Keeping it in the room: health, happiness and living in Berlin
Here’s my coming out moment: since I was a teenager, I’ve been interested in wrestling. Not regular wrestling, but American style wrestling – the theatricality and acrobatics. For years, I thought that I’d love to learn how to do it, but didn’t know where to go, where to start.
I started going a bar in Vauxhall – Grapple 101 at the Eagle – a year ago where they supposedly taught wrestling. Trouble is, they didn’t teach it very well, as I got injured in the first two minutes of my second visit and haven’t been back.
So it was with some interest that I spotted the tweet from Time Out London: Lucha Libre Wrestling School at Resistance Gallery offers “a series of workshops where you can learn the Spandex-tight tips and tricks of the trade in a proper ring. Beginners’ classes are weekly Tuesdays…”
The following Tuesday, I went to the gym as usual after work on Tuesday evening, wondering how intense the class would be. The journey to Bethnal Green was a struggle. Not only is it mostly up hill, but there was a strong wind in my face all the way there. It was a hard 25 minute cycle to get to where Google maps indicated it was.
The venue was a railway arch, accessible via a narrow cobbled access road. Cycling along the small access road, interrupting a drug deal, I was pleased I’d memorised the address, because the only indication I was in the right place was a slightly open door. No name, no sign.
I nervously went in – with my bike, as there was nowhere to lock it outside – and was greeted by a man in a wrestling mask. He might have looked scary, but the east London accent was friendly. He told me to hook the bike over the stair handrail and I replaced my cycle shoes with trainers while others around me chatted or just looked around, nervously.
There were lots of friendly looking faces – about 15 people apparently in their 20s and 30s – including four or five women. A couple of guys put boxing boots on to make them look the wrestler part, but the rest of us were wearing regular trainers. Just one guy was wearing a vest, and he clearly spent so much of his time at the gym, it would have been rude not to.
Someone who was clearly involved in running the evening came up, introduced himself as Greg and asked me to go over to the bar at the back to sign some release forms, confirming I’ve not had any injury or other medical condition which could affect my ability to take part.
That done, we all stood on padded floor mats while one of the people running it welcomed us. There were lots of new people who had heard about the event through Time Out – about half of us. Because of this, it seemed like they were going back to the start, even for the people who weren’t new. A talk about what Lucha Libre is, and how while there’s some over exaggeration of how much moves might hurt – known as selling – it’s not fake. Falling onto your back still hurts and even pros can injure themselves – fellow instructor Garry held up his bandaged left hand to prove the point.
We started with 20 minutes of warming up on the spot. Jogging, sprinting, shaking, jiggling. Then we started to learn basic moves, including what Greg called the “forward rolly polly” – aka the front roll; the forward roll; and a bump, which is learning how to fall properly.
All the time, we were given lots of encouragement, and even though I realised the rest of the group was watching me when I had my turn, there was no embarrassment when I got it wrong and tried again.
Half way through, we stopped for a very short break to get some water, then continued till 10pm… but when the instructors decided they fancied carrying on till 10.30, no-one minded. We learned how to lock up, how to do a wrist lock, how to reverse a wrist lock.
The only time we really stopped was right at the end, with us all sitting on the mats, while the two instructors chatted to us about wrestling; and about how much fun it can be. It’ll give you confidence, they told us; it could be your ticket to travel the world, they said, after describing the transformation of a 6’7” ginger bloke with curtains for hair into a top WWE wrester earning millions.
As we left, I introduced myself to a couple of the friendly faces. Some were new; some had been coming for a few months. One guy said he wasn’t going to forget everything we’d just learned, because he was going to go home and practice it on his girlfriend! Another, a huge scary looking tattooed bodybuilder called Mike, told me he had to increase the number of calories he eats per day – from 4,000 to 6,000 – because of the amount of energy he expends practicing or performing almost daily. He was losing weight, he told me – and for a bodybuilder, that’s bad!
That evening and the following morning, I ached a little, especially my neck, because of some of the strengthening exercises we did there; and I’d probably not fallen quite right some of the time.
But the rest of me was in remarkably good shape. The buzz from the final few exercises was amazing – definitely something I want to repeat. Asking around, everyone I spoke to said they’d be back next week. As will I.
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