How to Become a Kickboxing Instructor

Kickboxing is an exciting and intense form of exercise. It has grown in popularity in recent years, and consequently the need for trained and certified kickboxing instructors in the United States is rapidly expanding.

Nine percent of Americans participate in at least one kickboxing class or session each week. Another 13 percent hope to eventually give kickboxing a try. If you’re a kickboxing enthusiast interested in becoming an instructor, there has never been a better time to enter the profession.

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What Does a Kickboxing Workout Look Like?

Kickboxing, which is also known as cardio kickboxing, is a hybrid of boxing and martial arts. It is not a form of combat, however, but a simulated sport that incorporates kicking and punching along with selected core-strengthening exercises like crunches and side bends. The application of the proper technique provides a fantastic athletic workout.

A typical kickboxing class will last for 30–60 minutes. It can be one-on-one training or in a small group. Kickboxing is designed to boost cardiovascular fitness, build better muscle tone and cause improvements in coordination and balance. It provides robust cardiorespiratory training. Workout routines are customized to the fitness level of each individual student, who may participate in an instructor-supervised group class or practice on their own, either with or without the guidance of a trained kickboxing instructor.

Over the course of a cardio kickboxing workout, students will perform punches, kicks and other stimulating or muscle-toning movements in succession. Kickboxing is classified as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), since each mini-session in a routine involves a two- to five-minute burst of intense physical activity, followed by a short rest before the next round of kicking, punching or core-strengthening exercises begins.

A standard kickboxing workout at a gym or fitness facility will normally include heavy punching bags, speed bags and pads as targets. But kickboxing movements can also be executed without the use of such equipment.

Cardio kickboxing is a vigorous activity that requires focus, concentration and endurance. If you become a kickboxing instructor, you’ll help your students plan safe and productive routines, teach them the proper techniques to perform all the required exercises and movements, and offer advice and encouragement during their kickboxing workouts.

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Qualities and Characteristics of a Successful Kickboxing Instructor

As a professional cardio kickboxing instructor, it will be your job to design carefully crafted workout programs that are appropriate for each client’s fitness and skill levels. The challenge of class design and of creating individualized programs should excite you, and you should relish the opportunity to apply your knowledge to teach proper form and to help other people achieve important life goals.

When working with students during kickboxing classes, in a small group or in one-on-one training, you must monitor their performance closely. This is so you can detect any flaws or mistakes in their movements and ensure that they are making proper progressions.  You must be diligent, attentive and observant at all times: you can prevent injuries and maximize the effectiveness of a workout by promoting proper warm ups and correcting errors in real time.

Your enthusiasm for your profession must be sincere. If it isn’t, your students will notice and their motivation will lag.

Kickboxing workouts can be physically strenuous and sometimes even frustrating, as students struggle to learn and execute unfamiliar movements. What they’re doing is difficult, and they will depend on your support and encouragement to help them achieve their fitness goals. If you show a true and genuine interest in their success, they will be inspired to keep on trying even when the going gets tough.

Certification for Aspiring Kickboxing Instructors

You must have at least a high school diploma or GED certificate. Beyond that, you can become certified as a kickboxing instructor in one of two ways.

The first is to take a comprehensive online training course, accompanied by a final exam that grants, on successful completion, official certification. Many of these are self-paced, working with online videos as examples, accepting video submissions of coursework and providing expert feedback. The second is to seek certification as a personal trainer or group fitness instructor first, and then acquire supplementary kickboxing certification by completing a continuing education course in that specialty.

Two respected, accredited fitness organizations that offer full-length certification courses are American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA) and the National Counsel for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT).

The most comprehensive of these courses is the AFPA certification program in Cardio Kickboxing Instruction. For a cost of $449, you’ll be enrolled in a comprehensive preparatory course that features 50 hours of online, self-guided study and practice, which you can complete at your own pace. Materials provided in the course will include instructional videos, physical textbooks, photos and illustrations, sample training programs with or without equipment and access to the final certification online exam.

The Cardio Kickboxing Instructor training course offered by the NCCPT is less intensive, yet still grants an official certification. It is also less costly, at $318 total for learning materials plus access to the final certification exam.

The courses offered by the AFPA and NCCPT will provide you with the certification you desire, from reputable organizations that are well-known to potential employers. Nevertheless, your chances of finding a job as a kickboxing instructor may be enhanced if you seek training and certification as a personal trainer or group fitness instructor first. Six-month programs that provide such training can also be purchased through the AFPA or NCCPT, and if you combine them with an official kickboxing certification it will add richness and depth to your resume.

Another route to employment is to acquire certification as a personal trainer or fitness instructor first, and then study kickboxing instruction through continuing education courses. Continuing education classes in cardio kickboxing instruction will take you at most a few weeks to finish, and since you can take them online they are not costly. At the end of your program you’ll receive a certificate of achievement, which verifies your completion of coursework in this specialized area.

There are two respected fitness advocacy organizations that provide opportunities to pursue this path. The first is the American Council on Exercise (ACE), which offers an online continuing education certification course that introduces aspiring instructors to the popular Urbankick style of kickboxing. The Urbankick instructor training course costs just $169, while an online program that leads to certification as a personal trainer or group fitness instructor at ACE will cost between $350 and $650, depending on the comprehensiveness of the certification package purchased. On each of these, you will learn instructor fundamentals.

The second organization that offers continuing education coursework in kickboxing instruction is the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA). Their kickboxing module costs $149 to complete and makes an excellent companion to their personal trainer or group fitness instructor certification programs. The latter will cost you between $299 and $599 to purchase, and the more you’re willing to pay, the more access you’ll have to materials and fitness experts who can prepare you for your final certification exam.

To enroll in any of these programs, you must be a high school graduate, be at least 18 years old, have a government-issued ID and carry evidence of current CPR/AED certification.

The ISSA, with expert instruction from martial arts expert and nationally recognized presenter, Zak Lee, offers an online course leading to certification. While the purchase of the course and online materials does not imply a passing score in the ISSA exam, the use of these will guide you to translate technique into different combinations that challenge both the mind and the body, to understand how kickboxing is different from other exercise techniques, and to learn how to confidently and safely instruct a kickboxing class. Zak Lee, one of the world’s best recognized martial arts masters, makes this course one to watch.

The College Route to a Career as a Kickboxing Instructor

There are no university or community college degrees that will prepare you specifically for a career as a personal trainer or group fitness instructor. But an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree in exercise science (or a related health or sports discipline) will help you establish a knowledge base that will make such a career path viable as a fitness professional.

Should you pursue a college degree in a subject area like exercise science, kinesiology, exercise physiology or physical education, you’ll study relevant topics like:

  • First aid
  • Anatomy
  • Exercise theory
  • Strength and conditioning
  • Sports and fitness nutrition
  • Weight management
  • Biomechanics
  • Sports psychology

Your academic credentials as a college graduate with an exercise science background should impress potential employers. But if you plan to pursue a career as a kickboxing instructor specifically, some type of certification that proves you have experience in that area will be helpful.

Salaries and Employment Prospects for Kickboxing Instructors

There are currently somewhere between 350,000 and 360,000 people working as personal trainers or fitness trainers in the United States. According to the the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs available in this sector is expected to grow by 13 percent between 2018 and 2028, which is nearly three times the expected growth rate for jobs in the economy as a whole.

Trained kickboxing instructors will encounter a diversity of opportunities when they enter the job market or look to change jobs. If you become a kickboxing instructor, you may find employment with:

  • Fitness centers or studios
  • Boxing clubs
  • Physical education departments in universities
  • Spas or resorts
  • Recreational or community centers
  • Martial arts academies
  • YMCAs
  • Corporate wellness centers

Approximately 11 percent of those who make their living as personal trainers work independently. They see students in home offices, at students’ homes, or online for virtual classes.

The pay scale for work as a fitness trainer covers a broad range. Hourly wages in the field average around $20 per hour, and the median annual salary for such a position was $39,820 in 2018. But employees and independent contractors can earn anywhere from $25,000 on the low end to $72,000 on the high end, demonstrating the possibility of advancement for those who work hard and stay in the profession for the long-term.

Wages and salaries for kickboxing instructors will fall generally within the above parameters. But the specialized skills you gain while training to teach kickboxing may give you a competitive advantage. The number of people qualified to become kickboxing instructors is much lower than the number certified as general fitness trainers, and since cardio kickboxing instructors are in demand this may give you leverage when you enter the job market.