On Tuesday, high-school teacher Demetrius Leonard walked past a sign reading "Get Fit, Never Hit" and into the 9Round Gym at 7550 East Brainerd Road.
It was his first visit, so he signed a waiver and immediately got to work. Ben Tate, owner of the 1,700-square-foot gym, told him to start on ab work before moving to jump rope.
"I hate jump-roping," Leonard said after he mistimed a jump. Still, he started again and soon gained rhythm.
Leonard, 25, said he recently moved to the Chattanooga area from Montgomery, Ala., to teach at Ridgeland High School.
The 9RoundGym location is part of a chain with 21 franchises in six states. Each location is designed to offer 30-minute, station-to-station workouts using elements of kickboxing and boxing.
The workouts are designed to help people lose fat, tone muscles, increase endurance and build flexibility, according to the company's website.
At the YMCA, Leonard said he spends an hour and a half lifting weights and running on a treadmill. In one half-hour at the 9Rounds Gym, he said he builds up more perspiration.
Meanwhile, some other area fitness centers continue to offer classes in kickboxing.
The Rush Fitness Complexes in East Brainerd and Cleveland each offer one kickboxing class. The Cleveland gym also offers other martial arts training at 5 a.m. from Monday through Friday. Dojo Chattanooga, at 323 Cherokee Boulevard, offers a fitness kickboxing program in addition to its martial arts classes.
Others, though, see popularity waning.
Sportsbarn isn't hosting any kickboxing classes because general manager David Brock said demand has fallen off.
"It doesn't have huge numbers for us," he said. "It used to and then it kind of fell off. We're moving on to different things."
Tate, the owner of 9Round, said his gym doesn't offer classes. Instead, the trainers there guide customers through a nine-stop circuit with workouts such as freestyle punching bag, sparring and a speed bag.
Kate Kermicle said she came to Chattanooga to be trained as the district manager of Aldi, a discount grocery chain based in Germany. She said she runs 30 minutes a day, but she was looking for more challenge. With a fluid work schedule, she needed a gym that could accommodate her busy life. She paid for the $29-per-month, two-visits-a-week package.
Kermicle said she was diagnosed with diabetes last September. She's still new to counting carbs, calculating insulin dosages and checking her blood sugar, but she knew she needed to stay in shape and relieve her stress.
"If I get angry at work or at someone," she said, "I can just beat up the bag."
People are watching mixed martial arts and boxing on television, and they're intrigued, Tate said. But most people don't want chipped teeth or broken noses. His gym lets people try a dangerous sport, minus the danger, he said.
"People want to do the Rocky-style workout," he said, "but not everybody wants to get in the ring."
Contact Andrew Pantazi at 423-757-6467 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew Pantazi is an intern at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who says that when he was 7 he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, he says he wasn't any good at hockey, so he became a journalist instead. He writes about the lives we hide, like the man who suffered a stroke but smiled, or the football walk-on who endured 5 ...