AS far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a wrestler.
My formative years in high school were dominated by grandiose delusions of forging a career inside the squared circle.
Those dreams were pushed to the wayside in my university days, once I realised that professional wrestling training would involve a great deal of fitness, in which I was notably lacking.
Still, I remain a devoted wrestling fan and when the opportunity arose to attend a training session at the Denbighshire-based Britannia Wrestling Academy, I jumped at the opportunity.
The training school, established on July 21, 2012, is based at Prestatyn's Ffrith Beach Arena.
Local wrestling outfit Britannia Wrestling Promotions (BWP), a company who regularly host shows at Denbigh Town Hall and other venues in the area, run senior and junior classes every weekend.
Trainers Alex Pownall, Geraint Davies and Sam Smitten-Downes showed me the ropes.
Besides running the ropes and bumping in the ring - both of which hurt, as if you couldn't guess - Sam led the seniors in technical wrestling holds.
Running through headlocks, hammerlocks, wristlocks and various escapes, I got to experience some of the intricacies of the sport, as well as the importance of character and playing to the crowd.
I was on the verge of suggesting I try out my patented top rope elbow drop, but quickly reconsidered when Sam took me down with a hammerlock and pushed his knee into my back.
Speaking afterwards Sam, who wrestles under the moniker “The Babyface Pitbull”, said: “Your body has to get used to it.
“You'd be surprised at the little things that do hurt in pro-wrestling.
“I think in terms of physical exercise - like running the ropes just once, you end up with marks on you - for the physical durability side of things, it's a good activity.
“You can improve your athleticism, you can improve your conditioning, improve your physique.
“But, also, you can be more of who you want to be, looking at it in terms of a character perspective.
“There's a lot of mental fulfilment as well as physical fulfilment from wrestling.”
Head trainer Alex Pownall has been wrestling for eight years already, despite being just 19-years-old.
Alex spoke of the benefits of training at the academy.
“At first, everyone thinks wrestling is quite brutal and quite tough but it unlocks a lot of things.
“You can become a lot more confident, you can unlock a whole new personality.
“You become a tougher person.
“It's helped people with bullies, it's helped people with problems in confidence, problems at home.
“I was bullied in my younger years in school and then obviously once I started getting a bit tougher in wrestling, I became a tougher person outside.
“Loads of kids have come with self-confidence issues and benefited from the training.”
The camaraderie and sense of fun was clear from the outset of the session and I was made to feel very welcome as a trainee.
Head trainer of the junior classes and BWP referee Geraint Davies even invited me back.
Former British karate champion and Ruthin resident Geraint moved into wrestling for a new challenge.
Like Alex and Sam he feels that there are additional benefits of wrestling training, beyond what someone might learn in traditional martial arts classes.
“There are pros and cons to any sort of martial art.
“In my mind, wrestling is a martial art, certainly the greco-style of wrestling.
“Pro-wrestling, okay, there's a lot of dramatics in, but when I'm teaching, I want to instil discipline, respect and perseverance in the kids.
“There's also the social side of it; they get to make new friends and they're keeping fit, which is a good thing.
“You can walk down any street and see a sign for a karate class every Sunday or a judo class every Tuesday night.
“Where do you see posters for pro-wrestling classes?
“It's something totally different.”
The Britannia Wrestling Academy holds classes every Saturday from 12pm-4pm. Sessions cost £6.50 for juniors (aged 4-13) and £8 for seniors (aged 13 and above). For more information, contact Steve Saxon on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07713 566658, or visit the Britannia Wrestling Facebook or Twitter accounts.
See full story in the Free Press