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SHWI Mad Skillz kicks off with Self Defence

It’s a cold, dark, drizzly Friday evening in Dronfield. My friend and I have just pulled up outside S18 gym. Since we’re early, too nervous to go in, we sit in the car luxuriating in the heated seats until the clock shows 18:00.

We approach the gym – I can see a caged off boxing ring and a well built man punching the heck out of something. I pull out my phone and call Anna T. I have no idea what I’m doing and she’s the one who’s organised this. As soon as I hear her excited, friendly voice, inadvertently informing me I’ve come to the wrong entrance, I feel reassured.

Because, we weren’t here to start an illegal fight club. Nope, this was the inaugural session of the latest Seven Hills WI spin off group – SHWI Mad Skillz.

Unlike other spin-offs that focus on one particular interest (see Book Club, SHWI Crafts, Walking Group etc.) Mad Skillz is all about finding new and interesting activities. First up was an introductory self defence class with Mixed Martial Arts trainer Andy of the aforementioned S18 gym.

Once I’d shed my work gear in favour of leggings and a 15-year-old Pulp t-shirt, I went to join the other ladies. There were only six of us, but this meant we got a lot of one-on-one action (ahem).

After strapping on some gloves and wondering if beautifully manicured nails (not mine, I hasten to add) would make it through the evening, we got into the “cage” and were given a lesson in throwing punches. I may have the upper body strength of a day old kitten, but I’m pretty sure I could give a decent clout if required.

We then went on to cover kicking, falling over safely, wrestling (yes, really!) and then finally combining the whole lot to take on Andy in the ring.

I’ll be honest, this was half self defence, half an introduction to Mixed Martial Arts, but it was BLOOMIN’ BRILLIANT. We weren’t pushed into doing anything we didn’t want to, everyone was really supportive and encouraging (even when trying to wrestle you to the floor) and the buzz afterwards made me see why people get involved in this sort of activity. Also, it was HILARIOUS – self defence is clearly a serious matter, but if you can have fun whilst learning, why not? Anyway, it’s hard not to laugh when a grown man is telling you to grab his shoulder as you knee him in the gut.

The next day, I did look like I’d been in a scrap. My hands were covered in delicate purple bruises and I’d managed to graze a knuckle. But they didn’t really hurt, not as much as my arms and stomach, and that’s only because I’d been using muscles I didn’t know I had.

So would I do it all again? Hell yeah! Bring on the next one…

(Note: no ladies were harmed in the making of this blog. SHWI Mad Skillz will also be offering classes in more genteel pursuits – check out the Facebook group for more details.)

Laura Bainbridge


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