It’s Friday night after work and city folk are moving fast along the pavement outside The Boxing Works. The building that houses the Boxing Works gym would have been contemporary at the turn of the century before last.
Close to the skyscrapers of the Sydney CBD, its three floors push fluorescent light out through what must surely be a heritage fa?e. The decor inside also seems to be from another era.
It’s a blokey sort of place with no shiny resistance machines, no electronic monitoring devices; just the good honest smells of guys hard at work and the sound of bodies hitting the mats.
If we were in America the wrestlers might be dressed in bright, primary-coloured lycra and the sport would be huge. Sure, our Australian wrestlers have the sexy body-hugging suits for competition but training nights are for self improvement, not self promotion.
Despite the low-key appearance, the Harbour City Wrestling Club is a well organised affair with dedicated members. It was instrumental in helping to stage the tournament at the 2002 Sydney Gay Games, a successful international wrestling competition for about 120 participants.
I spoke to Peter, who has been wrestling at the club ever since and would like to see more guys interested.
It’s a big sport overseas, indeed the national sport in Iran. When we were kids we used to wrestle with other kids. It’s innate within man to wrestle. It might have been a physical test of strength and everyone has wrestled in some way at some time.
Wrestling has rules designed to protect the athlete so it’s a sport rather than a martial art and the moves are a lot more fluid.
Their coach, Neil, agrees. It’s a social club. Most of the guys here train just once a week and from that they could move on to clubs with higher standards. Olympic wrestling is about control, not strength.
You are trying to expose your opponent’s back to the mat or pin their shoulders to score points and there are also points for throws.
Given that the members are no longer teenagers, high level throws are not encouraged.
We play it safe. It’s a really good exercise program. Wrestling is good for flexibility and endurance. You have to be able to control your opponent without giving them the opportunity to reverse the situation, Neil says.
Kurt took up the sport at the age of 42 and likes being part of a gay club. He has competed in the Sydney Gay Games and in competitions outside the club.
He says, There are competitions that will get you to national and international level but here it’s more social. Still, technique is very important and good technique lets you compete into your 50s.
Movements are very explosive -“ anaerobic and aerobic exercise is important. Wrestling teaches you confidence but wrestling is more for fitness than for street fighting.
The two-hour evening session starts with warm-up exercises followed by technique assessment from Neil. Then the techniques are put into practice, positions are checked, opposing moves are considered and the throws and positioning drilled until confidence in each move is obtained.
The last hour is for grappling where the highest levels of concentration and the fastest reactions, moves and counter-moves will win the points.
What would Peter say to someone who thought he might like to give the sport a try? Bring along a tee-shirt and shorts and come and try. It’s a body contact sport and in the beginning your body will need some adjusting time. The key thing is to come along and experiment.
If you’re interested you should do just that -“ there is plenty of room for new members. Look for the three-storey building in Castlereagh Street with the welcoming lights and historical air that contrasts so deeply with the bustle and glitz of Sydney after work on a Friday night.
If you persevere, your moves will be a lot faster than the ones on the street below.
The Harbour City Wrestling Club trains on Fridays from 5:45pm to 8pm at The Boxing Works, 167a Castlereagh St, Sydney. For more information visit the club’s website or call Barry, the coordinator, can be reached on 9662 6409.