Meet Dara Shen, a Taiwanese-American woman from Alexandria, Virginia. Her voice strong and husky, her frame muscular and built for sport and endurance, Shen breaks all stereotypes of petite, meek, reserved Asian-American women with graceful force, giving moms everywhere the inspiration to be who they are. At 33 years old, she has flourished in a decorated career as a professional boxer with a life filled with fascinating lows and highs.
How It All Began
Dara Shen was born in San Francisco, and had a Mormon upbringing. She experienced frequent moves with her family, living briefly in Utah during her first two years of high school while her mother attended law school.
Shen finished her high school years in Alexandria, Va. and then attended Virginia Tech University, where she first began boxing after breaking up with her then-boyfriend. She quickly became an elite amateur boxer, winning impressive boxing titles along the way. In 2017, Shen began a new career as a law student after enrolling at University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law in Washington, D.C. In March 2019, Shen gave birth to her first child and became a single mom.
In January of this year, Shen hosted the first of five boxing clinics for mothers at the Alexandria Boxing Club in Alexandria. What motivated Shen to come up with a plan to offer boxing clinics?
Finding Her Tribe
As a first-time mom, Shen was inspired by one of Washington Parent ‘s stories, “The Importance of Finding Your Tribe” (May 2019 issue). “That article spoke to me,” notes Shen, “as a single mom going through this process [parenthood] without a partner or stable relationship – it’s tough!” Shen experienced the joys of first-time motherhood mixed with physical challenges, as well as depression and anxiety.
“I had just had my son via C-section and recovery was long. I remember being in the house for days at a time without fresh air or sunlight,” recalls Shen. By chance, Shen happened to meet a fellow mom in her building and the two hit it off. She felt an instant connection and formed a bond of friendship that only mothers could relate to after going through the same types of child-rearing issues and challenges. All of a sudden, Shen was starting to find her tribe, and it felt good.
Those comforting bonding times inspired Shen. Shen knew she wanted other moms to relish that same camaraderie in tribes of their own. But how would she do it? The answer came to Shen in the form of a wholly creative solution – a series of free boxing clinics designed to “Punch Postpartum Depression in the Face.”
A long-time member of the Alexandria Boxing Club in Alexandria, Va., Shen knew this would be the perfect venue to host boxing clinics for moms, appropriately titled “Hit Like a Mom.” “I decided to put both together [bonding with moms and boxing] and found a way to make something. I was so fortunate to receive so much kindness [after having the baby]. My duty was to share the kindness and pay it forward,” states Shen.
The Boxing Champ Loses a Major Challenge
Shen began boxing at Virginia Tech University and thereafter entered boxing competitions and won titles. In 2011, she medaled in bronze at the Ringside Golden Gloves Women’s National Tournament and participated in the Olympic trials for both the 2012 U.S. Boxing team and the Chinese Taipei (representing Taiwan) team. She qualified for the Chinese Taipei team, but was removed from the team for political reasons. Things were not the same after that.
Though she qualified to go to the Olympics, she never made it. That major loss of preparing for many years to reach the pinnacle of success in her chosen sport didn’t dissuade her at all – it only fueled her with the greatest passion of all to fight for justice in ways she hadn’t before.
The next big change in Shen’s life was deciding to go to law school. “I wanted to make a change. I wanted a return on something, because I wasn’t getting it in boxing. That’s when I decided to go to law school,” says Shen.
Though she took some time off to give birth, recuperate from a C-section delivery and get herself back on her feet, Shen credits the David A. Clarke School of Law for being so nice and understanding through it all. After taking final exams in December last year, Shen will continue her goal towards law school graduation, currently scheduled for May 2021.
Boxing Clinics for New Moms
Shen has scheduled four additional boxing clinics for new moms, all free of charge. On February 8 and March 7, the clinics will take place at the Alexandria Boxing Club, and the clinics on March 8 and 14 will take place at the Kenilworth Boxing Club in northeast D.C.
From 10:00-11:00 a.m., Shen will teach boxing basics to a maximum of 15 new moms while their babies are in an adjoining room with babysitters. From 11:00 a.m.-12 noon, the babies will return to their mothers and all will participate in an intimate social hour where mothers can start to form bonds with others, and share and receive advice.
For more information, visit Dara Shen through her Instagram page: instagram.com/dara.shen/