Getting physical

West Point overturns ban, institutes mandatory boxing classes for female cadets

A female cadet marches with other cadets for their graduation ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

In light of the American military’s opening of all combat roles to women, female cadets at the West Point Military Academy in New York will no longer be banned from attending the school’s boxing classes — in fact, their participation is now mandatory. Beginning this fall, all students at the academy, female or otherwise, must take part in the school’s boxing program — a program that already was facing criticism due to the number of concussions suffered by students who participate.

“The issue is men and women doing the same thing,” said Brigadier General Diana M. Holland, who became West Point’s first ever female commandant of cadets in January. “Now whether boxing should be a requirement for anybody is a different discussion.”

Nearly 1 in 5 concussions suffered at West Point occurred during boxing class, according to The New York Times, and medical research indicates that women are significantly more likely to sustain concussions than men.

Lieutenant General Robert L. Caslen Jr., the superintendent and top military officer at West Point, said that he was approached by alumni requesting a review of the school’s ban on women taking the boxing class while at the 40th anniversary celebration of female cadets attending West Point. After receiving approval from top Army brass at the Pentagon, he said he instituted the change so that female cadets could also gain direct experience learning to react with “tenacity and resilience” while under direct attack.

According to first-year cadet Kiana Stewart, who said she was initially upset when told she would have to take up boxing, the actual experience of direct physical combat was simultaneously “scary” and “pretty cool.” Stewart said she’s already had her nose bloodied at least once during sparring, but that it only happened because she was careless.

“I put my hands down too early,” said Stewart. “I thought he blew the whistle and I got clocked in the face, and that was dumb on my part. It definitely teaches you to be on guard.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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