The satisfying thumps and thwacks of boxing and kickboxing are not the only upsides to these popular pastimes; other benefits include a sense of accomplishment, a built-in community of like-minded pugilists, and an increase of both physical and mental strength. 

Justin Stone, owner of Southside Kickboxing Co. in OKC, began training at four years old and has seen just how much the sport has positively impacted himself and others that visit his gym.  

“Self-discipline and camaraderie are the main benefits of kickboxing and boxing, especially for young people – as the discipline it takes to master something carries over into so many parts of life,” he says. “More studies these days show that longevity in life comes from community and purpose. Boxing and kickboxing give you the physical confidence and also the belonging, as you’re part of a community that cares about your success.”

Aaron Sloan of Tulsa’s The Engine Room advocates for boxing health benefits beyond just the strength training. 

“Boxing increases cardiovascular fitness, improves balance and coordination, increases overall body strength, lowers blood pressure and can help individuals achieve and maintain a healthy body weight,” he says. 

But he understands that a great workout should also help the mind. 

“Regular boxing workouts, like most exercise, can also decrease stress, which helps alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety and may even improve sleep,” he says. “Many of these same benefits can lead to improved self-confidence, as well.”

Beginners to the sport are encouraged to go at their own pace – and Stone wants them to know he’s here to help. 

The Engine Room in Tulsa welcomes novice boxers and pros alike to an educational, welcoming and safe environment.
Photos courtesy The Engine Room

“I don’t believe in throwing in beginners with everyone else,” he says. “They work on the fundamentals and learn to hold their bodies in the correct way.”

It can be daunting to walk into any gym for the first time –  but newbies may be extra nervous about stepping inside a boxing gym. Sloan offers some reassurance. 

“There are a lot of misconceptions about boxing that conflate competition with fitness training,” says Sloan. “Other than contact with the bags and the coach’s focus mitts, fitness boxing classes should be non-contact. You will not be ‘hit.’ Some participants like to take their training and skills to the next level with sparring, but at a qualified gym, sparring requires supervision and consent. A true boxing gym, especially if it has a fight team, usually has a very diverse group of clientele, so it’s a great melting pot in its membership. Everyone progresses at his or her own speed, so classes will have people of all fitness and skill levels, and all ages.”

Safety & Etiquette 

To optimize the experience, learning a bit about ‘gym culture’ and getting tips from pros can make the transition smoother. 

“Be honest,” says Stone. “Know what you want and be open-minded. As for etiquette, most places are barefoot on the mat so be sure to bring some slip-on sandals to wear off the mat.”

Sloan continues: “Wash your hand wraps regularly. This is a sweaty work out, and keeping your equipment clean is important. Purchase your own gloves, for the same reason. Make sure you let them dry between classes – and you can even purchase scented inserts that help with this process.” 

And when booking your first class, Stone advises you to “arrive early … so that the coach can orient you and show you some basics. Be on time for subsequent classes; boxing classes usually work through stations, and it’s disruptive to other members and the coach when members arrive after class has started.”

If you end up getting the ‘boxing bug’ and want to get competitive, “never spar unsupervised and make sure that you have proper, USA Boxing-approved safety equipment,” says Stone. “Above all, ask questions if there are exercises you don’t understand or if you need modifications.”

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