By James Bell
Despite the vibrant name of Hay’s newest gym, Wild Style Kickboxing, 1011 at 27 # 5, according to owner Steven Wilkinson, it’s all about getting up and getting active.
The gym officially opened recently, but helping others achieve their fitness goals has been a central part of Wilkinson’s life for much longer.
His martial arts history begins in 2012 when he lived in his hometown of Great Bend and trained with Iron Cobra Martial Arts.
“That’s where my journey really started,” said Wilkinson.
Ultimately, he found a gym in the area that helped him start his fighting career.
And in the past four years, as an active competitor in martial arts, he has won several titles.
While he was exercising himself, he started working with friends and exercising them at his home.
“Before I knew it, more and more people were interested or wanted to show up and get in shape – to transform their lives into a more active, healthier lifestyle, to get exercise and do something,” said Wilkinson.
He said boxing and kickboxing have also become more mainstream, and since Hays is a university town, self-defense knowledge is often sought in the town.
“A lot of women have been interested in what we’re up to,” said Wilkinson.
During the summer he actively trained more than a dozen people outside of his home. After getting into winter training, he began securing a site.
“I didn’t know it was going to get as big as it was,” said Wilkinson. “But we wanted to put together a place where people can train and get their lives back.”
Training and preparing for fights, he said, has helped him put his life in order and now he hopes to share it with others.
“I literally had to make my way to a better life,” he said. “Now I can do it constructively and this has helped me keep my life on track and focus on a healthier lifestyle.”
Kickboxing as a sport, he said, is a solo activity where no one but the individual can be held responsible for failure.
“You are the only person responsible for your actions in the ring,” said Wilkinson. “You don’t have a team to carry you, so it’s all up to you. There is more accountability for your workout and what you do in life. “
The same thing, he said, can be said to get in shape.
Its services cover a wide variety of levels and activities from weight loss to exercise to professional level.
“The best way to lose weight and build lean muscle is through kickboxing and boxing exercises,” said Wilkinson.
He even works with teenagers, including one who has moved to the new location.
“It keeps him out of anger,” said Wilkinson e. “It gives him a place to go after school and something constructive to look forward to.”
While he trains competitors to fight in the ring, there is a zero tolerance policy on violence outside of the gym.
“Anyone who trains here,” said Wilkinson, “unless it’s a self-defense situation that saves someone else’s life.”
Training in this way, he said, helps teens be bullied, but can also help promote the discipline that prevents someone from becoming a bully too.
“I’ve dealt with both sides,” said Wilkinson, “so I know how it is on the other side.”
Opening the gym in the middle of a pandemic also created a unique situation. The gym can help reduce the stress and anxiety caused by COVID-19.
“Right now people are telling me that they are stressed, that they were in their house, that they were overheard about the whole COVID thing, just cooped up for so long,” Wilkinson said. “You need an outlet.
“To come in and hit something, of course, you feel relieved, but I can teach you to do it constructively,” he said.
He hopes as many as they wish will use the place to find relief during this stressful time.
“I know what the benefits of this place have done for me. I just want to offer this to others in the ward, ”Wilkinson said.
And for those who make the effort, the reward can be life changing, he said.
“The main pressure here isn’t necessarily self-defense, or the competing fighters get people moving and active and confident,” said Wilkinson. “If you can throw a punch to the right, you move differently, you speak differently, you walk differently and not necessarily cocky, but you have confidence in your abilities because you’ve seen it tried and done over and over . ”
He knows what happens when people are inactive and cause depression and other mental health problems. However, by getting in shape and exercising, you can maintain a positive and happier lifestyle.
“When your body feels good, the rest of you feel good,” said Wilkinson.
While the opening was a slow rollout, he said interest continues to grow and some new customers are added weekly.
“He’s a great trainer,” said Ray Bergmeier, Wild Style Kickboxing customer. “I’m doing some private lessons and I’m going to do a group but just great attention to detail and he’ll tailor it to what you need and what you want to do, whether it’s about losing weight, getting in shape or something to learn kickboxing or self defense whatever it may be.
“Its intensity is also very dynamic,” he said. “I think it can have many different levels of intensity, depending on what the customer needs. I recommend it to anyone looking to get in shape or try something different. “
As the business grows, Wilkinson plans to introduce more equipment to give customers the ability to do a full workout in the gym along with their workout.
He offers basic group courses and can also offer personalization training.
While kickboxing, he said that at some point there is the stigma of violence, but at his location the environment is geared towards inclusiveness.
“We’re a family-friendly neighborhood,” said Wilkinson. “There is no ego here. Everyone is intimidated by the “gym and boxing fight,” but no tough guy here. Everyone checks their ego and attitudes at the door. We are here to lift and improve one another. Everyone’s fighting something, if you come in here we’ll fight together. “