At a regularly scheduled Monday night practice, more than a dozen eager children methodically rehearse a set of combinations: jab, jab, high kick. As the sweat drips down their faces, there is a sense of accomplishment from the young kickboxers.
Their teacher, Alexis Cardona, walks around the turf and motivates his students, periodically jumping to practice one on one before moving to the next student.
A Buda native, Cardona knew that after graduating from Live Oak Academy he wanted to make kickboxing his career, but the road to opening the first Muay Thai Kickboxing center in Hays County was filled with challenges and hardships.
After graduating high school, Cardona took the long journey to Southern California, where he trained for four years to perfect his art with the goal of coming back home and sharing his gift with Hays County.
“It was tough. I stayed on my buddy’s couch for months, lived in my car, couldn’t afford rent and eventually found myself sleeping at the gym where I trained and taught,” Cardona said. “But I knew I was doing this to achieve something bigger than myself. I’m doing this for all the children who are trying to find themselves in an art.”
Iron Kickboxing, which opened its doors June 12, is a program that accepts eager students from all age groups. Cardon teaches adult and child classes throughout the week with the goal of giving people a different way to exercise and express themselves through art.
Kickboxing is not a sport, but an art form that allows people to express themselves through the gloves, Cardona said. Muay Thai isn’t about fighting. Once the gloves are on, the battle is done, he says.
As a new business owner in Hays County, Cardona hopes to bring a new artform to the county. Despite being a young entrepreneur, Cardona makes accommodations for children of lower income households to learn kickboxing.
“I grew up poor and lived poor in California,” Cardona said. “We’re doing this for the kids and our program will accept them regardless of money. I want this program to be able to help them with that. I want to give back.”
Through his six years behind the gloves, through the hardships and sweat, Cardona has learned that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard – a philosophy he tries to instill in his students.
“It takes a lot of confidence and will (power) just to put the gloves on,” Cardona said. “One thing I want to teach my students is to not give up. Despite their hardships at home or at school, this is a place to push through the adversity.”