Patches O'Toole is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu themed merchandising company started by Australian based BJJer Aengus Ryan. Primarily stocking tattoo-themed patches for adornment on jiu jitsu uniforms, there is also a few t-shirt designs. I chatted to Aengus about the brand and what he hopes to achieve with the company.
This year, my friend Can Sonmez, owner of the Slideyfoot blog and of Artemis BJJ, is hosting another 24-hour Grapplethon in Bristol on the 12th April 2014. See the poster for the address.
This year's event will benefit the charity Kinergy which offer professional counselling for survivors of sexual abuse and rape. The charity was chosen because of the important work they do and because fellow Artemis BJJ instructor Donal Carmody is himself a Kinergy counsellor.
If you fancy taking part, have a look at the Facebook Page and you may also wish to donate, or set up a fundraising page at Just Giving.
People raising funds will also qualify for a t-shirt version of the poster I made - see here:
Grapplethons are really great fun and if you plan on lasting the full 24 hours, or if you fancy setting one up yourself, then have a read of Can's handy Grapplethon guide.
Finally, art nerds may want to read my work-flow in creating the design for this event here on my art blog.
I love drawing primates. They are very popular animals within jiu jitsu and MMA circles - and for good reason; monkeys, chimps, gorillas and all manner of primate animals are the animals that are closest to humans in evolutionary and genetic terms. They are also highly intelligent, social and dexterous - aspects that work highly in your favour if you grapple.
So as you can see, I've depicted many of them in the past few years. All of the primates in the box above have been printed into either a rashguard or a t-shirt. Some of them have been printed as Meerkatsu (ie my own brand) items, some of them have been works for other companies.
Here are the contest details...
UK based Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gi making is ten years old! I say this because as far as I am aware, the very first British company to make a BJJ gi was Evolution Fightwear - who released their eponymous debut gi way back in late 2003 and beginning of 2004. The photo above shows Dave 'Speedy' Elliot wearing that very first gi!
Andy Smith, owner of Evolution, tells me:
"Evolution began in 2001 and the first BJJ gi I believe was not until the end 2003 beginning 2004 I only made 12 or something like that as a test run and they went well ,they were made in Brazil, I can only find one picture of Dave Speedy in it which is dated Oct 2004 (Im sure this was the first design ) I don’t recall any other UK brands at the time."
While Evolution were most probably the first, they were soon followed by a number of brands - all of whom have been pivotal in shaping the fightwear and jiu jitsu clothing scene we have today. Here is a brief timeline and rundown of the major players in the past ten years:-
Improved version of the popular Zero-G range by Tatami Fightwear sees a gi that rivals their own Estilo model. The design elements are much improved and the cut is a little bit slimmer than previous versions. I still prefer my Estilo over the Zero G, but, apart from price, there's little to really set these two apart.
I have worked for Tatami Fightwear on a freelance basis over numerous projects. I have had no input into this product.
Zero G V3 gi is available at www.tatamifightwear.com and various other vendors.
Price: £81 (black model), £77 (white model).
Super colourful fight shorts designed by comic artist Bong Abad and featuring the creative characters of Art Junkie. The shorts are sturdy, well reinforced and provide ample room for movement. Very wide velcro waistband did feel a bit uncomfortable.
I have worked with Bong Abad before on several art collaborations.
Shorts available at http://gawakotoclothing.co.uk/
I was chatting one day on Facebook to someone about coats of arms and we all agreed that a coat of arms dedicated to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu would be a great idea for me to try. So here it is, the Ministry of Jiu Jitsu t-shirt - available from 13th February from my store www.meerkatsu.com
We printed it onto our very popular soft style, ringspun, high quality cotton t-shirt and we used a lightly metallic water-based soft ink. The printing company did an outstanding job! See the photos here:
This rather handsome beast on the rashguard is a unicorn I drew for popular cult fightwear brand Pony Club Grappling Gear (PCGG).
You can buy it here - http://www.rollmore.com/pony-grap-rg.html
The official website is here - http://www.ponyclubgrapplinggear.com/
but it is down until the owners are settled in their new home in Abu Dhabi.
The Facebook page and Instagram accounts are active however.
US based 93 Brand with two of their latest gi releases. The Charlie is an ultra lightweight black dyed pearlweave gi while the Tau is a super soft white goldweave gi. Both gis offer differing levels of fit, comfort and aesthetics with the Charlie gi being fairly stable after several washes and the Tau shrinking in some regions by a large margin.
Seminar Report: JT Torres, Basingstoke, UK
Date: 29th January 2014
Jonathan 'JT' Torres is one of the rising stars of the BJJ tournament scene. Although still young (25) he has actually been a black belt for over five years. JT has often reached the upper levels of the majors but last year he switched teams (currently at Atos) and took gold at the World NoGi Championships and Bronze at ADCC . Last weekend he reached the finals of the IBJJF Europeans where he met his team mate Claudio Calasans in the final. It was a close match that went to a referee's decision where JT was awarded silver. I was so super keen to meet and learn from him at today's seminar.
Taking the Back
JT is probably mostly known for his impressive guard work and in particular his use of the De la Riva guard. He admitted himself in the Q&A at the end of the seminar that he mostly pulls guard in a lot of his matches over his career. But it would be wrong to assume that's all he does. JT passes guard very well - observe this video about 1min in and again at 4:20 as a random Youtube video I picked.
Tonight, JT was keen to teach us several of his favourite guard passing techniques that resulted in taking the opponent's back. JT began the session by showing how he attacks a turtled opponent. The incorrect or rather, hasty, method would be to attempt to secure both hooks in while the opponent is still on all fours and in turtle. JT showed that it was better to secure the seatbelt grip first, then use your knee inserted under his body and roll him over. JT explained numerous small details that made this technique work far more efficiently than it would first appear.
With the fundamental back take position covered, JT next moved onto the main portion of the seminar - the X-Pass.
I must admit I'm not a huge technique nerd so I had never heard of the X-pass before. Once JT demonstrated of course, it seemed like something I had been taught in the past called the bullfighter pass, though I believe the two are actually different.
Here is a video showing the X-pass as taught by Saulo Ribeiro:
Version 1 of the X-pass is the classic variation where you kick your leg backwards and then forwards to bypass the opponent's leg. Prior to that however was a method to really secure the opponent's other leg.
JT's second X-pass version gave us an option to move our passing leg the other direction. I liked this one as it involved hugging the opponent's legs very tightly which was infuriating for the guard player. The third X-pass variation was a combination of versions 1 and 2 which was particularly sweet against a less static opponent.
After drilling the X-pass techniques, JT ran through the body triangle lock and then the bow and arrow choke. Unlike the more commonly attempted bow and arrow chokes, JT demonstrated how he prefered to hook underneath the opponent's nearside leg instead of the more common grabbing of the trousers around the knee area. He also showed the use of your feet to control the opponent's hips to prevent him escaping. The end result was a bow and arrow choke of immense tightness, with your outer leg lying over the top of the opponent's far shoulder and arm...rendering any defence of his useless. Even from this position, a transition to armbar is more than possible.
One of JT's nicknames is the Spiderman. Not,as you might imagine, because he plays spider guard, but because that was his favourite comic book character. JT explained each of the techniques with clarity and patience and observed each pair to correct them as they drilled. He was happy to answer any questions and probems we encountered. At the q&A session afterwards, he answered technique specific questions as well as his thoughts on the way Atos has helped him propel his career to new heights.
Overall, a terrific session where I learned details of a high percentage open guard pass plus lots of excellent little tips on other fundamental positions. My big thanks go to JT for his excellent teaching, to Kevin at Basingstoke School of Martial Arts for hosting the event and a big shout out to everyone who was there. I look forward to when JT swings by the UK again!
Regular followers will already know that I design a range of honey badger themed items for Tatami Fightwear. To celebrate the forthcoming honey badger rashguard version 2014, I have a great little prize package to give away...
Last year I was commissioned by new fightwear brand Combat Skin to design a series of Chinese style unicorn animals - known as the Qilin (also kirin in Japanese mythology).
I drew three different qilin postures and a huge variety of colourways for each. The designs were combined in various ways to produce a rashguard (see photo above), a t-shirt, tights, shorts, patch and a BJJ gi. Pretty much an entire grappler's wardrobe!
Here are photos of the t-shirt and patch: -
Note the gold ink used on the qilin - shimmery!
The gi patch is really vibrant, kudos to the patch maker for selecting such zingy thread colours.
Here are press shots of the tights and the gi design:
When my sample of the gi arrives, I'll write a full photographic showcase of the details on this blog.
My thanks to Combat Skin for trusting me with such a very large assignment, I look forward to seeing grapplers rock the qilin range around the world!
18 year old UK based tattoo apprentice Jodie wanted to turn her sedentary life around. In February 2013 she walked in to Warrior Martial Arts in Congleton and began her BJJ journey, instantly falling in love with it.
A sensible diet along with a tough training regime ensured that she lost an incredible 52 kilos (115lbs) in just 11 months!
Jodie told me one of her aims was to slim down enough so she could fit into the Heavenly Wristlock rashguard and she finally hit that goal in December (see photo). In the process she has won gold at British NoGi Open, raised a ton of money at charity running events (having never run before) and forged new friendships along the way.
Awesome work Jodie!! Read more of her story here: http://www.jodiebearsjourney.blogspot.co.uk/p/long-story-short.html
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
To kick off 2014 I thought it would be neat to give something back to my loyal followers. Below are details of how to win up to FOUR prizes. Yes you can enter all four prize draws - quadrupling your chances of winning some goodies (one entry per person per category please.)
Here are the details (read carefully, invalid entries will not be counted in the prize draw)...
My little world in 2013 has been more busy and fun filled than ever before. Here is a little breakdown of my highlights of the year.
1. Art and design
As the above cover image shows, I've managed to create a lot of images this year - over 100 individual artworks that have gone to print! Plus there have been hundreds more unseen sketches, concepts and roughs. I'm proud of all my designs and I am very thankful for all the support from my followers, customers, clients and friends.
2. Meerkatsu brand
As regular followers will know, I began my clothing store last year. But actually my online store took on a change of partnership in February 2013 so I see the beginning of this year as a revamp of sorts. It has been hard work but so far we have successfully managed to produce new rashguards, grappling tights, t-shirts and a hoodie.
3. Good causes
This year I have been honoured to be involved in supporting several major fundraising campaigns. Here is a summary of the causes and the money that we all manged to raise:
Typhoon Haiyan - $21,000 for UNICEF and DEC Typhoon Haiyan campaigns
Heavenly Footlock - $10,000 for RAINN and Rape Crisis
Grapplethon UK - £8,600 for Rape Crisis
Black Friday Grapplethon - $6,100 for Tap Cancer Out
BETA Grapplethon - $10,000 for Network for Victim Recovery in DC
Give a Gift of a Gi - successful seminar and gi donation program
Gravity BJJ Rollathon - $5,000CND for Prostate Cancer Research
Despite an increasingly hectic agenda, I kept up the product reviews. I see these still as an important platform for general BJJ practitioners to find out more information (in a reasonably unbiased fashion) before they can make a purchasing decision.
|My current gi rotation|
This year I have had written articles published and have had articles written about me.
A full list of interviews I have given can be seen on the About section of the main Meerkatsu website. But here is a nice recent interview I gave on the Breaking Muscle website.
For articles I have written, I have been privileged to have had my content published in both Jiu Jitsy Style Magazine and Jiu Jitsu Magazine - something I will hopefully be maintaining for next year.
Life as a newbie BJJ brown belt has been good so far. I have enjoyed exploring the world of foot and leg attacks (and defending them!) as well as just trying to maintain a consistent pattern of general class attendance. To supplement my growth, I have been taking private instruction with my black belt instructor Chris Hearn who has given me lots of tips for improvement.
7. BJJ World
The BJJ world in general is growing at a fast rate. There is now an incredibly packed calendar of local and international events occurring and in the retail world, an ever expanding roster of new fightwear startups. I like to keep a keen eye on all the events that happen.
No this is not my pathetic attempt to pretend I know what I am talking about and jabber on about mixed martial arts - but I just wanted to state that for the first time ever I can now watch MMA events live on my TV thanks to having finally acquired cable. Like it or not, BJJ and MMA share lineage and most BJJ practitioners enjoy discussing MMA so I felt I should finally join in. I've just signed up to Virgin Media and have recently gorged myself on live Cage Warriors, UFC and many other fight events so I'm a bit dizzy from the brain saturation of fight sports action!
That's all from me for now. Stay tuned for a New Year's Day giveaway I'm doing where one lucky winner can win a gi and whatever other goodies I can find in my stash of spare stuff. Happy New Year everyone!
Ryan Hall's famously plain speaking, constructive method of teaching, allows anyone to learn techniques using the inverted guard position. It takes the length of almost two whole discs however to get to actual techniques involving the inverted guard - the preceding two discs ensures that the viewer has a firm grasp of the cross grip and a position Ryan calls the Tilt Position or Roleta Position.
Triple disc DVD box set available from GroundFighter priced $124.99 plus shipping
(I bought mine as part of a Black Friday 50% off promotion).
Disclosures: I have no personal or business relations with Ryan or the publishers World Martial Arts. I am a BJJ brown belt but I have rarely attempted to use inverted guard in normal training apart from my attempts to land the tornado guard sweep that I learned Cyborg's seminar.
Here is my breakdown of the content of the discs - all opinions written are my own. I have tried some of the techniques in regular class during sparring and I offer a few comments based on this experience.
(Note: for brevity, throughout my report I use the term 'he' instead of 'he or she' to describe the actions of the opponent.)
Happy Christmas to everyone. I drew the above fighting peacocks for fun, perhaps it would make a colourful smartphone wallpaper.
Here's something else that is cool - poem by Christian Hipsky:-
Ooh and here's a card I drew for Tatami Fightwear:
Hope you all enjoy a great season's holidays. I'll be back here with an end of year report and news of upcoming ventures. Peace!
An excellent lightweight gi priced at a very affordable level. The HG13 is Strike Fightwear's homage to the late Grandmaster Helio Gracie.
Available for £68 at the Strike Fightwear website.
I have previously worked on a freelance basis for Strike Fightwear. I have no personal or current business relations with the brand.
If I had my way, this Xmas gift guide would be pretty short. It would simply say go buy the amazing products I sell over at my store: www.meerkatsu.com!
But of course, that would be terribly biased of me and a tad limiting - especially when you consider the sheer surplus of amazing goodies out there in the fightgear retail world. So here is my pick of the bunch based on having received the samples myself, and just the general niceness of the items I can see via photos and description:-
(all prices correct as of 7th December 2013)
I've been talking a lot recently with Sub Guards, they are a UK based company that specialise in custom designed small print run rashguards, shorts, tights and patches. They printed the rashguards for several of my client designs.
Getting into the spirit of the American retail tradition of offering a discount over the Thanksgiving weekend - known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I'm offering 15% off all products except gift vouchers until 2nd December 2013.
Speaking of gift vouchers, check out the new addition to the store.
When you buy the gift certificate it asks you for an email address of the recipient. They will then receive a unique code which can be redeemed at checkout when they decide to purchase something at a later date.
BJJ fans will more than likely have come across a great regular podcast called Open Mat Radio. The show is broadcast weekly and has featured a number of high profile guests including Mauricio Gomes, Kurt Osiander, Henry Akins and many many others. It's a great way to become immersed in the words and thoughts of so many of the people notable in our sport. I chatted to Open Mat Radio's founder Paul Moran: -
Just spent a day photographing fights at the English BJJ Open over at the National Judo Centre in Dartford. As usual, it was a terrifically well run event with lots of insanely good action. The added bonus for me was to pick up the t-shirt I designed, test out my new camera and to watch my friends compete.
Here are some more photos: