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As a kid I always loved going on “road trips”, but the only problem was that I lived on an island. Sometimes my family and I would go to the North Shore of Oahu, which is about an hour away from Honolulu. In Hawai`i, one hour translates to six. It’s all a matter of perspective. I never thought I’d get my fill of road trips and then along came the summer 2012.
For the past few months I’ve pretty much lived out of my car. I’ve traveled all over Texas this summer as I had intended to do last summer. Except this time, I wasn’t on a BJJ (training) tour of Texas. It was traveling to document BJJ & MMA. Over the course of the past few months, I’ve blown through Dallas, Houston, Killeen and San Antonio countless times. My poor lil’ old car has put in some serious miles this summer trying to keep up with the BJJ and MMA explosion in Texas. The rising temperatures and gas prices have coincided with the growth of the BJJ & MMA community here in Texas. It warms my heart to see how Jiu-Jitsu and MMA has continued to spread and impact more people’s lives.
Even though I love BJJ with all my heart, I always felt like something was wrong with me because I didn’t geek out and watch BJJ videos compulsively like some enthusiasts do. Then at this year’s Mundials, I finally got in touch with my inner BJJ junkie. At first, I was really sad about not going to compete at the Mundials. This year was the first time I sat at home and watched the Mundials from afar but little did I know how much more I could fall in love with BJJ by sitting on my butt 2,000 miles away from the action. Much to my surprise, I was glued to the screen watching the Mundials every free moment I had. One hour would unexpectedly turn into four or five. It was then that I realized that no sane person would watch that much BJJ, I must really love it! I became that overzealous BJJ fan and subjected social media to my rants and obsessive updates. That was just the beginning.
I recently returned to training again after slightly re-injuring my knee in June. It was just a tremor compared to the massive attack of April. I took precautions this time and took a month and a half off training to only focus on physical therapy. I have to be careful now, because I can’t afford to be on crutches again, especially not during the busy BJJ tournament season.
Over the past few months I have continued to watch and photograph between 10-20 hours a week of live BJJ at tournaments, MMA fights and classes at Gracie Humaita Austin. I’ve also spend 15-20 hours a week editing photos. I never thought that watching BJJ would really do me that much benefit without practicing it, but I was wrong. It was how I’ve been watching it, that has changed things for me.
Each time I return to training it’s been different. This time I think I came back extremely ready and focused. After the Leticia Ribeiro Women’s Grappling camp, I was pumped up and ready to train. Instead of training on the mats, I’ve been doing it in my mind. I’ve taken on a new outlook and gained a new understand for the movement behind BJJ by photographing it. By taking on a fresh perspective, I’ve expanded my awareness some. Sitting and watching is good, but chasing the action behind the camera is what makes the difference for me.
As a photographer, I am always hunting for that extraordinary moment that shows the raw emotion and captures the essence of the split second victory shot. In order to get it, I turn to my BJJ knowledge to predict the possible sequences of movements and directions the competitors may move for a submission or position. But not all matches can be predicted. I definitely have been caught off guard by some.
Texas has some very talented athletes of all ages and sexes, but my favorite divisions are the kids and teens. It’s amazing how technical they are and how precise they are in their delivery at such a young age. It’s absolutely beautiful! The future of BJJ is bright because of these kids and teens.
Lately I’ve been studying the movement of BJJ in order to get the best shots for my clients. The added bonus is that I’m learning more about Ju-Jitsu in the process. I am starting to see angles, lines and shapes in the movements and realizing that how well you can draw along the lines and make the angles determines the effectiveness of a move. This new phase is the coming together of my artistic and athletic sides. I’m excited to see what’s in store next.
The BJJ summer tournament season isn’t quite over and I’m not ready to tap yet. I am sure I have more lessons to learn and adventures to be had. Check out some of my latest work at www.mymeanstreak.com