Spar Sunday Wearing Ilu Fitwear – Two Weeks Out Until 1st Degree Black Belt Grading in Kickboxing

This morning I woke up with nothing but an overwhelming sense of positivity. I had a great Saturday and the sun came out to play here in London, England. I was up relatively early as I wanted to get a ‘Superfood Sunday’ article out. This weekly series  I created had unfortunately been demoted to the sidelines as every little bit of my spare time (especially on Sundays) had been all about Kickboxing, making sure I am ready for the day of my 1st Degree Black Belt exam!!

So with only two weeks to go, today’s black belt session was our second to last one.

Next week will be a mock grading with Sensei and the week commencing our grading will see Jo, Darren and I completely winding down from any form of exercise, conserving all of our energy for the big day ahead.

I arrived at the Body Studio car park with Jo just after 1.30pm  (Darren was already there) and waited approx two minutes for Sensei to arrive before we all proceeded up the small flight of stairs to to our designated studio.

As I began to sift through my bag to get ready for the session ahead I realised I made TWO fatal errors!!

  • Error No 1: I did not pack my usual Adidas martial art trainers to train in and only had the Reebok Classic Workouts  I was wearing!!
  • Error No 2: If it couldn’t get any worse I noticed that my beloved GLOVES were not in the bag either!!

Honestly Danielle, how could you leave your gloves AND martial art trainers at home *shakes head*

There were some spare gloves lying around in our studio and Jo suggested I use the ladies Rebook ones.

Now I am NO fan of putting my hands in someone else’s gloves (if you kickbox or box as a method of training you will understand why!) but the suggestion made was that little bit easier to accept as I at least had my hand-wraps to ensure no skin contact was made.

Sensei advised us to quickly go through technical sets 1-16, with each of us only doing one set each.

Darren paired with Sensei and went straight into it whilst myself and Jo were still getting ready putting our hand-wraps and shin guards on (covers face).

Protective equipment finally on and myself and Jo began to blast our way through the technical sets.

Once we reached tech set 16 it was time for my favourite part of the session….

Three Minutes on the Heavy Bags (hands only)


I started off a little too fast and decided to ease off on the tempo after one minute just to ensure I lasted three full minutes without stopping!

I personally find hand combinations the easiest when working the bags so long as one has previously made up a routine and let the punches flow (I learnt from my mistake the week before last).

Lots of bobbing, weaving, ducking and lean backs were added to the equation so one does not look too static and flat footed.

I noticed the majority of my punch combinations were thrown in my natural orthodox stance (left stance) with the occasion switch to southpaw (right stance) so will make a mental note to make these combinations  thrown equally from both stances next week and on the day of our grading.

We had a one minute water break ( thank goodness for my premade My Protein Nutri Greens drink) and had to do work the heavy bags again, this time feet only!

Three Minutes on the Heavy Bag (legs only)


For all you fellow martial artists, muay Thai boxers, and MMA enthusiasts that have had to work the heavy bags with just your legs, may I say again FOR THREE WHOLE MINUTES… you would probably be in strong agreement that this is NO JOKE!

Tough and taxing on the legs is a severe understatement and this I’m not ashamed to admit I struggled with!

Normally kicking combinations done into focus pads, kick shields or be it the air is ten times easier to execute than on the heavy bags.

For one these bad boys are much harder to get moving when attempting to kick them and serious force and power is needed before the even begin to swing (above is pic of me landing back to stance after throwing a rear leg round-house kick to the bag)

When Sensei called time I thought the life had been sucked right out of me. Struggling to breath I focused on getting my breath back and after a quick sip of more micro-nutrient green goodness it was time to go back to technical sets.

This part of the session had us alternating partners. Sensei would call out a tech set and we would have to perform them each with the four of us in attendance.

We completed this with ease and once tech set 16 was completed (up to 1st dan) I watched on from the side as Jo and Darren proceeded with tech sets 16-20 (2nd Dan).

Now I love these tech sets, for the fluidity and combinations used are sooo complex, yet Jo and Darren did a sterling job performing them with vigor and pace.

After the last tech set was completed we were advised more heavy bag work was to come (the last of this session thank goodness) finishing off with hands and legs.

Three Minutes on the Heavy Bag (hands and legs)


GOOOO (Sensei shouted) and it was time to really make the last of these heavy bag workouts count! By this time as you can imagine we were all pretty much zapped and low on energy from the effort we had been putting in previously but Sensei didn’t care lol.

“More movement Dani, be up on your toes” I heard Sensei say, as I began to fade at my kicks and punches just after the half way point was reached.

I, as well as Darren literally grunted, growled, shouted and hissed our way through that last minute and a half and with “30 seconds left guys” those strange noises became louder (sorry not sorry) whilst Jo quietly worked through her combinations .

Timmmme! Sensei called and boy was I relieved at this stage. Dripping in salty sweat I downed the last of my Nutri Greens before proceeding to unearth my head guard. You guessed right, it was time to conclude the session with some light continuous sparring.

This is something that doesn’t quite come naturally to me for I am not an aggressive person be nature so tend to be more on the defensive than offensive.

Light Continuous Sparring 

Myself and Jo went first. We touched gloves and waited for Sensei’s go ahead to start. From the word go Jo began throwing endless punching combinations with me backing away trying my best to avoid getting hit!!

I recall throwing a couple punches and kicking combos here and there but mainly spend most of the two minutes allocated evading her combos whilst on on my toes changing direction in an attempt to kill time.

Sensei called time and advised me to look for openings when Jo was coming at me. He advised to stand still take the shots whilst keeping my guard nice and tight and wait for that opening to connect. This is something that comes naturally when done regularly but having not sparred properly since last year I think it was more of a confidence issue and one I can resolve by practising at home with the Mr.


The above pic was taken after our round of sparring, it was supposed to be an action shot, but Jo couldn’t resist smiling at the camera LOL!

Jo and Darren were up next and Jo didn’t let the fact he was the opposite sex intimidate her for she went straight in, often connecting sweetly with her punches and kicks whilst Darren had to hold back for she is still a lady. A fine display from both and Sensei finally called time.

Darren and I were up next and with both of us completely tired at this stage, we worked through it to throw out a variety of punch and kicking combinations. Sensei called time and it was finally time to conclude our second to last session with some much needed stretching!

That hour and a half seemed to have flown by but left the session feeling confident in our progress whilst buzzing from the natural high aka Endorphins.

With only two weeks to go (exactly) until the big day, I am happy with my overall performance and feel more sharper and quicker than I have been when previously attempting to go for my 1st Dan Grading.

Thanks again to the Ilu Fitwear team for the compression leggings and racer back top, I have trained in them three times at our Black Belt sessions and they have not once failed me on performance, fit and comfort (full review will be published soon).

Stay tuned for next’s weeks episode of ‘Spar Sunday’ as I share with you how it went down during our Black Belt mock exam please god.