I just participated in the 2017 Bristol Grapplethon run by Can Sonmez, owner of Artemis BJJ at MyGym in Bristol. This year our efforts were focused on raising funds for SARSAS (Somerset & Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support).
Can has run these Grapplethons since 2012 and I've been a keen supporter, contributor and participant for each of these events. Follow on for some photos and commentary about my experiences this year...
The whole fundraising team together raised a whopping £4,856 for sarsas.org.uk. A rep from the charity came to see us while the event was on and we had a great chat about the important work they do.
This year I could only stay for the Saturday portion of the 24 hour event, but I made sure I got a lot of rolls in. In total I rolled over a nine hour period (with plenty of chat and photography breaks) but still, I found it a grueling experience to be on the mats for so long. I think I managed a total of around 25 to 30 rolls. There was no timer, I simply rolled each 'round' until I ran out of gas...so that was about 5-6 minutes each time haha!
I was keen to partner with as many familiar and new faces as I could - one of the great benefits of these events are the friendships I make with everyone, more so when you get to have a friendly roll with them. It was not unusual to roll with someone, stop for a chat mid-technique, have a smile and a laugh, then proceed to try to rip each other's limbs off, then to stop midway and have a chat and a laugh, then proceed to strangle each other. Only in BJJ can this happen!
My very first roll was with Michael Cowling who I have known since the very first Grapplethon. Michael wanted to make his Grapplethon extra challenging by blindfolding himself for much of the event. He stayed the full 24hours as well! Despite having his vision blacked out, he was still full of his usual jiu jitsu trickery and we had a very technical and tough roll.
|Daredevil in a gi - Michael Cowling rolling with blacked out swimming goggles|
As well as making friends and raising funds for good causes, one of the benefits I always find when attending the Grapplethon is the super extended amount of free time available to play with BJJ techniques. It is a lot like open mat except instead of two hours, it is up to 24 hours! (Or in my case 9 hours.) That is a hell of a lot of time to play jiu jitsu and one cannot fail to learn while doing so.
Some of my most enjoyable rolls were with the smaller participants who used a special brand of 'small person jiu jitsu' to escape my attempts to mount and I picked up a number of tips on how they achieved their moves. Yes that's right, I, a black belt, learned some cool stuff from white belts. In other rolls I must admit I had a tough time being pinned down by heavier partners and I had no energy or will to power myself out. So, with no time limit, in these cases it was very much me trusting in my fundamental basics in defending and escaping. In all cases I would get out eventually...though in some rolls it took me quite a while!
One concept that I found really useful to focus on in almost all my rolls was that of spinal alignment. Nic Gregoriades talks about this concept at length on his Beyond Techniques 1 and 2 tutorial videos. If you have time to watch, I highly recommend it. This concept tip alone helped get me through 9 hours and 30 rolling partners on Saturday without any injuries or any more exertion of energy than was necessary.
Overall another wonderful and successful year at the Bristol Grapplethon. Raising money for a really good cause and meeting up with old friends and making new ones. Huge thanks to all those who took part, everyone who donated and a big shout out to our sponsors: MyGym, Tatami Fightwear, Kaizen artworks, Tacerob Art, Artemis BJJ. Can't wait for the next one!
More photos over on my Flickr site.
NB: It's worth looking back at previous Grapplethons to see how much we have raised over the years. As you can see from the photo below, since 2012 we've raised nearly £30,000!!