Monday, 18 August 2014

Berkshire Fitness Scene : Bokwa

It is a rare occasion I walk out of a class but that's exactly what happened when I attended my first, and likely only, Bokwa class. Bokwa is sort of the new Zumba, a group exercise class that has gained popularity in many countries of the world, having been conceived in LA by Paul Mavi. It's one of the classes I found at Reading Uni that I've not seen anywhere else so I thought it worthy of a mention here.

So what is it? Well in essence it's a group dance class. It claims not to rely on fancy choreography but on merely drawing letter and numbers with your feet while popular music plays at high volume. Anyone can do it! It's not for the super fit or coordinated! So the claims go. Now I love dancing, have a reasonable sense of rhythm and don't generally have any issues with learning basic choreography so this should have been a cinch.

I will admit, I had a bad experience. The instructor turned up 15 minutes late. It turns out she teaches another class immediately beforehand that means she physically can't get to the studio on time yet the Sport Centre don't make any allowances for this when scheduling. So she's always 15 minutes late. Of course I didn't stay long enough to find out if that means she runs over by 15 minutes or if everyone gets short changed.

So by the time she arrives I've managed to get myself into a "this had better be good" sort of mood, which I appreciate isn't really the best frame of mind to be in. Because she's short on time she doesn't find out if anyone is new to class (there are at least four of us) or explain the basic concept. As I'd gone into this blind it would have made a big difference to me.

I stand near the front so that I can clearly see what she's doing. Her foot work looks incredibly fancy although occasionally she makes it very simple. I try to follow her and the girl next to me but the switching back and forth makes it difficult. It's only after 10 minutes I realise she's demonstrating two levels and not a whole variety of different steps.

It should have been easy. The music was actually really great and she had a lot of energy but I just couldn't get it. In trying to mimic her footwork I ended up leading with the wrong leg, getting in a tangle and then missing the beat. In the end I just stopped and stood there, watching, trying to figure it out before starting again. I wasn't getting any sort of benefit from moving and I was demotivated. Either she didn't notice or she chose to ignore me, offering no encouragement, so I picked up my belongings and left. I may have flounced.

Now I really want to emphasise that this was my own experience and in theory, anyone should be capable of doing these classes. Once you got the hang of the basic steps you'd be able to put as much or as little energy and complexity in as you wanted and therefore get as much of a workout as you liked. An instructor can absolutely make or break a class but it's the kind of thing you only find out from experience.

Please don't let my experience deter you from trying new classes, or Bokwa specifically. It does seem like a lot of fun and I'm only sorry that it didn't click with me.

Have you had any bad first experiences with group classes?


  1. I had a similar experience at Bokwa, I also didn't enjoy it and only did the one class. Turning up late and not helping a newcomer to class is really bad form as an instructor.

    1. Instructors can really make or break a class. It's such a shame because the idea is pretty neat.