I am tired, sweaty, and hungry after a grueling session of cardio-kickboxing. Benden Behr sits across the table from me at the Ratt, appearing rested, friendly, and attentive. After teaching four hour-long classes each week, you’d think he’d resemble me–not so. I doubt many college guys would have any objection to leading an aerobics class filled with over 30 leaping, kicking, bouncing girls. Behr handles it with ease.
In his class, Behr assumes a lively persona, bringing an energetic encouragement. As students kick and punch, he weaves in between them stealthily and quips, “Come on, two more!” as I narrowly dodge a wayward kick from the girl next to me. In class, Behr is rough-and-tough, kick, squeeze, jab, let’s go! Outside kickboxing, he’s serious and down-to-earth.
Behr grew up in Wyckoff, New Jersey, in what he calls “standard suburbia.” “I had a good time,” he recalls. “I had my cluster of friends, and loved high school.”
The 21-year-old is close with his family. He has two brothers; Kevin, age 17, and Brian, 21. Behr speaks fondly of parents Kerry and Joan. “We have a great relationship- I consider them my best friends.”
When Behr was about seven, he accompanied his mother to the grocery store to get frozen bagels. In the frozen food section, he reached down to grab a bag and caught his lip on a frozen bar. “I ripped the skin off my lower lip,” laughs Behr. “I didn’t want to tell my mom though, and walked around with my mouth like this –” Behr purses his lower lip up over his top lip in demonstration.
“My mother got mad and thought I bought some candy from the junk machine,” Behr explains. “`Spit it out,’ she said, and she held her hand out. I ended up spitting all this blood into her hand!”
Perhaps Behr’s early capacity for withstanding pain helped him out in his prosperous martial arts career. Influenced by “The Karate Kid”, young Behr began the sport in 1985. “I started out with regular karate,” says Behr. “When I was younger, I was definitly a hard hitter. But I wanted to get into more contact.”
Since then, Behr has improved his skills greatly. In 1997, Behr was awarded with the title of #1 Kickboxer in the Nation, for his age and weight class (age 17-23, 160-175 lbs). Just last year, he was also inducted into the New Jersey Black Belt Hall of Fame. Not bad for a business and management major.
For those who haven’t attended a class, kickboxing isn’t as easy as it looks. “It requires great endurance, speed, and determination,” says Behr.
What about teaching it, though?
Behr smiles. “I love the ability to inspire people. It gives students the opportunity to drop the books, put on comfy clothes, and let their bodies loose. Kickboxing is the number one stress reliever,” says Behr. “I love making people feel better about themselves.”
Though kickboxing takes up a lot of Behr’s time, his focus is his schoolwork. “If my work isn’t done, my day isn’t complete,” Behr says solemnly. “My roommates consider me anal.”
Behr is also actively invloved in Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, as a new member educator. He tells new members of the past, present, and future of the fraternity.
Smart, fit, focused, determined, family-orientated, invloved, and to top it off, he saved his choking golden retriever’s life by administering the Heimlich Maneuver. Don’t hold your breath girls, he’s taken.
Throughout the interview, I leave my turkey wrap untouched. There’s no time for eating when my pen is flying across my notepad, trying to keep up with Behr’s animated stories.
Last question: how has the college experience been so far?
“An absolute blast,” he smiles. “I’ve met great people, with great morals and values. I hope to continue having this good time with them in the future.”