Jab. Cross. Hook. Uppercut. Bob. Weave. Block.
These are the basic moves of boxing. Beyond body conditioning benefits like toned arms and tight core muscles, boxing is a therapeutic and empowering practice. Somewhere between the sound of a punch making contact and the rhythm of dancing on the balls of your feet, instincts and reflexes kick into gear. For women, boxing is also a confidence booster. Just the feeling of being able to hold your own in a fight against an attacker can alleviate depression and release pent up stress, leading to healthier hearts and minds. 

For the last two hundred years, female boxers have been bullied, banned and blacklisted from local boxing clubs and international competitions. Female fights were outlawed for most of the 19th and 20th centuries due to
athletic commissioners who refused to issue licenses to women. In 2009, while debating the terms of licensing female fights, the International Boxing Association seriously considered requiring female boxers to wear skirts in the ring as a “gender appropriate” uniform. It wasn’t until 2012 that women were allowed to box competitively in the Olympics for the first time, and in shorts.

Despite this systemic sexism in the traditional boxing world, group fitness classes like aerobic kickboxing have become highly popular among women in the last two decades. By eliminating the ring, physical contact and protective gear, these workouts focus on cardio instead of combat, which makes them ideal for mainstream gym clientele.

But for the woman with a fighter inside her, the one who wants to feel the impact of an uppercut punch and hear the sick thud of her leather glove hitting a 100-pound bag, there are now more inclusive boxing gyms than ever, particularly in California.

Small class sizes and one-on-one coaching at local, family-owned gyms like Westside Fitness in San Mateo are worth a try. This woman owned business has experienced trainers that coach with passionate attention to detail. The
gym is outfitted with a real, regulation-size boxing ring and offers circuit training, outdoor boot camps and TRX, along with private sessions for anyone looking to learn the sport of boxing or up their fitness game. Monthly no-contract memberships are available as well as punch-cards and the drop in rate is $25 a day. Gloves and wraps are required and are available for purchase. First timers can borrow used gloves if needed.
101 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

No matter where you choose to try boxing workouts for the first time, there are three things you should know before you go:

  1. Boxing gloves are required for classes with punching bags or mitt work because the padding protects fists and wrists on impact. Find boxing gloves at sports supply stores and online for between $15 and $50 a pair. It’s advisable to invest in a pair instead of renting or borrowing them. Why? Two words: hand sweat.

  2. Boxing wraps, which you wear on your hands inside the gloves, are also required because they protect your fingers and knuckles from getting jammed and swollen. The pros use a long, wide wrap and an intricate technique of weaving in between the fingers while amateurs can rely on gel-padded, ready to wear, fingerless gloves instead.
  1. Like all intense forms of fitness, remember to hydrate and breathe! Your first time might feel all over the place as you learn the punches and master the footwork, so be sure to drink water before class and avoid holding your breath during punch combinations. Keep at it, and you will be jabbing, crossing, hooking and uppercutting like a
    pro in no time!

By Caron Shahrestani