A knock­out body work­out

An in­creas­ingly num­ber of women are choos­ing to throw punches to keep fit as the box­ing trend hits Shang­hai

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By LI XUEQING in Shang­hai lixueqing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Satur­day af­ter­noons can at times be an un­usual af­fair for Zhao Qian and her four-year-old son. In­stead of tak­ing the boy to a park or an amuse­ment cen­ter, the 31-year-old some­times brings him along to the box­ing stu­dio that she fre­quents. Even at home, the child would cre­ate a makeshift ring us­ing his toy cars and get his mother to spar with him.

Zhao picked up box­ing just a year ago and it was, in a way, be­cause of her son. She was des­per­ate for a fit­ness regime to get back in shape af­ter her son’s birth. Fur­ther­more, she was also seek­ing some­thing to break the monotony of par­ent­ing du­ties.

“Look­ing af­ter a baby 24/7 can be de­press­ing. Now I’m happy, es­pe­cially on days when I have train­ing,” quipped Zhao, who said she can now com­plete 15 push-ups us­ing her fists in a minute.

“It has made me more pa­tient with my son and I’ve also found a new topic to share with him,” she added.

Ac­cord­ing to Shane Be­nis, the founder of Golden Gloves Box­ing Gym in Shang­hai, there is a grow­ing num­ber of women in the city who are pick­ing up the sport. Half of its cus­tomers are women with an av­er­age age of 29. Most of them are white col­lar work­ers, busi­ness women and stay-athome moth­ers. Half of them are Chi­nese.

“The boom in Chi­nese women’s box­ing has been hap­pen­ing over the last 18 months. One of the rea­sons could be that many fa­mous mod­els in­clude it as part of their fit­ness regime. For ex­am­ple, Chi­nese Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret mod­els all use box­ing to keep fit,” said Be­nis, who added that Shang­hai is cur­rently lead­ing the way in terms of par­tic­i­pa­tion in the sport, and that Kun­ming and Bei­jing have vi­brant box­ing scenes too.

The Bri­ton also runs white col­lar box­ing events in Bei­jing and Shang­hai through his other com­pany CSP Events. He has ar­ranged 20 events to date, with an av­er­age of 18 box­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in each event. “We al­ways try to have at least one or two women’s bouts at each event,” he said.

Many women get into the sport be­cause it has proven to be an ef­fec­tive way to lose weight. Be­cause of the na­ture of the sport, box­ing re­quires a great deal of car­dio­vas­cu­lar ac­tiv­ity, which makes for an ex­cel­lent to­tal body work­out. Golden Gloves’ web­site claims that cus­tomers will be “burn­ing up to 1,000 calo­ries per hour and build­ing more mus­cle def­i­ni­tion than any other work­out in the short­est amount of time”.

For oth­ers like un­der­grad­u­ate Liu Anqi and fash­ion editor Wang Kun, it is the men­tal as­pect of box­ing that has them hooked.

“When I prac­tice, I just fo­cus on my moves. All the other ‘win­dows’ are shut and that re­ally helps to re­lieve stress,” said Liu.

“When prac­tic­ing box­ing you can­not think of work. Once you are dis­tracted you might end up hit­ting your trainer,” quipped Wang, a fash­ion editor, who signed up for classes af­ter just one trial ses­sion.

To cater to the ris­ing in­ter­est in the sport, pri­vate trainer Tai Yifu said that more and more gyms in Shang­hai, such as Will’s Gym, Tera Well­ness Club and TideCaller, have started to of­fer box­ing classes, many of which com­bine the Western style with other types such as Thai box­ing and kick box­ing.

Box­ing can hardly be con­sid­ered a pop­u­lar sport in China, cer­tainly not in the same league as bas­ket­ball, bad­minton and ta­ble ten­nis.

It was not till 2004 that the coun­try won its first ever Olympic box­ing medal in Athens, cour­tesy of male boxer Zou Shim­ing. He went on to win two gold medals in the sub­se­quent two edi­tions.

Zou’s ex­ploits on the world stage, and the re­cent in­clu­sion of women’s box­ing in the 2012 Olympics, are rea­sons for the el­e­vated in­ter­est in the sport, said Gong Jing, the founder of Shang­hai Princess Women’s Box­ing Club, the first women-only box­ing club in China.

Gong opened the club in 2010 to change the per­cep­tion that box­ing isn’t a blood sport meant only for men. She noted that busi­ness did not take off un­til 2013.

“Box­ing has been clas­si­fied as the 12th most dan­ger­ous sport in the world, af­ter soc­cer and bas­ket­ball,” Gong said, adding that box­ing is not as dan­ger­ous as it seems and that it is more about con­cen­tra­tion rather than brute strength.

Gong her­self is a liv­ing ex­am­ple of how box­ing can ef­fect pos­i­tive change. Once a con­stant tar­get of bul­ly­ing dur­ing her child­hood days, Gong trans­formed into an ath­letic pow­er­house af­ter her dad en­rolled her in box­ing classes. To­day, she weighs only 46 kg and doesn’t have a hulk­ing physique but that can be rather de­cep­tive — Gong is ac­tu­ally a for­mer World Box­ing As­so­ci­a­tion boxer and a Chi­nese cham­pion.

“When you box, your over­all ath­letic abil­ity im­proves. My teach­ers and class­mates saw my change. The bul­ly­ing stopped ever since I started box­ing,” she said.

Over at Princess Women’s Box­ing Club, there is a greater em­pha­sis on ton­ing and con­di­tion­ing as Gong tailors the train­ing to suit the physique of Asian women. She has also fos­tered a com­pet­i­tive spirit within the premises, of­fer­ing her 300 mem­bers three train­ing lev­els that dif­fer in in­ten­sity.

Ascending the first tier re­quires mem­bers to pass fit­ness tests set by Gong, such as be­ing able to per­form 15 pushups us­ing the fists and 45 si­tups, both within one minute. In ad­di­tion to these stamina tests, mem­bers must be able to demon­strate proper box­ing tech­niques and a solid knowl­edge of the sport.

Only mem­bers in the sec­ond and third tiers are al­lowed to fight in the ring. A mem­ber has to de­feat three op­po­nents of the same level and weight class in or­der to grad­u­ate to the third level.

“When you stand in the ring and are hit in the face, your self­es­teem hurts. You’ll be driven to train harder so that you don’t get hit in the nose next time,” said Gong.

“Box­ing is ul­ti­mately a con­fronta­tion be­tween two peo­ple. You ei­ther win or lose,” she added.

PHOTOS BY GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY

Liu Anqi prac­tices her punches dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion at Princess Women's Box­ing Club. Liu says that box­ing helps her to re­lieve stress.

There are three tiers of train­ing at Princess Women's Box­ing Club and mem­bers are pushed to their lim­its in phys­i­cal tests if they want to grad­u­ate to move ad­vanced lev­els.

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