The result is a series of illustrated sequences that reveal the intricate placement and positioning of body parts, assumed in rapid succession, that constitute a successful “takedown.” The arms and legs, for obvious reasons, play an important role in successful movement, and so Tony’s illustrations focus on these aspects of the movement, emphasizing their importance. Although these are crucial elements of Jiu-Jitsu, Tony did not appreciate these intimate interactions between two bodies until he wrote about them: “There are wonderful principles of structural engineering in all combat sports, a lot of balance breaking (Kuzushi) and framing that you enjoy when you draw,” he says. “These techniques (of misdirection, triangulation, and leverage) are the great equalizers that allow people of all shapes, sizes, and ages to ride together.”
Beyond their function as helpful and informative guides to the sport, Tony’s illustrations also serve as captivating works of art. Rendered almost like abstract patterns and captured using bright, contrasting colors, they defy typical visual associations with martial arts – and Tony is pleased with that. “I find that the aesthetic of the sport of grappling doesn’t reflect the people who train in the sport; usually there’s a lot of macho imagery like cobra snakes, camos and lightning bolts,” he tells us. “But most of the people I train with are funny, friendly and relaxed. Images closer to a Saul Steinberg drawing or a Mattise collage seemed to go over well.
Tony’s artwork is currently available for purchase as NFT on OpenSea, and the collection will be in print soon.