When people think of building relationships and relieving stress, the image that comes to mind isn't normally that of throwing punches and learning how to defend yourself against an opponent. Although it may surprise some that boxing is helping bring women together and form friendships in our area, it comes as no surprise at all to former psychologist Jessica Storch. Storch is the owner and operator of Knockout Women's Boxing Club in Westmont.
As a clinical psychotherapist who practiced for five years counseling women with eating disorders and weight management, Storch said she was looking for a way to help women feel empowered. She said she wanted to find a way to integrate the mind-body connection for women, which she said expresses itself whether women realize the connection between the two or not.
"[For instance,] if there's an underlying anger issue, you can see it coming up in different ways—depression, eating disorders ... women start taking it out on themselves," said Storch. "I think women are conditioned to not be aggressive or show aggression ... This is allowing a healthy and appropriate release of aggression."
Storch said the way a woman approaches an opponent in the ring can give clues about issues she may be facing out of the ring.
"There seem to be physical patterns that originate from the emotional ones," said Storch. "Engaging with another person on a personal and physical level [in this way] reveals things that are more internal."
Storch said there was one club member who had a difficult time with offensive maneuvers or being aggressive in the ring, but was very good defensively.
"She said, 'That’s how I am in life. I'm used to people attacking me. I’ve had to protect myself my whole life'," Storch recalled.
Storch said people questioned her about opening a boxing club that was exclusive to women, but she said she wanted to make sure that women knew they would be able to participate in a safe and supportive environment.
"There are a lot of women that wouldn't set foot in this gym if it was co-ed," said Storch.
Woodridge resident Melissa Lullo said the supportive environment is one reason she keeps coming back.
"It’s not just a gym. It’s a community. We really support each other. We do group things outside the gym .... fundraisers for the American Cancer Society, group runs," said Lullo.
Darien resident and elementary school teacher Kristen Novotny agrees. She has been a member of the club since it opened and trained with Storch for two years before that.
"It's so much more than just exercise. There’s always positive encouragement coming from the other women that work out. I've made a lot of friends that I see outside of the gym," said Novotny.
Storch said it wasn't large numbers that was important to her in opening this business.
"This isn't a place where you’re one of a million members on autopay, and no one knows your name. We all know each other. It's a supportive community. If someone’s not here, we know it," said Storch.
The club will host a Women's Self Defense Workshop on Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month Storch is donating a portion of the proceeds to Family Shelter Services.