Kicking Across Borders
Five years ago, Eliza Shirazi ’13 was a communication and public health major at UMass Amherst, studying abroad in South Africa, and teaching a kickboxing-inspired group fitness class. Now, Shirazi, founder of Kick It By Eliza, has 60 trained instructors and plans to bring the unique fitness program to international venues. “I wouldn’t have the courage to do all this without the experience of study abroad,” Shirazi says.
Shirazi first began teaching “Kick It By Eliza” during her first year at UMass Amherst. With experience, she has refined the music-driven movement approach to fitness and female empowerment. This summer, the popular class was offered at Flying Kites, a Boston-based charitable organization that operates a school in Kenya. Further helping the charity, the Kick It Crew trekked for Flying Kites up Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Her success, she notes, was launched during her junior year abroad at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. At Cape Town, she taught “Kick It” to her fellow students. Shirazi explains that group fitness hadn’t been very popular at the school, but by the end of the semester the mirrors of her class would be fogged up by the heat of the participants. “Kick It” had become one of the most popular fitness classes on the Cape Town campus.
Shirazi cites that class as one of the highlights of her study-abroad experience and says that it gave her the confidence to start her own business. She knew that if her class could work in another country and help her reach across cultural differences, she could take it anywhere. And she plans to. Kick It By Eliza is developing “Kick It International,” with classes taught all over the world.