There Are More Fight-Inspired Workouts Than Ever, And Women Are Responsible


We talk to the owners and trainers behind some of the most popular workouts

I took my first boxing class at a fight gym. As someone who has always relied on barre and Pilates classes for workouts, to say that I felt out of my element, surrounded by punching men in a space that was smaller than some of the lobbies of the boutique workout studios I've frequented, is an understatement. As I checked in, I was thrown hand wraps, the ones that you need to know how to wrap around your hands—not the fingerless glove-wraps that have become so popular recently. "I don't know how to tie these," I said. "The instructor can show you," was the response. Except he didn't. Upon entering the space, he started the warm-up immediately, everyone ready to go with their wraps securely tied around their hands. As I looked around in panic, trying to catch the instructor's attention, one of the few women in the class stopped her jumping jacks. She pulled me to the corner and tied my wraps around my hands. "I will show you after class how to do it," she said to me. She did.

While I can blame that negative experience on the gym, or the instructor, truth is, until recently, boxing has been a male-dominated sport. It wasn't until several years ago that it became commonplace for women to participate leisurely in boxing for fitness, with popular fight-inspired studios like Rumble, Shadowbox, Overthrow sprouting in New York seemingly overnight. It has been in the last two years that more women have begun teaching in these spaces and even opening their own gyms to accommodate the increase in women interested in the workout. "As boxing was beginning to trend, we saw that it was always a male-dominated sport," says Valerie Ding of co-founding L.A.'s CruBox with her sister Bebe. "That became our fun challenge, to bring authentic boxing to group fitness, and making it accessible to women." Dana VanPamelen, who co-founded Hit House, a boutique Muay Thai fitness studio that opened this year in Manhattan, with her husband, Tyler Scott, agrees. "These past few years have marked the beginning of combat fitness classes being offered in a boutique setting and women are less intimidated to try out a typical 'man's sport'," she says.

After being introduced to Muay Thai while working as round card girl for Friday Night Fights, the petite-sized VanPamelen decided to try it for herself after seeing the "action and excitement in the ring." "My first few lessons and classes were at a traditional gym, surrounded by fighters in training camp. The workout is really intense and fun, but I found striking a traditional heavy bag very difficult—it hurts your knuckles, wrists, and shins," she says. "As a beginner, I was not skilled or quick enough for mitt or pad work with a partner. Plus, I couldn't show up to work with a black eye!" A self-proclaimed "boutique fitness enthusiast," she, along with Scott, had a lightbulb moment when she took him to SoulCycle in 2014. "It finally clicked for us: 'Hey, we can DO this. We can teach other fitness enthusiasts a skill and provide a challenging workout in a fun, welcoming atmosphere.'" Scott created the heavy bag they use in the class, Bishop, that allows participants to strike it without hurting themselves; the floors are padded, allowing for a shoeless workout. "In our studio, no one needs to hold pads for half of the class or get paired up against someone twice your size," she says.

Olivia Young founded Box + Flow, New York fitness studio offering boxing-yoga hybrid classes, after boxing for 11 years and practicing yoga for 16 and not finding a space where she could do both. "Boxing has always given me strength and confidence, while yoga forced me to slow down and feel," she says. "The combination of boxing and yoga gave me a balanced empowerment, a feeling I wanted to then share with the world, [that] idea of embracing both sides of ourselves, grit and softness, fire and water, fight and flow."

All three say that the majority of their customers are women. "Women want to feel strong and independent now even more so than before. As the world moves increasingly towards gender equality, women who have always been seen as solely domestic are now breaking out of that shell," Ding says. Not to mention how combat workouts allow women to learn defense skills, not an unimportant part of today's political climate that has left many women afraid. "Instructors focus on striking form for so many reasons; one of which is learning and understanding how and when the strikes should be used and being able to apply it to real-life situations—for example, what happens if someone's invading your space and you need to get away," VanPamelen says. "Knowing strikes that can be used as self-defense should make women—and men, and everyone—feel confident and strong."

Vulnerable, too. I've frequently found myself thinking at Hit House that, yes, the moves that I was just taught could come in handy should I find myself in a threatening situation, prompting an emotional response I didn't expect. This is not uncommon. In addition to being an amazing physical workout, boxing is a very mental sport—one where you're encouraged to channel emotions, like anger and frustrations, when hitting the bag. It also forces you to focus only on the task at hand.

"Boxing is one of the only workouts where you can learn a skill that challenges both your mind and body to push past your comfort zone and really to grow. You have to focus on the shots that are being called. It requires a lot of mental focus and attention. It also requires coordination of the hand, eye, and feet," Ding says, pointing out that it makes the brain take a break from thinking about things that may be on the mind. "You are not able to throw a punch or a shot called when you're not listening to what it is." VanPamelen says that 50 percent of Muay Thai is mental. "You are learning a new skill while remembering combinations," she says, noting that it's also a great stress-reliever. "Striking is such an awesome way to relieve stress, release aggression, and let go of all of those small day-to-day annoyances."

Young says that boxing also resets your mind, allowing mental blockage to flow so you can become strong from the inside out, as opposed to the other way round. "[Box + Flow] started with the intention of bringing mindfulness to the fight. The front door of the space says 'everything you need is inside' in hopes that we will stop fighting, resisting ourselves, so that things begin to flow in our lives," she says. "If we can rid ourselves of the mental mess we manipulate internally, we can lead more powerful lives." Not to mention, more powerful bodies.

Her way of thinking also explains why so many of the combat studios comprise a dark space with no mirrors: It allows your focus to remain on you, as opposed to competing with others. "It promotes strength physically, mentally, and spiritually in an environment with no mirrors, no judgment, and no comparison," Young says, "It is NOT about how you look, it's about how you feel. Women, and men, feel safe here, free to fight, flow, and feel."

Despite the fact that fighting is an historically male-dominated and violent sport, the studios I have frequented have all surprisingly felt like safe spaces. Before Scott adjusted my Muay Thai stance in my first class, he asked for consent before touching my shoulders. And, while at the time, to me personally, it seemed like an unnecessary precaution, I saw how menacing it could be to someone when, in a cardio class at a different studio, a male instructor came behind a female student and made her jump by adjusting her back without asking. (It should be noted that he felt terrible about it and apologized profusely to her after class for startling her.) And while there's a lot we can learn from combat sports, like consent and being able to let go of mental blockage, VanPamelen says that she's just happy that "more and more people are interested in and appreciative" of the practices. "It's a simple as, punching and kicking stuff is REALLY fun, and people are catching on to this!"

And while it is incredibly fun, there is also something powerful about walking out of class after putting all your strength and energy into just hitting something for an hour. And that's the point. "I hope women walk out of the space feeling empowered, inspired to take on life's challenges, and be strong after a tough workout that even a lot of men find challenging," Ding says. "I hope they feel inspired walking out of there knowing that anything is possible and inspired to lead the world and follow their creative dreams as females. Anything is possible."

The future (of boxing) is female.

Read on to hear what some of the other instructors behind fight-inspired workouts love about teaching and what they hope their female clients take away from their classes.

Photograph courtesy of Hit House.

Raquel Harris, instructor at Hit House
I met a lot of women who believed that they were not strong or fierce enough to learn Muay Thai. Teaching gives me the opportunity to prove that they are. As a petite woman with a soft voice, I hope that I can be an inspiration and proof that you can be tiny but mighty.

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

"I am honored to share this bonding experience with my own daughter"

In a heart-warming Instagram photo, Serena Williams shares the history of hair braiding and the importance of the tradition. The tennis player shared a photo of herself braiding her daughter Olympia Ohanian's hair and spoke about how "honored" she was to be able to "add another generation" to the tradition of the practice.

The photo shows Williams attentively braiding her daughter's hair while Olympia smiles, obviously loving the experience. Williams noted that hair braiding was created by the Himba people in Namibia, Africa, and that "we have been braiding our hair for centuries." "In many African tribes braided hairstyles were a unique way to identify each tribe," she continued.

Williams pointed out that braiding is a bonding experience. "People would often take the time to socialize," she wrote. "It began with the elders braiding their children, then the children would watch and learn from them. The tradition of bonding was carried on for generations, and quickly made its way across the world."

Williams closed her post with a sweet message about her daughter, saying that she's "honored to share this bonding experience" with her.

See the post, below.

Courtesy of Adidas

The Stan Smiths are a must-have

Adidas just shared its capsule of sneakers paying tribute to Keith Haring, and TBH I can already feel my wallet emptying (and they're not even on sale yet). The new collection features three shoe silhouettes, all including the late artist's iconic imagery as embroidered designs.

The standout style of the collection is the Rivalry hi-top; with bright blue and orange stripes and piping along the edges, Haring's stars and cartoon bodies, in black thread, pop right off. If you're looking for something less over-the-top, the quirky white Nizza Hi RF sneakers show a snake wrapping around the back of the shoe and chasing one of Haring's cartoon bodies toward the toe. There's also a minimal embroidered design on the toe of a classic Stan Smith pair. Look a little more closely at the tongue though, and you'll notice the traditional image has been swapped with a caricature of Haring himself.

Peep the three silhouettes, below, and set your calendar for the official drop at the end of the month.

Adidas, Rivalry Hi Keith Haring Shoes, $120, available at Adidas starting at 10am EST on June 30.

Adidas, Nizza Hi RF Haring Shoes, $120, available at Adidas starting at 10am EST on June 30.

Adidas, Stan Smith Keith Haring Shoes, $120, available at Adidas starting at 10am EST on June 30.

NYLON uses affiliate links and may earn a commission if you purchase something through those links, but every product chosen is selected independently.

Photos by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images, Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Hopefully this one will be typo-free

In an Instagram Live on Thursday, Taylor Swift announced that she would be creating a collaboration with fashion designer Stella McCartney inspired by her upcoming Lover album. Although she kept it vague, we can only assume that the two are working on a collection of luxe merch.

Swift noted in the announcement that she has been friends with McCartney "for a really long time," and that the designer already heard the new album. "I respect what she creates, how she creates it," Swift continued. "There's so much whimsy and imagination and romance to the clothing that she designs." Swift has been wearing McCartney's designs "a lot recently," so maybe we should have seen the collab coming.

One eagle-eyed fan pointed out that Swift wore Stella McCartney rainbow-hued shoes during her Wango Tango set. If the collab is anything like these shoes, you can bet I'll be copping it as quick as I can.

Swift detailed in her Instagram Live that the album Lover would be all about romance, which makes McCartney and her feminine designs perfect for the collaboration. We just hope that this collection doesn't have any typos, like some of Swift's "ME!" merch did.

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Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

And spreads the message that "we all got crowns"

Late on Thursday, Taylor Swift dropped a new single, "You Need To Calm Down," and announced her forthcoming studio album, Lover, out this August. Following her lead single "ME!" Swift continues to spread her message of self-love and call out haters—particularly the homophobic ones—in this latest song.

Swift "ended homophobic locals," as one fan put it on Twitter, with one particular lyric: "'Cause shade never made anybody less gay."

Along with the song, Swift shared a lyric video via YouTube which made her sentiments even clearer. With her lyric, "Why are you made?/ When you could be glad?" she spelled "glad" as "GLAAD," referencing the queer media advocacy organization.

Swift sings of homophobic protestors in the second verse: "Sunshine on the street at the parade/ But you would rather be in the dark ages/ Makin' that sign must've taken all night." In the pre-chorus, she adds, "You just need to take several seats and then try to restore the peace/ And control your urges to scream about all the people you hate."

Swift additionally comments on women being pitted against each other—"We see you over there on the internet comparing all the girls who are killin' it"—asserting that "we all got crowns." There's nothing trolls can do to rain on her parade anymore.

One fan pointed out the possible symbolism of the crown lyric. In "Call It What You Want," track 14 on Reputation, she sings "They took the crown but it's alright." Now on "You Need To Calm Down," track 14 of Lover, she sings that there's not just one crown—we all have them.

Some fans are pointing to the double meaning of the track title. If I had a dollar for every time someone said those words to me in a totally condescending way, I'd probably be richer than her! What woman hasn't been told to calm down about an entirely not-calm situation or while expressing their distaste?

During Swift's live stream for the release of the song, she also announced a fashion collaboration with designer Stella McCartney, a peek of which we got during the singer's WangoTango performance.

Lover is set for August 23 release.

Credit: Frederick Elmes/ Focus Features

"I was like, 'Did I sleep with this critic's girlfriend, or what?'"

The day I meet Jim Jarmusch, the sun hangs so bright and hot and yellow and solid in the sky that it's hard to believe that it will actually set at night. It's one of those New York June days that suggests we might be in permanent daylight; it's got a completely different feeling than the crepuscular atmosphere of Jarmusch's latest film, The Dead Don't Die, which takes place in a small town in what feels like one long twilight, maybe the last one.

But for today, Jarmusch and I are sitting at a table in a sun-filled restaurant, though we're in the shade. We're in a part of the city that used to be very punk rock, and is now very NYU, yet being there with Jarmusch, who looks so at home, like he's holding court in the booth (it helps that Larry Fessenden, an old friend of Jarmusch's and a writer/director/producer/actor, who appears in The Dead Don't Die, happens by the table to say hi), makes the area feel a little punk rock again, even with all the sun.

The Dead Don't Die is a very punk rock zombie movie, by which I mean: It's not very scary, but it is very cool, and even when it's sneering, it's a little bit tender. Starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, and Chloë Sevigny as a trio of small-town cops who fight back against a nascent zombie apocalypse caused by fracking, the film is cast with a who's who of Jarmusch regulars, like Steve Buscemi, Tilda Swinton, Iggy Pop, and Fessenden, to name a few; but it also features younger stars like Caleb Landry Jones, Selena Gomez, and Luka Sabbat—and there's a real earworm of a theme song, courtesy of Sturgill Simpson.

Below, I speak with Jarmusch about the movie, being a dilettante, and why he only reads his negative reviews—which is definitely one of the most punk rock things I've ever heard.

Photo by Gareth Cattermole/ Getty Images

This was filmed on a pretty condensed shooting schedule, right?
It was a very rough schedule. A very difficult one, actually.

We only had seven weeks to shoot, and we had to shoot Adam Driver out in three weeks because he had to be delivered to Star Wars, and the financing of the film was incredibly grueling and took a long time, so we were pushed so far that we had about one month of prep, and then three weeks with Adam. And then all these different actors coming in and out; I don't know how Carter and Josh, the two producers, organized it all. And then we'd shoot 15-hour days, and halfway through, I had walking pneumonia; I had two coats; it was 95 out; I was shaking. You know, just weird stuff like that. But it's all okay because we had such great people—our crew—everybody. And then, the visual effects were very taxing and complicated.

How did that all work together? Because there's more than one decapitated head.
Yeah, it's a mixture. First of all, we mixed prosthetics with makeup with masks for some of the zombie stuff, but all of those effects with the decapitations, we had to just imagine. So we had to choreograph everything and then only imagine kind of what it would be like, which was, for me, very abstract because I'm not very versed in visual effects. You know, you had to really kind of trust your instincts, because Adam Driver's chopping away with a machete with no blade.

It could've been a machete, it could've been a lightsaber, who knows? So, to what degree is this a sequel of Paterson with Adam Driver's character's last name being Peterson?
Well, I just do these things to amuse myself while writing, you know? Bill Murray in Broken Flowers was named Don Johnson, and in this, I gave him the name Cliff Robertson. Tilda Swinton's character is Zelda Winston. Rosie Perez is named Posie Juarez. You know, I'm just kind of amusing myself.

And Peterson, Paterson. While we were filming Paterson I was always teasing Adam that the next one, we would make was gonna be a sequel about a psychopathic murderous bus driver named Peterson. Tag line: "Get the fuck off my bus!" Or "Next Stop Hell!" You know, stuff like that. It's just to make them... I love trying to make Adam Driver laugh, because he has a very odd and wonderful sense of humor, but it's on the dry side, so I'm always joking around with him between work to try and see what makes him laugh.

But yeah, there's no sequel of any kind, and I don't think that way, and I don't plan, and I don't see my films from the past ever again. I just look toward the next thing.

Credit: Frederick Elmes/ Focus Features

What was the original concept for this? When did you start coalescing all of these different elements into knowing that you wanted it to be your next film?
Some years ago after Only Lovers Left Alive, Tilda kept teasing me, calling me, saying, "When do we do the zombies? When are we doing the zombies?" And in between I made Paterson and Gimme Danger, but then after those I started writing the zombie one, and my original conception was: I wanna make a film that's really funny and silly like Coffee and Cigarettes, where people talk about whatever nonsense I want them to, and I want to get actors I love, you know? So I thought, okay, if I make a zombie film, I can have a structure where different groups are cordoned off against the zombies, and the zombie attacks will be intermittent and not very long, so I'll have long lags where they're just stuck there, like in the house of The Night of the Living Dead, where they can talk about any kind of nonsense. So that was my first idea, and then when I started writing it, for some reason, I wanted to have a small town, Centerville, and I just followed my intuition, and it became this, I don't really know why beyond that.

What is it about small towns that make them the perfect setting for existential terror?
They're insular. They're kind of… everyone kind of knows each other. It's controllable by the characters. It's believable that everyone kind of know each other. I don't know. I'm not very good at analyzing that. And also, this is not a horror film because horror films use devices that are necessary to frighten people, like suspense, and then you get scared. We have no interest whatsoever in that. This is more of a metaphorical zombie film, but I would not call it a horror movie. It's a comedy with zombies with a kind of sad ending. Beyond that, I don't know what it is.

And horror nerds may not like it if they're expecting creepy, creepy, scary thing! They're not gonna get it. They're not gonna get that delivered to them.

What's interesting about it is seeing who fights back against this existential dread. Or, like, Chloë Sevigny's character, Mindy, doesn't fight, she is on her own separate trip, avoiding the end till she embraces it.
It's a character film. It's not even a plot film, really, although critics say that about all my films. But Chloë… it's a complicated thing, because when I first called Chloë, I told her... I wrote her a letter, and then she said, "Yeah, yeah I'd like to do this." And I said, obviously, this is not a feminist character. She's reactive. She's our sort of "Scream Queen." She screams like six times. But Chloë is the master of reaction, and I love watching her react.

She definitely feels like a stand-in for what a normal person would feel during these absurdist experiences, which is nice to have. It's not necessarily that you need a relatable character in a movie like this, but...
Yeah, but she's an empathetic human that's in a job with some authority, but in a small town where that means taking care of whatever, you know, as a police officer, pretty minimal [stuff]. There's not a lot of rampant crime or anything going on… or anything at all, really.

Credit : Frederick Elmes / Focus Features

A lot of people are going to be projecting tons of different meanings onto this film, like with all your films. To what level do you participate in that or pay attention to that? Or, once you're done making a film, is it just out there, and you just let people project onto it whatever they will?
I've always felt that anyone's interpretation of a film that I write and direct is probably more valid than my own. Because it's a funny thing, the beauty of films is going into a world—or a book or whatever—but going into a world that you don't know, and you are entering a world, and it takes you. And if you wrote it, and you were there filming it, and you're in the editing room every day for six months, the mix, and all that... I can never possibly see it. I like hearing what friends or people I know... I like Q and As after screenings because they have no agenda except their interest. I like that a lot, and I value that. I don't really like to read a lot of reviews unless they're really negative. I love the negative ones.

You do?
Yeah, because they must be very far from me in their perception of the world, and that is interesting to me. But I try not to read a lot...

I think you're probably the first person who I've ever spoken to who says they like to read the negative reviews.
I really like them. The worst one I ever got in my life, I laminated and used to carry in my wallet. It was a brief thing from a right-wing French [paper], maybe Le Figaro or something, of a film called Dead Man that we made, and they said—this is the English translation—"The French intelligence celebrates Jarmusch in the way death and blind parents would celebrate their retarded child. Jarmusch is 33 years old, the same age as Christ when he was crucified. We can only hope the same for his film career." I was like, Whoa! That is harsh! I'm keeping that one!

It gets personal.
But that was vicious. I was like, Did I sleep with this critic's girlfriend, or what? What happened? It was really... the knife was sharpened, you know.

That speaks to a very specific kind of agenda for sure.
A friend of mine Amos Poe, he's sort of a mentor of mine, a punk filmmaker, whatever, and when we were young when he made, in the late-'70s, one of his films—The Foreigner or Unmade Beds—the New York Times called it "the cinematic equivalent of kindergarten scribbling," and he put that on his posters and put "New York Times" and we were like punks, we were like, "Yes! Amos! That's great!"

I mean, it genuinely is a pretty great pull quote, and I think also a little bit oblivious to the charms of a kindergartener's scribbles and what the value is in that anyway.
Yeah, it was kind of accurate in a positive way, and they intended it as very negative.

In this film, there are so many actors who are veteran actors, but there are also a lot of younger actors. What do you like about the combination of that dynamic?
I just like the variety of sort of world perceptions—indicated in a very minor way when Bill Murray's character says, "I've known Hermit Bob since we were in junior high," and Adam's character says, "Oh, wow! That must've been like 50 years ago!" And Bill says, "Yeah. It was." But just the kind of difference of perception of age I find as I get older really interesting. And I'm very interested in young people, especially teenagers, because I think they form our sense of style, of music, of so many things, and yet they're kind of pushed around and treated badly and constantly told, "You don't know how the world really works! You're just a teenager!" But they gave us poetry. They gave us Mary Shelley and Rimbaud and chess masters, and all the great music comes a lot from teenagers. So I tried to keep a pulse, that's why the three teenagers, I would not let them turn into zombies. There are only four people [who don't get turned by zombies]: those three that are delinquents, and the Tom Waits character, who's already removed himself from the social order long before.

When the zombies become zombies, they all have one inciting thing that they're still pursuing in the real world. Do you have one thing that you think you would pursue if you were a zombie?
You know, it's hard because I'm a self-proclaimed dilettante. I'm interested in so many things, I don't know if I would be breaking into a bookstore, or if I would be in the alley outside of a movie theater, or if I would be trying to get into a guitar shop. I'm not sure. I have a lot of interests.

I mean there's a way in which it's a really tender portrayal of the human impulse to just seek out these things that they love.
It's not totally a critique; it's their vestigial memory of some things that they were drawn toward, whether it was power tools or oxycontin.

The Dead Don't Die is in theaters now.

Credit: Frederick Elmes/ Focus Features