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From the streets of South America to an academy in Rainham – Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become an international phenomenon, with fighters labelled “the new rock stars.”

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What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

■ Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) is a relatively new martial art and was developed in Brazil in the early 20th century by the Gracie family.

■ Modified from judo and Japanese ju-jitsu, BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can defend and defeat a bigger, stronger opponent by using technique, leverage and taking the fight to the ground and ultimately applying a submission hold (joint-locks and chokeholds).

■ It became an essential element of mixed martial arts (MMA) when black belt Royce Gracie successfully defeated larger opponents in early Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) events.

■ Practitioners usually wear a uniform, which is similar to judo, known as a gi, and adheres to a grading system in the form of various coloured belts.

Unlike many traditional martial arts, it is known to take a considerable amount of time to reach expert level – black belt.

Yesterday, members of the Origin Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Academy in Suttons Road Business Park held a 12-hour “grapplethon” to raise money for charity Kidscape.

About 25 fighters, from children to veterans, took part in the gruelling event, which required at least two men to be sparring for the half-day duration.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a form of MMA, focuses on grappling, or ground fighting, and has become increasingly popular due to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), which has taken the sports entertainment world by storm over the last few years.

Event organiser and member of Origin, Mike McDonald, believes “everyone wants to be a cage [MMA] fighter now.”

“Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a very good all-round martial art. Since UFC took off it’s become much more popular,” said Mike, who has been involved with MMA for most of his life, and has practiced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for four years.

“We have a kids class on Saturday mornings, children aged five to their early teens come along. Everyone wants to be a cage fighter now. They are the new rock stars.

“They took part in the grapplethon along with the professionals - and I actually did the whole 12-hours!”

Mike came up with the fundraising idea in January, wanting to do something positive for the charity that works to prevent bullying and child sexual abuse.

“I was hoping to raise about £250 from doing it, but we’ve already got more than £500.

“Every donation will be used to help Kidscape with the wonderful work they do.

“Grapplethons are popular events in the States but there’s only been a couple in the UK, the first was in Bristol.”

Another member who participated for the full 12 hours is academy member Ludovic Nyemba, a blue belt in Jiu Jitsu, who has been training at the centre since August.

“I think it’s the best, most practical martial art,” he said. “It’s growing slowly, it’s still underground in the UK but that will change. Ten years ago it was not where it is now.”

The participants were joined by head coach Spencer Hewitt, a black-belt MMA champion, and Marc Walder, the Upminster based veteran who is one of the country’s first ever black-belt in Jiu Jitsu and whose team are affiliated with the academy.

Mark has trained in the US directly under the tutelage of the Gracie family, who founded the martial art in the early 20th century, and his coach, Mauricio Gomes, is credited with bringing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to the UK in the 1990s.

He told the Recorder the importance of raising awareness about bullying, and in particular, cyber-bullying.

“We want to make as many people aware of it as possible. There is a big concern in the current climate of the problem, and martial arts can help children gain confidence and learn to say no to it.”

To donate to the fundraiser, visit justgiving.com/originmmaacademy.

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