Every weekday, Mary Jane Bohlen of Cranston participates in kickboxing at Burke’s Martial Arts located at 530 Wellington Ave.
She stands out in each class, being the oldest participant at the age of 70. A two-time breast cancer survivor, Bohlen began kickboxing last year and has continued kicking into the New Year.
Kickboxing is an exercise that utilizes the hands, arms, feet and legs, all in fast, repetitive motions. It is a great workout for weight loss, as well as bone density, joint strength, muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance.
“I tried it once at Mastery Martial Arts when I brought my grandson Sam, age 5, to karate class, and at first I did not think I could do it. I tried it and fell in love with the exercise sport program,” said Bohlen.
After Mastery Martial Arts moved to Plainfield Pike, Bohlen found herself at Burke’s Martial Arts, which was closer to her home near Edgewood. She found Burke’s through an ad, went for a trial class, and never looked back.
“When I was first asked to try kickboxing, my initial response was, ‘Are you nuts?’” She describes herself as “not an athlete by any means.”
Bohlen, who is known not to back away from a challenge, found that she could do kickboxing with some modified moves that fit her abilities. Currently, she is up to running, jogging, doing jumping jacks and completing 16 push-ups per minute as part of the training she receives along with kickboxing.
“I had not exercised in about 40 years!” she exclaimed. “I ended up all sweaty, yet I felt good after kickboxing. My body was energized.”
Bohlen is now up to being able to do one powerful kick in a half-second. She said she loved the friendly competition in her class.
Her husband, Bob Bohlen, expressed pride in his wife, although he was among those who did not initially think she could or would continue kickboxing.
“I have witnessed my wife, Mary Jane, conquer many things in her life, especially her breast cancer,” he said.
Both husband and wife are volunteers with the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation, with Mary Jane teaching healing through the arts and Bob participating in the Men’s Group that was designed to bring together men whose lives have been touched by breast cancer.
“I always support my wife with all she does,” said Bob.
Bohlen, who is in classes with people in their 20s through their 40s, finds that the other members of the class cheer her on and are very supportive. As Bohlen kicked and punched the workout bags at Burke’s Martial Arts, she exclaimed that the more she does, the better she feels both physically and emotionally.
“She is such a positive addition to our school since she has joined, and has become such a strong part of our kickboxing family here at Burke’s Martial Arts,” said instructor Bryan Bogue. “She always has a positive attitude and smile when she walks through our doors. The other kickboxers here love her for it. She gives it her all every time she comes to class, and has made some significant progress. That’s the most rewarding part of being an instructor, is seeing the progress a student makes. We can always count on seeing her a few times a week, and more often even five times in one week.”
Kickboxing began as a combination of boxing techniques and the kicking moves used in several martial arts, such as karate, kung fu and taekwondo. Kickboxing techniques require timing and help build balance and coordination, as all four limbs are being used. These moves develop a student’s core conditioning and provide a real full-body workout.
Bohlen can see and feel her progress already. She has learned new skills and improved her flexibility and strength, as well as her balance.
“I have also increased my self-esteem,” said Bohlen. “Now that I have been doing kickboxing for some time now, I am not afraid to attempt new moves and positions. Bryan [Bogue] has been by my side cheering me on and helping me both on a professional and personal level.”
“One thing I’ve learned is that it’s very clear she has a no-quit attitude,” said Bogue. “Whether it’s Burpees for a minute, or ten-ten-tens on the bag, she’s going to do them and give it her all. Ten-ten-tens is a sequence of 10 punches, 10 kicks with each leg and cycling through for four minutes doing as many as possible. It’s a drill we use to condition our Muay Thai fighters we train here, and she does them. She has brought a lot to our classes here with her positive attitude.
“That’s one of the many things that makes her so inspiring. She definitely helps inspire the other students,” Bogue continued. “You watch everyone in class and you can tell when someone’s right about to stop or give up, they look over and see her working hard and they keep going themselves. It’s one of the many ways she has come to be such a great part of our school here. We’re happy she chose us to help her reach her goals.”
For more information on Burke’s Martial Arts, call 300-2647.