5 Quick Tips To Help Document Your BJJ Journey

5 Quick Tips To Help Document Your BJJ Journey

5 Quick Tips to Help You Document Your BJJ Journey
By:  Greg Hamilton - Head Instructor at Carlos Machado Jiu Jitsu Mid Cities (Bedford, Texas)

Do you have a cell phone that takes photos and video?  For sure you do.  You are probably using your cell phone to read this article.  Congratulations, you're 90% there.  The rest is simply making a conscious effort to actually remember to take photos and not be lazy! 

Before I started training Jiu Jitsu back in January of 2004, I was crazy about photography.  The problem was that I only started taking a lot of photos and videos after Blue Belt for some reason, which was when my desire to document everything became a priority.  So that is exactly what I did after not taking many photos when I was a white belt (Can You Hear Me Cry?). 

I began taking a lot of photos because right around that time digital photography was getting popular and accessible.  Fast forward almost 16 years later, I have taken tens of thousands of photos, mostly related to either my daughters or Jiu Jitsu.  Photography is a great creative outlet and it compliments Jiu-Jitsu very much because you have to document your Jiu Jitsu journey.

Our 5 Quick Tips are listed below.  But first, as proof, please visit:

My personal Instagram -  
Machado Black Belt Instagram

Our Academy Instagram - 
Carlos Machado Jiu Jitsu Mid Cities Instagram

I take a lot of pride in my photos, and I as you see, I take a lot of photos with pride.  Don't think I didn't have countless moments where I did not take any photos.  I would look back at that loss of captured moments with sadness.  Eventually I simply decided that no matter what I am going to take some photos.  Repetition made it habit and conscious awareness made a priority.

Document Your BJJ Journey - You Only Live Once!!

One of the biggest regrets that I have related to Jiu Jitsu is that I did NOT take nearly as many photos as I should have at white belt.  I felt totally lost when I started training Jiu Jitsu because I was 260 lbs, athletic shape, six and a half foot tall and totally unable to do anything to very small humans who would destroy me all the time.

I really began documenting my Jiu Jitsu journey at blue belt, which was approximately 18 months after I started training in January 2004.  Digital photography was much more popular by the end of 2005 so I really went crazy and took hundreds and hundreds then thousands of photos using my digital camera.

This was before I got an iPhone and way before iPhone came with a good camera like current models do.  Today it’s really easy to take great photos with you smart phone and have them accessible at any time.  Plus you have a great video camera on hand as well.  Videos are very important.  When you record yourself rolling and training you can clearly see where you need to improve and what to work on.

When we start Jiu Jitsu and fall in love with training, we do not realize that inevitably time will pass, we will get much better at Jiu Jitsu, our bodies will change dramatically and we will get into the best shape of our lives and much more.  Its important to document this progress.  Not only the physical, technical BJJ progress, but your overall progress and development as a whole, which is usually life changing. 

The 5 Quick and Effective Tips

Tip #1 - Always Make Sure Your Cell Phone is Nearby When You Need to Use It

There is nothing worse than missing that precious once in a lifetime moment when your team mates and friends earn that sudden promotion in the middle of class.  Whether a belt or a stripe, this is a moment that will NEVER repeat, and only happens ONCE IN A LIFETIME...  I cannot explain to you how many times I have been training and Master Machado all of a sudden decides to promote somebody.  Sometimes even to Black Belt.  I always have my phone and am aware that this is the time to take photos and even video.  

Your friends will cherish these photos like gold.  If I am in class and there is a promotion I always made it my mission to capture these moments on video for by brothers and sisters.  Believe me, this seems like no big deal, but there is nothing worse than seeing a promotion that is not documented.  Its truly sad.  But because now you are ready, aware and prepared, thanks to you these moments will always be captured by photo and even video.



Tip #2 - Always Think Ahead and Charge Your Cell Phone Before Going to Train

This should actually be Tip #1.  Can you imagine the horror of seeing a good friend and training partner be called upon by your Professor to be promoted to Black Belt, and as you grab your cell phone to take photos and videos, you realize you are at 2% battery?  You snap one photo and the phone dies.  Sure, one photo is better than none, but what a priceless moment YOU just missed.  Hopefully others will take their phones and snap some photos, but you know that NOBODY takes photos like you do.  And today of all days, you dropped the ball.  So be prepared, make sure your cell phone is charged before class.



Tip #3 - Make Sure You Get Permission from Your Professor to Take Photos and Videos

Some academies have a rule where they do not allow photograph or videos whatsoever.  On one hand this is a good rule because then cell phones are left in the locker room or gym bag and do not distract anybody during training with endless annoying notifications and calls.

Nothing worse than when your Professor is showing technique, its so quiet you can hear a "Pin Drop" and your cell phone starts blaring with that crazy ring tone you just downloaded.  You have only one choice and that is to raise your hand and plead guilty in front of the whole class.  Not fun at all.   

If your academy allows photography and cell phones near the mats, you should still inquire out of respect with your Professor if its OK to take photos and videos.  Even though it probably is OK, it never hurts to ask just as a sign of respect.


Tip #4 - Always Send Photos of Special Moments to Your Academy & Person Who was Recognized

Always remember that the reason you are taking these photos is to "Give".  These photos are intended to be taken and given to your Professor so they can have the option to share them on social media or website.  These photos are also intended to be given to the person recognized so that they can share these moments first, not you.

Nowadays its easy for us to get lost in the desire to be the FIRST one who makes a post of a special moment on Instagram or Facebook.  But these moments are NOT about you.  They are about the OTHER person.   This is why you should sent them the photos, and tell them that you took these photos and captured these moments for them.  And ask their permission if its OK for YOU to post these photos. 

Most certainly your friend will say of course, go ahead and post.  But you should definitely have the discipline to let them make the first post, and then you can share that moment as well giving the other person the spotlight, vs taking it yourself.  Give, and you shall receive.

EXAMPLE - My 5 Year Old Daughter's 1st Stripe Promotion <--- Click) - This is a great example of priceless moment that was not lost.  One of the parents was ready with their phone and snapped this priceless moment of me promoting my daughter to her 1st ever stripe on her white belt.  I did NOT know the mom took this photo.  When she sent it to me, I was so touched by this simple but incredibly meaningful gesture. 


Tip #5 - Learn to Use Video of Your Training Rolls and Competition Matches to Improve Your Jiu-Jitsu Drastically

Until you see yourself rolling for the first time on video, you will never know what your Jiu Jitsu really looks like.  DISCLAIMER - When you see yourself on video for the first time, you may be horrified, disgusted and saddened that what you thought you looked like is definitely NOT what you really look like on video.

Consider this a blessing.  Once you see your defects on video, you will iron them out immediately.  You will be inspired to improve.  You will be inspired to polish.  To make the needed adjustment or to simply learn what to do and what you are not doing the right way.

Don't get me wrong, you will also see on video a lot of things you are doing well and right during your rolls.  However the priority is to fix the defects that we idenfied first, and then enjoy those brief moments when we pull off something that looks good.   Then after you make the needed adjustment, take more video, review it, polish and repeat, you will see a huge improvement in your BJJ.

Also, be ready to take videos of priceless moments like unexpected promotions in the middle of class, will always keep you in high regard with your training partners and friends because it really shows you care about them in a major way.  Especially if you follow the other tips that we have listed this article.

Video is ESSENTIAL - Take Videos of Your Training & Rolling

At blue belt, I also began taking videos of my sparring and rolling during training.  It was so eye opening to see how uncoordinated and horrible I looked.  Thinking I'm all graceful while rolling (Feeling like I'm rolling like the guys on tournament DVDs) when in reality I looked painfully clumsy and jerky, which just made me cringe and inspired me to make immediate corrections and improvement.  

Without video I would never see this disaster called my uncoordinated Jiu Jitsu, so after correcting and recording and then reviewing the videos, it all got much better and my Jiu Jitsu really improved big time. Especially when I began to actively compete, the videos became even more priceless. 

There is nothing like stepping onto the mats when it’s your time to compete.  To miss these moments by not taking photos and videos is a pure tragedy.  You will regret it, and won’t even know it.  So take my advice.  Take endless photos and videos whenever you can.

What Changes To Expect Along Your BJJ Journey?

When I look back to when I started Jiu Jitsu, I don't even recognize the former version of myself.  First and foremost I lost over 30 pounds within 2-3 months of starting to train.  It was crazy to see how much let’s say, "Fatter" my face looked, my stomach, my whole body.  It was as if I shed a fat suit and turned into something that resembles an athlete.

Today im in the best shape of my life and float around 215-220 lbs.  When I look back at old photos I also see my posture.  I see how slouched I was.  I see how much my posture revealed back then.  I was very tall and hunched over.  It simply looked weak and horrible.  But I never saw this.  I never knew this.  My posture got corrected when I really began to feel the empowerment from training.  It was only a few months into training.  I was so proud of my gains, and failures, and progress and the road ahead.

You can totally see in the photos what a huge noticable difference mentally is visible in phtos between the beginning of my BJJ Journey, the middle and today.  My mental state was all revealed in my posture.  Thanks to Jiu Jitsu all of these defects got resolved and I feel that today at 45 I can dominate the 35 year old version of my prior self, and for sure the 25 year old version without any issue.  

There are many other changes you will undergo as well.   One important one is that you will pick much more stylish and fitting Gis and will cringe when you see yourself in old photos clueless with messed up hair, wearing a thick uncomfortable Judo Gi, with a stretched white T Shirt instead of nice rash guard underneath, thinking you are the man/woman.  Today the Gis fit amazingly and an endless variety is available.  

Kingdom Fight Wear and Rolldawgz make really great Gis which fit very well as an example.
Click on the RED and YELLOW links to check out their catalogs.

Overall, as you advance and progress through your Jiu Jitsu journey, you will change all the time for the better in many ways.  Its truly amazing.  Talk about always striving to be a better version of yourself?  This is the ultimate way.  Especially if you have a credible and serious lineage, you will be inspired by the demands of accountability from your Professor and his or her Professor etc.  Lineage is everything in Jiu Jitsu.  Looks at black belt as a degree and your Professor's linage as the name of the University.  You want a degree from Harvard or Community College?  You decide.

Time Will Pass, You’ll Get Better & Won't Believe How You've Changed & Evolved Physically, Mentally & More

Few things in life feel more gratifying than progressing and improving in Jiu Jitsu.  The pure joy of earning a promotion in the form of a stripe or the insanely indescribable feeling of moving up to the next BELT only HAPPENS ONCE IN A LIFE TIME. 

Remember this reality, because it’s true.  Every promotion happens ONCE IN A LIFETIME.

Enjoy, appreciate and be in the present moment of every promotion whether stripe or belt.  It will only HAPPEN ONCE IN YOUR LIFE because you will never earn your blue belt twice, nor any other belt or stripe.  Once in a life time.  Think about that reality.  Be in the present moment during every roll and training session.  You owe it to yourself.

And ofcourse take a lot of photos.  Save them forever.  Even the bad ones.  Take a lot of videos of yourself rolling.  Especially if you are competing.  Just don’t think, and you will thank me later for this advice.  Buy a mini tri pod, and take photos and video.

In closing, we wanted to share as an example, a variety of our social media accounts where we are constantly uploading new video and photographic content daily:

Facebook - Carlos Machado Jiu Jitsu Mid Cities

Instagram - Greg Hamilton - Machado Black Belt 

Instagram - Carlos Machado Jiu Jitsu Mid Cities

You Tube - Carlos Machado Jiu Jitsu Mid Cities

Vimeo - Carlos Machado Jiu Jitsu Mid Cities

Thank you for reading this article.  We are certain it will influence you to take more photos and videos.




Carlos Machado Jiu Jitsu Mid Cities Texas
2843 Central Drive., Bedford, TX  76021 
Article Written by:  Greg Hamilton, Machado Black Belt & Head Instructor of Kids and Adults Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

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