What the fockwa is bokwa?

Thursday, February 28, 2013 Permalink

I’m still not back into exercise with any kind of enthusiasm or regularity, but… I did get myself off to a new gym class on Monday.

The staff at one of the two gyms I trialled earlier this year had told me they were starting a second weekly dance class. Now, as you know from my Burlesque Dance Post over at MizFitOnline I’ll try almost any dance class at a gym;  I did however, have no idea what to expect from Bokwa.

The staff member told me it had its roots in African style dance*… and having done my fair share of dancing in Africa when I lived there in the mid 1990s, I was intrigued. The blurb on the gym’s website, talked about ‘making letters and numbers’. Which really didn’t help explain anything.

But it appeared on the gym’s timetable a week or two ago and – with the weather too dire to do any walking – I decided to go to the class this week.

Unfortunately the instructor made we newies go at the front, but as she’d only taught two previous sessions there were almost as many first-timers as ‘oldies’. I did feel she could have explained the class and idea of the movements a bit more before she started. I’m pretty coordinated, but could barely hear her over the music as she shouted out… well… something.

I eventually realised though that she was saying letters, as in ‘C’ or ‘O’ and the like. It was pretty cruisey for the first few letters but some were a bit more high impact than others. And I’m unfit. As the aerobic room is not air-conditioned, the mirrors were fogged up and I was redder-than-red when I finished and thought for a few moments I might have had to stop and have a rest.

Apparently the instructor teaches a few new letters every second week, giving attendees  a chance to cement their learning over a two-week period. In the session I attended we ran through the letters the group had already learned before adding a couple more and then the instructor just randomly called out a letter and we ‘do’ that step.

I can’t help but wonder how a newbie would go turning up in a few weeks time and trying to pick up the dance without knowing each of the letters. And surely, once the group has learned all of the letters and numbers (and the intro is no longer required) newcomers would really struggle.

It’s not exactly like a dance class, you see, as the steps for each letter are remarkably similar. There are add-ons and minor differences.

I actually suspect it would get kinda tedious after a while as the thing I liked most about my old fave faux Zumba classes was that we constantly learnt new steps. But (unbelievably unlikely as it seems) I may (ahem) be wrong.

So, I have to admit I’m not won over by Bokwa. But given the lack of options in my current hometown I’ll probably head back there again!

Have you tried any new exercise classes lately?
What would you like to try?

* I don’t think this is actually correct!

  • Jo Tracey
    February 28, 2013

    I’d really love to try a new dance class. I’m considering going back to bellydancing, but am thinking burlesque could be cool if I can find somewhere local…who knows?

    • Debbish
      February 28, 2013

      Yes I think Burlesque offers a bit more of a cardio workout than bellydancing!

  • Jess
    February 28, 2013

    Hahaha love the title! Maybe best title ever. I have never heard of bokwa, sounds pretty random! But I guess you’re right with limited options it is something new for awhile. How cool that you lived in Africa for awhile. I would love to travel there!

    • Debbish
      February 28, 2013

      Hi Jess… couldn’t decide whether to keep the ‘c’ in fockwa… (The things I stress about – sure phonetics isn’t really the most important thing in today’s post!).

      Yes, I lived in Africa for about 16mths in 1995-96. In a place called Mozambique (SE Africa).

  • Jackie
    February 28, 2013

    Hmmmm looks interesting, but being so uncoordinated I can see it being a disaster just like Zumba was…. I just didn’t have the rhythm of the moves lol.

    • Debbish
      February 28, 2013

      I’m not a great dancer Jackie, but I’m pretty coordinated and can pick steps up… but the steps in this are so similar (just little extra add-ons) that you would struggle to know when you are doing an L or a J or C or an O – and so forth!


  • Char
    February 28, 2013

    I will NEVER do a dance class again after my failed attempts at learning to tap and to funk. I was so bad at funk that I didn’t even raise a sweat. That means that I was standing watching most of the time because doing was beyond me. Sounds like you at least got a workout from your class.

    • Debbish
      February 28, 2013

      I did get a great workout Char.

      I suspect you feel the same about dance classes I do about jogging / running! (Don’t get it – at all!)

  • @Kanga_Rue
    February 28, 2013

    Love the title!

    I used to do Afro-Jazz which was a lot of fun. I’ve wanted to try Burlesque for years! Pole Dancing is brilliant.

    • Debbish
      March 1, 2013

      The 24hr gym at the bay has Burlesque classes…

  • Vanessa @ babblingbandit.me
    March 2, 2013

    I don’t even have a gym membership right now and even if I did I would never do a class that required any kind of coordination. I am shit at it.

    I was wondering what bokwa was when I saw it turn up on your facebook status. Sounds crazy to me.


    • Debbish
      March 3, 2013

      Yes, Vanessa… as you can see – the jury is still out for me!

  • Anneke Pieters
    March 25, 2013

    I prefer zumba above bokwa wich is only a poor copy and verry boring after a vieuw times. bokwa or zumba

    • Debbish
      March 25, 2013

      I have to say I probably would agree with you Anneke.

  • Debs
    March 30, 2013

    Yup bokwa is different but gets boring after a while it really doesn’t change up. The music is exciting but seriously once you get the steps and master it, it’s like now what, what’s next. I’ve personally done Zumba masterclass with the ‘pros’ who do not have any African rhythm to them, just boppity bopping around. The creator make it look like th sloppy township dancing and with the posture with the kwaito dancing can’t be good for you. I’ve been to a masterclass with the created too and it was fun with him being there and showing off these crazy African style but seriously I can’t see how this works the rest of the body. It’s the same old routine but nothing more exciting is shown. It’s NOTHING like the local people from South African move when they dance. Don’t be fooled into this workout, it’s bad for the knees and not a class to just fall into and follow like with Zumba or any other dance fitness or step class. Did I mention knees?

    • Debbish
      April 1, 2013

      I most definitely prefer Zumba!

  • Kerry
    May 14, 2013

    I did my first Bokwa class tonight – wow I can see how this could get incredibly boring! If you love dancing and choreography – this is certainly not the class for you! It was not a patch on Zumba – more like dead-eyed line dancing … no energy – and hardly employed the upper body at all (except for making silly signals in the air of what shape you are stepping out on the ground). Make sure you have good tread on your shoes if you want to take this class up – two little jumps mark the end of thousands of (boring) sequences. Mainly works the calf muscles.

    • Debbish
      May 15, 2013

      Oh Kerry, so true! I’m all about the choreography. I like my instructors to mix it up. Even my most-recent fave instructor, who used to repeat routines / tracks had enough in there to really mix it up for us. Plus her routines were fabulous so we didn’t care if we did them most weeks. (In fact I probably asked for them!)

  • The Jungle Body
    May 20, 2013

    Hi Everyone!

    We would love for you Schmiet to trial our KONGA Class & give us feedback!

    Our KONGA workout combines Boxing + Dance + Pilates! Its easy to do, high intensity and we give our Instructors 10 new routines every 4 weeks – so it never gets old 🙂 We have classes all over Australia. You can check out an example of a class here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlaFotpyoKA or go to http://www.thejunglebody.com

    Hopefully we hear from you soon!

    The Jungle Body

    Thanks Ladies!

  • Angela
    June 26, 2013

    Well, I have read your article and I actually teach both Bokwa and Zumba. And…I do think that Bokwa is here to stay. I love both classes. Zumba is very hippy and shimmy shakey…which doesn’t appeal to some and well, leaves my male students to a minimum. However, Bokwa has appealed to little kids coming with their parents, spinners whom would never walk into a Zumba class, more of the male population. Bokwa is repetitive at the beginning of every class as it should not be just the two first weeks of class, they should break down the moves period before you go all out. However, pending the instructors discretion, and my students pick up quickly we are moving and burning mega calories and going full out by 15-20 minutes into class. Zumba is very core oriented, Bokwa is very leg oriented. So…you are using different muscles in each form of exercise. Zumba is more dancey and will require coordination, Bokwa more jumpy and simpler to follow. You cannot really compare the two…they are two very different exercise programs. Both a lot of fun though. I love them both. The main difference between a Bokwa instructor and a Zumba instructor is you are required to take a test for Bokwa. The instructor is taught the same moves, how to teach them and tested on them. Zumba is a license…which means your instructors can vary greatly as there is no test or minimal parameters to meet. Everyone walks away with the ability to teach. So, not as simple to go from one class to another at another facility. That being said…as a fitness instructor, mix it up. Do Zumba one day, Bokwa the next, pick up a RIPPED class. The more you mix it up the better the results you will see! 🙂

  • Neva
    July 25, 2013

    Yea Bokwa is coming to San Antonio Texas cant wait to try it, while I love zumba in a town with a whole lot of Hispanic and Latino cultural flair zumba can be hard at times, if y9ou don’t know the Latin moves u tend to be at a loss. This Bokwa looks more simple at lest on the video. all you have to do is spell and count. I love belly-dancing and over time it did whittle my middle but not a whole lot of weight came off, I have also did some thing called Bollywood fitness love it more then zumba you use Bollywood steps and you speed it up super fun. I also tried hooping but the weighted hula-hoop I could never keep up and it was just kind of hard, nothing like the kids hoops of yesterday lol. There also a new class in my town called cage fitness but it looks rough has any one tried it ?

    • Debbish
      July 26, 2013

      I’ve tried burlesque but like belly dancing it’s not great for cardio vascular fitness or weight loss. Cage fitness sounds interesting… will have to google it.

      Bokwa’s moves were simple but a little boring if that makes sense. Perhaps I needed to give it more than one class though. I could try it again now I guess. I hope you enjoy it!!!

  • caroline
    August 16, 2013

    Hi im also both bokwa+ zumba instructor plus other fitness genres, when i explain bokwa i say this is not dance, its a series of steps based on numbers/lettrs and other style moves, dont expect choreo etc, i never used DANCE THE DIGITS, which im glad to say has been changed, we sweat both lettrs and numbers, its very diffrent from Zumba and im glad, we need various fitness styles, my classes are Zumba Fitness, Bokwa Fitness, Powerhoop, Konga Jungle Body, Just Jhoom. I leave Les Mills to those who wanna teach their styles and they too are amazin.

    • Debbish
      August 16, 2013

      Caroline I love your description of the difference dances. I think that was my problem… I love choreography (I was the same when I did ‘step’… I liked instructors who went for the complicated routines rather than the boring high impact simple moves!). I wish the gyms in my town offered some of the other styles you mention!!!


  • Emma Fortis
    August 28, 2013

    I teach both Bokwa and Zumba, and I totally agree with this post. Bokwa is ok for the first few bits, and I’ve even done Bokwa 2, but after the first few goes you start to feel like a child! Repetitive repetitive repetitive…. Zumba is full of potential. The main issue people seem to have with Zumba is that they don’t want to wiggle… SO DON’T! You’re not going to get kicked out of the class just because you’re not fond of the ‘booty shake’! SPEAK TO YOUR INSTRUCTOR. They will change the Zumba class to suit you. Bokwa is what it is and can’t be changed. Zumba has infinite possibilities and levels for everyone!

    • Debbish
      August 29, 2013

      Hi Emma and thanks so much for your comment. It’s great to hear from those who know (and teach) both. I actually LOVE the booty shake!


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