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Jiu Jitsu; the art of a white belt

Updated: Feb 25, 2019

Tessa and I after an open roll. P.S. You can catch Tessa around Halifax teaching yoga - I highly recommend her classes!

My friend Tessa invited me to check out a fundamentals class at Halifax BJJ Society mid January, suggesting that it might be something I would be interested in. During our first class I had the giggles while trying to follow along in the warm up: leg circles, kicks out and up, side fall, tumbling, rolling, shrimping --- yes I said "shrimping"! Shrimping with one leg; shrimping with two legs, shrimping forwards (youtube link for the visual).. everything was super foreign and felt very awkward. Though, once we got into the technique portion of the class I started to see how the warm up movements fit in to the actual grappling... and I was hooked.

Jiu Jitsu is incredibly humbling and the community at Halifax BJJ Society is very supportive. As a white belt I am just trying to survive, work on my defence, and focus on staying calm while embracing the extreme discomfort. I find myself in all sorts of weird new positions and I am learning to be "ok" where ever I am. My adrenaline spikes when I am squashed or pinned down, but all I can do is just breath and look for the ways in which I can pass guard and then try to pass with intention. TRY being a key work. Most times I don't get anywhere, but each time it starts to become muscle memory. Timing is also a large part of it. There are moments when I see an opening and I am like, "oh I know this!" I get excited and I go for it and then my limbs do the opposite of what I am visualizing and this is when I realize that no, I do not know it.. (yet)! I am beginning to connect the dots. This is all part of being a fresh white belt. That and a lot of bruises.

Watercolour study on paper, 3ft x 2ft.

I have been going to fundamental classes now for 11 months. I have grown a lot during this time, not just in my jits life but in my art life as well. Prior to BJJ, I was in the middle of creating a series of paintings. I would watch contemporary dance performances online and screen shot hundreds of stills to capture different expressions and movement. Then I would draw and build figurative compositions by arranging several of the frozen movements (left).

My art work focuses on war and conflict, which is heavily informed by my time as a woman in the Canadian Armed Forces and my combat experience in Afghanistan in 2008. With these drawings/paintings I tried to express the tension between intelligence and instinct. Initially I was thinking about the decisions we make in the heat of the moment, whether in a horrific situation or the most banal. I thought about the actions that we make. Do you push someone down as you step over? Do you lift someone up? Carry someone? Speak out? Hide or ignore? Let go? Do you give up?

I was thinking a lot about the soldier's experience in war and having to prepare for decisions that you will have to make and knowing that you have to live with them for the rest of your life. I found in making these figurative compositions, a way to create this tension physically.

Metamorphosis of the Monument, oil on canvas, 6ft x 6ft.

Rough sketch of repeat pattern, 9in x 12in.

During that first Jiu Jitsu class I recognized that by referencing Jiu Jitsu positions I could better express the tension that I wanted to create in my paintings.

Camo, oil on canvas, 16in x 20in.

My paintings began to form camouflage patterns. I have long accepted that camouflage is a prominent element in my work, though instead of using natural camouflage colours (painting left), I began to incorporate bright playful palettes (painting below).

Untitled, oil on canvas, 5ft x 6ft.

Additionally, I have been playing with repeat patterns. The painting above is a repeat pattern, though I did not repeat the colours in order to create a balanced and dynamic camouflage.

I am planning on developing more repeat patterns with a variety of colour palettes and printing them on fabric. Perhaps a rash guard is in the near future?! I will keep you updated! I would also like to print my simple line drawing studies of the positions on silk and make scarves. I can't wait to see how these drawings/paintings translate on fabric!

You can follow my process via instagram @jessicalynnwiebe !

Ooo, and I have been photographing the advanced no gi classes at Halifax BJJ Society and referencing the images to develop these compositions (unedited below)!

If you are looking to have your rolls photographed just give me a shout!!

What keeps you coming back to class?!

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