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Hitting the Gym

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Julia Gschwind, owner of Austin Boxing Babes, helps women feel strong and empowered at her women-only boxing gym. 

By Mikaila Rushing, Photos courtesy of Boxing Babes

Every day, Julia Gschwind gets to watch dozens of stories unfold. As owner of Austin Boxing Babes, she sees it all. When one of her boxers accomplishes a punch combination or finally earns a black belt in martial arts, or even simply gains a little more self-confidence, she proudly looks on.

“[My] favorite part about teaching is just seeing someone have a breakthrough,” Gschwind says.

Austin Boxing Babes was started in 2007 by Gschwind, a German-born championship boxer, as Austin’s only all-women boxing gym and martial-arts dojo. The gym offers boxing lessons, yoga and martial-arts lessons for women and children of all ages.

“Austin Boxing Babe’s mission is to empower women so that they can feel strong, healthy and fit,” Gschwind says.

In Gschwind’s years of training, she practiced in gyms that were overrun with men and unfortunately dealt with several uncomfortable situations, which included unwanted advancements and even sexual harassment. Even though she was able to learn in that environment, she felt a different type of gym might draw more women to the sport. Because of those experiences, Gschwind started Austin Boxing Babes to provide a safe space for women to learn and practice boxing.

Gschwind began boxing later in life, as she struggled with scoliosis throughout much of her childhood. When she was 26, her brother introduced her to muay Thai kickboxing and she immediately felt a passion for the sport.

“It hit a nerve,” Gschwind says. “Kickboxing fulfilled a need that I knew was there but I didn’t know how to fill.”

About a year after she began kickboxing, Gschwind underwent knee surgery and turned to boxing to continue her training. In 1997, she moved to San Francisco to train under Sonny Marson, who coached several champion boxers. Gschwind went on to win several championships, including the San Francisco Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament and the Diamond Championship Belt. While in California, she met her husband, and not long after, the pair moved to Austin.

After she had her first son, Gschwind decided to take up martial arts, and in it, found something she felt was sorely lacking from boxing: structure. Gschwind discovered when boxers are done competing, many instructors no longer place goals or teach clear techniques to those at their gyms. Instead, boxers would be left mostly to their own devices.

When Gschwind began Austin Boxing Babes, she decided to take a page from the martial-arts playbook and implemented a ranking system. But instead of using colored belts, she uses colored wristbands. Each color indicates a certain level of skill. A boxer must be able to complete so many pushups, situps, specific punch combinations and footwork to move up in rank.

“That structure helps people without having to compete,” Gschwind says. “It allows them to move up and set goals throughout the months and years.”

Since starting Austin Boxing Babes, Gschwind finds herself as the center point for a now flourishing community of women who support and empower one another.

“When people are around other people that feel strong, it helps them be strong,” Gschwind says.

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