Thursday, June 18, 2015

IBJJF takes a stand to protect .... what exactly?

Here's an email exchange I had with IBJJF staff. Read from the bottom up.

On Jun 17, 2015 6:49 PM, Rebecca Silva <> wrote:

Hi Georgette,

we never had a problem with you at the event. You are definately right about that. You were always professional with while working for us and I appreciate that.
However, its our police that people who have an active voice/take stands (i'm sorry for the language barrier) should not be added to our staff. Our staff should ne neutral.
I wrote you that because I believe its best to be honest. I agree that you have the right to have your opnions and we have the right to have our polices.

Thank you,


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On Wed, Jun 17, 2015 at 4:12 PM, Georgette Oden <> wrote:

By the way, there were no issues at Seattle Open. And if it helps, of course I will always behave, as I have always in the past, with complete professionalism. My rights to free speech stop at the door of the workplace, which of course includes the IBJJF. Thanks :-)

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On Jun 17, 2015 5:52 PM, Rebecca Silva <> wrote:
Hi Georette,

Thank you for your interest on helping us out.

You do work very well in our events. However, you are a very active blogger in our community.
IBJJF avoids as much as possible to take sides on controversial situations that are not our business. Because of this reason, we may not have in our staff team a person who may or may not like one of our athletes.

I hope you understand my situation, but I cannot add you to the staff team at this point.

Thank you,

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Georgette Oden <>
Date: Thu, Jun 11, 2015 at 2:14 PM
Subject: Austin Open
To: Jacob Vasquez <>, Event Staff <>

Need staff? I moved back and happy to work the open....



Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Interview with BJJPIX photographer William Burkhardt

William Burkhardt is the photographer behind BJJPIX, and has more than once dipped his toe into a sea of controversy.

 First, with his "Hot or Not" postings on facebook this past January:

Next, with his sexy photoshoot with San Francisco purple belt Jena Sapinoso:

I did a little looking at his other work including his facebook page and it's clear he's quite talented.  (He was named 2014 BJJ Photographer of the Year.)

It also seems to me that he has an interesting attitude towards women... not only for his views on sexualization of women in jiu jitsu, but also the arguable objectification of women in these examples, and because of his wholehearted support of the "PUA" pick up artist/seduction artist community. If you look at William's facebook page, you can see he's attending/listening to pay-per-view broadcasts of "Seductive Instinct" lessons taught by Arash Dibazar.  William filmed a promotional clip he refers to as a  "documentary" about this person, who is a BJJ black belt and "#1 ranked" pick up and seduction artist.

Here's Dibazar's "highlight" reel. I thought this was interesting just for insight into his jiu jitsu practice:

After reading the uproar with people taking both the pro and con positions regarding Ms. Sapinoso's modeling in a gi, I thought it would be interesting to interview William about these issues.  After soliciting input from people in the scene (and I really appreciated all the great suggested questions) I emailed him and below you can see our exchanges, unedited, with his replies in italics.  Enjoy :)

Questions for William Burkhardt

How old are you?
I’m turning 27 this month.

Is photography your profession or your vocation? Both.

Tell us about your education. I dropped out of university after four days.

Are you based in the US now or do you still live in France? I live in Rio de Janeiro since 2012.

Are you married; do you have children? No.

How did you begin treating photography seriously? When I started covering jiu-jitsu tournament in 2010.

How did you get into jiu jitsu? I used to do muay-thai and wanted to learned another martial art so I started jiu-jitsu when I was in Brussels, then moved to Brazil in 2009.
Where do you train and for how long have you trained? I started in Goiania then trained for two years with Roberto Gordo in Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro and now at Ricardo de la Riva in Copacabana.

How long have you been a vegan, and why did you choose to be?
I chose to be vegetarian in 2010 then vegan in 2012 first for health reasons then for moral reasons. If I share posts about veganism it’s because meat consumption is now the number one cause of death in the World, (14 millions deaths from heart attacks caused by animal cholesterol), number one cause of pollution in the world and the biggest holocaust of animals ever known. Gorillas only eat plants and so should we. It’s as simple as that.

Do you view your photography as an unbiased vessel of your subject’s views and agenda, or is your photography an expression of your own?

How do you accomplish that goal without upsetting the subject? Or are the subjects just props for your own artistic expression?
What are your criteria for the subjects you choose to work with? Anything that is exciting to watch. World Champions, badass fighters, beautiful women…

Would you ever choose subjects of other ethnicities? Age groups? Weight classes?

The most recent controversy would probably be your shoot with Jena Sapinoso. How did you meet her?
How many times have you used her as a model?
What is your relationship with her?
What was the intent of the shoot? Was it a gi ad, a boudoir shoot, was she building a modeling portfolio?
Whose idea was it to use the gi?
Whose idea was it to do sexy jiu jitsu pictures? Whose idea was it to be in a hotel room? On a bed?
Who else was present during this shoot? How do you choose who will be present?
What are the photographs showing or saying?

I’ve met Jenna at the World Jiu-Jitsu Expo in Long Beach last year. Then when I came back in San José to train at Caio’s academy, I had the idea of the shoot. I showed Jenna some of the pictures I had shot before and she said yes. Jenna and I are good friends.

Are you planning more photographs of this type (and with whom, women or men)?  Yes, both.

What do you think about the controversy surrounding these pictures?

I think it got a lot of positive feedback and only a couple of people  reacted the wrong way. First, if a girl wants to show off her body, she is free to do so without random people having to judge her and shame her. Luckily, Jenna is very comfortable with her body and doesn’t care about other people opinions. Men and even women constantly judge other women clothes. They’ll call a girl a slut if she wears too little and a prude if she wears too much. Why can men show theirs nipple and not women? Religious cultures shaming bodies. Everybody is made the same way.
Sexist men will consider women as objects after watching the pics? It’s their behavior that has to change not the women that have to dress more.

What did you think about the uproar when you posted “hot or not?” about Ana Carolina Schmidt on facebook?
That was a rethorical question, of course everybody would think she was pretty. A couple of people overreacted.

Do you think “hot or not” posts and sexy pictures in a gi have objectified women in jiu jitsu? Why or why not?

Do you think interjecting sexuality contributes positively or negatively to women’s status in the BJJ community? Positively.

Do you think people who object to your photos of Ms. Sapinoso are being a prude? Why or why not?

Do you feel you have a responsibility to promote women's jiu jitsu in a positive manner?
I don’t have a responsibility to promote anything. I just take photos of what I like.

What role do you believe female athletes currently play in the jiu jitsu community? Do you think that will change as the sport grows?

Do you recall the “girls of surfing XIII” video on your facebook wall?

[Edit: here is the video to which I was referring:]

 Do you see any differences in how those athletes are portrayed versus how Ms. Sapinoso is portrayed in your work with her?

Do you believe you have influence on how women athletes are perceived in the BJJ community? No.

What is a pick up artist? And what is a seduction artist?

Pick-up artists are about sociology. There is no magic trick. It’s about learning to be the man that women wants. Women seduce men all the time and better than men do. It’s about understanding women. You can look up Arash’s video on YouTube or ask him questions directly to know more about him.

How much do you pay Arash Dibazar to be able to listen to his “Saturday night live lectures”?


Hi William, thank you for your time.  Could you please answer the rest of the questions?  Thanks!

I don't have anything too interesting to answer the other ones. 

Monday, June 01, 2015

Rener Gracie "super seminar" review-- drinking from the firehose!

Rener Gracie +
114 jiu jitsu students +
eight hours +
a giant high school wrestling room in Bellevue WA (just outside Seattle)
almost too much of a good thing. But really, there's no such thing as too much jiu jitsu, right?

Rener's super seminar was amazing. I'd done a Rener seminar before, a few years ago when I was still a pretty new blue, but that was just three hours on the back mount.  This was four seminars compressed into one solid day.

Rener and his wife Eve (expecting their first baby in about three months!) came to Seattle so Rener could teach the Gracie Survival Tactics course to law enforcement this week.  The lead organizer is my good friend Craig, a Bellevue police officer. Craig runs a Gracie Garage in his garage, and trains all over Seattle at most of the jiu jitsu academies.  He is a blue belt through the brothers and visits Torrance several times a year to train directly with them. This personal connection is certainly part of why Rener agreed to teach this super-seminar in the Pacific northwest, and we were the happy beneficiaries.

The schedule called the first two hours "Cross Chokes" but that didn't do it justice.  Try jiu jitsu pedagogy including how to be a good training partner, how to get the most out of a jiu jitsu seminar,  how to design effective drills, and how to teach a complex concept in "slices" or smaller, more digestible chunks. Then add mount maintenance, mount escapes, grip strategy, cross collar and pile grip chokes, injury prevention, S-mount, and armlocks from mount. That's just your first two hours.

The next seminar segments were similarly under-titled as Guillotines, Submission Counters, and Street Self Defense. All in all, eight hours of instruction, with half-hour breaks between each and a two hour lunch. The breaks were much needed, and my brain felt very full by the end of the day.

Rener is a talented and skilled instructor. He'll gather the group into a half-moon shape and demonstrate from a few angles. He'll take questions. He's VERY practiced as an educator, so he is adept at reaching all audience members no matter their learning style-- Aural/Spoken, Visual, and Kinesthetic/Gotta Feel it people.  You'll hear him use unique and memorable phrasing that help you recall essentials and details.  "If you own the chin, you own the choke!" "Grab the brother!" "Rattlesnake shot" and so on...

(You can thank Craig for that nice group shot and these other pictures below.)

Somehow the man also can get personal hands-on time with nearly sixty pairs of drilling partners without making anyone feel hurried, answering questions and giving one-on-one instruction. Here I am, with Rener choking my drilling partner and fellow purple belt Tyy Withrow. (and yes, I forgot my belt. Dammit.)

The crowd was stacked with upper belts. People from Canada, Hawaii, Colorado, Oregon, and California mixed with Washingtonians, and many different academies were represented. It's a great location for a seminar, too, with ample room to do the techniques. Even several varieties of guillotine escapes and escape counters that involved flipping around on one axis or another, up down and all around without knocking into each other. The only downside was it did get a little warm up there after lunch, although building staff brought in some commercial power fans and got the air circulating again comfortably.  There's plenty of free parking nearby, mens' and womens' locker rooms with showers handy, and it's convenient to quite a few food choices. (We went for sushi with Rener.)

I felt so dumb about forgetting my belt that I didn't get a picture with Rener.  Fortunately Tyy did.  And Tyy is bigger than me :) Rener is TALL!!!

Rener is a very good instructor. Anyone who's ever taken a Rener seminar knows that the man can pack tons of insightful detail into every sentence. Trust me, bring a legal pad or notebook FULL of blank pages and two pens in case one runs out. You'll leave with enough information to fuel your drilling and strategizing for months.

I have nothing but respect for him. Can't recommend these super seminars highly enough. The Gracie Academy website has a partial list of upcoming seminars which you can check out here. Do it!