Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ladies' gi giveaway (guys too:)

GiReviews is giving away a 420 Light to ladies and either a 550 Comp or Kingz Ripstop to the guys...click here for more info.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Great Podcast on Stephen Hall

Just listened to a great podcast from Inside BJJ on Stephen Hall, a.k.a. Pesadelo Triangulo, his journey through BJJ, battle with cancer and some crazy competition schedules. I'm honestly just discovering their podcasts but this one had me cracking up. They do a good job on keeping two hours worth of material engaging.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

BJJ Weekly's site redesign made me sad, but it was a good idea.

I didn't catch on to BJJ Weekly until over a year into my training, but I loved its look from the start. The simple red, black and white. The unfussy logo that was little more than the site's name in a serifed font. The dude's back with the patch. The epic commercials. Loved it all. It was noble and clean, two words people don't necessarily associate with this gentle, grounded art. So when they announced they were going to change the site a couple of months back, I was intrigued as to what they'd come up with. When I saw the previews though, I was hurt. Like personally hurt. 

What's with the orange? Why the blue background on the site? What's all this shiny? All the bumpy? So much...energy and brightness. Sad though I was, I think it was a good call. Two things had happened...brand redesign and website redesign. Each has its own impact. 

Brand redesign happens for a number of reasons...new competitors, unwanted/unclear association with a brand, reflecting new strategic direction, even things just getting stale. We've seen it with everything from Google to Coke to the Denver Broncos to the Missile Defense agency. If I had to guess (and this is a complete guess, haven't talked to anybody over at BJJ Weekly), I'd put my money on a growing field of BJJ sites and newsletters hitting the web playing a part in the decision. It's important to keep yourself "fresh" in the eyes of your readers and, well, people have a tendency to get used to even the most beautiful and impactful things. I don't remember much from my online interior decoration classes, but I DO remember quite a bit of color theory, and if you ever want to project energy and electricity, bright orange is your friend. Add it to simple black and white and you get subtle verve. Paint a room with it and...well, you border on the exhausting and overwhelming, but all in all it's a dynamic and useful color. 

Website redesign...this one's a must. Its should always be in synch with the company's master brand (or else potential customers may get lost), but it also has to keep readers interested, and is also necessary to stay in compliance with current browser updates and SEO trends. It's been estimated as a need for any business that wants to stay relevant, anywhere from every 12 to 36 months depending on site complexity, which puts BJJ Weekly right on schedule.

So yeah, I think the new site will do them good, I think their readers will love it and thankfully, I can watch the commercials with tracks fit for a Lord of the Rings prequel on YouTube when I get nostalgic. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Branding in BJJ: Predator-Black Eagle

Thanks to some help from Liam over at The Part Time Grappler, I’m doing my first branding profile on a gi maker.

I’m kicking it off with one from the UK, that’s done a great job of using the internet to create awareness abroad. The Predator line of Brazilian jiu jitsu gis is actually a sub-brand under the martial arts supply company, Black Eagle. Definitely an interesting brand architecture, since sub-branding can be used to either maintain a brand or create distance from the parent brand, and most companies in niche markets tend to carry their brands very clearly through all their products. Predator though, still, is directly connected to the Black Eagle image, actual eagles being predators themselves. The name itself was actually born out of a video advertisement the company released back in 2010, “Unleash the Predator”.

I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not, but the umbrella logo of Black Eagle (a soaring eagle on a red circle) very much invokes the “rising sun” of the Japanese flag. When creating their line of gis, this concept appears deconstructed, with the eagle standing alone, and the Japanese component showing up in lettering on the gis themselves.

What sets the Predator line apart though, is the subtle messages it sends.  It projects an open and involved image, sharing sketches of gi concepts, photos of prototypes, and fostering discussion with its fans and potential buyers. It's doing an excellent job on its Facebook page of incorporating a solid mix of company news and posts that readers will find of practical use (gotta have both). It also creates wide-reaching product awareness through connections in the very active BJJ blog community, enabling it to continually take its image from a UK-based gi maker, to that of an international one.

Their most intriguing message though, is the seamless consideration of women in their advertising. The ad above for their Predadora line has been named as a favorite for multiple bloggers and is honestly just a great example of a solid ad that gets attention without distracting from the brand itself. The ad is still has a softness and a femininity (something I think can successfully be maintained when marketing to women, even in contact sports) but is very much about jiu jitsu and the product in question. 

On a side note, the previews of their new "Tamashii" gi are just gorgeous. I’m really looking forward to where they take their products and branding in the future.

Business in BJJ: How to use sex in advertising...

To play off one of Julia's most recent posts, this is how...

While I may not applaud the juxtaposition of the sexy and the deadly (though I do actually like the ad), I'm not offended by it. Men could be placed in the piece and it would be different, but still mostly unchanged. The athletic prowess of both women is clearly displayed and the sexy parts aren't sexualized. I actually think someone made an effort to tone down the sex in the video...short skirts and decolletage are visually obscured and shadows are strategically placed. You actually see more skin in the fight scenes.

I was feeling brave, so I took a look at the video comments, and anything sexual stemmed mostly from individual viewer interpretation. One comment said he wanted to see them kiss, but guys do the same stare-down, so that credit goes all to the guy watching.

Admittedly, you probably won't see John Jones prancing around in a suit to a grinding rock track for an ad anytime soon, but this spot is a step in the right direction. Maybe one day they'll even get rid of ring girls. I can only hope. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ask a Microbiologist: A series on the creepy-crawlies of BJJ.

So back in September, I conducted a really fun interview with a microbiologist friend of mine. Since then, there have been a few additional questions, not to mention some questionable advice popping up in forums across the internet. So...Brea has been kind enough to lend her services to any questions people want to send here. If you have any, post a comment here, or shoot it over here.

Here's a quick repeat of her background (in her words):

  • PhD in 2010 from Emory University in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics 
  • Dissertation on antimicrobial resistance in S. aureus (she used a MRSA strain)  
  • Postdoc at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Athens, GA a part of NARMS (National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring Service). They monitor, characterize, and describe antimicrobial resistance in the food chain. They also are involved in foodborne illness outbreak responses.
So first let me just say that my bias is definitely in thinking of bacteria in terms of communities. I did a postbac at the NIH in a lab that studied how bacteria build communities (aka biofilms) on your body. We used dental plaque as a model. What you have to understand is that you have basically three kinds of bacteria, and this can go for fungi as well, living on you: ones that are beneficial, ones that cause you to get sick, and ones that CAN cause you to get sick given the chance. There’s this beautiful and important balance that occurs when one is healthy. When one is sick and the proportion of the latter two categories overwhelm the beneficial bacteria, then you have problems. The other part of that is that many pathogenic bacteria are really only “visiting”. They live on you, but not all the time. If you have MRSA on you now, it doesn’t mean you will be colonized with it if you were checked in a month or so. We call that being transiently colonized, and about 30% of people are at any given time transiently colonized with MRSA. Doesn’t mean they get sick. So, from what I can tell, much of this antimicrobial craze is aimed at getting rid of the “visiting” bacteria before they try to make your body a more permanent residence.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ninjas saved my hair: Product review

So I'm finally writing a review of the zentai (more commonly known as a "catsuit") hood that I started using to protect my hair last year. Hair in jiu jitsu can be a serious liability...I still don't get how people with really long hair roll with it free. I just saw this great video of Leticia Ribeiro and I found myself watching that braid flopping around, waiting for it to get tangled or caught in something.

Anyway...the zentai hood. I'd gone hunting trying to find something that would protect my hair but wasn't as bulky as a wrestling slicker. A friend at work found this site. I purchased two to switch up just in case I ever forgot one in the recesses of my gym bag and it missed washing.

Ordering: The site (www.milanoo.com) is simple to use with a bundle of payment options, including PayPal...pretty standard for any company out of China that ships to an international market. They even have a handy-dandy currency converter that can be used while you shop. Shipping was what some would consider slow, as it took about 3 weeks to get it, but that does happen if you're ordering internationally. Shipping came in around $10.

Wear: Decently comfortable. Like the review on the website says, the neck is a little tight, but I've gotten used to it. It's made of spandex, so it's not bulky and fits snugly. I've noticed that during sparring, it does tend to slip back some and even completely off on some occasions, but 90% of the time, it stays where it needs to. Between rounds, I pull the top behind my head and just pull it back forward when I'm ready to train again.

Construction: The stitching is solid and one has just now started to have a little string come loose, but it's far from serious. It's made of six separate panels and zips up in the back. I was worried at first at grappling with a zipper (it's only about 3/4" long) but no problems yet.

Wash: It gets just as funky as any shirt/rashguard would. I just toss it in to wash with my gi and dry on delicate. No problems or deformities so far.

Effectiveness: Just got my highlights redone today and had to ask my stylist. She said my hair's light years better than it was after my first year of training. I've actually been able to grow it out while training, which I thought would have been impossible.

Overall: I doubt it's very effective in preventing cauliflower ear--I'm not really prone to it so it might not be doing anything at all. I definitely recommend it though if you're looking to save your hair or receive lots of ninja related compliments and cracks.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I got my muppet feet!!

So I finally bought my Vibrams (a.k.a. "toe shoes" or "minimalist shoes").

I...love...them...and they love me.

I could seriously live in them. I've never considered myself much of a barefoot kinda person, but I think I am deep down and just have a fear of the floor/ground. Like...I HATE being barefoot anywhere but freshly cleaned surfaces because I don't like things getting on my feet.

I'd put off buying them for almost a year now because of the cost...I don't know why, but I used to spend more on plastic and rubber on my feet when I was a broke-ish college student. Now though, it just seems silly. Between the cost and the universal admonitions that you HAVE to go in to a store to get fitted (I'm also anti-mall) it just wasn't happening. Well, I finally went to the site and lo and behold, they had a fitting video.

So I got my handy-dandy measuring tape, found my size (not what I would have guessed it would be) and got to ordering. They came today and I was beyond psyched. While I do love them, it's um, likely going to be a while before I can get them on quickly. I keep jamming two toes into one toe slot (which is mad uncomfortable), but I'm slowly getting the hang of it. I love you khussa, but they seriously just may become my new work shoes.

I'm kinda now wishing I would have gotten a darker color, but I'll definitely be getting another pair.