I looked at the clock and wondered if challenge was overrated.

When I decided to take on kickboxing for this column, I wanted the real deal. I looked around online and found Alpha Martial Arts, a legit martial-arts studio that also offers fitness kickboxing in the Muay Thai style. When I called to ask about the class, I was told the main difference between the fitness class and real Muay Thai was I wouldn’t get hit in the face. I felt good about that.

The Alpha Martial Arts location on Capitol Hill is a clean, new studio with plenty of room and punching bags. Once I got set up with some red kickboxing gloves, I was ready.

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Owner Silas Ness started us out with a fast warm-up, including jumping jacks, squats and push-ups. After a brief stretch, he rolled out the black Wavemaster punching bags. It was on.

We started with some basic punching combos, including the jab, cross and hook. I took cues from other students, who punched their bags hard. For combos, Ness threw in more moves, including jumping jacks and half burpees in between punches, then let us go at it for a few minutes at a time.

My heart rate went up fast during the combos, but it was fun and energetic. Ness walked around giving tips, showing me how to pivot on my standing foot for side kicks. He also advised me to aim my shin at the bag instead of the top of my foot as added protection from the repeated kicks.

Then the combos got longer. Though I took some water breaks, I realized it was only going to get harder. We added hooks and ducks to our combos. I ducked haltingly, grateful that nobody was actually aiming at my head.

We did full burpees. My shoulders started to ache from the punching.

We added front kicks for speed, kicking straight at the bag with our toes up, and changed our burpees to core work on the floor. By this point, my shoulders were so tired, I was grateful to stop punching for a few counts, even if it was for core.

Just when I thought I couldn’t punch my bag any more, Ness added in blitzes, where we punched and kicked our bags as hard as possible for 30 seconds at a time, with 10-second breaks. The people around me pummeled their bags. With a sigh, I went at it.

About 10 minutes before class was over, I got my hopes up that it might end soon. Ness announced we were going to punch our bags 100 times, kick it another 50 and then do 10 push-ups. I dug in deep and did it twice. Right as I was about to keel over on the floor, time was up.

We did a little bit of partner work at the end, doing some jabs and crosses, before “cooling down” with push-ups.

In truth, on most days, I love a punishing class. This kickboxing class ranked high on the punishment. I was pushed hard for 60 minutes, and it showed me I could use some work on my endurance and upper body.

Go to kickboxing to work out aggression, go to add endurance, go for a killer workout. Consider this an official recommendation.

Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Email: Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.

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