Jennifer Hall

With all the growing trends of dieting and exercising over the last few years, the sport of kickboxing has become a popular means of a cardio workout.

This increase in interest is music to the ears of people like Eric Sandahl, owner and instructor of the Budo-Ryu School of Martial Arts in San Luis Obispo.

The training center opened in March 2005 and offers classes in muay-thai kickboxing, shotokan karate and Japanese sword fighting.

“Kickboxing seems to be growing all the time,” Sandahl, 27, said. “Part of the reason is instant gratification. You’ll see and feel results with kickboxing right away.”

Budo-Ryu has grown to accommodate 40 to 60 patrons throughout the week. They offer classes every day except Saturdays, including kids programs and adult classes that accomodate people from age 17 to late 40s.

“We have all these different martial artists that come here because they all feel welcome here,” Sandahl said. “We try to give more of the cultural aA§spect of things and be more relaxed.”

The kickboxing classes are available for all skill levels. The one-hour class includes punching and kicking drills, stretching, strength conditioning, an ab workout and develops strong muay-thai basics.

“Kickboxing is really cardio oriented,” Sandahl said. “We’re technically oriented as well and people see results after a few weeks both in technical and physical appearance.”

Sandahl began training in karate when he was 14 with sensei Don Wilson in Cambria. Since then, he has traveled to Thailand four times to train at the Sian Number One muay-thai kickboxing camp along with the chief instructor and trainer for Budo-Ryu, Albert Malatamban.

“In Thailand, if you don’t fight, then you don’t eat or go to school,” Sandahl said. “It’s quite intense. I felt really awkward because the kids knew thai boxing better than I did.”

Sandahl has trained for over three months in Thailand for six to seven hours per day, six days a week. He feels that the training enables him to give a more well-rounded education to his own students.

“We want people to learn why they’re doing this and how to apply it,” Sandahl said. “We try to pay more attention to detail.”

Malatamban has been practicing martial arts for over 30 years and after meeting up with Sandahl he began training at Budo-Ryu.

“I’ve always liked being a teacher,” Malatamban said. “I was an ok fighter, but what I found I have a niche for is training fighters.”

Malatamban currently trains middleweight Sandahl, super middleweights Ryan Cruz and Buck Stolberg, and his youngest song Zeah.

Sandahl recently won the California Muay Thai Association Championship for the 165-weight class on Feb. 15 in Whittier, California.

“Having someone competing gives the gym a little more credibility,” Sandahl said.

The competition was only his sixth and he has been training in muay thai kickboxing for three years.

“I haven’t fought for a year so I’m kind of dusting myself off,” Sandahl said. “It’s kind of a building process, you fight and then you start going up for titles.”

Amateur kickboxing consists of three, two-minute rounds with a one-minute rest in between. Competitors are matched up based on weight, competitive bouts and experience.

“Competing is interesting. It takes months and months,” Sandahl said. “You wake up some mornings and you just don’t want to do it anymore, but you get up and go to the gym and do what needs to be done. You keep going and going.”

The scoring system for kickboxing is similar to regular boxing. Each competitor starts with 10 points and tries to keep their points while taking points away from their opponent. Points are deduced for letting the opponent control the ring, landing concurrent blows, standing eight counts, and blows to the head or legs.

“Competing makes me strive to be better,” Sandahl said. “It works on the weaknesses in my own personality and it doesn’t matter if your arm is raised at the end because you did something you didn’t think you could do.”

That attitude is something that both Sandahl and Malatamban want to teach to their students, especially the 12 children involved in the Budo-Ryu kids program.

“Teaching martial arts to kids is important to me because this is not a nice world,” Malatamban said. “I understand that kids need direction and martial arts is a way for these kids not do things that they feel pressured to do.”

In addition to training, Budo-Ryu also has an important social atmosphere. Malatamban is famous for his barbecue tri-tip.

“This is not just a place to train and workout,” Malatamban said. “It’s a family environment.”

The gym has been steadily growing over the past year. They now have full-length mirrors, wood and rubber foam floors, weights, kick shields, gloves, changing rooms, medicine balls and punching bags.

“When we first started, we had nothing in here,” Malatamban said. “Most businesses fall apart after a year but we’re doing pretty well.”

Classes cost $50 per month or $170 for three months. The first two classes are free.

“This is not just a place to work out, it’s also a social gathering, it builds self-esteem,” Malatamban said “I think everybody should do this, young and old.”

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