Fighting fit in new premises

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Invercargill Boxing Gym members Tahlia Waters (left, 8) and Te Atarea Shaw (8) practice their skills on the first official night of training at the gym's new premises in Moa St, Waikiwi, on Tuesday night.

AFTER two months of uncertainty about its fate, the Invercargill Boxing Gym has secured a new dedicated home.

“We are so relieved,” co-owner Carla Lawrence said.

Invercargill Boxing Gym has been run by husband and wife team Vinnie and Carla Lawrence for about 13 years using space at the Collegiate Rugby Club. However, when members of the rugby club decided to build new changing rooms on the site the gym was using, they had been forced to find a new home.

Mrs Lawrence said she had spent the past two months speaking to the owners of virtually all of the empty buildings in the city trying to find a suitable site for the gym.

Being a non-profit group, the gym could not afford a big rent, she said.

They found and secured the former Waikiwi Scout Den on Moa St the week they had to be out of the rugby club.

The gym was so much more than simply a place of fitness for many of its members.

About half of the young people who attended classes at the gym were being bullied at school, Mrs Lawrence said, and their parents had been concerned about the prospect of the gym having to close when new premises could not be found because boxing helped grow their children’s confidence.

A 14-year-old member of the club who had been bullied at school for about a year, said before attending boxing classes he had been “depressed and sad”.

Boxing classes had helped him feel more confident and happier within himself, he said.

“I just normally ignore [the bullies] now and walk away and take my aggression out on the bags,” he said.

Merlene Thompson (46) had been attending boxing classes at the gym for about a year.

Ms Thompson said she was dealing with negativity and “raw emotions” in her private life, and the boxing classes had helped to keep her “rage in the cage” and provided a way for her to better deal with conflict. “It turns that negative energy into positive energy.”

When it was thought the gym might have to close, she said she had been concerned for the youth who were being bullied who attended classes.

“We don’t teach them how to fight back. We teach them how to be strong spiritually.”

Invercargill Boxing Gym offers classes for children from 5 years, teenagers and adults.

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