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MMA Club takes the fight to mental illness

Most of the time the Mixed Martial Arts Club gets together, they try to take each other down with knee-strikes, push-kicks and pummel clinches.

But the only thing they were trying to knockout on Thursday, December 14, was mental illness.

A hardy team of 15 volunteers braved the December weather for a sponsored Santa Walk around Chester’s city walls to raise money for local mental health charity Chapter.

Led by vice club captain Leah Johnstone and communications officer Andrew Brown, the MMA Society – and a couple of rowers – took the historic 3km walk on after late-night shopping to benefit Chapter, a charity which provides support to local people with serious mental health illness.

The society was joined on the walk by Christleton Parish Councillor Peter Tonge, as well as some of Chapter’s staff and friends, and two four-legged friends Dexter and Brady.

Even the weather turning wet and cold wasn’t enough to dampen the Christmas spirit for the group.

The MMA Club has been running for six years, and trains everyone from beginners to experienced fighters, in a mixture of kickboxing, submission wrestling and grappling.

Once confident with their skills, MMA Club members have the opportunity to compete in inter-clubs, grappling competitions, and amateur MMA Fifghts on a variety of promotions.

Andrew Brown said: “Supporting Chapter as our charity of the year was a unanimous decision. We are looking forward to more events in 2018, starting by rowing the length of England on January 15 alongside the Rowing Club.”

Chapter fundraiser Matt Zeqiri said: “If the walk itself wasn’t enough, the MMA volunteers also stood in the cold to hold a bucket collection for us beforehand!

“We really appreciate their help at such a busy time of year, and a difficult time for many of our service-users with severe and enduring mental illness.

“We’re just glad not to be joining them on their rowathon!”

Chapter provides a tailored program of one-to- one support and confidence-building workshops and activities, helping people struggling with their mental health to set and achieve personal goals, often putting them on a pathway to employment.

Around 48,000 people are estimated to be living with mental illness in Cheshire West and Chester.

Chapter is hoping to raise £500 in sponsorship from the event, which would provide support for one vulnerable person for six months.

The online sponsorship page is mydonate.bt.com/events/neonsantawalk/452267.