The most likely place to find a pop singer is either in a recording studio or on the stage. Certainly not at a boxing gym-unless the singer is Tan Weiwei, that is. She happens to be a devoted boxing and Muay Thai enthusiast and regularly posts video clips and pictures of herself exercising on Sina Weibo.
In January, she posted four photos displaying her ripped abs, leaving her 10 million followers agog with admiration. Before long, the pictures went viral on social media. “You are brilliant! Can I feel your abs please?” one of her followers commented on the post. As a standout contestant on the popular TV show Super Girls in 2006, and a well-known singer among China’s younger generation, Tan never expected she would also find fame as a fitness fanatic.
Three years ago, Tan stumbled across a newly-opened Thai boxing studio in her neighborhood. She was curious and, without hesitation, signed up for a trial class. It did not take long before she was hooked.
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“Thai boxing helps keep my abdomen in good shape and, more importantly, it is great for improving cardiovascular and aerobic health, which is fundamental to a singer,” Tan says.
Tan then embarked on her boxing journey.
She attends Uppercut boxing studio, which was founded four years ago in Beijing, at least once or twice a week. Sometimes she takes the boxing class with her husband or friends.
“A lot of my friends are obsessed with boxing, including my husband.”
Just as the saying goes, “there are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people’s eyes”, recreational boxing means different things to different people.
It turns out, for the 37-year-old singer, the rhythm of hitting the heavy bags has something in common with singing a beautiful song.
“The combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercise embodied in boxing makes it a good way to ease pressure and refresh your mind. Like when I’m singing, I can also feel this magic process of turning my negative energy into a positive force. They are both confidence-building and soul-purifying,” she says.
“In addition to being good for the body, this kind of exercise also enables women to better protect themselves. I feel good!”
All things seem difficult to begin with, including boxing.
When Tan first started learning how to throw a punch and to defend herself from being hit, she was so afraid of getting a glove to the face that she struggled to do either correctly. Things changed after she pushed herself out of “her comfort zone”.
“Boxing is actually a process of communicating with yourself. I got on the right track gradually by constantly pushing myself harder, being brave and understanding my own limits,” Tan says.
Her progress has made an impression on Filipino coach Jun Tenaja, who has been working at the boxing studio for three years.
“She is good at boxing. While she may not be among our top members yet, she is over halfway there,” the coach says.
Tan herself says that she still has a long way to go.
“I can throw straight punches well but it’s more difficult for me to do a powerful hook. That requires the technique to generate power up from your feet, through your abdomen and ‘bang’-unleash the strength by stabbing your fist. I’m still working on it,” she says.
Besides boxing, Tan enjoys running, Pilates, CrossFit and yoga.
“I am so impressed with boxing that I’m encouraging my fans to join in the fun and live more energetic and healthy lives,” Tan says. “They will discover that the best path to that is through boxing.”