Martial arts are more than just a physical means of self-defense, they also provide a platform of self-expression. For me personally, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai cemented themselves as my artistic outlets, wherein both training and competition served as new arenas to showcase my personality and my creativity, in tandem.

One of the most notable moments I’ve had in my life where I felt like I was truly expressing myself through martial arts was during the 2019 IBJJF Master Worlds Championships in Las Vegas, NV. 

It began in my second match of the tournament, when I was battling with a tough opponent to progress to the quarter final round. The majority of our match was fought on our feet, as we both seemed to prefer implementing our strategies from here – me being a wrestler and him having a strong judo background.

I remember being up slightly on points when I decided to shoot for another takedown, then came a POP! and I thought to myself, "Oh shit, what the hell was that?" When I tried standing back up and placing weight on both of my feet I remember feeling like someone was digging a sharp blade into the middle of my left foot. Next thing I knew I was stumbling down towards the ground as I fell out of bounds.

Luckily, with some adrenaline pumping through me I was able to push through and finish out the match by getting my hand raised, while balancing on one foot to move into the quarter finals. However, I ended dropping the quarter finals match via injury default as I was unable to continue beyond three minutes of the match due to the pain.

IBJJF Master Worlds

Although I didn’t earn the opportunity to take home any hardware that day, what I did earn from that experience was a new sense of pride and self-belief. Having to fight through the adversity with my teammates by my side as they encouraged me to step up and fight, made me feel as though I was not just representing myself on the mats, but also representing my teammates, training partners, and the culture of our gym Ronin Training Center and GFTeam.

Just over two months after the event, while I was in the Philippines, I ended up finding out that I had sustained a Lisfranc fracture which would require surgery. So at the end of the day, I guess I did get to take home some hardware, just not the kind that goes around your neck. But hey, we’ve been able to get back out on the mats and continue doing what we love to do, so it’s all good.

lisfranc fracture

This experience made me think about the fact that the majority of those who pursue a new martial art do so with a blank slate, both from a physical and mental standpoint. Their technical abilities and understanding of the art almost nonexistent, and not yet having the taste of combative competition. Over the past few years I've had the opportunity to help coach under Vitor Oliveira at Ronin Training Center. Under his tutelage I've been able to watch individuals grow and hone both their technical skills and personalities - the mat being their gateway to coaxing out their individuality.

BJJ Class

Over time you begin to notice the unique character traits and backgrounds that each person brings to their training. The gym truly becomes its own melting pot, bringing folks from all walks of life together under one roof and providing them with an outlet where they can feel confident in expressing who they are without judgement and without ego. To me, this is what REPRESENT stands for and how we came up with the following acronym, which can be seen throughout a variety of the pieces within the collection.

R aise

E veryone up around you

P urposefully

R espect

E achothers

S ituations and

E ncourage the

N ext person

T o step up

Outside of these mental constructs, this collection pulls artistic inspiration from our love for 90's culture – from hip hop, to athletics and various styles of art. It highlights the intersection between individual expression as it relates to broader subcultures that allow individuals to stand up, stand out, and REPRESENT who they are in their own unique way. To us, the 90’s stand out as a moment in time where individual expression was prominent.

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