Elite athletes are often unapproachable; a notable exception is the BJJ athlete. At big tournaments you will find black belt World Champions and legends of the sport in the stands like everyone else enjoying the event: Saulo Ribeiro; Leandro Lo; Marcelo Garcia; Andre Galvao; Buchecha, to mention a few. Fans approach their favorite Jiujiteiro, ask for a picture or an autograph with ease, and the athletes happily oblige.
This culture of approachability makes my job of photographing Jiu Jitsu athletes a blessing. They welcome me to their mats and have allowed me access to document their training and competitions. I sometimes wince as I focus in on an unforgiving Kimura, at the cauliflower ears and taped, gnarly fingers, all evidence of a sport gentle but powerful, with lasting inflictions. My camera and I have seen the injuries and the hard work it takes to become a champion.