Where: Fightin' Fit Health Studio, 2/F, World Trust Tower, 50 Stanley Street, Central (tel: 2526-6648. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ). The studio, which opened two months ago, offers kick-boxing, Pilates stretch classes, acupuncture and chiropractic services, but its emphasis is on martial arts classes - sorinjiryu kenkokan karatedo, aiki-jutsu and taekwondo. The floors are covered with sleek pine boards, and the walls decorated with certificates and photographs of the instructors. The place bears a low-ceilinged likeness to the Japanese-style room in which Keanu Reeves stylishly takes on Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix. Why: Not only are all forms of karate useful for general fitness and self-defence, but serious practitioners believe the discipline which is part of the teaching provides a foundation for tackling life's daily battles. Who: There's a little bit of Arnie in instructor Pierre Ingrassia, born in Switzerland to German and Italian parents. His deep-set eyes, square jaw, solid body and thick European vowels are reminiscent enough, but the similarity is most obvious when he demonstrates his potentially lethal punches and kicks, which could send an unsuspecting (fully padded) learner half-way across the room. A karate champion and former bodyguard - 'Keifer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, you name them, I've worked for them', he says - Ingrassia arrived in Hong Kong this year and worked as a private instructor before setting up the studio. What: Shorinjiryu kenkokan karatedo is a modern form of karate which originated in Okinawa. Classes are held in groups of usually less than 15 people, divided almost equally between men and women, and last about 90 minutes. Ingrassia puts his students through warm-up exercises before they execute the kicks and punches which make up the sparring routines. Exercises are mostly non-contact initially; later, students don padded vests and pummel each other with punches and kicks. The result: Even with the padding, the first few sessions can be tough on the knuckles, although it's fun to let loose with the punches and kicks and know you're not hurting the person you're bashing. The friendly class atmosphere and the absorbing process of learning the routines makes the time pass enjoyably. The bottom line: Fightin' Fit's fees vary according to activity. A month's boxing classes cost $800; unlimited access to martial arts classes costs $1,500 a month. When they sign up, all members pay a joining fee equal to their monthly fee. The verdict: This can be a time-consuming pastime - most people at the class I attended went to the studio four or five times a week. But the thoughtful focus on technique makes for a sweaty and intellectually absorbing workout - and you can't say that about the last time you ran on the treadmill.