Big Summer Bash
Last year I ran a 5K every day in August to raise money for the MS Society. This year I wanted to do another fundraiser and roped in my martial arts club for help. On Saturday 6th August as part of Bearsden Martial Arts Club (BMAC) I took part in our Big Summer Bash. This was a 9-hour training marathon from 8am to 5pm and saw us being sponsored to raise money for the MS Society. How did such a day come about?
What Shall We Do?
When I was thinking of doing another fundraiser, I really didn’t fancy another month-long running challenge. I thought about involving the BMAC team to do a group challenge. Obviously, the MS Society is a cause close to my heart but I asked the club if they would also want to fundraise for them. Some of my clubmates have family members affected by MS whilst others wanted to support both me (which I appreciate greatly) and the wider charity. You can read more about this on the BMAC website.
During the pandemic, we did an online fundraiser in May 2020 and I figured that doing an in-person event would be good for the club. It would raise funds, get some publicity and gain some good club bonding. After two years of virtual training, it’s been great to train in person again. The virtual fundraiser was 30 minutes but I wanted this to be more of a challenge. I feel that if you are asking for sponsorship, you should be doing something more difficult than you do normally. Therefore my first idea was a 12-hour training session – 8am to 8pm.
I proposed that to the other senior grades in the club who responded with…well not apathy but an air of uncertainty that we could do it. It might be too difficult. I agreed that yes, it would be difficult but that was the point. Before too much planning took place, I sounded out the rest of the club to see who would want to take part.
Happily, everyone was up for the challenge, including Emma who has moved to Yorkshire and Madeleine who is in Edinburgh at University coming back to take part. With considerable persuasion / guilt tripping / literal arm twisting, most of the club signed up. Now we could start the detailed planning.
Plotting and Planning
Straight way, we hit an obstacle, the 12 hours of training. This one wasn’t on us; our local sports centre is only open from 8am to 5pm on a Saturday so it would need to be a nine-hour session.
The next snag was the best date. Ideally we were going to plan for 13th August to be close to the end of the school holidays but the preceding weekend was the only Saturday we could get the hall for the entire day. Minor niggles dealt with, the date and duration were set. Now all we had to do was fill it.
We had some online planning sessions and a surprisingly productive session in the pub that gave us a framework for the day. To keep things moving, different people would lead each hour. We built in sessions that were less physical so that we would have time to recover.
I thought about ways we could market the event and make it stand out. First of all, I suggested we all wear orange belts to represent the MS Society colours. I wondered how well that would go down. People get very attached to their belts, especially the black ones. Fortunately everyone liked this idea.
I encouraged everyone to share our Just Giving page with friends, family and colleagues. We made use of various community Facebook pages. The local Community magazine published an article and photograph about the day. The MS Society supplied a press release and announced the event on their social media channels. Going old school, we put up an event poster in the Allander Leisure Centre and some local shops.
The MS Society also supplied us with balloons, buntings, banners and collection buckets so a good chunk of our warmup was decorating the hall.
The Day Arrives
The day arrived, sandwiched between two heatwaves, and thankfully the Big Summer Bash took place on a pleasantly cool weekend. This was a good start to the day, as the Allander’s Sports Hall gets incredibly warm.
The day began at 8am, with twelve of us. The first task was to decorate the hall with the goodies the MS Society had provided. Blowing up balloons certainly supplied a different form of breathing exercise. We took the first of our hourly team photos and prepared to warm up properly.
With the hall a sea of orange, it was down to business with the first of our hour long sessions, I led a warmup involving some cardio, squats, shadow punching and active stretching. From there we did some pad work. Initially practising in pairs with arm and leg techniques we then moved to groups of six, with one person taking a turn in the middle. Usually we “affectionately” refer to this as the circle of death but with the length of the day, we kept each person’s stint to 30 seconds or so. Some light kata followed the pads and just like that, the first hour was complete. Only eight hours to go.
The second hour was a kata party, our name for any training session that focuses on kata. I really wanted kata to be significant part of the day. Kata has been by my side since my first MS incident. It was how I assessed my balance and coordination the immediate day afterwards. Four years later, I still use it to improve and work on my balance.
Things were moving along nicely and our hour-long sessions included parrying, weapons, groundwork, movement and multiple attacks. The energy levels stayed high throughout. We wanted to include our junior members in the day so we include two hours for them to take part.
Visitors and Newcomers
We also had a couple of sessions for newcomers. Emma and I took a group of newcomers through their first taste of martial arts. We had three people for this taster session which involved hitting some pads, some disengagement tactics. The hour culminated with an introduction of breakfalls. Balance can be an issue for people with MS so learning how to fall safely is an important skill. One of the participants was Laura Ingram, who chairs the MS Society’s Scotland Council, and it was good to get support from the charity. Emma and Rachel also hosted a taster session for our Women’s Self Defence Class.
Our local MP Amy Callaghan came to watch and support us which was much appreciated. This helped the visibility of the club and the day itself.
We reached the cooldown hour at 4pm. For reasons best known to myself, I included a breakfall kata in this, although fortunately only one. It is good to practise falling safely but after nine hours. Delirium had obviously set in. Afterwards the pace settled into some slow-moving kata, using each step as a stretch. I then led a full body stretch, with some moans from everyone as we stretched those tired muscles one more time.
We are Done
And with that the Big Summer Bash was over. Nine hours of training, 25 BMAC adult and eight junior members took part, along with 12 people getting their first taste of martial arts. Of our 25 members, 10 (including me!) were crazy enough to do the full nine hours. However, it was great that everyone was able to take part, whether for one hour or nine. The energy levels were high all day and we never dropped below 14 people training at any one time.
I was delighted with how well the day went. From first concerns about how many people would take part to worries about my own stamina, the day was a tremendous success. After our cooldown stretch, I gave a little speech and I got quite emotional. BMAC has meant so much to me over the 15 years since I joined. I have made some wonderful friends as well as getting all the physical and mental health benefits of regular training.
Since my MS diagnosis, practice has taken on an extra dimension. It helps me overcome the weakness I have in my left leg. It lets me explore what I can still do and where I need to make modifications in my training. When there have been times when I thought I wouldn’t be able to continue, the club encourages me to keep going. They accommodate my limitations and support me to do what I can.
That support along with completing the nine hours just overwhelmed me. Everyone seemed to have a fun time and the training stayed at an intense level throughout. It was frustrating to plan at times but the support and participation of everyone just blew me away. I’m eternally grateful to everyone in BMAC.
A massive thank you also goes to everyone that supported us. Between online donations and money on the day, we raised over £2600 for the MS Society, an amazing total that exceeded our target. An equally massive well done to everyone in the club for making our first Big Summer Bash such a success and a wonderful day for BMAC. I was incredibly sore and stiff for a few days afterwards, but it was worth every minute for such an enjoyable and rewarding day.