For my fifth GrappleThon, I decided to support a charity I've been aware of for a number of years (due to their strong presence at various feminist events around the city), but didn't actually know all that much about. A student at Artemis BJJ suggested we pick One25 this year, as she had direct experience (through her work in the prison service) of the excellent work they do to help vulnerable women break free from lives of addiction and poverty. Like 2015, we again organised a weekend in March: I had planned to go for later in the year, but this way we could tie in with the One25Live fundraising drive.
Just like every year, our two longest serving sponsors immediately came on board: Tatami Fightwear and Meerkatsu. They've both been staunch supporters since the first GrappleThon I ran in 2012. A more recent sponsor was also quick to pledge their support, GIMONO, once again offering the brilliant prize of a GIMONO gi to whoever raised the most money for One25. MYGYM generously allowed us to hold the event on their spacious mats for a second year, the gym owner getting stuck in to the extent that he helped to put up the One25 banners on the day. Other friends from MYGYM also joined in, with David and Natalia from Move Strong offering free kettlebell and kaatsu training on the Sunday. Lisa Chappell returned with her very popular massage table, then finally we had new support from Idee Pure, who provided a number of their soaps for fundraising prizes.
Another essential part of the GrappleThon comes from Wales, or more specifically, Aberystwyth. The West Coast BJJ team have been sending the biggest single group of grapplers over to Bristol since the 2014 GrappleThon, as well as raising a significant chunk of the total donations. This year, they were led by Katja Birkett, whose grappling skills got a lot of kudos from the higher belts I spoke to on the day (especially her smoothly executed escapes). Superman Kris was back too, with his indefatigable stamina, with several others returning for their second or third experience. There were plenty of new faces too: it's really cool that going to a GrappleThon has become a tradition for teams around the country! :D
Seymour 'Meerkatsu' Yang was back (see his write-up here), managing the triple support of donations (several hundred pounds from his art print auction alone), sponsorship and attendance. Also along from London was Mike Cowling and his team, which I think makes this their third visit. They've also now hosted a mini-GrappleThon back in the capital (about four months ago, part of the RollforROWW event), and will be hosting a full GrappleThon on the 9th April. For more info on that, I think you can get in touch via the Facebook event, here. There was plenty of local support too, with numerous Gracie Barra clubs in attendance (including Gloucester and Swindon, as well as Bristol), teams from Cornwall and Devon, Pedro Bessa, Sweatbox and of course students from Artemis BJJ. I believe Berry and Steve H from GB Bristol are the only two other people (apart from me) to attend all five of the GrappleThons I've organised. :)
I was pleased to see a considerable female turn-out for this GrappleThon, something that was notable last year too. I was hoping to encourage a few beginners into BJJ, tying in with the UKBJJA's #UnstoppableGirl campaign (who also wrote up a lovely press release for the 2016 GrappleThon), which did yield a couple of visitors. Natalia took the opportunity to give BJJ another go, while there was also a few women watching who said they would like to get on the mats in the future. It would be great to see a passion for BJJ kindled through the GrappleThon, so I'll be continuing to push that as part of upcoming GrappleThons too.
At the time of writing, we've raised almost £3,400 for One25, with Laura raising the most individually (and therefore winning the GIMONO gi). It's not too late to donate, plus you could even take part at the London leg of the One25 GrappleThon on the 9th April. I hope to see you there: I'm planning on heading along for the late shift. :)
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Open Mat, Bristol, UK - 26-27/03/2016
I never spar all that much at GrappleThons, particularly compared to some of the incredible displays of stamina on display. At most it tends to be three or four hours, mostly spread across Sunday. My main concern is to plug gaps when there is nobody else able to get in a round, with the aim of going as light as I can. That means I'll pick partners who are either smaller or less experienced, so I don't use up much energy or risk getting injured. In other words, I'm pretty lazy. ;)
Still, I did get in one tougher roll, as Seymour was there to beat me up with his black belt skills. Having said that, it wasn't a high intensity spar: if Seymour hadn't been taking it very easy, he would have taken my feet home with him. His focus on lower body submissions meant for a very different roll to what I'm used to, putting me in positions I rarely see. In particular, I kept finding my leg stuck between his, with the lower part bent out and at risk of attack. My main defence was to triangle my legs, and/or grab his arm in order to pull it towards me. It's a good thing I'm having a private on leglock defence with my instructor in a few weeks, as clearly I need it. :)