It was a cold, rainy night when David Johnson wandered into The School of Hard Knocks. Twenty-eight-year old Johnson is a Durham resident currently staying at the Durham Rescue Mission.
“I was just wandering by when I seen the lights on,” Johnson said, “It’s my first time here, but I’ll be back.” He spent two hours learning the basic of boxing taught by Bishop Arnold Harris with the help of his three daughters.
The School of Hard Knocks is a storefront gym located at 951 East Main Street in East Durham. Harris opened the gym about two years ago next door to his church, God First, People Second, in hopes of giving the community something new to do.
He says, “The idea is to save lives, make a difference.”
The School of Hard Knocks is open for all ages, Harris says, and is free with no membership needed. The gym is usually open seven days a week depending on his schedule.
To pull people in, Harris places a large sign outside that says “Boxing club FREE Ages 12 To 30”.
The boxing program is offered from daily 6 to 8 p.m. He also offers personal training, taekwondo, and general workouts.
He describes his philosophy as, “Consult through training.” The boxing programs allows him to talk one-on-one with a person about issues they’re dealing with, while teaching the participant techniques, skills and discipline.
In the gym, you can feel the enjoyment and high energy, but you can also tell how serious everyone is about the boxing program.
Harris’s three daughters Amaris, Abriel, and Annelise, also attend the boxing program.
The youngest of the three, Annelise, aka “Baby Hulk” is 14 and loves boxing.
“I get to hit stuff and let out energy,” Abriel says, “Working out is the only drug I’ll ever need”. They join their father at the gym as much as possible to work out and train and to also help.
Harris is passionate about the gym, explaining, “Everything you see I paid for out of pocket from the heat to the equipment.” The gym has a wide range of workout equipment from weight benches, bikes, treadmills, mini trampolines and weight machines.
Harris decided on a gym rather than other activities because, “I’ve always been a super athlete,” and, “I love to give back.”
He hopes to soon renovate the gym by receiving more donations and help from the community. “Hopefully I can get some interns so that the gym can be running seven days a week all day.” He also says he hopes to start a GED program to further help educate the community.
To schedule any personal workout sessions, to see if the gym is open, or donate to The School of Hard Knocks, call Bishop Arnold Harris at 919-638-0469 or stop in. The gym is also building a website that will have additional information on the programs it offers.
Story by Ebony Sain, NCCU student reporter; photos by Prof. Bruce “DP” dePyssler.