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17 Wing Grappling Club

By Martin Zeilig


Corporal Nathan Michalopoulos, AVCS IC, 17 Operations Support Squadron, wants to dispel a wrong idea that many people have about the sport of grappling.

Cpl Michalopoulos is the lead instructor of the 17 Wing Grappling Club, which trains three times per week in one of the squash courts in Building 90. The club has about 40 members.

Grappling is a fighting technique based on throws, trips, sweepsclinch fightingground fighting and submission holds, notes Wikipedia.

Grappling contests often involve takedowns and ground control, and may end when a contestant concedes defeat.

 “There’s a misconception in grappling that we’re just trying to beat each other up and hurt each other,” Cpl Michalopoulos said, during an interview with two other members of the club, Warrant Officer Wilson and Master Corporal Found, on June 20.


“It’s more about learning how to control your body in order to manipulate and control others, so we can bring it to the point where your opponent makes the decision to no longer control you and thereby neutralizing the situation.”


Prior to joining the grappling club in August 2023, WO Wilson, who works at 1 Canadian Air Division, noted that he was involved in the Jiu-Jitsu club.


“I enjoy the fitness level it allows me to maintain,” he said, noting that he has done other types of martial arts training too.


“I’m forty-six years old, and I’m in the best shape of my life. My back and my joints feel great. I feel awesome. It’s been great from my mental health.  You get into the training, and are focused. We have such a cohesive team. We’re all working together and helping each other out.”


MCpl Found, who works at 17 MSS, expresses similar sentiments.


“The group of people doing grappling is awesome,” he said.


 “I like solo sports and the competitiveness. The type of fitness that comes with it is unique.”


Another club member, MS Thomas Britton, a Cook 17 Wing / 17 MSS Food Svcs, has competed in two tournaments one “super fight” event.


“I enjoy the sport because it is an endless learning curve,” he said in an email response to The Voxair.


“There are hundreds of techniques based around 4 simple fundamental elements (space, weight, angle, and leverage). Every opponent offers new and different challenges, and no two rounds ever turn out the same.”


Corporal Lettie Bumbacco, a Medical Technician, 23 Canadian Forces Health Services Centre, “has been involved with the sport” of grappling in the CAF for one year now.


“Prior to that I competitive wrestled for 5 years and coached for one year,” she responded, in an email to The Voxair.


“I also did Brazilian Jujitsu for approximately 6 months before joining the 17 Wing base team.  I love the rush I get when I’m in the middle of a scrimmage and trying to gain a positive position. I like that the sport makes you think quick, and that it’s always a challenge. The sport is hard on the body mentally and physically. It teaches you discipline, as well as it’s a learning sport. There will always be more to learn.”


Cpl Bumbacco noted that she has competed in two CAF competitions,  including winning a gold medal in the Western regional grappling competition in September 2023.


“I also competed in the Shilo submission show down,” she said.


“I did lose my single match to a great athlete. The 17 Wing grappling team has some amazing coaches and athletes, and the club is very inclusive.


“I am posted to CFB Shilo in July 2024 and plan to continue the sport with that team, a team that has worked closely with 17 Wing. I will miss my time with 17 Wing, but I’m excited for the next adventure.”


“In grappling there’s no striking,” Cpl Michalopoulos, who has a purple belt in Brazilian JJ, said.


“Every fight starts standing up. More often than not, the fight ends up on the ground. We have various experience levels in our club from first time members to others with lots of experience that may or not be associated with grappling. But, we pride ourselves in being able to get everybody up to a competitive level in about a year.”


The grappling club provides a mixture of fitness and friendship.

For further information, contact Cpl Michalopoulos at email / Tel: 204-833-2500 ext 5007 / CSN: 257- 5007

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