Andrew Sullivan mastering martial arts off the basketball court

Basketball players’ think of all types of routines to keep them in shape, LeBron James mixes his training with yoga, Steve Nash used to keep fit in the off-season by playing football but Great Britain international Andrew Sullivan has an interesting and very challenging hobby.

In an attempt to be at his very best for the Olympic Games, four years ago in London, Sullivan, who plays in the British Basketball League for the Leicester Riders took up jiu-jitsu, a form of martial arts in order to maintain his fitness in the short off-season that he had before he joined up with the Great Britain set-up.

And ever since then, Sullivan has been hooked and currently, the 36-year-old holds a second rank blue belt which he wants to build on.

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GB captain Andrew Sullivan gaining momentum in jiu-jitsu. Photo: Henry Robson

“My goals have remained the same since I started to take jiu-jitsu seriously, that is to continuously learn,” Sullivan said. “I feel as though I’ve got some of the best instructors around me. My ultimately my goal is to be rewarded my black belt from my head instructor Roger Gracie.”

With British Basketball League players choosing to work on their basketball skills and spend hours in the gym in the off-season, Sullivan wanted to do something different. Sure, as a professional, you want to stay in rhyhm on the court and that comes with practice so that you enter pre-season training camp ready to go, but Sullivan wanted to try something different.

And now, four years on, Sullivan’s “hobby” seems to have progressed further. He has a blue belt, was asked to promote the recently passed Abu Dhabi Grand Slam jiu-jitsu world tour in London and is even trying to get his Leicester Riders team-mates involved, by holding taster days at Loughborough University.

For Sullivan, who also teaches jiu-jitsu at the Roger Gracie Academy, it’s a great way to focus on something different but at the same time, maintain his fitness levels on the basketball court.

“My strength and endurance on the court [has] noticeably improved and I now compete and train whenever I can,” he says.

But while Sullivan had martial arts on the brain, basketball never stops. He put on an MVP performance to lead Leicester to the BBL Trophy by dethroning the Newcastle Eagles, who were on course for back-to-back clean sweep seasons until the Riders swooped in to claim the second British Basketball League prize this season after the BBL Cup, which the Eagles won.

And after the domestic season concludes, Sullivan’s attention turns to the international scene where he hopes to guide Great Britain back to the Eurobasket finals in 2017 and make up for a dismal qualifying campaign in 2014, where they missed out on a place at Eurobasket 2015 by losing all four games to Iceland and Bosnia & Herzegovina.

The Riders forward remains confident on this upcoming campaign though.

My hopes are for GB to qualify for another Eurobasket,” Sullivan simply put. “I feel that we have the talent to demand that of our national team at every opportunity.”

Andrew Sullivan launched the London leg of The Abu Dhabi Grand Slam jiu-jitsu world tour outside ExCel Centre today ahead of the fourth and final Grand Slam event in the 2015/16 season on Saturday March 19, 2016.