Goodness, 2012 already! Where has the time flown? As eagle eyed followers will notice, I've changed the header picture to this blog - as I do every year. Went for a Hell's Angels tattoo kinda vibe, hope you like it cos it's gonna be there for the next twelve months! The pic here is the original which I designed for use as a desktop wallpaper 4:3 ratio - feel free to download and share. Anyway, I thought I'd take this opportunity to reflect on a fantastic year...
I'll be honest here, this past year has been an incredibly busy but hugely productive. For me, the year really kicked off when Issue one of Jiu Jitsu Style Magazine was launched. The time somehow felt right to launch a BJJ-specific glossy magazine but it was still a brave move by mag owner Callum as a BJJ only title has never before been published from the UK. I'm happy to report, after one complete magazine year (6 issues) the title has progressed from strength to strength. Each issue delivers top quality professional content and I'm very fortunate to be able to submit interviews and photographs for each issue. It also means I get to meet some of the biggest names in the sport! (More on that later).
The USA was not to miss out either, with its launch of Jiu Jitsu Magazine this year. Again, I have been very fortunate in being invited to submit articles to the publication each issue.
|De la Riva|
Photographing the stars
Speaking of meeting and photographing BJJ stars - this year I was extremely lucky to meet and train with two all time BJJ heroes of mine: Ricardo de la Riva Goded and Leonardo Vieira. I cannot say enough how humble and cool these two stars of our sport were to all of us who attended their seminars. In my guise as a photographer for Jiu Jitsu Style, I also got to meet and snap many other big name BJJ champs, including Robson Moura, Victor Estima, Leo Santos and Rafael Lovato Jr. All of whom were brilliant instructors and lovely people to meet.
|Chico Mendes, Leo Vieira, Ricardo Vieira|
|Lovato Jr (note: stand on box next time)|
|Photo by Stephen King / King Studios Photography|
I didn't compete much this past year. I decided early on that I would concentrate on my media and art. In order to do that effectively I had to scale back my training, consequently putting myself out of contention for proper tournament preparation. I did however attend a lot of events and tournaments, notably, reporting and following the success of my team mate, friend and instructor, Daniel 'Raspberry Ape' Strauss over two Submission 1000 grappling contests. Daniel spectacularly won the first Submission 1000 event, and was runner up in the second Submission 1000 event. In both cases, he defeated higher ranked opponents along the way and proved himself to be one of the best British grapplers on the scene right now.
|Daniel jumping with menace|
As soon as I heard that the ADCC was being held in the UK I knew I would not miss the biggest event of the year. I could not have asked for more. An all areas press pass, two days of amazing fight action featuring THE very best grapplers in the world right now, hanging out with all my BJJ friends and feeling an intense swell of pride as I saw huge numbers of people in the audience all wearing one of the t-shirts that I had designed. I think I can honestly say those were the best two days of my grappling life.
The past year saw me continuing to review BJJ gis and other fightgear. Again, I have to repeat how lucky I am to be in a position where I am sent stuff (most often for free) in exchange for an objective review. It's been getting harder to draw the line however, with the increasing amount of freelance design and illustration work I have been doing for (often the same) fightwear companies but reviewing gear is something I still want to keep doing. I hope readers here trust me enough to write an objective and as impartial a report as I can concerning BJJ apparel and I will always disclose my own involvement with the company for complete transparency with each report.
|Mini Meerkatsu reviews the Datsusara Bag|
Since we are on the subject of gis - the most common question I get asked is what is my favourite gi? Well, of all the gis I reviewed in 2011, I have to say I really loved the visual eye-candy of the Gameness Elite, the K2 Premier Elite, Scrambe's 1chiban gi and the Bull Terrier Limited Edition.
But if you ask me what gis I am wearing right now in my gi rotation: it is my tried, tested, thoroughly used and abused Tatami Estilo 2.0 navy gi and my Black Eagle Raptor gi.
For non-gi reviews, I also looked at ear guards, bags and rashguards.
Even the Meerkatsu goes on holiday once in a while. Despite suffering the vagaries of the British summer weather in Bournemouth, my couple weeks on the coast was helped by a dose of jiu jitsu training with my friends over at the Gary Baker Academy and the Phoenix MMA Academy.
Of course, no review of the year can go without mentioning the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the Tohoku region of Japan on the 11th March. It was the biggest earthquake to have hit Japan in recorded history. The Wikipedia entry states over 15,800 deaths and upwards of $34 billion dollars of economic damage caused by the earthquake alone. The wider economic and social impact was immense. The natural disaster mobilised people from all over the world to lend their support. The fightwear industry was no exception and companies big and small all offered their help, many produced special edition t-shirts, donating all proceeds to Japan. Few nations have influenced the fight and grappling community as much as Japan, I think it goes without saying that we all wish for a speedy continued recovery from this natural disaster.
|Scramble 'Endure' t-shirt modelled by Roger Gracie|
Illustration and Design
I have drawn crazy animals and funny cartoony things ever since I can remember. This year was a turning point for me. I decided I would pursue my lifelong dream of becoming an established and well known illustrator. Whilst I have designed various logos and the odd bits and pieces for the fight community, I was never really pro-active about it. The opening of my Meerkatsu Facebook Page (see social media below) helped kick-start this exciting phase of my career. In 2011 alone, I have designed countless logos, mascots, characters and cartoons for people around the world, including Korea, Japan, China, Australia, Guam, Hawaii, Canada, all over Europe and of course the UK.
It's wonderful to see my work come alive on an item of clothing. The highlights for me, from an art and design perspective, have to have been the Raptor BJJ gi I created and the Honey Badger rashguard. I both those cases, I took a blank template and really stamped my own idea of what a fancy piece of fightwear should look like. I'm thankful to all my collaborators and to the fightwear companies who trusted me enough to hire my services.
I would like the end this post with a massive thank you to all the readers, supporters, followers etc of Meerkatsu. I started the blog in 2004 without much of a clue what to say and I'm still really just making it all up as I go along. In 2011, over 82,000 of you visited the website and most of you hung around to read more than just my gi reviews. Overall, meerkatsu.com racked up a touch under 382,000 page views and you came from all over the world - including UK and USA obviously, but smaller nations, such as Zimbabwe, Yemen, Laos, El Salvador and hundreds of other places far more exotic than my rainy old London town!
Over on Facebook, I started up my Meerkatsu page in March and in the short space of time, there are now over 2,270 of you following my online antics. I've even begun tweeting the odd comment every few days. I try to post unique content onto each social hub if I can. So for formal reviews and in depth reports, this blog is the place to go, for daily news, thoughts and updates on stuff I've been working on, the Facebook page is the place to go, and for random off the cuff comments and BJJ related thoughts, follow me on Twitter @Meerkatsu.
The following year ahead promises to be just as busy if not busier than the previous. I already have a stackload of cool original and fresh art designs just aching to be unleashed onto the public, plus I am expecting a ton more amazing opportunities to meet, interview and photograph the stars of BJJ. There will be the usual truckload of reviews and I promise to train and compete a bit more too. At the end of the day, everything I do is all about the fun, joy and love for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
To everyone out there, have an AWESOME and HAPPY two thousand and twelve, Osssssss!