Wang Qiuhui trains with coach Jerson Palaci Estoro.
Coach Estoro trains another female fighter.
It's 5 p.m. on a Friday and Wang Qiuhui, 36, quickly kicks off her high heels and undresses before heading to a room in another building. She enters, and loud rhythmical music pulses from the speakers tucked all over the room. She is one of a few women in the space, but she does not mind. Instead, she wraps her hand, slips on a pair of boxing gloves and readies to fight.
A white-collar worker employed at an insurance company in Beijing, Wang has been dabbling in contact sports for about two years. So far, she has tried Muay Thai, mixed martial arts (MMA) and boxing.
Wang is an example of the growing trend among female white-collar workers in China. Like her, many young Chinese women are learning contact sports, particularly those that were previously mainly dominated by men because of the level of violence involved.
As the economic and social status of women in China rises, more female white-collar workers are entering boxing rings, fighting against social stereotypes that say women are the weaker sex and not suitable for combat sports.
According to a report posted on news portal ifeng.com in September 2014, combat sports classes account for up to 80 percent of all the workout classes at gyms in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, and women make up a third of the participants.
Some of the women have even become so good that they have started to compete in amateur boxing contests. In fact, according to the organizer of amateur fighting competition Brawl on the Wall, more Chinese women have been signing up to fight over the last few years.
Jerson Palaci Estoro, head coach at Beijing Fight Republic, a boxing studio in Beijing's Central Business District, has also noticed an increase in female fighters. According to him, the female members at his gym have increased by around 50 percent in recent years.
"Combat sports are mostly favored by men because of the way people think about contact sports. They think that it is designed for men and that women can't do it because it involves hard training," said Estoro who is also one of the coaches helping to prepare the amateur contestants for Brawl on the Wall on April 29.
"But as time passes by, women want to show that they can also handle the training, and most of them do it not only for fitness but also for self-defense."
Punch your troubles away
The busy and sometimes chaotic life of female white-collar workers in big cities makes contact sports a great draw for them because the intense sessions are great for stress relief.
"We all have a lot of troubling thoughts, whether from work or our family, and we need an outlet to escape those thoughts and clear our minds," Wang said.
She said she tried other sports, like running or swimming, but they didn't work. It was not until she tried contact sports that she was able to "completely clear her mind."
"When I do combat sports, I don't think about anything else except boxing. I only focus on how to throw every punch because if I get distracted even for a second, I will get knocked out," Wang said.
"After each class, I am completely relaxed. That's a feeling I have never had before with any other sport or hobby."
Stronger mind, stronger body
The quality of Wang's life has improved since she started attending combat sports sessions. Her health has improved. Her social circle has expanded with new friends from boxing studios, and she is more confident and "brave."