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Class Action: Fight Back Fitness

Practicing front-kicks—on the beat, at Fight Back Fitness’s Manhattan location. (Photo: Well+Good)

Working out, in general, should help you defend yourself on the city streets. You’ll be stronger, faster, and more agile.

But Fight Back Fitness takes that idea a few steps (or kicks) further, offering sweat sessions in Manhattan and Brooklyn that will make you lean and mean but will also teach your body how to react in scary situations, all while channeling the energy of a music-driven cardio workout class.

“It’s for people who wouldn’t normally walk into a self-defense class,” says its creator Tiffany Wolf,* a Brooklynite who’s been training in Goju Karate since 1995, referring to boutique fitness junkies who may never be inclined to sign up for a traditional self-defense workshop. “I always say, I hope they never have to use them, but hopefully they’ll walk away with some self-defense techniques.”

A class involves lots of different combinations of punches and kicks, many of which are executed while also doing other exercises, like lunges, ab work on the floor, and squats (like, a million of them). It’s similar to what you might expect in a kickboxing class, except that the movements are more technical and Wolf stops to explain what you’d use them for if you really needed them.

FBF_TifWolf3 2
Tif Wolf of Fight Back Fitness (Photo: Well+Good)

For example, before we launched into a combination that involved throwing your elbow back over your shoulder, she enlisted a volunteer and showed how the movement would be effective in striking someone if they attacked you from behind. Then, we repeated it over and over on the fast-paced beat, (calorie) burning it into our muscle memory. It was a movement I never would have dreamed up on my own, and now, my body has it at its disposal.

Some of the movement combinations are a little tricky to master at first, but you catch on gradually, and in the end, you leave super sweaty and exhausted. Plus, throwing punches to greatest hits of the ’80s and top 40 pop like Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars is stress-relieving and fun. And for women who may not see themselves as Krav Maga material, it’s the perfect substitute. —Lisa Elaine Held

Fight Back Fitness, $15, is offered in Chinatown, and Park Slope, Brooklyn,

*Disclosure: Wolf is married to Well+Good founder Melisse Gelula