31 Dec 2012
In 2012 I attended a number of cool seminars. I always feel that I benefit in some way, no matter how small, even if I can't remember or use all the techniques shown, just being immersed for a couple of hours under the instruction of a master of BJJ is valuable. Having Master de la Riva visit our academy is always a very good session, he never fails to show us something that makes us go wow. I also really enjoyed training with Michelle Nicolini, the World Champ was here in the UK for several weeks and I was thrilled to meet and train with her over several sessions. Lucas Leite's seminar was very technical and helped me delve into the intricacies of the half guard a lot more. But for me, the best seminar of 2012 was conducted by the irrepressible Roberto 'Cyborg' Abreu. His amazing personality just shone throughout the seminar and my eyes were opened to the wonders of inverting my guard and playing with his invented tornado guard sweeps and submissions. I can honestly say no other seminar instructor has made such a profound change on me and my BJJ since the very first seminar I attended under Royce Gracie, way back in 2004 (iirc).
Maeda, was my first Shoyoroll. When it arrived I wore it non stop, I wanted to critique it the best I could, and, despite a printing error, I simply couldn't fault it.
It is is still my favourite gi. The fit and cut of the A1L is perfect and the comfort and lightness of the gi is a joy to wear in training and competition. Coming very close to the Shoyoroll is a nice surprise - the Fuji All Around Gi. I genuinely did not think such a utilitarian and moderately priced gi could be so high specced and of great quality.
Commendable runner up mentions should go to: the Estilo purple gi, Oss Kimono v1, Aesthetic gis, Competidor Guardian - all exceedingly good BJJ gis.
Tournaments (that I competed in):
In 2012 I competed in just the two tournaments - the Hereford Open and the London BJJ Open. Both were great events and I learned a heck of a lot competing in both. Despite being a pretty lousy tournament player, I do really enjoy competing and feel it improves my 'game' with every event.
Tournaments (that I spectated):
This year saw the usual suspects of IBJJF majors being streamed online. The set-up run by Budovideos is now a very slick operation and I feel no live ppv BJJ event is complete without the commentary by Caleb, Shawn Williams and Budo Jake. I enjoyed watching both the Worlds and the Pans.
The IBJJF hosted the first European Nogi here in London. As official photographer, I had the unique opportunity to see how they run a comp from behind the scenes.
The winner of most amazing tournament this year hands down has to go to Metamoris. Rorion Gracie and his sons have been long been preaching how points based BJJ comps have killed the ethos of the sport, now they had a chance to show the world the meaning behind their words. And boy how they did. With no points to defend or attain, the goal was simple - win by submission. Every match was a thrill ride for us BJJ-heads. Well, all except Andre Galvao v Ryron Gracie. On the one hand, Ryron showed impressive defensive capabilities as he frustrated Andre, on the other, he kind of kicked the whole 'submission only' concept out the park by, um, not really going for submissions. In any case, maybe it did not matter how Ryron had 'kept it playful', the team had done a wonderful job with the tournament and I look forward to more in 2013.
Personal achievements of the year:
2013 was a frantically busy year for me in terms of BJJ-related assignments. I opened up my own store with the help of my business partners. The store has been a great success and I would like to thank everyone who bought one of my products.
This year, continued to write and photograph for the media, notably Jiu Jitsu Style Magazine and Jiu Jitsu Magazine. I also received my brown belt promotion by my instructor, Nick Brooks, and his instructor, Roger Gracie. It was a wonderful feeling to be promoted and the whole grading day at the academy was a very special event. But the moment that really lifted me even beyond being promoted was seeing the legend Rickson Gracie wear a t-shirt that I had designed. As one person commented on my Facebook post, "you can pretty much retire now Meerkatsu." Heh, I wish I could but I'm already drawing a ton of new artworks ready for release in 2013.
Tap Cancer Out t-shirt and also their more recent IndieGoGo tournament mat fund raising project. The TCO 'gentle omoplata' t-shirt has so far raised over $4,500 profit for the charity and the signed Rickson Gracie bear print was picked up by one donor for $350.
I also took part in a 24 hour grapplethon in Bristol to raise money for Meningitis UK. Collectively we managed to raise a very impressive £2,750.
Earlier in the year, Brendan Hufford, the man behind GiReviews.net began a fund raiser, Gi Drive, to send used gis to other countries that could not afford them. I contributed various Meerkatsu designed goods that raised $150.
The popular film makers BJJ Hacks also launched a kickstarter scheme to raise funds for their Red Belt documentary. My 'Katanapus' print helped generate $275 towards their campaign. As of right now, Hywel Teague is busy making the film and it should be out soon in 2013.
Thanks to everyone who supported my endeavours, even just sharing the post or commenting with support is very helpful. BJJ has in my experience a very unique community feel about it and campaigns like the above mentioned, and others, make me feel all the more honoured to be a part of that community.
Onwards for 2013
In many ways, 2012 was a crossroads for this site. Meerkatsu, the name and brand (now a registered trademark btw), shifted irreversibly away from being a humble amateur gi tester and blogger to a professional purveyor of goods and content. The following twelve months will continue this trend as I embark on yet more freelance and own-brand design work. But the blog is important to me and I hope continues to provide information and entertainment to you readers out there too. I still feel my gear reviews have a place in the BJJ blogosphere and I trust these will continue for as long as companies send me stuff to review. As always, I try hard to produce a balanced and objective report on products - whether the company is someone I have done work for or not - they all know the score that I will test and report on both negative and positive aspects to their product.
The wallpaper art below is a Mario homage I drew for fun for everyone to share and use. Happy New Year!