An Interview with BJJ Hacks
For those of you that have been living under a rock for the last ten years or so, BJJ hacks is one of the top companies out there producing consistently excellent BJJ documentaries, or as they would say "BJJ Hacks is the #1 source for Jiu-Jitsu TV on the web -- we inspire martial artists to become better grapplers." I had a chat with Hywel Teague, the main man behind it all to see what it's all about and take a closer look at what is - BJJ Hacks.
Patches O'Toole : So tell us a little about yourself and BJJ Hacks, what part of the world you come from and how you first got in to BJJ.
Hywel : BJJ Hacks is a jiu-jitsu media company – what began as a simple magazine-style website quickly morphed into exclusively video content featuring only the biggest and best names from the world of jiu-jitsu. For the last three-plus years, I’ve been steadily releasing short videos on YouTube while working on a few larger projects due for imminent release and also contributing to other media outlets such as major magazines etc.
As for me – I’m from the UK, South Wales to be precise, and I live in Rio de Janeiro. My BJJ journey began in the early 2000s with an initial interest in MMA and I dabbled in a bit of everything before focussing solely on jiu-jitsu in 2009.
Patches O'Toole : Where did your initial interest in film come from?
Hywel : I studied media moons ago and have always been a cinephile, but the majority of my journalistic career was spent working exclusively in print media. It wasn’t until I moved to Rio that I began making videos. There was a steep learning curve and I cringe when I see the production quality of my early efforts. My background in photography helped a lot though.
Patches O'Toole : The production quality on your films is always excellent, is it difficult to achieve such quality with such limited resources?
Hywel : I shoot very light – what they call ’run and gun’. I use only what I can carry in a backpack, and while some people might find this limiting for me it gives me a lot of freedom. I can shoot on a moment’s notice, go anywhere and can film pretty much anything in front of me.
The quality of the end product doesn’t necessarily depend on the equipment you used or the size of your team – it’s about the consistency of your efforts, your ability to get the right shots and your creativity in combining everything together during the editing stage.
Patches O'Toole : What would be your dream film to make, if budget were no object?
Hywel : I have a few of those in mind but I daren’t share them in case someone else robs them! But 7th degree Sylvio Behring once suggested a fantastic idea – get as many of the Gracies who surf together as you can, fly them to a renowned surf sport on an island somewhere, and have at it. I can only imagine what kind of film that would make, it would be amazing.
Patches O'Toole : You have filmed many notable BJJ personalities over the years, who would you say were some of the most inspiring characters you have met?
Hywel : Just because somebody is good at jiu-jitsu doesn’t make them a good person or mean they’re of good character, so I try not to idolise figures within jiu-jitsu. They’re only human after all. But in terms of jiu-jitsu, I’ve been inspired by almost everyone that I’ve filmed. Some have inspired me to try new things and adopt new ideas into my own game, some have inspired me with their work ethics and focus, while others inspire me in the way they think about jiu-jitsu or the way they roll.
Patches O'Toole : Having met most of the top competitors and coaches in the world of BJJ, are there many notable traits you find they all have ?
Hywel : Honestly no. It would be easy to say something like their focus or attention to detail, but there are many average people in the world with these same qualities. Jiu-jitsu is very much dependent on the individual, and therefore nobody’s jiu-jitsu is the same. Their defining traits are reflective of their personalities and so it’s rare to find people with much in common. Finding what makes them special is one of the most challenging parts of my work.
Patches O'Toole : How important is sponsorship in ensuring you get to keep producing these documentaries?
Hywel : BJJ Hacks wouldn’t exist without the continued support and sponsorship of my long-term partners Scramble and Tatami Fightwear, and this year I also worked with Gawakoto and BrazilianBlackBelt.com. Everything BJJ Hacks makes is made possible by their support.
Patches O'Toole : Where would you like to take BJJ Hacks, in say 5 or 10 years time ?
Hywel : My ultimate goal is to develop BJJ Hacks into a major media production company that specialises in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. BJJ Hacks will continue to grow and my plan is to release a number of videos and shows longer than the current web series. In addition to this, we plan to release a number of offshoots and imprints that will produce digital products, apparel and much more.
Patches O'Toole : Is there anyone out there you still really want to interview ?
Patches O'Toole : Finally, give us a shameless plug on how the BJJ community can help to make sure we keep seeing these awesome documentaries.
Hywel : Simple, go to www.bjjhacks.com