BJJ saved my… Art (???)

Allow me to present you a slightly different take on the overused and classic «BJJ saved my life, bro* !» Motto. (the “bro” is optional, bro).

My first consuming hobby has been drawing, and so, naturally, in my early twenties I tried to get something going on with my art. I did some commissioned work, some fantasy & sci-fi illustrations in the RPG field, and also some bands artworks, but I never managed to get the ball really rolling. This led me to little by little lose faith and motivation, and in consequence to slow down to an almost complete halt my drawing.

Furthermore, the pressure I felt trying« to make it» professionally was taking out all the fun away from the act of drawing. Feeling like each illustration needed to be my defining masterpiece brought too much stress into the process, and always ending up disappointed with the results took its toll. I also realized that I wasn’t able to conjure any real creativity in my art. My main visual influences came from the comics, the medieval fantasy and the sci-fi universes often explored in the role playing and tabletop games, and of course also the metal albums covers, so I tried to inject all of this material into my art, but everything I produced always felt so lame and cringe… It was just the talentless and uninspired regurgitation of the same old warriors and robots, the same old skulls, the same old masked vigilantes…

Does the world really need another Bisley wannabe?

Fast-forward 29 and I had almost abandoned drawing and painting, just barely scribbling on some rare occasions. It was at this time that I encountered Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, and as most practitioners, became immediately hooked, I went to training 5 times the first week. It turned into a complete obsession for a few years. Every second of my free time, every conscious thought, was dedicated to this burning new passion. The addiction finally dialed down a bit during my brown belt days, after about 8 years of intense practice. I now consider my relation to BJJ to be a healthy one : I train 2–3 times a week, teach some classes, and still love to compete a few times a year.

GOATest flyer of all time.

It’s when I became in charge of organizing the monthly open mats at my BJJ club in Paris a few years back that those crazy NYHC flyers I saw in fanzines in my late teens crept up to my mind ! Something clicked right away : wouldn’t it be fun to do some cool flyers for those open mats by mixing those passions of mine ? Maybe I could transpose this punk-HxC-metal energy I loved so much into the BJJ realm ! It seemed fresh and new, and at the time I had never seen such a combination.

High with excitement, I started drawing again with a first obsessive image : Kaneda from Akira in its classic iconic pose, but wearing in a BJJ GI !


Next came the Flying Khabibs :

Never mind the old IG handle

And after that, the They Live BJJ mashup:

This ended up as a sold out serigraph, and as my BJJ club’s shirt

I since did a lot of other BJJ related artworks and mini-comics, and the ideas started to flow non-stop, so much that I couldn’t even keep up, and in the end I wasn’t able to draw all of them. When COVID hit, I found myself with a lot of free time, and decided to produce a risograph collection of the BJJ comics and illustrations I had done, I also produced a free .pdf zine about stretching amongst other things.


It came to me after a while that I was able to tap into this new creative flow almost at will, and not only for my BJJ related illustrations, but for any other project. I am now almost burdened with so many ideas for comics and illustrations that I will never be able to draw them all in my remaining lifetime.

Another crucial thing I learned from practicing BJJ that I was able to incorporate into my drawing came from competing. I competed a lot since white belt, and after a few years of frustrating losses and fulfilling wins, I realized that the mindset one has to embrace to be able to overcome losing also translates very well for any creative endeavor.

The fear of messing up an illustration even before starting it petrified me. I would often redraw them countless times at the first sight of a mistake because I felt that I needed to produce my Mona Lisa tight here and now, with each new illustration. So, I started again and again from scratch at the first little minor inconvenience, hoping to produce a better version with each new iteration. Instead, came loss of interest and excitement for the subject, which of course led to worst results further down the line… Down until a final illustration was painfully excreted, devoid of any spontaneity, leaving me frustrated and discouraged.

When you compete in BJJ, especially if you’re not a professional, you’re soon slapped in the face with the realization that you are bound to lose at some point. It’s just part of the game. Me, I quickly realized and internalized that I wasn’t going to be the next BJ Penn, let alone a world champion. Even when training 5 times a week, I was still just a hobbyist comparing to others, and I’m at peace with that. Still, this hasn’t prevented me from having some great performances, some of which I am very proud of… Sometimes scoring some surprising upsets, and some even being losses where I gave it all, took no shortcuts, and searched for no excuses afterwards for once.

When shit happens in a BJJ match, the important thing is to not give up. Due to the nature of the rules of this martial art, even if you’re being steamrolled 30-0, the hope of catching the opponent with a submission to end up the winner always remain. It’s crucial to stay calm, assess the present situation, and find ways to improve it. At one point I came to the realization that the same goes for drawing : an ink stain, an error in anatomy or perspective… You can’t just take the easy way out and discard the illustration. You have to work with the reality of the situation and have got to find a way to make it work !

Instead of trying to be the best amongst others, I understand now I have to focus on being the best I can be. Even if this match I just lost isn’t my greatest performance, I can still use it as a learning tool for the next one. Same goes for my art production : this particular illustration I’m working on may not be perfect, but I now realize it’s just a step for the next one. My Mona Lisa is still waiting patiently for me somewhere down the line. By applying this mentality I learned thanks to BJJ competition to my art, I am now able to look past the imperfections of the situation and focus on finishing it. Done is better than perfect, always, and there will be another one after that, and another one after…

Thinking back, it really feels to me that BJJ unlocked something in my mind regarding creativity. The tap is now open, and I am able to drink from this source at will for my art. I wouldn’t be where I am right now with my creativity without BJJ, so…

BJJ did save my art… Bro !

For those interested in reading more about the creativity process, you’ll find more blog posts about it : here and here.

“Oss” as we say in this business of ours of breaking joints and choking people!

A theory: Acid Bath’s song “Scream Of the Butterfly” was inspired by a Grant Morrison character in Doom Patrol (+bonus stuff).

From the damp, wet bayous of Louisiana emerged the legendary sludge/doom metal band Acid Bath. Their frontman, Dax Riggs alternated between haunting witches screams and beautiful clear singing parts, which combined to the filthy sound of the melancholic guitar riffs contributed to this band’s unique sound, think a demon possessed David Bowie mixed with bluesy black metal, maybe?

His lyrical style is an ethereal collage of troubling images, a dark and beautiful macabre poetry evoking serial killers sniffing weird stuff, overdoses and mystical ramblings, and the ghost of Hitler on the radio… Or as he calls it himself : “murder ballads”.

The label choose (against the band’s will*) to use real art from serial killer John Wayne Gacy, aka Pogo The Clown.

*Edit : apparently this is up for debate, you can read the different opinions on the Reddit post here.

Back to our regular program: In Acid Bath‘s first album “When The Kite String Pops“, there is a beautiful ballad indeed, the eerie “The Scream Of The Butterfly“:

So what does this have to do with comics? Hang on, we’re setting the stage, we’re getting there!

So first, let’s establish Dax Riggs‘ love for comics. As he states in this interview, titled “Music Matters: Comic book fantasy inspires Dax Riggs “:

“Superheroes, comic books and the idea of multiple dimensions, alternate earths, that’s all the stuff I love to think about,” he said. “It makes me happy to think about magical things.”

And he was onto the good stuff:

“I was very moved by Alan Moore and Watchmen,” he said before confessing to ownership of every work the English writer has ever published.

Before “Watchmen” was repackaged as a graphic novel in 1987 and named one of Time’s 100 Best English language novels, Riggs bought all 12 issues in the miniseries as they were originally released, off the rack.

Surrounded by his favorite comics of the ’80s, his collection grew to include titles such as “Miracleman,” “Sandman” and Frank Miller fan favorites like “Ronin” and “The Dark Knight Returns.”

So he was onto Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman… I think it’s safe to assume that he was also onto Grant Morrison then… But for now, let’s first see if those comic’s influences showed up in his work indeed…

On the same album, the song Jezebel contains the line “Our Superman found dead in a telephone booth…” (What a chilling thought by the way…)

After Acid Bath‘s bassist Audie Pitre died in a tragic car accident caused by a drunk driver, the remaining members formed a slower more melodic band: Agents Of Oblivion, and this is the album cover:

Recognize the art?

The artwork is the Hand Of Glory, lifted from Mike Mignola‘s Hellboy story “Box Full Of Evil”:

This isn’t the only time Dax Riggs used Mike Mignola‘s art, he produced several stickers lifted from his artwork, like this one for example:

Ok, we have established that Dax Riggs was indeed injecting his love of comics into his lyrics. Back to Grant Morrison, this story called “The Butterfly Collector” was published in 1989:

It features the character Red Jack, who calls himself God and has a collection of pinned butterflies from which he arbours his power:

The butterfly’s suffering fuels Red Jack‘s powers:

In his palace, the background music consists of:

Sounds Familiar?

Acid Bath‘s song “The Scream Of The Butterfly” was released in 1994, it features the lyrics:

“She smiles like a child with flowers in her hair
With blood on her hands into the sun she stares
She feels it die, I heard her cry like the scream of the butterfly

I rest my case.

Since the writing of this article, it has been brought to my attention that the sentence appears in The Doors‘ song “When The Music is over“:

Before I sink Into the big sleep
I want to hear I want to hear
The scream of the butterfly

Which was inspired by a 1966 movie:

So who influenced who? Did the movie influence Morrison (Jim)‘s lyrics, who in turn influenced the comic’s writer Morrison (Grant)‘s who by a strange coincidence shares his last name, who then in turn influenced Dax‘s lyrics?

Bonus stuff : the lyrics from Scream Of The Butterfly also contain the following lines:

Rabbit howls like something old
As we twitch to her lullaby

Which were inspired by the book When Rabbit Howls, written by a recovering abused schizophrenic person as part of her therapy:

And that’s where it gets weird… Because Grant Morrison cited this book as an inspiration for the character Crazy Jane… From Doom Patrol, as documented here:

The bulk of these decisions, both positive and negative, have their roots in a common origin—the source that Morrison cites in Doom Patrol #20 as their inspiration for Crazy Jane, When Rabbit Howls, which Morrison describes, in language that prefigures their objectification of Jane, as “a peek at what reality looks like from the other side.”.

In the same song, you can also find the following lyrics:

“We dropped some acid, killed our parents
Then we hit the road”

Which feels very similar to the line on Sonic Youth‘s 1990 “Goo” cover art by Pettibon:

I also suspect that their song “The Blue” was inspired by a story from Alan Moore‘s mind-blowing incredible run on Swamp Thing : “The Nukeface papers“:

The story features a strange man who wanders around after an incident in a nuclear facility, he goes on rambling drinking some weird stuff, and ends up offering it to a homeless guy in the woods.

The results are quite problematic for the poor fellow… The unsuspecting man ends up slowly dying, and his last words are:

“The Blue”

By the way, his run also features a story called “By Demons Driven!” published in 1984…

Now where did I already saw this sentence again?

Oh that’s right! But that’s another story…

In Peter Bagge‘s “Hate” comic, this is what you can find in issue n°8, published in the spring of 1992:

Acid Bath‘s second and last album Paegan Terrorism Tactics which was released in 1996, opens up with the “Paegan Love Song”:

Which features the famous line:

“You scream, I scream
Everybody screams for morphine”

Now it’s true that the live “I scream, You scream, We all scream for Ice Cream” is pretty well known in American culture , but maybe Dax‘s influence comes from the comic, as the concept feels very similar.

In conlusion: I really encourage everyone to give a listen Acid Bath, they are one of my favorite bands, and their legendary statue is not usurped.

This time the label used some art from Jack Kevorkian aka Dr.Death

They only released two albums : “When The Kite String Pops” and “Paegan Terrorism Tactics“. Even if you’re not into metal, they got some more beautiful ballads apart from “Scream Of The Butterfly” that everyone can get into:

You can also try Agents Of Oblivion‘s only album, it’s more rock than metal, and thus more accessible (and also contains a really cool rocky cover of Dead Girl !):

After that, Dax Riggs went solo, leaving behind the metal genre. His beautiful voice can be heard on several albums, my personal favorite album being “We Sing Of Only Blood And Love” (which is true, isn’t it? We do…):

If you like his stuff, there are also some really cool unreleased demo songs (“Riding The Wormhole” for example) floating around that you can find using Soulseek.

You can also find his DIY poetry mini book “Shitting The Cold Deathhere.

Regarding the comics mentioned in this article, here is some good stuff:

Alan Moore : Apart from his more widely known works such as V For Vendetta, Watchmen, I particularly recommend his Swamp Thing and Miracleman runs.

Neil Gaiman : Sandman and Books Of Magics.

Grant Morrison : The Invisibles, The Filth and his Doom Patrol run.

Mike Mignola : Hellboy and his Alien story.

Frank Miller : Batman : The Dark Knight Returns, the firsts Sin City and Hard-Boiled.

Peter Bagge : Hate, Sweatshop (in which you’ll find a delightful roast of Neil Gaiman by the way in issue 5) and his Spiderman story.

Oh, and that Pettibon illustration? I did a BJJ 10th Planet crossover illustration reference by the way:

Now how’s that for niche!

Crap… I ended up talking BJJ again, we do are an annoying kind… that’s more than enough, no one is reading all that, peace out!