San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Kicking It up a Notch in San Pedro

The proper technique for punching someone in the face doesn’t seem like a bad thing to know in a crime ridden city.

So, after some nagging from my roommate, I joined a kickboxing class at the EvolutionFightingCenter, in the eastern San José suburb of San Pedro.

It’s a sport I had never considered learning. The martial arts and I have never known each other personally, nor cared to. Besides, I’m partial to other sports, such as fantasy basketball, foosball and YouTube-ing.

Alas, the weight machine in the pharmacy next door to my office told me I was  well on my way to chubbiness, and kickboxing offered some motivation for forced exercise.

And that’s exactly what I got, and what many other people look for in these classes.

“People come here for exercise, selfdefense, to learn kickboxing or relieve stress,” said Mauricio Calvo, one of the instructors at Evolution.

The center, Calvo claimed, was the first full-fledged kickboxing school in San José, founded about eight years ago by Walter Alvarez, a North American kickboxing champion.

Calvo and associate Danny Guillén now run the place.

Three trainers and one student trainer teach classes at Evolution, each with their own approach, but the goal remains the same: helping students learn the proper techniques of kickboxing.

Or knowing how to knee someone in the gut. Actually, that’s one of my goals.

But first, let’s go back in history. Kickboxing is a sport with roots in Japan and Thailand, and it stemmed from karate in the 1950s.About 20 years after that, it debuted in Europe, then the United States, arriving in Costa Rica some 10 years ago, Calvo said.

Since then, it has become a standard martial arts sport, but many people do it for the exercise or stress relief.Whatever the motivation, the result is an intense workout.

In one class, my group started by running a lap around the nearby University of Costa Rica (UCR), which felt like a half-mile. Then it was on to grueling sit-ups, leg and pushup exercises. All together, it’s about 400 –ups of one kind or another.

After that comes learning the technique. For beginners, learning the proper way to deliver a jab is one of the first lessons: keep arms up to protect the face, tight deliveries, a centered torso and so on.

Or for kicking: full extension of the leg and rotating on the supporting foot for a better swing are two of the subtleties.

Exercises to hone technique are done using punching bags and sparring inside the ring.

Although it may sound like a brutal sport – and it can be, on the professional level – a wide range of people take the class, and not all are looking to be pros.

On any given day, men and women of all backgrounds and ages fill the 12-student classes. A month’s membership costs about $25, including as many classes as a person wants.

Calvo, who started learning the martial arts 12 years ago, said kickboxing is enjoying a boom in popularity. Many people, he said, like it because of the cardiovascular activity.

Which is undeniable. After a class, even those in the best of shape are sweating and gasping for air. I felt like dying after my first class.

“You don’t have to come in contact with anyone,”Calvo said.“But if you want to learn how to fight, we’ll teach you how to fight.”

For more information about EvolutionFightingCenter, call 225-7386 or visit


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