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I Took A Lucha Libre Class And Survived Unscathed

Book me for Mr. Money in the Bank now.

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Mexican wrestling, or lucha libre, is the noble art of doing batshit crazy stuff in a wrestling ring and looking cool while doing it.

Compared to its WWE or Japanese wrestling contemporaries, lucha libre is known for its fast sequences and high flying, acrobatic maneuvers.

Wanting to turn myself into a human cannon ball, I recently took a class at the London School of Lucha Libre.

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Headed by Garry and Greg Vanderhorne, the school has been running for nearly ten years in East London as part of their Lucha Britannia movement.


2. And a lot of it involves shedding your inhibitions.

The average beginner lucha class lasts three hours, with half of that dedicated to stretching. It's serious work, but comes with a sense of fun and mischief throughout.

As we started with a light warm-up, it gave us time to focus on the type of wrestler we wanted to be. It's not often you spend a night doing your best Ric Flair impression while squatting, so I decided to try my hand at being a chickenshit bad guy called Thaddeus Reynolds.

3. But also fighting against your body's natural instincts.

This gnarly neck exercise is called "bridging", a means to stretch your neck muscles and minimise spinal injury if something goes wrong. Causes a lot of butt cramp, quite a lot of fun to do.

4. And similar to stunt work or stage combat, there's a lot of gymnastic work involved too.

At its essence lucha is all about making a crowd go "wow," and making sure you don't actually hurt yourself while doing it. A good core warm-up put me in good stead before the combat rolls started.


6. But not in the way you might expect.

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See how my right arm is flexed? That's to deflect attention from how my left arm is directing the segment.

A lot of the physical exertion in lucha is making things look more painful than they are, which can be a lot more exhausting than an full contact combat sport. Applying constant pressure to your own body, rather than flailing limbs at another person is hard work.

7. In fact, lucha libre isn't fighting, it's art.

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Working with a partner to pull off choreographed routines to impress an audience? Lucha has a lot of similarities to dancing.

8. Nailing a good rhythm is tough, but once you get it you can make anything happen.

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Lucha is all about building rapid sequences of attacks, counters and reverse counters between you and your partner to get a crowd on their feet and excited about what will happen next.

9. Slowly you learn to put together a collection of moves to make impressive sequences.

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From one lesson I learned how to do a proper wristlock, hammerlock and a headlock, with Greg promising to teach me neckbreakers, drop kicks and more in future. There are so many different elements, learning lucha is a lot like learning a new language.

Except you do cartwheels and backflips instead of work on tenses.


13. Sell the hell out of those dope moves.

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"Selling" is wrestling talk for acting as though you're hurt, or when you're hurting another person.

A good wrestler makes themself look good, a great one makes their opponent look like the most dangerous fighter on Earth.


16. Running the ropes in the ring is an experience all its own.

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You bounce off the ropes a lot faster than you'd expect, as there's much more tension than it looks from the outside, and it can really take you by surprise.

Garry recommended we always use our right arm as leverage in case we went flying out, to avoid landing on our heads. A silly game on a bouncy castle, this was not.

17. In the end, a lot of it falls down to trust.

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When doing lucha, you're responsible for the other person's safety, so it helps to verbalise what you do before you do it.

It's also very important to duck when warned – the last thing you need is to forget is that a forearm smash is incoming.

18. And a couple of musical hints.

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Your average wrestling ring is a hell of a noisy place, but the music actually provides a rhythmic beat to help you stay focused.

Trying to get across the ring in three steps is a lot easier when there's a clanging happening with every large step.

19. That said, if you don't pay attention, you can get hurt.

Lynzy Billing / BuzzFeed

When doing lucha, you're responsible for the other person's safety, so it helps to verbalise what you do before you do it.

It's also very important to duck when warned, the last thing you need is to forget a forearm smash is incoming.

So while I may not be able to pull off spots like this...


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