Mark Ormrod MBE is a former Royal Marine, BJJ blue belt, Trustee of REORG Charity and a triple amputee. Ormrod’s story is inspirational, and the fact that he has raised nearly £600,000 for REORG in such a short amount of time is to be further admired. Grappling Insider speaks with Mark Ormrod MBE to discuss his BJJ backstory, who REORG is and what they’re about, as well as his remarkable fundraising efforts and how you can help REORG.
Mark’s BJJ Backstory
When Mark was growing up he sampled different martial arts such as Taekwondo, Karate and Jiu Jitsu, however he didn’t know until he tried Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that it was Japanese Jiu Jitsu, he says, “I thought it was all the same.”
Whilst in the Marines he competed as an ametuer at full contact Kickboxing, Muay Thai, and Boxing. Ormrod loved everything about martial arts,“So I had that background in martial arts and I loved it. Not just the fighting and the competition but everything that went around it; the discipline, integrity, respect and everything else.” Unfortunately things took a turn for the worst, and Mark thought martial arts were completely out of the picture for him,
“Then when I got injured – when I lost my legs and my arm on Christmas Eve, 2007 – I thought that was out of my life forever. Obviously certain parts of it were. I can’t kick, I can’t punch, I can’t fight anymore like I used to, but I thought martial arts were completely out of my life. Then I was on a Royal Marines camp at the Royal Marines Headquarters one day, and I was in the Sergeants mess, and this guy came up to me who I had never met before (Sam Sheriff MBE). Sam was a Colour-Sergeant in the marines, he was a physical training instructor, (I didn’t know at the time that) he was head of the Royal Marines unarmed combat, he was a rehabilitation instructor, he was a purple belt in BJJ at the time and he was running a thing called Royal Marines Jiu Jitsu and he had just started REORG.”
Getting Back into Martial Arts as an Amputee
Despite Samuel Sheriff’s list of credentials, when asked to try BJJ, Ormrod was hesitant.
“Now before I met Sam, I had a couple of people approach me that I didn’t know – in different disciplines – and offered to train me in Taekwondo, Karate and some other one I forget but they said ‘I could get you to black belt level’ and I just knew that was bullsh*t because of my previous experience. I knew that it would have been all about pity and not hard work and actually earning my way through the ranks and stuff. And then when Sam approached me he said ‘look I do jiu jitsu, why don’t you come down to the combat room and we’ll have a go’ and I just thought immediately of japanese jiu jitsu so I just thought “oh here we go, here goes another bloke talking sh*t.” But because he was a Royal Marine and a physical training instructor I thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Mark took the plunge and realized just how adaptable jiu jitsu is – he could do it. Like anyone, there’s certain things he isn’t able to do, but a lot of it he can do. Ormrod continues,
“So I went down there one day, he threw me a rashguard and a pair of shorts and we started rolling around on the floor and excuse my language but I was like “what the f*ck is this?” I got to the end of the hour and I was in pieces. I thought I was going to throw up, and I was super dizzy because I wasn’t used to all this rolling around and being upside down. But I just thought ‘I can actually do this’ – like legitimately – I just adapted because I’m already on the ground when I take my legs off, my arms off, my prosthetics, I’m already halfway there. Now I’ve just got to figure out what it’s all about and how this all works. As the weeks progress he (Sam) started showing me how to adapt things; obviously there’s stuff I can’t do, but a lot of it I can do, and I can adapt it and I just fell in love with it.”
Ultimately this was a real confidence booster for Mark. He reminisces, “I got that old feeling back of being a warrior if you like, and being what I would describe as an ‘alpha male’ getting into fights and having a go and people fighting back and having a good scrap and I love it and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
BJJ has also helped Mark utilize his own body more in day to day tasks, “I’ve found actually, a lot of people get this – what you learn on the mats you take off the mats, but as an amputee where I was getting taught I could choke somebody with my shoulder, I never looked as my shoulders as anything before – just something that held my head up -but now I’m carrying things like this and I’m using my shoulders in my daily life as an amputee as well as a BJJ player – it just brought so much to my life.”
What REORG Does
Originally REORG was set up to help physically and psychologically injured Royal Marines to recover from their injuries and then it spread out to all of the military and then the emergency services and now it is a global charity. REORG have helped many people in many different ways but as a charity, so far, they have helped to fund gym memberships for those injured ex servicemen and women who have lost their way, have no money and are in need of a helping hand. As well as this, they have also helped kit-out some gyms with mats and equipment and REORG also provide starter packs for those who are in need; which include, a Gi, T-shirt rashguard etc… the basics to get you started. Mark says, “It is about building a community as much as it is about getting people on to the mats; the sport and the community is just so powerful.”
On becoming a trustee of REORG Mark states, “I was involved from the beginning as one of the most severely injured Royal Marines that was out there and because I was training with Sam, I understood his vision and his mission and what it was that he wanted to achieve. I was falling more and more in love with this sport and was seeing what a massive impact it had on other people’s lives as well. Then when Sam was coming up to finishing his 22 year service, what he was going to do was take REORG and give it to somebody else in the military to take over.”
Mark and a few of the other people who were on board with the REORG mission spent about eight months trying to convince him to not give it to somebody else, “We said ‘no one will treat this the way you treat this, you’ve got to take this outside as a civilian, turn it into a charity and keep doing it.’. He was very uncomfortable with it. He didn’t like it at all, but we just ground him down until he said, ‘Right I’m gonna do this now. I’m going to keep running with it.’ and then he said ‘how would you like to be involved as a trustee?’ So I was like yeah I’m in – let’s do it.”
How BJJ is Similar to Military Life
The adjustment to civilian life can be difficult for those who are ex-military, but even more so when they’re left with life changing injuries. Mark explains how he thinks the two link together,
“Outside of the military, if you ask anyone who is former military what they miss about it they’ll say, ‘it’s the commeraerdere, the brotherhood’, and it’s very hard to replicate that in the civilian world but jiu jitsu does that. It’s the closest thing I’ve experienced to those relationships and those bonds and I think it is due to the shared hardship that you go through. In the military you stand side by side with those guys through the sh*t through the training, through the deployments and the operations – you come out of the other side and you’ve got that unique shared experience. It’s the same as jiu jitsu.”
He continues, “You all start on day one, you all go through that frustrating period of getting your head kicked in by a 13 year old girl for six months, and you can’t understand why, and then things start to fall into place and if you persevere it starts making more and more sense because everyone else has been on that exact same journey that you’re going on, you have that shared common ground which is where I think the bonds come from.”
Fundraising Nearly £600k for REORG
Yes you heard that right, Mark has raised nearly £600,000 for REORG. He claims how it came about was all quite random; February last year he left his job and had no plans to do anything but enjoy his retirement and train. The catapult of the 600k was a 5k run off the back of a viral video that then gained global coverage, Mark expands,
“I was out with my coach, he’s a white belt and a former Royal Marines physical trainer as well and we were running round this park, and I have these special running prosthetics and one of our friends young sons was filming it and I hit the deck really hard, did the front splits, took a big chunk out of the pavement and landed on the bits you don’t want to land on. The video went nuts like 38 millions hits so we decided that we were going to do a fundraiser off the back of it – a 5k run.”
The BBC then got in contact and interviewed Mark about his fall and fundraiser, and that is when it went off – he says, “I literally walked to my office from the front room and I had like 68 grand on the justgiving page in 10 minutes. I was like sh*t! I had no time to train, my prosthetic legs were jacked up and none of the prosthetic clinics were open to fix them so we literally just went out and it was horrible trying to run 5k with completely jacked up prosthetics, with no training.
He announced the fundraiser on the Saturday morning, then the week after he did the second training session then on that weekend he did the run, “I said when I hit the £5000 I’d do it and I didn’t expect to get the £5000 for like 8 weeks.” With no training and prosthetics that most probably weren’t fit for a 5k run, understandably, he felt broken afterwards. However, after the BBC live streamed the whole event it took the fundraiser up to an unbelievable amount of £250,000 which then led on to a snowball effect of other fundraisers.
Mark expands, “That led on to a swim after that. My coach said whilst we’ve got momentum let’s do something else. We did a 1km open water sea swim, we did that a couple of weeks later, that took the total to £460,000. We then decided to do a 99.9 mile bike ride because REORG had just transitioned then from military to emergency services. We did a 16 hour bike ride all through the night until the next day and then we finished last year off with a 24 hour rollathon. We got 50 odd academies from all over the world on Zoom just rolling for 24 hours solid. It was brutal.”
This is all in one year must we emphasize. As well as these physically intense fundraisers Mark has also done a collaboration with an artist called GrovesArt who created an oil painting of Mark with a percentage of earnings from the painting and prints going towards REORG.
The painting was sold at HOST Galleries in Plymouth; the gallery held an open day to raise awareness for REORG, and it was on this day that someone walked in and bought it. The painting was made available for sale a week after it was unveiled in the studio late last year. The painting sold for £3,000, and with 35% of the proceeds going to REORG and the signed small prints cost £57 with 10% going to REORG, raising a current total of £1800. The small prints are still available to buy too – click here.
Artist George Groves hopes to potentially have more future painting collaborations with REORG, he praises the charity saying, “REORG just continues to do incredible work for so many individuals around the world, so if I can contribute to that in some way or another – I’m just grateful to be a part of it.”
How Can You Help REORG?
No matter where you are in the world, there are ways you can also help REORG with their mission. Mark Ormrod has a justgiving page which is still up and he is trying to take it to one million pounds, so you can donate there, you can also contact REORG via Instagram if you have any ideas for a potential collaboration to help spread awareness and raise funds for REORG, you can donate directly via the website, and you can also spread the message about REORG to share awareness of the charity in hope that it can also help others.
Mark emphasizes, “The big thing really for us is just to help to spread the message and the word of the mission, and just get as many people that can benefit from being involved to know about what we are doing.”