A secondary in County Durham has become the first state school in England to put boxing on the curriculum.
Boys at Teesdale school are being offered lessons after the success of a lunchtime club. It is hoping to extend classes to girls next year.
Pupils in Years 10 and 11 will spend two hours each week for half a term on boxing and fitness, learning how to throw and block punches.
Carl Lander, PE and science teacher and representative of the Schoolboys'
Amateur Boxing Association, said the risk to pupils' health was kept to a minimum because boys were not allowed to land their punches.
He said: "What we are doing in school is a bit like tag rugby. It offers all the exhilaration of boxing without the contact. We teach pupils self defence through punches and blocks, much like is done in martial arts."
But the move has been attacked by doctors who believe it will encourage young people to take up a sport with serious health risks.
A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association said: "Boxing should be banned. Even if there is no contact this could encourage children to take part in a sport that could potentially lead to brain damage."
It was the popularity of boxing among pupils that persuaded the school to make it part of the curriculum. The lunchtime club, which started last November, has space for 20 pupils and a waiting list of about 60.
Mr Lander said parents have been supportive, despite the publicity given to the risks associated with professional boxing.
Curtis Briggs, 14, takes part in boxing lessons and the lunchtime club. He said: "My mum wasn't too sure at the start because she thought it was fighting and stuff. But then she realised it wasn't actually hitting and it would be good for self-defence.
"It's great fun, you are learning something new, it keeps you fit and it's a bit different to normal sports like football and rugby."
Mr Lander said he hopes more schools will follow Teesdale's lead.
"I'd like to see it take off in numerous schools. It would be nice next year to teach boys and girls," he said.
"It is another weapon in the fight against obesity. It offers the chance for young people to try an individual sport ."