The Mat Academy


Published July 2014

I don’t think I know anybody who hasn’t been effected by cancer, and Andy O’Brien is no different. BUT WAIT … YES HE IS. He decided to do something awesome, and nothing was too big. He set out to “kick cancers ass”. His plan started out modest but was assured to escalate because of the following this popular, and humble gentle-man has.

Andy decided that he would use the gym he runs alongside Lewis Long to host an event that the whole of South Wales would be talking about. Between them, it was decided that a 1 or 2 hour event would not be enough, nor would a 5 or 6 hour event. In fact DOUBLE THAT! It was going to be a 12 hour event doing the thing they knew best – FIGHTING. To many this symbolises what people would like to do to cancer if it had a physical form. I’m sure everybody reading this would eagerly step up and kill the cancer that effected their loved ones. And that is what attracted people in their drones to The MAT Academy that day.
Mat Academy

Andy started up a Facebook page called ‘Twelve Gruelling Hours to do Some Good’ where he posted a link explaining why he is passionate about this charity. In fact, Andy has suffered more than most. He has lost three uncles, two aunties and one friend to different types of cancer. But it was the loss of his sister to bowel cancer which has left him devastated. He writes –

“I don't know anyone who has not in some way been personally effected by the cruel hand that cancer indiscriminately deals. Directly or indirectly the "Big C" has touched every one

of our lives causing emotions and feelings ranging from pity for a victim and their family you may have known vaguely, to the unbelievable grief and devastation that losing a loved one can hammer you down with.

“Advances in medical science are increasing the chances of prolonged life and increasingly, total recovery, for many victims is absolutely achievable. Without doubt though the ultimate aim is to totally eradicate all forms of Cancer. The constant battle for the scientists slowly but surely doing the incredible research towards this dream goal is, as always, COLD....HARD....CASH!

“On May 25th 2014 The MAT Academy is holding a Twelve Hour Marathon Grapple and our ladies class are going to hold a Twelve Hour Marathon Pad Bash to help The Farmers Arms 2014 Appeal to raise money for research into one of the biggest killer diseases in Britain, Bowel Cancer.

“Make no bones about it this is a massive and gruelling undertaking with the aim to have people rolling or punching for the whole twelve hours working in relay or rounds. I know there are a couple of the guys who want to roll for the entire twelve hours. GO FOR IT!!”

(The link also includes a blog he wrote following the devastating loss of his sister. You can find Andy’s write up, and his amazing blog here )

People quickly signed up to participate, and the event rapidly gained huge support from all over. Participants came in the form of experienced martial artists, beginners, people who have seen Bruce Lee fight on TV, and even people who had never heard of Bruce Lee!. There were also plenty of volunteers donating everything needed to make this event a success, including a marquee, mats, food and water, but also people who contributed their time and services as tea/coffee makers, first aiders, a chiropractor, a masseur, a cook, photographers, shop runners, money collectors, cleaners, litter pickers, parking attendants, timekeepers and even morale boosters to keep everybody going when they wanted to give up! When it was clear that this event was going to be huge, and extra space was needed – even the use of another industrial unit was donated! Donations continued to pour in and the countdown was on. 

Sunday May 25th arrived and the 12 hours started at 7am. People were asked to arrive at 06.30 – and there was a surprise for the first 4 participants! Tatami had donated a couple of T-shirts and hoodies, so congratulations to Taylor Phillips, Kate Davidson, Marc Shipman and Eddie Wyatt! There were plenty of other early birds and others continued to arrive throughout the morning. Unfortunately I got a chest infection a few days before the event, and no amount of resting up helped! So I was unable to participate for the whole 12 hours, but I couldn’t miss out completely. Everything was in full swing by the time I arrived at 11.30am – and my first stop had to be to fuel up!
 Mat Academy

After 2 slices of pizza, the fun begun! A lot of these guys had been going for 5 hours already, and the volunteers who helped prepare for the day – even longer. The atmosphere was busy but relaxed, everybody seemed to know where they were meant to be, and were enjoying themselves. My first stop was the grappling hall – where the regulars at The MAT Academy usually train. Originally this was meant to be for the boys only, but was opened to ladies after the amount of interest that was received. There was a timer on continuously for the whole 12 hours, and everybody was rolling in 5 minute rounds – both with and without gi’s. Everybody was working hard, but there was also a lot of laughter and comradely, those more experienced were helping out those less experienced. I only stayed in this room for a few rounds, but I learnt a lot whilst I was there.

“The Grappling Room”
Grappling Room
I planned to return later, but was also eager to join the pad bashing team in the other industrial unit which was donated especially for the event. This was run by a ladies class which is also held at The MAT Academy, and was originally intended for females only. But as plans developed a lot of interest was shown my males who had no grappling experience and wanted to punch pads, so this room also become a free-for-all! There was no timer in this room, just non-stop pad punching, kicking, kneeing, elbowing and occasional spars! This is where I spent

the next few hours keeping active whilst catching up with long lost friends who train in other gyms far and wide. There were people from all different style backgrounds who were sharing new techniques and combinations with each other. The atmosphere was amazing, very friendly and productive.

“The Pad Bashing Room”

pad room
Time flew by and before I knew it it was 4pm. There was a chiropractor in the marquee who volunteered his time and services, and I was one of many who had my body cracked into place. It was fantastic! I returned to the grappling hall to find quite a few people with achy muscles, and I just happened to have my massage table in the boot of my car! So I sacrificed the next few hours grappling (oh dear!!) and set up a massage post in the marquee.

Apart from quality training, I also caught up with old training partners, met new training partners and so many lovely people. Throughout the day many many others continued to stop by for short amounts of time to watch, ask questions, and most importantly – donate to the cause. Everybody who participated and volunteered gave 100% effort and enjoyed themselves.


Few remained by the end of the event, and even fewer were able to last the whole 12 hours! But Andy would like to give a personal shout out to Marc Shipman who rolled for every single round over the whole 12 hours - that’s 120 x 5 minute rounds! That is definitely an achievement by anybody’s standards, “but especially for a 40yr old”!! (ANDY’S WORDS! Not mine …)

This event was a huge success both in terms of money raised and enjoyment had. In fact, Andy is already talking about holding the next event – a junior fundraiser which he plans to host in the school summer holidays. In addition to this he is keeping his JustGiving fund raiser page open throughout the whole of this year as The MAT Academy will continue to work with their local pub, The Farmers Arms, to raise more for Bowel & Cancer Research.

I know that Andy and the gang want to extend their thanks to everybody who helped on the day, Sam Beacham, medical staff, Masseur and Chiro, and kitchen staff for keeping everybody fuelled up. But most importantly, to everybody who donated and continue to donate. Every single penny helps us to KICK CANCERS ASS!!!


Photo’s and article by Kc ‘Carnage’ Kendall, Welsh Correspondent for Cage Amateurs UK. Some photo’s used taken by Leigh M Gough.


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