17 Sep 2008

Stickfighting in the rain


Unbelievable as it may seem, I do actually have interests outside of martial arts. Photography is one. But if they gave belt ranks in photography, I would be a white belt one stripe, ok maybe the one stripe is an over-promotion.
Regardless, I do appreciate good art, and they don’t come much finer than the image above, taken by top studio photographer Spiros Politis, and featuring our Escrima buddies Diana and Alex from the Doce Pares Filipino Stick Fighting System.
When Alex came to our JJ club a few months back, he showed us his full contact sparring and the big leap depicted in the image is no trick - he really does leap six feet in the air to attack you. It’s amazing to watch, and really scary to be at the receiving end.
I asked Spiros what inspired him to come up with the concept and how he managed to take the photo. He generously got back to me with his thoughts:


“I was playing around with the idea of doing a rain shoot for quite a while prior to knowing about eskrima. Inspired by films such as Sin City and The Matrix I wanted to create a situation where some kind of action took place in the rain.
I came across Alex and Diana purely by coincidence through a mutual acquaintance who is an eskrima practioner herself and having seen them in training several times approached them with the idea.
The set up was technically very complicated and needed a big studio and an elevated stage for them to perform their action on in order for me to capture them at their most dramatic angle. The addition of rain to the set up meant that it had to be lit in such a way that the light went through the rain and wasn't reflected by the rain whilst still being able to light the people.

Keeping the very powerful photographic lights dry and away from the water was also v important in order to avoid fried martial artists! We then had a collecting pool below to pick up all the excess water. Needless to say it was also a rather expensive set up!
Shooting martial artists really doesn't differ much from shooting other sports in action. Its all in the preparation of the photographer and the talent of the performer. Incredibly though at the very point of capturing the image I cant actually see it as the shutter goes up-so a modicum of premonition is always good.”

The full set of images appears in the October issue of Men’s Health Magazine and is possibly the most exciting visual depiction of martial arts I have ever seen in a long time. Thanks to Spiros for permission to use the images. In the meantime, I’m inspired to take photos of ju-jitsu myself. Sadly, the finger-over-the-lens, out of focus effect is not as striking as Spiros’s. But, as we say in the MA world, practice, practice, practice, then beat the crap out of it.

About the Author

Meerkatsu

Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.

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