x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

The first rule of this Dubai fight club - girls only

Boxing has long been thought a sport only for men, but a gym in Dubai has engaged a female trainer and is keen to teach the fairer sex the intricacies of the sport.

Vahdaneh Vahid, centre, coaches women-only boxing classes at Platform 3 in Dubai. Charles Crowell for The National
Vahdaneh Vahid, centre, coaches women-only boxing classes at Platform 3 in Dubai. Charles Crowell for The National

Boxing gyms and classes are springing up all over Dubai lately. Even the mainstream corporate gym Fitness First is trying to get a piece of the action by building a ring at its Motor City facility.

Few, however, focus on technique and training for women. Most boxing gyms are male dominated, with women tending to favour kick-boxing or Thai boxing over the traditional style.

One gym has noticed the niche in the market, recognising that not all women want to punch the air in a boxercise class - that some want to really hit pads and brush up on those left hooks and uppercuts.

Platform 3 (P3) in Dubai Marina has brought the boxing coach Vahdaneh Vahid from the UK to focus on the growing number of women looking to try out the sport. She says nothing boosts confidence or relieves stress - for women as well as men - like hitting pads. With women, however, she says it is not just about brute force: "Women tend to focus a lot more on technique rather than a man, who much prefers to just hit hard."

And you don't have to fight to enjoy the benefits of a good session of hitting pads and the high-intensity interval training boxing requires. In fact, the class is not really aimed at those wanting to step into the ring.

Omar Al Duri, the gym's manager, says that after more than a decade in the industry, he understands the different opinions, stereotypes and obstacles that women face when getting involved in a combat sport or fitness class.

"Initially, being around men in a class would be quite intimidating for them, especially if they were beginners or wanted to try something new," he says. "What fascinated me is boxing attracted so many women. Once they had taken that initial first step to trying it, [they] would regard it as highly addictive and extremely beneficial to their individual goals. From weight loss to general de-stress, it definitely became an avenue that many of my female clients would opt for and demand at times."

P3 is unlike most other boxing gyms, with their testosterone-fuelled, slightly smelly atmospheres, which can be daunting for women. The gym was designed specifically for personal training, and now offers classes for groups of up to six people, whereas in most fight clubs dozens of people train together.

Al Duri says small groups allow trainers to focus on technique and participants to maintain a sense of camaraderie.

Often to the detriment of technique, many gyms pay more attention to fitness. Though important, it is just one part of the art of combat. Both Mo Ali, a fighter who leads P3's mixed classes, and Vahid concentrate on individuals' skill levels and techniques in addition to high-intensity cardiovascular work during their hour-long classes.

That also lays the groundwork so participants "can move into a fighting level if they wanted later on", Vahid says.

Enisa Glavovich, the founder of the health and fitness website Noviplus.ae, has tried many boxing classes, both women-only and mixed, in the UAE and in her native Australia.

"I tried the class because I love the exclusivity concept at P3, where I know that I will have one-on-one attention from my trainer during the session to ensure that I am on the right track. I have tried various boxing classes before and wanted to see if this class would be different," she says.

In addition to the physical training, she says she improved her knowledge of the sport. "I also enjoyed the intimate female-only setting and the personal approach offered by the skilled trainer. It's certainly less intimidating to train in a female-only setting."

Classes are Dh100 for one session or Dh800 for a block of 10. For more information, visit www.p3dubai.com or call 04 435 8083