Kicking with Ken


He may be known as the guy who pesters students about AP forms, or the guy in charge of guiding students to college, but what many might not know is that Counselor Ken Jackson is a certified Group Kickboxing instructor.

After a long day of phone calls, answering questions and nagging students about turning in forms, counselor Ken Jackson heads down to the cafeteria, to spend the next forty-five minutes jumping and punching, all while motivating fellow CSD faculty and Staff.

Every Monday and Thursday, Jackson teaches a group kickboxing class. The specific class Jackson teaches is called Group Kick and is administered under the national compan, Body Training Systems, based in Atlanta.

Group kick infuses various high-energy kickboxing and martial arts moves, into a workout paired with equally stimulating music.

A usual class starts with a warm up, and then begins to incorporate boxing moves into the exercise. After, the class begins the first cardiac peak, Muay Thai, a combat martial art from Thailand. Next, follows more kickboxing, mainly focused on the lower body, introducing moves that will be used in the next stage of the class, Super Boxing. After conditioning, another Muay Thai, balancing and legwork, the class ends with a cool down.

“We finish with a cool down that uses softer music, sometimes it has some tai chi or tai chi-esque kinds of moves to bring people’s minds and heart rates back down”, Jackson said.

Jackson used to work in a fitness center as the general manager and group fitness instructor. He became interested in becoming a certified Group Kick Instructor after taking his first class.

“The first time I took it as a student, I was terrible,” Jackson said. “I was going all over the place, but I had a lot of fun. I sweat like crazy, and my heart rate was up.”

Jackson decided to go through the process of training himself to become a certified teacher. He would spend most of the weekend taking a kickboxing class redundantly, where he would learn execution, safety, marketing, and how to teach for various levels.

Then, Jackson spent the next one or two months practicing kickboxing for an hour each day. As the last part of the process, Jackson videotaped himself teaching a Kickboxing class, which he sent to Body Training Systems, and was evaluated by the company to make sure that he was following the program, and executing appropriately. Jackson then got his certification.

Jackson taught Kickboxing at his fitness center for a few years before coming to Decatur High School. Teachers who wanted him to start the class at Decatur approached Jackson, but Jackson could never find the right time to hold Kickboxing classes. A few years ago, things finally fell in place, and Jackson received special permission from the company to teach the program at Decatur High School.

“A lot of things came together, and lot of people asked me at just the right time,” Jackson said. “I happened to be in a PHD program at the time, and I really couldn’t go to the gym as much as I wanted to”

Classes are held at various locations around the school, sometimes the wrestling room, and sometimes the cafeteria.

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“The kids will walk by the cafeteria and the door will be open, and they are just so confused as to why we are in there,” science teacher Madison Rigger said. “It is fun to see them get these shocked faces on”

Jackson does not make up the classes he teaches. He receives specific instruction from the company programmers, who send Jackson, along with other Group Kick Instructors, a video of the particular program each time it is changed.

The company spends months researching music for the program, and testing the design out. They incorporate top hits from past decades, as well as new ones fresh off the charts.

“The idea is that for the ten songs you are going to hear, no matter what age group you are from, there is something that you can identify with,” Jackson said.

Kickboxing forces people to step out of their comfort zone, and at first can feel a little awkward.

“My first time kickboxing with Jackson was humiliating,” History teacher Kristen Embry said. “I thought I was reasonably athletic and physically fit, but I was huffing and puffing and sore for days. I was worried about not getting steps and punches right.”

Jackson always tells people that they can’t judge kickboxing until the fourth time, because ‘they are not used to walking down the street throwing jabs, uppercuts and a Muay Thai knee.’

“If you can do four without giving up then you’re hooked, and he’s right,” Embry said. “Every time I start a new routine, I get so discouraged and frustrated, but if I go four times I am in the groove.”

The class allows DHS faculty and staff to relieve the stress of their day and workout for free.

“It’s very cathartic to kick and punch right after school with people who deal with the same sort of things you deal with,” Embry said.

The class also allows teachers and staff to interact in a different situation.

“You get to know people in a different way, and you get a lot closer with them,” Jackson said. “Working out with people we know and who work in the building is fun and rewarding.”