Most people get confused when I tell them that I box. At Notre Dame, where I go to college, it isn’t that unusual, since we actually have a women’s boxing club. But attempting to beat the crap out of someone on a daily basis isn’t exactly the most common pastime for young women. The closest most girls get is a kickboxing or mixed-martial arts class at the gym, but this is full-on don’t-stop-hitting-her-unless-you’re-seeing-stars boxing. When one of the girls in the club came door-to-door through my dorm freshman year, I was intrigued. During high school I ran cross country and track, but had never really done anything involving physical contact. So I went to the meeting, found out that practices were six days a week from 4 to 6 pm, figured I would find some other time to do my homework, and signed up. We got wraps and mouthguards, and were told to get ready for Day 1.
Practice wasn’t just learning form and throwing punches, it was also a great workout. The first hour consisted of 400 jumping jacks, a short run, and hundreds of crunches and pushups. We worked out in a small side room (dubbed “The Pit”) in the basement of our athletic center, and the air would immediately be filled with sweat, dust, and whatever had been on the tile floor for 20 years. Nonetheless, it was our chance to truly get down to the heart of things: just you, a pair of gloves, and the force of your body.
They say that the true test of a boxer is the first time you get hit straight in the face. For me, it was not something I’d experienced before, and I remember blinking a lot afterwards. But you get used to it, and it’s definitely less painful than a shot to the gut. Yes, what you’re doing is physical, but boxing is all about mental discipline and how you react to being hit. If you lose concentration, you lose control, and you lose the fight. It’s about controlling your aggression: although hitting something or someone is very satisfying, you’re not thinking about how much you’re hurting them, you’re thinking about how to create openings and land your next flurry of punches.
Boxing gave me an outlet for stress, an incredible workout, an adrenaline rush, a greater sense of confidence, and tons of new friends. There’s a camaraderie in women’s boxing that is absent from the men’s side; after every spar or fight we hug, talk about each other’s strengths and weaknesses, bitch about homework and discuss the finer aspects of Ryan Reynolds’s body.
However, not all of the girls are awesome; they need to know that boxing does not a badass make. As with any gym class or athletic endeavor, there’s always that girl (probably not even wearing real workout clothes) who thinks she’s the shit because everyone can see her still wearing her wraps when walking home after practice. Avoid girls like that at all costs: they do not represent the sport and all of the blood, sweat and tears that go into it, they’re just in it to look cool. But the majority of women who box are genuinely tough, committed, and, to be honest, slightly intimidating. That being said, don’t let the sport’s reputation scare you; if you give it a shot, you’ll fall in love with it and maintain your femininity at the same time. There’s nothing more attractive or admirable than a strong woman who knows how to defend herself and can appreciate a good fight. And the impressed reactions from the guys I know are a nice perk of the sport. So go take a class or join a club, don’t be nervous (you’ll quickly lose any self-doubt when you being practicing with other people), and join the ranks of women boxers. I’ve been doing it for two years now, and haven’t regretted it at any point, even when pulling an all-nighter because I went to practice instead of writing my paper.
–By Kerry Olinger