Amateur boxers practice dodging at the Princess Women's Boxing Club in Shanghai. (Jiang Xiaowei/SHINE)
Dodging, ducking, jabbing and punching, Xiao Xia, 26, coordinator at non-profit organization Shanghai Roots & Shoots, is drowning in sweat at a women-only boxing club in Shanghai.
"I would never have thought that I would be fond of boxing since I have asthma," says Xiao who has been learning it for three years. "It is confrontation not only with the opponent but also with myself, which stuns me."
"Boxing has become my only hobby, dream and pride," says another fan, Dorothy Chang, a 29-year-old legal manager.
Boxing, a sport dominated by men in the conventional sense, has become a new fitness trend with local women between the ages of 20 and 40. They are from all walks of life — teachers, doctors, designers, lawyers, accountants and students.
Even a 10-year-old girl nicknamed Shunshun is a big boxing fan.
At first she was turned down one year ago to join a boxing class by Gong Jin, boxing instructor and owner of the Princess Women's Boxing Club.
"Let me have a try! I like boxing," said the girl.
Gong was touched and accepted her after making sure she could withstand such intensive training. Now, one year has passed, and Shunshun is still with the club.
"It is rare that someone joins the boxing class just because of the pure love of the sport," says Gong.
Launched in 2010, the Princess Women's Boxing Club had only about 10 students back then. After 2012, the number of active members gradually increased to over 200 in 2017.
Today, boxing is well received by many fashion icons like supermodels Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner. On Weibo, many Chinese celebrities post their ringside selfies or photos featuring their punch-and-jab.
For most of the female amateurs, weight loss is the primary goal. Boxing is a high-impact sport and results in burning calories and building muscle.
"I have lost 12 kilograms since I started to practice boxing three years ago. That's amazing," says Xiao.
According to Gong, one person can burn 400-600 calories an hour on average in boxing ─ the actual number depends on a person's weight and the intensity of the exercise.
Though it is an effective way for people to relieve stress and lose weight, the combat sport is not for everyone, says Li Bo, associate chief physician at Yueyang Hospital.
According to the doctor, children younger than 9 years old and people over 40 are not recommended to do boxing. He says the intensive sport will also aggravate the condition of chronic strain, so those suffering from knee, wrist, elbow and shoulder pain should think twice before practicing boxing. For people with high blood pressure and heart disease, boxing is definitely a taboo.