The 2012 London Olympics will see women boxing on the bill for the first time, opening the sport up to a whole new audience and raising its profile around the world. Like boxing, women's kick boxing is little known away from those who take part, yet as photographer Amelia Shepherd notes, it attracts participants from a wide range of backgrounds.
"My involvement was initially to participate in a social sport and to learn new skills," says Shepherd. "That was five years ago and I am soon to progress to obtaining my black belt, which takes immense hard work and dedication.
"What started out as a hobby proved to be invaluable to my physical and mental well-being, self-confidence and self-esteem. These feelings were reiterated back to me from my classmates as I began to interview and photograph willing participants for this project."
Shepherd's approach developed as her own skills and experience of the sport increased, but also with a clear desire to explore the way "our perceptions of women are challenged when we see women in this unfamiliar environment".
"I have chosen to photograph the moments post-sparring," she says. "I see this as a transitional time frame. In those moments, I am exploring the female sitter 'coming back to herself' after the adrenalin high of sparring, when I believe the boxers start to respond to the social pressures separating the two spaces of the ring and the outside world.
"This small time frame between the two worlds is like a marriage of opposites - of aggression and vulnerability, defiance and submission, frustration and calm, and ultimately varying ideas of masculinity and femininity."
Female Fighters will be exhibited during October and November as part of the Brighton Photo Fringe and Biennial 2012. You can see more of Amelia's work and further shots from this project on her website.