Lying in the shadows of Liverpool’s once mighty docklands, straddling the-no man’s land between Scotty Road and Bootle, sits a red brick old school gym that has, to me at least, a refreshing absence of earphone deaf, tight t-shirt modelling, iced latte slurping hipsters. In layman’s terms, ‘a real gym’.
As a gym goer of over 25 years, the whole lycra gym revolution sort of crept up on and passed me — gyms got bigger, shinier, air conditioned and above all, a lot more pretentious. Looking around inside some gyms, I’d guess that people who frequent them may have gym memberships in other gyms just to look good enough to stand inside of them not training, but posing. As hard as I try I often tend to feel like a fish out of water in such ‘trendy’ gyms for a number of reasons.…
- I actually sweat in the gym
- I actually eat carbohydrates
- My training clothes cost less than £5000 (about £4996 less if I’m honest, but just for a minute let’s not dwell on how much of a Matalan meff I am)
The Rydal Gymnasium is timeless, as most old school boxing gyms were when I was growing up — no frills, just hard routines that are time and again tested to bring results. For me, both now and in the past the boxing gym has been my confession and communion, a chance to trade the demons on my back for the sweat on my brow. For an hour or longer we get to forget the world, we get to hit things without getting arrested and we get to feel better about ourselves for doing so.
It’s a pretty perfect pugilistic trade off if, like me, the frustrations of everyday life sometimes bring you to the point of wanting to strangle people. I feel it awfully unfair, in fact, that on a daily basis I encounter so many dickheads and at the same time live in a society where the murdering of those same dickheads is so vehemently frowned upon. It’s somewhat mean if you ask me. I mean, think about it for a moment! Modern day culture in many instances has a lot of us wearing invisible social straight jackets. Some of us have bosses who are total weapons giving us orders and some of us are following rules and guidelines that we actually don’t agree with and don’t cater to common sense.
Added to this, most of us are overworked and underpaid. We can’t act freely, we can’t talk freely for risk of saying something that is not politically correct and many of us are fundamentally restrained by imaginary rules made up by complete bell whiffs for forty or more hours a week. So why is it I have to ask, that as soon as someone finally shouts “GO FUCK YOURSELF ARSEHOLE!” and head butts the boss people look so surprised?
Personally, I’m surprised that there aren’t queues of ambulances outside A&E every day, jam packed with bloody nosed supervisors sporting dejectedly bruised scrotums. Shit floats to the top in working hierarchies I have found. To my mind, the world is certainly a frustrating place and we all need some sort of sanctuary from it, so in the sad absence of readily available voodoo dolls and automatic weapons I’d certainly recommend the Rydal as a place to vent those frustrations.
Paradoxically though, this isn’t a place full of hard cases or angry heads, far from it. The general feel of the gym is one of family and community, young girls and older women well into their 50’s join in classes alongside young male boxers in their prime. Quite often I have seen people who are physically or mentally let’s say ‘differently-abled’ training alongside us and being more than at home. Robbie the owner (an ex pro boxer himself) makes it very clear that in his gym if you can’t run, then you walk, the class moves around you and we all look after each other.
Not everybody has the same ability but everyone is important in the Rydal family and being tough comes second to being kind and respectful in all instances. If someone needs a little extra help then the coaches are quick to pick that up and make themselves available to offer encouragement and support. Basically all are welcome: all shapes, sizes, and genders. It’s a very beautiful thing to see compassion around a boxing ring.
If you do feel like losing a little weight, getting a little fitter, or for that matter embarking on a path to become the next world champion, I’d certainly recommend The Rydal. You can pay per visit or the monthly payment option is amazing value for money at only £25, inclusive of all classes at no extra charge. If nothing else it’s an act of humanitarian philanthropy as it may just stop you from climbing a clock tower with a Kalashnikov. Please help stop mass homicide and box at the Rydal.
For The Rydal website CLICK HERE
For The Rydal Facebook page CLICK HERE
Photographs by Ged Thompson