I had the pleasure of coaching at Hastings' "Extreme Academy". This gym is run by my old friend and pro wrestling promoter, Stu Allen. It may be a surprise to those who haven't read my rather overlong biography (shame on you!), but I used to run the UK's first extreme professional wrestling promotion. I didn't ever work as a wrestler, but performed my martial arts act and was also heavily involved with the "bookings" and "angles". Those were good and less complex days, where we dreamed about getting our show on TV. I met a wide variety of characters and became acquainted with yet another region of the country we call showbusiness. Since leaving the promotion, I have periodically checked back and seen how it has evolved in different ways. It is always interesting and Stu has remained one of my best friends.
With a background in various types of security, having to deal with violence on a regular basis and having a solid background in catch wrestling in addition to his "show" wrestling, Stu certainly knows his stuff when it comes to combat. I was delighted to see the amount of this grappling side came out in his students as they put on a freestyle display of the technical side of professional wrestling.
The largely ignorant members of the marital arts community are often way too quick to put down professional wrestling in a way they wouldn't dream of doing so with stage fighting. Many do not realize that the likes of MMA pioneers such as Ken Shamrock have their roots in professional wrestling and both UFC star Brock Lesner and Olympic freestyle wrestling gold medallist Kurt Angle were hugely successful professional wrestlers. Besides, there is growing evidence to suggest that the "worked" aspect of professional wrestling goes back far further than many of the old school grapplers would care to admit.
I did not presume to teach anything directly from professional wrestling. Despite coaching performance-based martial arts alongside Stu at a professional wrestling club 2000-2002, my area of coaching these days is firmly in self-protection, mixed martial arts, cross training and combat conditioning. This was fine with the Extreme Academy who were keen and open mnded to other areas. By pooling from my knowledge the students not only got to learn some more “shoot” moves if the problem arose in a match – it is not uncommon for another wrestler to take liberties – but also provided some techniques they can change into worked “spots”.
I identified a front face-lock during the freestyle exchange and used that to teach the anaconda choke/gator roll. This typically is a counter to a double leg takedown. The student sprawls and grips the attacker with one arm in and the other out. This is a type of arm-triangle. The student holds with one hand clamped over the other. He removes his opponent’s base from the mat – an elbow – and then clamps his head onto hi opponent’s shoulder. Next he slides his clamped grip into a bicep grip, closing the triangle tightly. This is followed by the gator roll, where the student rolls under the opponent and then completes the submission by working his way inwards on the side. We also covered the sit-out escape and this was followed by the Americana arm-lock and the back-mount into rear naked choke/strangle. The arm-bar from guard was covered as well as Thai round kicks.
We discussed energy and intensity in training. We also lightly covered attitude and projecting whatever it was you wanted to convey, be it aggressive propaganda or a poker face. The key thing was not to show pain or exertion unless it was part of a “work”. Coaching at the Extreme Academy was an absolute pleasure. My thanks go to Stu Allen and his students for putting up with me and being so enthusiastic about my method of teaching.