It’s Friday night in Creggan and as the daylight fades a small window is ajar in one of the large units in Rathmor Business Park.
Outside, from the ground below, the sound of trainers squeaking against the floor, boxing gloves connecting with punch-bags and the call of ‘one, two and three’ can be heard.
Moving in off the path and up the narrow, dark stairway, it soon becomes clear that a group of people are training hard.
The door opens and inside are about 20 people; men and women and they are all listening intently to the words of Paddy Toland’s (PT’s) Kick Boxing Coach, Sean McGill.
“One, two and kick,” says Sean to the group. “Keep it going, keep it going - you’re nearly there.”
Sean is a kick-boxing black belt first dan and is also a qualified kick-boxing coach and personal trainer.
Sean, a former amateur boxer, got involved with PT’s kick-boxing gym near Kilea seven years ago but due to demand, Sean opened up PT’s kick-boxing gym in the Rath Mor Business Park in April and kick-boxing in the area has been going from strength to strength.
“We have people from all walks of life coming here,” says Sean.
“We have men, women, young boys, young girls and I even have two women in their sixties coming to training during the week too.”
Sean believes that interest in the sport is not so much to do with people wanting to fight competitively but rather to do with getting fit, learning self-defence and losing weight.
“There are people who have come here and have lost two stone in a number of weeks. There are women who have come here to learn self-defence and there are a few mothers and fathers who use the club as a place to come and get fit,” he explains.
The interest in kick-boxing doesn’t stop with adults. In the next few weeks Sean will launch kick-boxing classes for children aged between six and 12 years-old.
“I can’t stress enough the benefits of kick-boxing. Yes, it’s a contact sport but it’s also all about discipline, hard work and respect for other people.
“When I was at primary school and for the first few years of my time in secondary school, I was very badly bullied so I decided to take up boxing - I was hooked instantly.
“The way you apply yourself as a boxer is similar to the way you apply yourself as a kick-boxer.
“I fell away from the boxing in my later years but when I moved back to Derry seven years ago I got involved with Paddy Toland’s kick-boxing gym in Kilea.
“I knew who Paddy was because I had followed his world title wins - he was one of my role models.
“Kick-boxing is such a fantastic sport and this club in Creggan is not just designed for those who want to fight, it’s designed for those who want to get fit, want to lose weight or want to learn self-defence.
“The club is open to anyone and I will work with anyone no matter their ability.”
Mum of three, Andrea Canning, is from Meenan Drive in the Bogside. Andrea started going along to kick-boxing training six months ago and her hard work has paid off.
“I never tried anything like this before but I am glad because in six months I have gone down two dress sizes and I have never felt as fit and healthy in my entire life.
“I am a full time mum and believe you me, looking after a 13 year-old, a seven year-old and a two year-old is full-time work but whenever mammy tells them to do something now, they do what they are told,” she says laughing.
Andrea’s friend and mum of two, Saritta Harley, is Shepherd’s Glen in the Waterside.
Saritta admits that when she joined the club four months ago, she felt a little intimidated but says that taking up kick-boxing is one of the best decisions she ever made.
“I come here about two or three times a week. I work part-time as a teaching assistant in Ebrington P.S. and when I get home I look after my 10 year-old son and six year-old daughter so you can imagine that it gets stressful at times,” she jokes.
“I was a bit hesitant at coming here at first but when Andrea told me the results she was getting I decided to give it a go.
“I use it as my stress relief and if I am annoyed about anything that has happened during the week, I take it out on the punch bag - I always feel great when leaving here after every training session.” she says happily.
One of the big attractions for Andrea was that she was able to train and get fit in a different environment to that of a standard gym.
“I have tried going to gyms but you are surrounded sometimes by people who want look at themselves 24/7 but here it’s different - it’s all about training hard and learning new things.
“My younger sister has started coming here too and since joining she has lost two stone, it’s amazing what coming here can do and I have to say that Sean [McGill] makes it so enjoyable.
“Obviously there are people here of different abilities but Sean tells us not to be doing anything that we are not comfortable with. He works with everyone on a one to one basis - it’s fantastic.
“I can’t wait for the children’s classes to start because my son is on to me about getting signed up too.”
Darren Phelam is from Eastway in Creggan and used to work as a doorman in the Metro Bar. Darren, now 32 years-old, decided to step away from his job to have a family. He now works in Dunnes Stores and has a three year-old son called Darragh and his baby daughter Micha will celebrate her first birthday next month.
“I wanted to try something completely different and I wanted to get back into shape for my children,” says Darren.
“When I get older I want to be able to run about and play with them.
“I know Sean already but I had never tried anything like this before until a few months ago. In my first few weeks I lost over a stone and I feel great now.
“I would recommend this club and kick-boxing to anyone - I really enjoy it here.”
Eighteen year-old William O’Carroll heard about PT’s kick-boxing gym in Creggan through his friend Karol Vansickkerlus. William is relatively new to the sport but said that his ambition, like everyone else in the club, is to work towards attaining their first official kick-boxing grade.
“I only ever played football before but when Karol told me about this place I decided to give it a go. It’s great fun and I have met plenty of new people.
“I am excited at the prospect of learning a new sport but I also want to get fit and take care of myself. It’s also great for clearing the head too - I can’t wait until I start sparring.”
The PT’s Kick-boxing gym in Creggan is open six days a week and Sean says he is keen to hear from anyone who interested in having a go.
“You don’t have to compete if you don’t want to. Anyone can come here and they can use the gym to get fit, lose weight or learn how to kick-box. There’s a great atmosphere up here in Creggan and the more people who want to get involved the better.”
For further information on training times or to become a member of PT’s Kickboxing Gym contact Sean McGill on 07849777842