Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Adventures in Colorado Day 2: Next Time Hope for Sunshine

My first day in Denver, I mostly saw the inside of the arena.  When I finally went outside, the sky was blue, the sun was out and the weather was perfect. Everything was crystal clear and beautiful. The air felt crisp and refreshing. Then the next morning, the day of the first GIG-Denver, I woke to a “winter wonderland” of snow.

Any other time I would have been ecstatic to go play in the snow and eat snowflakes. But NOT today! My desire to venture up to the snow capped mountains and play in the snow had manifested, but unfortunately the snow was brought to me. I didn’t know what to do. This wasn’t just snow, it was a blizzard! I never had a blizzard to deal with during a GIG event in TX, thunder storms maybe.  I wanted to cry but didn’t. I put my big girl pants on and with the support of Seth Daniels, Lana Hunter and James Bollinger, the show went on as planned.

Once we were on the road, the hazards of the situation became much more real. The roads were slick and dangerous. Thank god Seth was driving us. I wouldn’t know what to do if I were behind the wheel. The usual fifteen minute drive took us forty-five minutes. Once I saw how bad it was, I didn’t expect anyone to show up, but I was proven wrong. 

Thirty-seven women and girls bravely ventured out into the blizzard to join us. The event was amazing! It changed my perspective on a whole different level.  Seeing those smiles and hearing that laughter throughout the event as girls made new friends made it all worthwhile. Although I will admit I was disappointed that the weather had prevented the ninety-seven girls who registered from showing, but it wasn’t about the number of girls that were there. It was about the experience of those who had joined us had and how this event had helped to break down the barriers for the females in the Colorado BJJ community in a way that had never happened before. That was priceless.

Truth be told, this was also my first experience at a female event outside of Texas. I walked in blind not knowing what I was getting us into as I had never been to Colorado before nor had I ever trained with girls from the state. GIG had never hosted an event outside the state of Texas and Colorado had never had an all-female event like GIG Denver Special event. I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome. 

Afterwards, all I wanted to do was to play like a five year old in the snow. I made a snow angel, but failed at making a snowman. I got altitude sickness, but survived! So in the end I got both my wishes, to play in the snow and to bring GIG to Colorado. Boom!

None of this would have been possible had it not been for awesome people like Seth Daniels, Lana Hunter, James Bollinger, Milly Malloy, Rossie Snow, Elizabeth Tran, Easton Training Center, our sponsors and all of the amazing girls of GIG in TX and CO. This was yet another historical moment for women in the art. And that is just the beginning.

More details about GIG Denver Special Event can be found at

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Adventures in Colorado Day 1: Exploring Unfamiliar Territory and History is Made

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.
The very first trip in my life to Denver, Colorado was the weekend of February 17th and 18th. The weekend started off as I landed   around 11:00 pm Friday night. Lana had flown in a few hours earlier and was patiently waiting for my flight to come in. We met up in the baggage claim and snapped our first Colorado photo!  And the adventure began.

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.