Choke Hold

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Choke Hold





Choke Hold Mark Leahy
















































































































Mark Leahy Choke Hold

Jiu-Jitsu is a system of close combat that may also be seen as a way of life which connects people from Japan to Brazil and beyond. Like many martial arts, Jiu-Jitsu was initially developed as a tool for warfare, to take down and immobilise armoured opponents. But in its contemporary manifestation, Jiu-Jitsu allows its practitioners to break down their own challenges by demonstrating that every position has an advantage, forcing them to become comfortable in the uncomfortable. While appearing an undeniably masculine sport, Jiu-Jitsu possesses feminine elements, producing a kind of ambivalence. It’s name, meaning ‘gentle art’ or ‘yielding art’. It was my curiosity into its duality, caught between gentleness and brutality, which inspired this project. I set out to explore the relationship between intimacy and violence among training partners, the speed and gracefulness of the techniques, their structural and fluid nature. This book is the culmination of my 10-week documentary study of LakeLand JiuJitsu, a local gym in Mullingar. I started this journey by totally immersing myself into the culture of this sport. I began training at the gym, getting to know the members, going to competitions, and studying the history and philosophy, all to gain a better understanding of this martial art. I documented every facet of this experience, from the training, techniques, victories, defeats and friendships. While making this work, I encountered negative preconceptions of Jiu-Jitsu and its practitioners. I wanted to show, and help the participants in the project to show, the true nature of the sport as I experienced it, in a community that was friendly and open. I recognised its strong sense of fraternity and met wise, philosophical and spiritual people who were keenly aware, and utterly respectful, of their training partner’s safety, health and awareness of techniques. Through Jiu-jitsu, I have come to understand that I am ultimately no different from anyone else, no better and no worse. Discrepancies in size, strength and skill level, and dualistic concepts like winning and losing, only feed the illusion of separation. Some will always eclipse you in ability, and you will surpass others, but beneath the physicality there is an interconnected spirit and it is on this plane that we are all similar. Jiu-Jitsu and the other martial arts help us understand this, because they sternly expose the limitations, and ultimately, the impermanence of the physical body. On the mat, we must all face our own weaknesses and recognise our strengths.


This book would not have been possible without my family and all the people in my life who have contributed to my development as a person and as an artist. Thanks to Audrey and David, my parents, for all their love, trust, patience, and guidance. Thanks to Ann Curran and Anthony Haughey for their supervision and direction. Special thanks to everyone at Lakeland Jiu-Jitsu for being so accommodating, and welcoming me into their community. I have made lasting friendships which will forever influence and guide me. Thank you for teaching me the power of failure and the importance of patience.

First edition, Printed & bound by PlusPrint IRE Paper: Munken Polar Rough Font: Baskerville Old Face markleahy.ie




Mark Leahy