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How martial arts has got Leader reporter Rory in shape... and found him a 'new family'

Published date: 18 May 2017 |
Published by: Rory Sheehan 
Read more articles by Rory Sheehan  Email reporter


 

After just a few weeks, Leader reporter Rory Sheehan has shed a few pounts, built a bit of muscle, feels stronger and more agile.

What's the secret? He reveals all...

Earlier this year I found myself at a crossroads. Feeling the need to get in shape, and learn something new, I was searching for a sport to get into.

Having tried a bit of taekwondo back in January and enjoyed it, one of my contacts, Russ Williams, suggested I might like to have a go at kickboxing.

He invited me down to his Thai Boxing, Kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts gym in Wrexham.

Russ is a legend of the sport, well-known in Wrexham, Flintshire, Cheshire and beyond.

He packed out fights at home and abroad on his way to becoming an undisputed world kickboxing champion and professional European Thai Boxing Champion.

Video and images by Craig Colville / NWN Media

Who better to learn from? 

He gave me the push I needed and I’ve been going three times a week ever since.

After just a few weeks, I started to shed weight, build muscle, feel stronger and more agile, and just as importantly was enjoying it.

Going through the doors for that first session can be daunting, but that really is the hardest part over and done with.

You are soon put at ease by the friendliness of everyone else in the class and the instructors.

Despite the fact it’s a combat sport and we are throwing punches and kicks at each other for around an hour, everyone is friends and has total respect for each other.

There are people of all backgrounds, ages and nationalities making up the classes, from those who are there just to keep fit, wanting to learn self-defence, to help control their aggression or training seriously for their next fight.

But it doesn’t matter where you come from, or what level your ability – everyone supports each other and encourages them to be the best they can be.

Sessions begin with either skipping or light jogging on the spot before getting the whole body warmed up with a series of stretches, press-ups and sit-ups.

The class then pairs up, gloves and pads on, as Russ and his main instructor Mark Evans take you through a series of exercises, defensive techniques and padwork while giving advice and instruction.

Before you know it you’ve worked up a sweat, an hour has flown by, and it’s time to stretch off and cool-down.

Those preparing for their next fight or who just want an extra work-out can continue to train with sparring, supervised by Russ, or finish off on the bags or pads.

Each lesson I feel I’m getting better, although co-ordination is something I need to improve, both with my feet and remembering to keep my guard up when throwing a punch, but I’m in good hands.

Since hanging up his gloves competitively Russ has become established as an experienced promoter and trainer at home and abroad.

He has been doing martial arts most of his life and you can tell how much he loves helping people through his teaching, having helped set up instructors in classes throughout North Wales and Cheshire areas, and he also enjoys teaching abroad.

His past pupils include Spencer Wilding, the man playing Darth Vadar in the current Star Wars films, who Russ believes could have been even more successful as a fighter had his acting career not taken off.

Russ, a cousin of former Coronation Street actor Ian Puleston-Davies, said: “Spencer was a very promising heavyweight fighter who I promoted and then trained.

“He picked things up quickly and won British and Commonwealth titles.

“I’m sure he would have gone further before the film work started to come in and he had to stop competing.

“It’s nice to see him traveling the world and being successful after all his hard work and perseverance.” 

The sport is growing in popularity thanks to the likes of UFC star Conor McGregor.

But while Russ says he has respect for all martial arts and boxing promoters, he is disappointed at the number of fighters being crowned or promoted as national, European or world champions without having fought a wide variety of other fighters.

He added: “There are way too many organisations now handing out titles which brings the sports down.” 

While I’m never going to win a title, or go as far as Big Spen or Russ, I’m happy to be following in some of their footsteps.

It has been like joining a family – I’ve increased my fitness, got more energy and made new friends.

And if I can do it anyone can.

l Classes take place at the gyms on Abbot Street above Penny Black Bar, Wrexham on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and on The Square in Caerwys on Wednesday and Friday, all from 6.45pm to 7.45pm.

Junior classes, age four to 13, take place on the same evenings from 5.45pm to 6.30pm.

There is also a Saturday class in Wrexham for juniors from 11.45am to 12.30pm and adults from 12.45pm to 1.45pm.

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