My new McHugh BJJ rashguard.
Peer pressured (in a friendly way by a coach/friend), I tried my first nogi class last week and had a great time! For anyone not familiar with jiu jitsu, nogi is simply jiu jitsu without the gi. On the plus side, the rash guard is amazingly comfortable and it’s nice not to have the weight and stiffness of the gi slowing me down. My main negative is there are no grips to hold onto and the human body is very slippery, especially a sweaty human body in a rash guard! But everyone else is in the same boat.

Instead of holding onto the gi sleeves and lapels, we try to directly control elbows, wrists, hips, and so on. It was a real challenge but also a lot of fun. The upper belts and coaches have said that training nogi helps your gi game. Because if you can do a move without grips in nogi, getting grips in the gi becomes a bonus.

Now that McHugh’s is offering a noon class every day, I want to get to as many of them as possible and Wednesdays are always nogi so there it is. Just adding another tool to the toolbox.

McHugh Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Well, I’m a White Belt So….

My neighbor and friend started doing Jiu Jitsu with me. I was so excited when she mentioned casually that she wanted to try it and turns out, she likes it. So yay! I took the first class with her and was her training partner. It was so very nice to help a newbie who is even newer than me. I felt like I actually knew something. Not that I’m a jiu jitsu teacher or anything but I love helping people with this kind of stuff. That’s one reason I became a personal trainer 7 years ago.

Anyway, after a few starts and stops, she sent me pictures of her neck and arm, proudly displaying her bruises. I welcomed her to jiu jitsu. And then she told me she was frustrated. After 3 classes, she was frustrated. I had to laugh. I’m frustrated after the equivalent of 7 months and I don’t think this is the end of frustration. I did 4 months when I first started and have been consistently training since March now.

A couple of nights later in class, I was overtired, had overtrained for the week, and was close to tears as I realized I couldn’t remember how to do something I had drilled repeatedly that morning. I mean, how can you totally suck at something only hours after going over it again and again in a private session? But there it is. I suck and it’s frustrating. I feel like I should be better. When I told Coach Tony the next day about all this, he laughed at both me and my friend. He said that saying I was frustrated at not being better is just as ridiculous as my friend saying it. We are both beginners. A white belt, by definition, is a beginner. We’re not expected to be good. In fact, when I think about it, it’s a little liberating to be allowed to suck. When you’re at the bottom, the only way to go is up. And I think I’ll keep going.

Recommended reading from an excellent jiu jitsu blog: Why it’s cool to suck at jiu jitsu

Look for the Little Wins

Learning Jiu Jitsu has to be the most humbling experience of my life. It takes years to get good at it and has been compared to running a marathon as opposed to a sprint. I clearly have no natural talent for grappling and struggle learning every new move. In class, my training partners have to talk me through every new technique and sometimes I still don’t get it. I definitely forget everything for live training. In Randori (live training after class), my training partners frequently spend the whole session sitting on top of me, with me unable to escape.
Kimura in Class
Since it’s hard to see progress on a day to day basis, Coach Tony told me that I have to look for the little wins along the way. So that’s what I’ve been doing. If I can get out from under, it’s a win. If I go for 5 minutes without getting submitted, it’s a win. If I can successfully use a technique that I learned in class, it’s a win. If I stay uninjured, it’s a huge win. I haven’t submitted anyone yet, but now I find a win almost every session. This is a new mindset for me that I didn’t have 2 years ago when I first started training Jiu Jitsu, and it has changed everything.
Hip Toss in Class
A couple of weeks ago, I got the best win so far. I earned my second stripe! It’s a small thing but to me, it’s a major win. In fact, I almost teared up when Coach Tony called me up. And I smiled for a week after getting it. It makes me want to train even harder, which is also a win.
Second Stripe

Next – Well, I’m a White Belt So…

Jiu Jitsu Roll

I’m combining my love of visual art and the “Gentle Art” or Jiu Jitsu here. This is pen and ink on watercolor paper. I had thought of adding some color but like it in black and white. I wasn’t sure of the scribble style but have decided I like it as it has a very energetic feel to it. I’ll be doing more Jiu Jitsu-related art going forward.

Introducing Giulliana Fonseca – Photographer

Giulliana Fonseca

My latest project of sports photo editing has been exclusively focused on McHugh BJJ and Kickboxing students, coaches, and the professor. I’ve been fortunate to be able to rely on the amazing skills of McHugh’s official photographer, Giulliana Fonseca. She has kindly allowed me to use her photos and I give credit when I’m aware the photos are hers. Since I’m not as much of a photographer as I am an illustrator and fine artist, it’s nice to be able to choose well focused and composed photos to edit.

McHugh BJJ

Giulliana gets up close to the athletes and since she is a blue belt herself in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, she knows the sport well. Giulliana introduces herself on her website with the following:

“Based in the Philadelphia Area, I provide photography, videography, and graphic services to clients throughout the tri-state area.

New clients can expect an intimate, hilarious, and fun session. I specialize in providing dynamic, vibrant, and crisp finished product while delivering a memorable experience for everyone.”

Giulliana's SpecialtiesGiulliana’s style is clean and crisp and she focuses on several specialties, including portrait services, wedding and event photography. But I think she particularly excels in fitness marketing and competitive sports coverage.

In addition to photography, Giulliana is an illustrator. Lately, she has been marketing her services on Fiverr to turn your selfie into a creative illustration. Contact her through Fiverr to turn your own selfie into a fun and unique image.

Selfie Illustration

The best way to check out Giulliana’s work is to visit her website or her Facebook page.


Facebook Page


Be Fearless

Be Fearless

I love this quote as it perfectly says what I feel about art and creativity, as well as my fitness journey. I’ve been adding to my website project, McHugh BJJ Sports Photo Edits on a pretty regular basis. I wanted to highlight the latest picture in the gallery, in which my kickboxing friends are featured in a fighting stance. I think it speaks for itself.

Return to UltraFractal

Pink Fractal Spiral

Along with revamping my website, one of my goals this year has been to start uploading to Shutterstock and Dreamstime again with micro stock images. That means I’m playing with UltraFractal and creating some pretty eye candy like the spiral above. Although it isn’t cutting edge “Art” with a capital A, it’s fun to create these pictures and they make me happy. And I guess that’s what it’s all about.

Apollonian Gasket

Apollonian Gasket

An interesting mathematically based image, I created this Apollonian Gasket with UltraFractal. It is available on Shutterstock and Dreamstime. I’m not sure how I feel about using the watermarked image versus no watermark at all but this is the way it is for now.

From Wikipedia:

In mathematics, an Apollonian gasket or Apollonian net is a fractal generated starting from a triple of circles, each tangent to the other two, and successively filling in more circles, each tangent to another three. It is named after GreekmathematicianApollonius of Perga.


My New Project Page

Autumn Picnic – a project photo from 2015

After a long time away, I’m finally getting back to blogging by revamping my whole website. It’s still a process and I have more that I want to do but here is the latest. I’ve set up a Project Page with separate creative projects listed. Since I do many different things, using different media and styles, this seems like a good way to keep similar items together. I’m hoping it even keeps me a little better focused on working in series and sticking with things.

The link to the new page is

Currently, the 2 projects I have listed are my short-lived 365 Photo-a-Day Project and my just-scratching-the-surface McHugh BJJ Sports Photo Edits.

I hope you enjoy the new page and the 2 portfolio pages as well.

Training in a Community

Note: This post was originally written and posted on another website on January 6, 2017. I’m reposting it here to provide context to the continuing story of my fitness and especially my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Journey.

Coach Tony and Professor Pete

After enjoying my favorite cardio workout for 6 months, I recently introduced a friend to kickboxing and she loves it. However, she admitted to me at brunch this week that her biggest concern is that of being a newbie and not being good at it. She said she’s been trying to spread the “burden” of training with her around the group so nobody is stuck with her very often.

My heart goes out to her because I know the feeling well. I felt the same way when I tried jiu jitsu, and still sometimes feel the same in kickboxing. When a quick search on the internet highlights the best of the best in every endeavor under the sun, it’s sometimes hard to be an awkward adult beginner in modern society.

Fortunately, at McHugh’s BJJ Academy, adult beginners are embraced and encouraged. Our kickboxing sessions are group classes with a Coach or the Professor teaching and guiding. But we also rely on each other to learn. After doing warmup drills. we partner-train. Everyone is inevitably at a different level of experience and ability. Eventually, we all work with someone at a different level than our own, with the more experienced teammates helping the newer members. And that’s the beauty of it!

First, I told her that no one is born a master of anything. Every single person on the mat started as a beginner somewhere along the line. Second, the more time you spend on the mat (#BOM or #BeOntheMat) training, the better you’ll be. You’ll get more lessons, train with more people, and learn faster.

Third, our jiu jitsu/kickboxing school is also a community. Although we improve as individuals, the school community improves at the same time. The better each of us becomes, the better partners we become to everyone else. It’s to our advantage to help newer members get better, because we then have better partners to train with. And we all improve by training with more teammates. It’s a great uplifting cycle!

Bottom line – it’s fun to mix it up and it becomes a win-win for everyone. If you’re concerned about being a beginner, find a place that encourages newbies, show up, train hard, learn, improve, and help your teammates do the same! It may take awhile but you’ll improve, your teammates will improve, and your school/community will improve.

McHugh Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
McHugh BJJ Facebook Page
McHugh Kickboxing Facebook Page

Next – Look for the Little Wins