Standing at four feet eleven inches, Lynn Le can almost certainly beat you up.
As a plenty esteemed kickboxing instructor with a brown belt in Krav Maga, she is nothing if not a weighty opponent. But Le's finest work is not limited to her reign in the ring: Most recently, she’s responsible for crafting a boxing glove that’s altering the very nature of combat sports for women.
“I grew up as the resident small fry,” she explains, laughing. “But I stopped feeling that way when I started fighting.”
While trained as a dancer for much of her childhood, Le discovered Krav Maga on a trip to Israel as a college student. Thoroughly inspired, she found a studio where she could practice back home in Portland, Oregon. She devoted herself to honing her craft, and once she earned her brown belt, she moved on to teaching, with kickboxing as her niche of expertise.
The first punch I threw was this crazy poignant moment.
“When I was totally new to combat sports, the first punch I threw was this crazy poignant moment,” Le says. “It was an immediate sense of relief and pride. It was amazing. I knew instantly that this was something I wanted to lean into — and I sincerely want all women to feel something like that.”
For Le, the triumph of strength and catharsis over intimidation was fundamental — so much so that she describes her foray into combat sports as a “spiritual awakening.” And in the hopes of sharing that very sensation with an audience extending beyond her own students, she built her own company: Society Nine.
Named for Title IX — a section of the Education Amendments passed in the '70s, declaring that no program or activity under an education system with federal financial assistance could exclude participants “on the basis of sex” — Society Nine is grounded in the belief that women's inclusion in all arenas, sports or otherwise, is a right. And that is precisely the cause it's championing: As the first company vending a full spectrum of boxing equipment designed exclusively for women, it's hoping to empower more athletes to take precisely the same jump — or rather punch — as Le.
“I had female students who kept coming back to me and saying their gloves didn’t fit,” she explains. “They said they were hurting their wrists or their knuckles and that the inside cavity was totally massive.”
For the most part, boxing gloves come in one size: unisex — which, lo and behold, typically translates to: men’s. “My hands are honestly the size of a third grader’s,” Le jokes, “but it hadn’t really occurred to me that I could have gloves that fit properly until my students started coming to me for help.”
As a result of those probing questions, Le began her research. And for the most part, she found that no one had released a glove that took women's hands into consideration. Traditional boxing brands had often marketed gloves of the same make as their men’s variety in shades of fluorescent pink, lazily rebranding them as “women’s” — but naturally, this wasn’t the same. So Le set out to make her own.
Women have historically been underserved in this field, and I felt like I could actually provide a solution to one part of that problem.
“We probably purchased over 50 different boxing gloves — we cut them open, messed with them, tried them on,” Le explains. “We pulled together focus groups of women and polled them on what they were really looking for in a product. And the glove we built is something I take so much pride in.”
Following the release of the initial Bia Glove, Society Nine went on to round out its product selection, crafting even more styles of gloves, along with women's active wear and wraps — the gauzy material boxers wind around their hands and wrists for protection beneath their gloves.
In an era where the phrase “athleisure” is thrown around with the frequency of “fashion,” the market for athletic apparel is certainly oversaturated. But Le wanted to create something with lasting utility. “Women have historically been underserved in this field,” she says, “and I felt like, with Society Nine, I could actually provide a solution to one part of that problem.”
Beyond their practical use, Le says the gloves have a certain symbolic resonance. They’re emblematic of power, of self-sufficiency, of independence. “They’re about more than actual combat,” says Le. “I have customers who are fighting cancer, who are survivors of sexual assault. The glove means something to them — it represents their own battles.”
Now, three years in, Le hopes to continue to grow Society Nine — to make her products available to as many self-identifying women as possible. For her, throwing punches is the ultimate release, and she aims to make that experience more accessible to women across the globe. As she sees it, combat sports ought to be more welcoming spaces for women as a whole.
“The best thing about what we make,” Le says, her excitement audible, “is when we see photos from women who use [the gloves]. They’ll be sweaty, with matted hair and a shiny forehead and a damp sports bra, with their arms up. They’re not dolled up or posed. But even without all the makeup or the staging, you can tell they feel like a million bucks. And I get to feel like we played a part in that.”