My two-day swimming marathon was fine until I put on my jiu-jitsu gi

Published On: Jan 21, 2022

By Cpl John Hannay

I have never been much of a swimmer, so perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to set myself the challenge of swimming two kilometres every four hours for 48 hours. But I needed something tough and this certainly fit the bill.

Each 2km stint took about 50 minutes, and then my colleagues would drive me from the pool back to the barracks where I could eat and get some rest. Sleep wasn’t easy, though, because by the time I dried off and got settled, there wasn’t much time left and I’d be thinking about the next swim.

I just kept pushing on, and it was all going fine until I got to the very last leg, which I decided to attempt while wearing my jiu-jitsu gi. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but nothing could prepare me for the effort of trying to drag myself through the water with a heavy, wet gi trying to pull me to the bottom. It felt like rolling with all my training partners at once.

During that last leg I was repeatedly reminded why I decided to do the challenge in the first place. Mark Ormrod was a great inspiration – seeing his 1000-metre swim in open water made me wonder what I could do to challenge myself. Another one was Jay Butler, a black belt under Roger Gracie, who really motivated me with his no-nonsense approach to talking about mental health.

Jiu-jitsu has been amazingly important for me, both in my Army career and in my general life.

Being able to handle yourself is important, whether you are military or civilian, but the martial art side is only one aspect. Jiu-jitsu is incredibly beneficial because of the effect it has on your mind, as well as your body.

Training is tough, particularly when you first start.

But when you finish a session you feel totally transformed, like you’ve hit the reset button. That’s why so many people find it a game-changer with all the stresses that life can throw at you, whatever you do for a living.

When I have tough times, jiu-jitsu always helps me through. It’s been a place I can go to when I need to blow off steam and forget about my worries. And I’ve seen in other guys – some with real problems like PTSD and other issues that affect a lot of people in the military – what a massive difference training makes.

Reorg really helped us out by covering training fees for me and a group of my colleagues when we really needed it. I am so grateful and that’s why all the money raised from my swim is going to Reorg so that they can help others who may be in a tough position. Having someone there to listen and help you get back on track is so important.

I hope that anyone seeing my swim will be encouraged to find out more about Reorg. I am so pleased to help spread the world. Jiu-jitsu is an absolute saviour for me and many other people in the military and beyond. The main thing is getting out and doing something that makes you push your limits. It doesn’t have to be jiu-jitsu. You could even take up swimming – but I recommend leaving the gi at home.

Cpl John Hannay serves with the British Army and is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt under Andy Roberts. He was talking to Richard Holt


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