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The Ballance Sheet #6 : The Training Factor

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On Sunday, November 3rd, Main Stage Wrestling will very kindly be hosting a seminar with myself, in their school in Inchicore, and I’m looking forward to it, I have to say.

I love training. Oftentimes, to be honest, I actually prefer it to doing shows, as mad as that sounds. I just love the simplicity of it; the chance to try stuff out, and the lack of waiting around. The latter is a maddening and frustrating aspect of doing shows, in all honesty. If you’re on first, or early on the card, it’s grand; if, however, you’re working the main event, or second half of the show, the wait, frankly, can grow rather wearisome. Training basically allows you a bit more ring time than you’d be afforded on a show, and in a more relaxed setting. From a creative standpoint, I tend to find it more fulfilling. 

Training others, too, has been one of the more rewarding and enjoyable aspects of being involved in wrestling over the last eight years. Ahead of the seminar with MSW next weekend, I thought I’d do a quick article on training, and my own experiences as both a trainee and a trainer.

I started training when I was twenty and, thankfully, finished with secondary school. I’d say training- and the amount of times I was going training- would have diverted some of my attention from studying for the Leaving Cert, so I’m glad I started when I was in college, instead.

I started with Irish Whip Wrestling, at their School in Baldoyle, and managed to pick things up pretty quickly, thanks to doing some private classes early on. I actually couldn’t recommend this highly enough for anyone learning how to wrestle- a few classes where you can focus on getting your bumps down, and running the ropes (which is harder than it looks on TV) are invaluable, and they helped me a lot.

I trained a lot during my first year, and tried to pick up whatever I could along the way, often offering myself as a “bump monkey” (not a technical term) for anyone who wanted to try out moves or spots. What I struggled a good bit with was selling; not the actual taking of moves, but audibly and facially registering the effects of the moves, and projecting that out to an audience. Being a fairly introverted person by nature, this was something I had to work harder on, and force myself to do, and I’ve often seen other shy people have a tough time with this aspect. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a “big personality” to excel in wrestling- I’ve known a lot of shy and reserved guys and girls who have managed just fine. It’s just a matter of tapping into another part of your personality, and bringing that out.

At any rate, I loved training- and still do- but the one thing that frustrated me at the time was that classes would sometimes peter out, and lead to chatting or messing, or sometimes I’d make the trip out to Baldoyle, and find the school closed, as no arrangement had been made for a trainer to go down.

During one class, Sheamus (who was a trainer at the time) had to head off early, and left me his keys to lock up. Though I wrestled with my conscience in a hard-fought two-out-of-three-falls battle, I took the opportunity and got a set of keys cut for myself, so that I wouldn’t again have to make a wasted journey down to the School. What I didn’t properly think through, though, was how this would be received; I couldn’t keep saying that I had a loan of Sheamus’ keys, as I’d eventually be found out and, very possibly, run out of town on the rail. (Howth Junction, to be specific.)

One evening, maybe a week later, I arrived down to Baldoyle, along with three or four other guys. When it finally looked like no one was gonna turn up, I produced my keys, opened up, and took my first class (while secretly planking over my cloak-and-dagger behaviour!) The promoter got on to me shortly after the class, to ask who’d opened up. I answered that I had, and admitted that I’d gotten a set of keys cut when I’d taken a loan of Sheamus’. “Is that ok?” After what seemed like an interminable silence (but more than likely was only a few seconds) I was told that it was fine, but not to lose them or loan them out.

A few months passed, I kept training, and was offered the position of Head Trainer in the school, which was cool and terrifying, in equal measure. I was happy with the challenge, however much I doubted if I was the right man for the job. Nevertheless, I began my reign of terror, and planned on some big changes- religious indoctrination, human sacrifices, ritualised chanting. All the old classics. When I learned that there was little demand for any of that, though, things just went along as normal, as classes were taken by me, and Bam Katraz and the Ballymun Bruiser, who were also trainers. Initially, we kinda took classes together, but there was too much stepping on each other’s toes, so we just arranged a schedule, and had the School open six days a week. It was tough going- and caused a good bit of strife for me at home, with the amount of time I was out there- but it was good to see the place healthy, and taking in a good amount of trainees.

That 2006-2008 period was extremely enjoyable, and rewarding. I loved training others, and watching them progress on to shows, and improving. I got an immense amount of pride from working with guys on shows that I’d had a hand in training, and seeing their hard work pay off.

However aggravating the promotional bullshit got, with people in the doghouse for one reason or another, or generalised bollockings being given to everyone for not doing enough postering/flyering/bag-packing, training remained fun, and just a place where you could come down, wrestle a bit, and have a bit of craic with your friends.

My advice to anyone who has regular access to a wrestling ring: use it as much as you can. Learn, train, tighten up your work, and don’t take it for granted. I still get ring time pretty regularly these days- it often sounds clichéd, but you really never do stop learning. One of my regular sparring buddies is ‘Fabulous’ Nicky from MSW and- aside from being an extremely sound and affable guy- one of the reasons I enjoy working with him is that he is down training regularly, and puts in the hard work. I don’t expect everyone to have the exact same attitude or approach to wrestling as me, but I’ve always gravitated towards people who are willing to put in the slog, and work hard. Those who have been willing got my time; those who haven’t didn’t.

However much I enjoyed that two-to-three year stretch, I don’t look back with rose-tinted glasses; there were annoyances, too. The rent on the place was exorbitant, and it felt like trying to hold back the tide every month, trying to scrape together the money to keep the place going. Attendance peaked and valleyed, and it was incredibly frustrating, trying to get people to come down and train. Different fee schemes were experimented with, but it was always a struggle. More annoying was the fact that we didn’t have exclusive use of the place for the money we were paying; we couldn’t use it during business hours, and the landlord regularly and routinely used the place to store his own personal items including, at one point, an enormous circular saw and workbench, which was a disaster-in-waiting. (Thankfully, that never came to pass.)

As a brief segue/aside, there were a few disasters in training, and a few near-misses that took a few years off my life. The top rope snapped during one class, as someone was running them, and that person went flying to the floor, back-first. Another trainee got concussed taking a double-flapjack into a section of the ring where the padding had slipped out of. The worst incident, though, involved a trainee having an impromptu brain haemorrhage during the class, and an ambulance having to be called. No lives were lost and, more amazingly, I didn’t get a single bollocking from any angry parents!

At any rate, we had our regulars, who would be down training, rain or shine. Trying to get other roster members down, however, was tough, regardless of the fact that they’d always be there on the day of a show, looking for a booking, or ‘wouldn’t have the money’ to train, but would always have enough to go out and get hammered every weekend. Different priorities, I guess, at the end of the day. Frustrating, nevertheless.

Eventually, the School began to take too much of a financial toll on the promotion, and had to be closed. I was gutted (figuratively) over the decision, but understood. It was a huge disappointment to have it come to an end like that, but I’d been expecting it for ages. Didn’t make it any easier when the axe fell, though.

My itch for training has been scratched, since the closure of the Baldoyle school, through regular seminars for Wrestlezone (in Aberdeen), along with one-off seminars I’ve done for SPWA (Scotland), DPW (in Yorkshire) and RDW (in Grimsby), all of which I enjoyed immensely. My own training, too, has thankfully continued, with regular ring time in MSW, with the likes of ‘Fabulous’ Nicky, and other sparring partners, like Bam Katraz, Seán South, Hynesie, Keith Connolly, Kazza G and Irish Dragon, to name a few I’ve worked with, over the last few years.

I considered doing a full article on advice to anyone looking to start training, but I can pretty much condense the most salient point I have into a paragraph: put in the effort, work hard, and put aside what you think you know about wrestling. You can listen to all the shoot interviews, and read all the autobiographies you like, but you can never appreciate what it’s like to do wrestling until you actually do it (as obvious as that sounds.) Train regularly, listen to your trainers, follow instruction, if you can’t get the hang of something, keep trying until you can get it, and show manners and respect for those around you. Do that, and you should be fine.

‘Til next time, folks.

Thanks.

Gary

Gary’s session with Main Stage Wrestling is next Sunday, November 3rd, at MSW’s School in Jamestown Industrial Estate, in Inchicore, Dublin. The seminar is from 2-6pm, at a cost of €10, and places can be booked by calling 085 749 0505.

Image courtesy of John Morrissey Photography And Design 

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  1. December 10th, 2013

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