This year, we supported local charity SARSAS, who run a helpline for survivors of rape and sexual abuse. My day started early, doing an interview for BBC Radio Bristol with Ali Vowles. Hence why I found myself demonstrating a rear naked choke on Dr Phil Hammond, not something I anticipated when I got up that morning! Thanks to media support from Seymour 'Meerkatsu' Yang and the UKBJJA, the word got out well. Along with various bits of coverage in the local press, I was also asked along to an interview with MadeInBristol TV a little earlier.
2017 marks the sixth GrappleThon I've run, with many core fundraisers from previous years returning, along with new faces. The West Coast BJJ team have been stalwarts since 2014, Katja leading her group up from Wales through the full twenty four hours. They're an experienced team of GrappleThonners at this point, always well prepared with sleeping bags and how to pace themselves. A few had to stay behind in Aberystwyth due to injury, but there were still plenty of grapplers bringing that West Coast magic to the Artemis BJJ mats. :)
Mike Cowling is another long-term GrappleThonner, having been with us since 2013. He brought several of his Origin BJJ students, who have popped along to a few of the Artemis BJJ seminars too. As if grappling for twenty four hours isn't tough enough, Mike challenged himself to roll blindfolded. Not only that, but both Mike and his student Stef were among the top fundraisers for 2017.
There were new teams lending their support as well, most notably Martyn and two of his training partners, who raised a hefty percentage of the total. Birthday boy Martyn stayed for the entire event as well, helping us through the early hours. He kept in good spirits the whole way, inventing a entertaining new variation on BJJ, Gentlemen Grappling. Apparently collar chokes and grips in suit jackets work just as well. ;)
Our two major sponsors were back, Tatami Fightwear getting the fundraising shirts to us in the nick of time. Seymour came up with another great design, as well as raising a massive chunk for SARSAS himself by auctioning off one of his beautiful art prints. He was also the celebrity training partner, taking on a long list of fellow GrappleThon attendees for several hours of sparring. Grapplers Gift generously supplied prizes for our top fundraiser goody bags, as did Whiskey Wolf. Marcus, another of the top fundraisers, looked stylish in his Grapplers Gift nogi wear. ;)
Speaking of those goody bags, they were designed by Tracey from Tacerob, who went to a lot of effort to carefully illustrate and produce a whole bunch of bags for the fundraisers. Paul from KASENartworks created some incredible hand-painted shoes, with two pairs on offer for the top fundraisers. Tracey and several others brought in delicious cakes (raising further money for SARSAS), plus Lisa returned to offer her always very popular free massages. Not to forget, MYGYM very kindly provided their excellent venue yet again, asking for nothing in return.
Finally, I'd like to thank everybody who came to support the GrappleThon from both my club, Artemis BJJ, along with clubs from around Bristol. There were students from Pedro Bessa, SB Fitness and Gracie Barra Bristol, as well as people heading in from further afield, like Gloucester. There would be no GrappleThon without all of you.
So far, we have raised almost £5,000 for SARSAS, with recent generous donations getting us closer (such as the wonderful BrisDoc community fund sending £500). I have no intention of closing the fundraising pages any time soon, meaning there is still time to donate if you would like to push us over that £5k mark. Head to the information page for all the relevant links you need.
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - -15/04/2017
As usual I didn't roll all that much, but I did manage to get in a good spar with Seymour. Like last year, he was all over the leglocks, spinning and twisting with impressive speed to attack toeholds and straight ankle locks. I attempted to be wary, but still got tapped plenty of times. At one point I managed to move into north south fun, getting my legs well out of the way, but couldn't prevent him getting to turtle. I looked to see if the crucifix might be an option, then as I moved around to attempt to establish side control, he caught me with a surprising americana from underneath to counter my cross face. Very cool!
In an effort to prevent the leglocks, I focused on trying to grab his arm. While I think that's a reasonable option, I also need to remember to extend my leg as well, 'putting on the boot' by thrusting out my heel. Watch out for them switching to the other leg, if you're trying to push their arms off with your free foot. It was also really great to see Seymour roll with my students too, as that meant they both got the experience of rolling with a black belt, as well as providing me with further feedback on how they're doing.
I had a fun roll with Martyn as well in the early hours, seizing the chance to put on one of the suit jackets he had brought with him. I was curious to see if gi tail sweeps and chokes would work. Judging by that roll, they do indeed, as I managed to get a sweep off the gi tail, as well as try for some chokes. There was even a sort of overhook guard with the gi tail, but I'm not sure how viable it is. I think that's what got me a sort of butterfly sweep, so I'll have to keep playing with that (of course, this wasn't an entirely serious roll, we were wearing suit jackets after all! ;D).
We had a more 'normal' roll afterwards too, were Martyn used solid top pressure and fundamentals. All three of the teams that stuck for the full 24 hours come from schools that have a self defence focus, interestingly. It might just be a coincidence, but makes me wonder if perhaps that ethos fits particularly well with the idea of pacing yourself and staying controlled?