Students discussing and training at Dark Clan Fight Lab's Brew Jitsu. Austin, TX.
One thing I love about jiu jitsu is how much fun you can have while getting your ass kicked. Exercise alone creates a vast array of feel good brain chemicals and when you add in genuine joy, the good endorphins just keep rolling (pun intended). The fighters at Dark Clan Fight Lab in Austin, TX recently hosted a city-wide open mat event with an added element--brewskis! Drink a beer, get after it, repeat until you can't. This was my first event here at Dark Clan where everyone had a lot more time to relax and converse in between rounds. The afternoon was filled with excessive laughs, great rolls, and the seemingly endless Texas heat (which didn't seem to slow anyone down). Training out here in Texas during the summer is no joke. There are no comforts of recirculated air or cooling machines--just a few twirling fans and a lot of dedication.
And sweat. Lots of sweat.
Making photos in this relaxed atmosphere certainly brought me a new element to photographing jiu jitsu. Where I am normally hunting down action or looking to capture a tap, this day was a mixture of catching fights and also snapping the fun moments in between. Watching all of the smiles on people's faces throughout the afternoon reminded me that I am definitely in the right place. You can grind your body and soul down to a nub in anything you pursue, just make sure you're having fun in the process.
As I grow in this life I am further embracing the importance of community, in whatever form suits you best. For myself, I am finding tribe in jiu jitsu. Welcoming and humbling, I am enjoying my time on the mats, with or without my camera, and appreciating the connections being made furthering the growth of my inner being.
Alfredo Benavidez faces Danny Mulvihill at F2W 166. Austin, TX.
Attending jiu jitsu competitions brings an internal joy and learning experience that is difficult to explain. While photographing competitions, I find myself looking for new things to learn and new perspectives to consider. Given that every promotion and every venue are different, there is always an element of surprise that I'm searching to work with once I arrive. During F2W 166, the new challenge was a raised platform (hooray for being able to stand for once!) and some incredibly colorful lighting. Ok that last one is more of a blessing than a challenge. And while all the colors made for some vivid imagery, I am deeply in love with making black & white images of competitors that evoke a mood more than capture the action of jiu jitsu. This is something I've been slowly working towards since my first competition, where I am now looking for shadows and colors that will reduce to greyscale very nicely with every match I photograph. The abundance of light and varying sources at this event made for some interesting choices in black & white, highlighting some of the light beams excellently.
I find myself seeking shapes more often when I consider making images for greyscale. When shapes take precedent in this manner, I'm not sure if it's an innate, natural reflex or if it's just dumb luck. I'd wager it's a little of both. Shapes seem to take form more gracefully when my eyes are set on a lack of color. Relaxing the eyes a bit help me see light and shadow better which then lead me to focus on shape rather than action. While capturing the locks, sweeps, and submissions are important, sometimes you just want an image that will capture the essence rather than the play-by-play.
I learn something new every time I do this. Sometimes it's about photography, sometimes it's about jiu jitsu. Either way, I've always got my awareness levels high to see what will be taught to me.
Rafael Lovato Jr. defends Gabriel Almeida at Fight 2 Win 166. Austin, TX.
I've been sitting on these images for a couple of months now. It's been nice to take a much needed break from creating and posting [anything], however I'm also I'm excited to finally complete these edits and get them uploaded. It's been a great break and what better way to return than with some images of what is one of my favorite passions--combat! This year I had the pleasure of witnessing one of the more exciting BJJ promotions, Fight 2 Win, begin hosting fights in Austin on a monthly basis. Fortunately, I was able to attend one recently and make some photographs of the entire fight card. With seriously high quality production, F2W is certainly a grand step up from the gyms I shoot local competitions in. The fighter's platform itself is about the size of where I normally photograph competitions that have four battles taking place simultaneously. The lighting, a photographer's dream. My compliments to the entire F2W team--it was impressive.
The night was filled with exciting matches of both gi and nogi, with plenty of submission wins throughout. My buddy Danny representing the Dark Clan had a match as well and was the catalyst for me attending in the first place (big ups to all the DCFL homies). Thanks, Danny! The prelims were non-stop excitement with a mix of subs and decisions. And the main card, featuring combat sports legend and former Bellator MMA Middleweight World Champion Rafael Lovato Jr. Rafael, was fantastic as well. It was incredibly humbling to see Rafael in person and make some images of his match. He has the stature and demeanor of Count Dracula in that as he approached the canvas, his tall, looming presence had a particularly dark ominous overtone--someone was about to get fucked up, haha! Rafael certainly delivered, finishing his match with a nasty kimura against his opponent. It was truly an honor to see such highly skilled competitors faceoff against each other throughout the night. Their fight was probably my favorite.
It's tough remaining focused when photographing amazing fights. Being that close to the action, it's all too tempting to stop looking through your viewfinder and witness the intensity with bare eyes. Which I do because let's keep it one hundred--I love this shit too much not to enjoy it while I'm working. If I'm not taking full advantage of my opportunities and blessings, then what's the point?