Queer Box Camp: Imparting the sweet science in a fresh space

Queer Box Camp establishes a unique atmosphere for learning boxing techniques and staying fit in East Vancouver. Coach River Tucker sees the club’s alternative environment as an accessible space for those who do not feel comfortable in traditional boxing environments.

The beginners group performing their post-workout stretch.

The beginners group performing their post-workout stretch. | Photo by Carime Lane

“It’s really about having a more open space, mostly in terms of gender identities,” says Tucker.

Tucker, a 35-year-old competitive amateur boxer born in Canada and raised in Germany, started boxing in 2007 at her university’s club in Germany. Tucker instantly loved it and continued boxing after returning to Canada in 2009. When the club she was attending closed, her girlfriend suggested she create a summer camp for queer boxers. So, in 2011, Tucker held her first boot camp style Queer Box Camp at McSpadden Park in East Vancouver, attracting 35 participants.

“I started it as a summer camp for fitness boxing because I was in between different jobs and I didn’t have a club myself [at the time],” explains Tucker.

Tucker kept holding classes after receiving numerous requests for more sessions and instructions on technique. According to Tucker, the queer community looks positively on the alternative the club provides to typical interactions for the community, such as readings, parties and bars.

“I often get feedback that it’s very much appreciated, that it’s a different way of socializing and building community,” says Tucker. “It’s more politics based on experience than wanting to create something based on politics,” she adds.

An identity-inclusive boxing club

Tucker, the 2014 Western Canadian Champion, 2014 Tacoma Golden Gloves Champion and 2014 Canadian Nationals bronze medal winner, says she trains in a man’s world. She feels her adaptable personality makes it easy for her to acclimate. However, she acknowledges that there are boxing enthusiasts, who do not find this atmosphere as welcoming, for example, transgender individuals, who may not feel accepted or understood in traditional boxing clubs.

At Queer Box Camp, queer boxers, along with those who don’t identify as queer, are welcome.

“Anybody can come, but everyone has to know that it’s a queer space,” explains Tucker.

Liza Lindgren, a 32-year-old student and boxer at the club for the past year, feels that the most essential part of the class is the introductions when new members join the club.

“We introduce ourselves, our name and the gender pronoun [we currently identify with], because not everybody in here uses the pronoun ‘she,’ for example,” explains Lindgren.

Mind/body workouts that impact lives and spark ambitions

The classes, which are held three times a week at Posener’s Pankration and range in number of participants from three to 20, are traditionally structured. The bell dictates two or three minutes of work and one minute of rest for technical exercises such as shadow-boxing, bag drills and footwork, as well as conditioning and warm-up activities.

Unlike Tucker, who trains for competitions, the majority of Queer Box Camp’s members are not currently interested in competing, so Tucker coaches each boxer according to their individual goals.

“River has an approach towards helping people [to] get to wherever they want to [go] and it happens to be that boxing is the vessel,” says Hayfa Abichahine, another Queer Box Camp member.

Abichahine, who has been boxing at the club for just over a year, describes how her involvement in the sport challenges societal and cultural expectations.

“There are a lot of hoops that we need to jump through mainly as women (and also coming from a Middle Eastern background) that say that you’re not supposed to be doing contact sports, you’re not supposed to be doing anything that’s aggressive,” says Abichahine. “So it’s really pushing gender stereotypes, which are also culturally-bound.”

For Abichahine, working with Tucker on focus mitts (that help improve punching techniques) is one of the most rewarding parts of the workout.

“You get to see for a heartbeat [that] some of the hard work pays [off] because you start landing some punches,” she says.

Lindgren also finds the workout mentally stimulating, as the exercises demand intense focus. Lindgren and Abichahine also agree that the club members are close.

“I really love my little boxing community. It’s like coming home to your friends almost, but we’re training,” says Lindgren.

For more information,
please visit Queer Box Camp Vancouver’s Facebook page at