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My escapes to Denver this year were exactly what I needed. Although my trips entailed more work than play and little to no sleep, there is nothing more freeing to me than breaking the cycle of normalcy and stepping outside my comfort zone. There were a lot of firsts on this adventure, which has now opened new doors. Perhaps I am a gambler or believer or maybe just a fool. But one thing I am certain about is that no matter how bumpy the ride, in the end I am usually pleasantly surprised by the outcome and if not, I see it as just another lesson learned.
As soon as we stepped outside of the airport terminal it became very apparent that it was in fact still very much winter. The temperature was about in the 20’s. Needless to say we were freezing. Being from Hawaii and only living in Southern states, I am still amused by simple things like snow on the ground and being able to see my breath. Let’s just say winter is still a novelty.
The next day started off at around 6:30 am which seemed much too early after going to bed at three o’clock am. Reluctantly, I rolled out of bed; we grabbed some coffee and headed out to the F2W Tournament of Champions VII. I was super pumped and ready to roll!
This was the first BJJ tournament I’d ever photographed outside of Texas and the set up was just like most local tournaments. Only this time I didn’t know most of the competitors, coaches or referees. But I was ecstatic to see a few old friends among the crowd and finally be able to put faces with voices of those I had spoken to before my trip. But what made it even more perfect was having Lana Hunter and Gaby Muller with me all the way from Texas.
I knew the scene was growing, but I was completely blown away by the size and strength of the Colorado BJJ community. The level of talent especially impressed me. One of the fun parts about photographing Jiu-Jitsu is getting to see the different strengths each region has. For instance the level of Judo implemented in this tournament was unlike any I’ve seen in TX. There was this itty bitty little girl that was legit. I had so much fun watching my new friends and TX friends compete! Everyone was so welcoming and I immediately felt at home and as though I was with family.
The night ended with one of the coolest things I’ve ever witnessed. Something I thought would never happen. Something that Dana White used to be very much opposed to, the first UFC female bout- Rhonda Rousey Vs. Miesha Tate. The fight ended fast and with what has since become Rhonda’s signature move-the judo arm bar. This was perhaps one of the nastiest arm bars I’ve ever seen in progress. But it wasn’t so much the outcome of the fight that mattered most.
These two tremendously talented athletes showcased their abilities and made history. They opened the doors for female fighters and earned respect as athletes in an otherwise male dominated sport. I was inspired and moved. The symbolism and timing was perfect since the first Girls in Gis event outside the state of Texas was about to happen in Denver the following day.