Lesson One

I am excited. I mean like a kid the night before Xmas excited. I just couldn’t sleep at all the night before, I kept glancing at the clock at what I thought was at least every hour. In all actuality, it was every ten minutes. I needed to sleep otherwise I would show myself up the next morning at training, and that is the last thing I want to do. I have a lot riding on this…..

Since I last updated this diary/blog I’ve had a lot of in depth and informative chats with my youngest son Logan. He’s four and a half years old and is probably an even bigger wrestling fan than me. He watches everything I watch, and when I’m at work he’s either watching my dvd’s/blu rays or logged onto the WWE Network for his next fix. He lives and breathes wrestling.

Anyway, these chats? Well he knew that I was about to start training and he wanted to know what it involved, would I actually wrestle, could he watch, maybe he could accompany me to the ring one day……you know the usual.

The day before my first day of training, we sat down to watch the latest episode of NXT, when he asked me if I would ever get the chance to wrestle his favorite wrestler Sami Zayn. Not wanting to crush his hopes of seeing his dad get crushed in possibly the most one sided squash match in history, I replied “Maybe one day, if I’m good enough.”

So as well as my own dreams, I’m now carrying the dreams of my son. No pressure, no pressure at all…….

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6.45am arrives and I’m up and out of my bed quicker than Usain Bolt out of the blocks. My training bag was made up the night before so all I had to do was eat some breakfast and wait for my ride to arrive. Eating was the last thing I wanted to do. I just wanted to get to training as soon as I could, but I did the sensible thing (not usually my forte) and ate a banana and a cereal bar.

Before I knew it, it was 7.15am and Dan C (my buddy) was here to pick me up. I was out of my door and in his passenger seat, and on the way to training. Just over a twenty minute drive from my home, Hawkinge is a small town in Kent, UK. Not really known for it’s hustle and bustle, more like a sleepy slow way of life. It’s a small near to the sea town.

I filled those twenty minutes by pumping Dan for information. How intense is the training? Is the warm up going to make me keel over and pass out? Do we bump in the ring? How many students are there? Within minutes I had already annoyed him. I could tell as his vein near his temple was throbbing quite prominently, so I eased off the questions and asked about family life.

As we parked up at the Hawkinge Community Center, I instantly got nervous. I got cotton mouth, my hands were clammy, my pulse was raised by more than just a bit. As I said in my previous entry, my lack of physical exercise made me worry a lot, and now those fears were back with a vengeance. But I was here now, no backing out.

A few minutes later and the trainer Matthew arrived. He made his way over and introduced himself, and instantly I was put at ease. I can’t quite explain how calm he made me in a matter of seconds, maybe it was obvious of how nervous I was? I have possibly the worst poker face, so it wouldn’t surprise me. But literally all my fears that I had when we pulled up disappeared and I thought to myself how stupid I was to have them in the first place.

A few moments later other students arrived, including two other newbies, Jacob and Steven. After making pleasantries, the doors of the community center were opened and I took a huge breath…..This is it, this is where I’ll live not only my dreams but my youngest son’s too. Now show me the ring and let’s get to it!

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We all walk in and there’s no bloody ring! Just an empty hall! I look around, and nope, nothing. Not even a crash mat! It’s at this point where Matthew announces that the ring is in the shed next door, and all of us have to bring it out of there and into the hall to build it. Holy crap! First day of training and I’m on the ring crew! Man, Logan is gonna be so proud of me!

I’m all over the ring building, from grabbing parts of it from one room and bringing it over, grabbing the foam underlay, to looking all manly with the rubber mallet as I’m bashing steel posts down into place. Within fifteen minutes, I have before me my church for the foreseeable future, a wrestling ring.

With the ring built, Matthew began to tell us the morning schedule. A friend of his called Matt would hold the warm up. After that was completed we would all hit the ring for some gentle stretching and conditioning, followed by the lesson itself. The newbies (myself, Jacob and Steven) wouldn’t be in the ring this week, we would be training on the crash mats outside the ring while the rest of the students (Dan C, Dan H, Jack and Jon) would use the ring for the more advanced training.

The warm up begins and it’s the usual combination of jogging and star jumps on the spot, followed by jogging around the ring while Matt shouts out one, two, three or four. One is left hand down as we jog, two is right hand down, three is both hands down, four is jump. Combine that with some reverse instructions and you had my brain in a mess within 30 seconds. I totally forgot what hand corresponded to what number, it looked like I was about two seconds behind everyone else and I even forgot what reverse was and nearly ran into the back of Dan C! Not the start or impression I wanted to give so early on.

After about ten minutes of the warm up, we wound down. I’m not gonna lie, I thought I did well. I really thought I was gonna be sick either during or after the warm up, and feeling as good as I did after it, felt like a victory to me. So I went and had a sip of my water feeling very smug with myself. Unfortunately that feeling was about to leave me and a dose of cold harsh reality was about to hit me square in the face. It was the time for the stretching and conditioning…..

I couldn’t believe it, I was about to step inside the squared circle for the very first time. Now that may seem like a small thing to some to be overawed over, but from my perspective, I was never going to get the opportunity to do this, to train inside a real ring. This really was a dream moment for me.

All of us students climbed through the ropes and took positions around the perimeter while Matthew took center stage and talked us through the routines we were about to do. We were told to follow his lead and do some normal routine muscle stretching, just to wake up the muscles we hadn’t already woken up with the warm up. Again I thought I had this, I do most of these everyday any, not a problem. Then Matt turned the intensity up to eleven…..

Looking around the group, he counted nine of us. “Nine of us here, ten squats each, ninety in total. Right let’s go!”

I looked to my left and according to my quick mental arithmetic, I was fourth in line which meant I was in charge and counting off the 40’s, oh crap am I going to even last til it gets to me?!?

By the grace of some higher power, the count got to me and I’m holding on, just. I ask the group to bear with me as my thighs have become like jelly so the count off might be a bit slower. Everyone laughs thinking I’m ribbing, until I start counting the squats off. After about 35 seconds I’ve counted my ten off and I have to bow out before my legs give out on me and I collapse. Luckily Matthew calls time on the squats and gives a few moments to compose ourselves before we begin some press ups.

Let me paint a picture for you. My thighs are shot. It’s a miracle I’m not in a heap on the floor, clawing at the canvas to move much like Vince McMahon in the infamous beer-bath from the Attitude era. And now Matthew wants us to do push ups? Okay, I can do this, it just won’t be pretty that’s all.

All of us students get down into position, when Matthew announces that we’re doing thirty push ups. With our feet on the bottom turnbuckle we do ten. Move feet up to the middle turnbuckle another ten, then ten from the top turnbuckle. Upon hearing this, I admit, I did let out a small expletive which made the class laugh (it seems I may have found my role in the class already. Move over Santino!)

Bottom turnbuckle wasn’t too bad I did my ten in reasonably quick time, but when I went to put my feet on the middle turnbuckle and went to go again, my legs gave out and I crashed to the mat (does that count as a bump?) I try three more times just to get one press up off and the same result. It’s at this point that Matthew rallies the class behind me and makes me, eventually, do another ten. Again I bail out from finishing as I know my thighs won’t even get to the top turnbuckle, let alone let me do a single push up.

Now I’m sure there was another routine after the push ups, but I had gone off to get some water before I threw up. By the time I had got myself into a better condition (and internally bashing myself for being so damn out of shape), Matthew had separated the class into two and the lesson was about to begin. It was right about here that I mentally slapped myself silly and told myself to man the f up, stop messing around and do this.

Matthew talked and showed myself, Jacob and Steven the basics outside the ring. The collar and elbow tie up, a simple side headlock, and a wrist lock. All transitioning from the tie up. Now to me this is what I wanted, the technical side. Below are a few pictures taken by Matt (warm up guy) as we were put though our paces.

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Here’s myself putting Jacob into the wristlock (shilling the TJR shirt too!)

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Matthew putting Steven into a keylock.

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Advanced students (Dan C, Dan H, Jack and Jon) in the ring practicing hammerlocks.

With some time and practice all three of us had these maneuvers kind of licked. With at least 90 minutes of the lesson remaining, it was time to take bumps on the crash mat. Matthew showed us three kinds: The normal back body bump, the flip bump, and the front face bump.

Now I’ve been watching wrestling for pretty much all my life, so I thought I had this, easy. But I was wrong, waaaay wrong. It’s one thing bumping with your friends on a trampoline, in a foam cushion pit, on the bar floor (or is that just me?) but being shown how to do it professionally and being watched, it threw me.

With the back body bump, I had to land flat back, chin in, and palms down. Could I get all three in sync? Like f*&k could I! It took me at least ten minutes to get it done right. My mind couldn’t get my palms flat, instead the backs of my hands hit the mat. Now that’s ok on a soft crash mat, but in a ring, where it’s a lot lot harder, now that’s gonna hurt.

Next up was the front flip bump. Basically you flip yourself forward and land on your back the same way as the back bump. I watched Jacob, who has a history in trampolining, pull one out perfectly first time, and thought to myself, “I think I’m going to be the kind of wrestler that doesn’t take bumps like that”. I just wasn’t comfortable enough in my own ability to be able to flip, as stupid as that sounds. My thighs still weren’t 100% after the squats, and I didn’t want to have an accident. So I watched Jacob and Steven pull them off effortlessly.

The final bump was the famous Ric Flair front face bump. After watching him for so long I KNEW I had this one. And sure enough I was flopping onto the mat just like Naitch. I really enjoyed doing this bump, it’s just falling forward, but as you’re going down you put your arms up in front of you in a triangle shape to stop your head from hitting the mat. Towards the end of this bump however, I took my eye off the ball so to speak and put my arms up to late on the way down, and face planted the mat. Big frickin ouch! Got off the mat and everything was a bit woozy but it soon passed.

Next…..power slams! Matthew came over and showed us how to take the slam, and how to give it. I was up first and placed my left hand on his right shoulder, I jumped up as he picked me up and slammed me to the mat.

Rookie error number two = I didn’t tuck my chin in and smacked the back of my head on the mat. Everything went dizzy and I felt sick crawling off the mat. Man I’m making a right arse of myself today!

That was me pretty much done for the lesson. I took another two slams, and both had the same effect. I had literally knocked myself silly. Jacob and Steven practiced more power slams and suplexes too as I looked on envious, but I only had myself to blame.

And just like that, it was 11.30am and time to take apart the ring and put it all away. Even with a woozy head I helped take it apart and put it back into the shed, all the while still feeling sheepish and silly. Matthew took me to one side and told me to not be so hard on myself because things like this happen. He said that I was picking things up quickly and would learn from the day. I thanked Matthew for his kind words and told him next lesson will be a lot better both cardio/fitness wise and in ring too.

With that I said my goodbyes to Matthew and the class and jumped back into Dan C’s car to be chauffeured back home to tell Logan how not to take a bump!

Now my diary may come across that I may not have enjoyed the lesson, but trust me when I say I absolutely loved it! I got in my front door and gushed for about an hour to my wife and Logan about how damn great my morning was. I made some new friends, got fitter, learnt some new stretching techniques and took some bumps from an actual professional wrestler! The adrenaline was buzzing around my body for the entire day and I didn’t ache once…….The next day however is a different story!

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I’ll be back again next week with entry three of my diary, where hopefully I’ll have learnt to tuck my chin in as I’ll be practicing inside an actual ring! I can’t frickin wait folks!

See ya’s next week!

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