Wellington Big Bash 2016 Favourites

I’m a little late on this, but I finally got to choosing my favourite shots from this event. Wellington Big Bash 2016 was my 2nd boxing shot, and I have to say that I was pleased with the results, especially upon seeing the improvements since shooting The Trade Off last year. I think a big part of it was because the ring was well lit so I had more flexibility when snapping these. I still missed cues sometimes as I’m still getting used to looking for the twitch (it’s quite different from Muay Thai fights), but overall I think I didn’t do too badly.

Below are my favourite shots from the night. Check out Silver Duck’s website to view all photos from this event.

Copyright © 2016 Silver Duck. All rights reserved.

New dojo!

Yesterday, Aikido Tenshindo Wellington dojo moved to a new location at 2 Bell Road, Brooklyn. I have been a part of this Aikido family for over 3 years now, and I admit it was really hard having to move location.


The dojo at the old location

This was the second relocation I was a part of within 6 months, with Combat Room moving to a new location in October last year. Saying goodbye was never easy, but it was heart-warming to see so many club members showed up and helped with the move. There were so many of us that the whole move was done in under 2 hours. I haven’t seen a lot of them for awhile too because many of us come to class at different times of the day and week, so there are many members who I only get to meet at seminars, gradings, or club’s social functions.

The move itself was a lot more of a ritual for me. I wanted to help out, and I also needed to do it. It was my way of saying thank you and goodbye to the space that had provided us roof for us to train under, then saying hello to the new space that would let us continue our training, and I’m going through it together with everyone else.

Our new space is very spacious, it’s also a home to a couple of other clubs. We explored the space yesterday, we found a hidden staircase to the attic (by hidden I meant easy to miss), and quite frankly the attic was pretty awesome and have an amazing view. It looks like we’d be on a cleaning mission sometimes in the next week to spruce up our new home.

New beginning at the new place, as much as I’m sad to leave the old place, I’m excited to train at the new dojo! I feel blessed to be a part of this Aikido family.


Aikido Tenshindo Wellington family

Looking back

Also posted here.

In the past 3 years, I have grown to love coming to training at Combat Room Muay Thai on Ghuznee St, Wellington. I found the gym when I decided that I’ve had enough of sitting around after 10 years of absence from martial arts. On Wednesday, I attended my last training session at the Ghuznee St gym. CRMT is moving to a new location on Hania St in about a week.

This is not the first time Combat Room moved location, but it is the first time for me, so I won’t lie, it’s hard to say goodbye to the place. I have emotional connection to that place and the people I met through the gym, but as someone pointed out, it’s a good thing to have that sort of attachment, but changes are inevitable, so just move with it, and see where it takes you.

Apart from the health benefits and friendships forged at this place, CRMT and the CR family are also largely responsible in developing my photography skills. I’m forever thankful to Charlie (RIP) who gave me the opportunity and had faith in me to shoot my very first ring side gig at Combat 1, and to Pete and Dex, who encourage me to keep taking photos. Over time, I learned so much about the mechanics of fight photography, and I learned more about my gear and its limitation (and how to push it).

So today I’m taking a look back and share the progress and improvement of my fight shots since I started shooting fights, thanks to Combat Room.



Joe Kelly (Alpha) vs Manuel Mancini (Jai) at Honour 4.

Honour 4 was the very first Muay Thai fight I have ever shot. I took the shots from the audience seats while also supporting my friends who were fighting on that night.



The North Island WMC Light Welterweight Full Muay Thai Rules Title Fight: Michael Foy (JAI) vs Jesse Mika (SMAC AKL), at Honour 5.

At Honour 5, I started to learn more about timing, and how to anticipate, turns out it’s not that much different than anticipating an attack while sparring or fighting, you are still looking for that twitch a split second beforehand.


Rehua Smallman (Combat Room) vs Tipene Maniapoto (Zero Tolerance) at Combat 1


Aisea Lealea (Combat Room) vs Jason Solomon (JAI) at Combat 1

Combat 1 was my very first ring-side fight photo gig, and the first thing I noticed when I stood by the ring that night was that everything looked so different from there.

Desmond Jones vs Gene-Gregory Elbourne - Siam 1

Desmond Jones (JAI) vs Gene-Gregory Elbourne (MAI Dojo) at Siam 1


Tomo Greer (JAI) vs Mamta Morganan (ETK) at Siam 1

With one of the Combat Room boys fighting at Siam 1, I decided that I would like to come along and watch the fights (with my camera in tow, of course). I asked the organizer if it’s ok to bring a camera and gave her the link to where I’d put my pictures up, and that’s how I ended up at ring side, she asked if I would take picture at ring side, and of course I said yes. I found myself more comfortable this time around, and in general I was happy with the results, but I also learned that I need to work on my endurance so that the results of my shot are consistent throughout the whole event.

Gerard Roach vs Daniel Chadfield

Gerard Roach (ALPHA) vs Daniel Chadfield (Relentless) at Honour 7


Rehua Smallman (COMBAT ROOM) vs Rick Smith (STRIKEFORCE) at Honour 7

To date, I found my best shots were from Honour 7 fights, mainly due to the great lighting setup and the venue, and I was happy with the overall result of the shoot.



Rosie Duxfield (ALPHA) vs Louise Fuller (BULLDOGS) at Honour 8


Carl “Meat” Tangen at Honour 8

I found many problems shooting at Honour 8 due to the lack of lighting, and it was the driving force for me to try out another lens that I have been eyeing for awhile for my next shoot.

Rohan Clark vs Kristopher Annear at The Trade Off

Henry Harper vs Kev Patterson at The Trade Off

The Trade Off was my very first boxing match I shot, and it was also the first time my partner and I shot a gig under Silver Duck.

Thank you for the amazing years at Ghuznee St!

Photo by J Mealings

Our big happy Combat Room family! – Photo by J Mealings

Koshi Nage

I personally have a love-hate relationship with this technique, but it is no doubt a beautiful technique, and also a beautiful one to take photos of. These are my favourite two from the October 2014 grading. To view all photos, click here.

All images are © copyright of the photographer. You may NOT replicate, manipulate, modify, or use these images in any way without permission.


Thomas executing Koshi Nage at his Shodan grading


Roger executing Koshi Nage at his Shodan grading

Aikido Grading (October 2014) – part 4

The final part for Aikido October 2014 grading photos.

View part 1 here (Warm up – 4th Kyu).

View part 2 here (3rd Kyu)

View part 3 here (1st Dan)

All images are © copyright of the photographer. You may NOT replicate, manipulate, modify, or use these images in any way without permission.

Sandan (3rd Dan) Grading

Aikido Grading (October 2014) – part 3

View part 1 here (Warm up – 4th Kyu).

View part 2 here (3rd Kyu)

View part 4 here (3rd Dan)

All images are © copyright of the photographer. You may NOT replicate, manipulate, modify, or use these images in any way without permission.

Shodan (1st Dan) Grading

Aikido Grading (October 2014) – part 2

The continuation of the Aikido grading post. There are quite a lot of photos for the 3rd Kyu and the Dan gradings, so I will post them as separate posts soon.

View part 1 here (Warm up – 4th Kyu)

View part 3 here (1st Dan)

View part 4 here (3rd Dan)

All images are © copyright of the photographer. You may NOT replicate, manipulate, modify, or use these images in any way without permission.

Sankyu (3rd Kyu) Grading

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Aikido Grading (October 2014) – part 1

I can’t believe this was the first time I watched the Aikido grading in the Wellington dojo (after being a student here for over a year!). I was pretty excited about it too! I’ve been wanting to bring my camera along to take pictures of Aikido training for awhile, but I can’t exactly take pictures while training, so I thought grading was the perfect time to do it. I couldn’t take the pictures of the training after lunch though, because I joined in instead.

Aside from the bright light that gave me a mean headache for the rest of the day, it was actually a really fun shoot. Of course I missed quite a few things on the Dan grading later on because everything just moved so fast that I almost couldn’t keep up.

Below are photos from the warm-up – 4th Kyu grading.

View part 2 here (3rd Kyu)

View part 3 here (1st Dan)

View part 4 here (3rd Dan)

All images are © copyright of the photographer. You may NOT replicate, manipulate, modify, or use these images in any way without permission.

The Warm-up

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Nidan (2nd Dan) Presentation

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Rokkyu (6th Kyu) Grading

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Gokkyu (5th Kyu) Grading

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Yonkyu (4th Kyu) Grading

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Why I Keep Training

photoLet’s face it… I have no natural talent in the martial arts whatsoever. When others surpassed me with ease as they graded and/or double graded, I struggled just to keep training. I failed my first black belt grading in Taekwondo, I came back half a year later to do another grading, and I passed (thankfully I passed black belt gradings that came after that). Then I failed my black belt Aikido grading as well, but at least that was because I was injured during the grading and dislocated my wrist, and after 10 minutes my wrist was swollen to a point where my Senpai and Sensei noticed (and it hurt really badly), and my Sensei had to stop my grading. Again, I came back at a later date and that time I passed. I had many failures in the field of martial arts. I got my butt kicked a lot of times, in sparring and tournaments – imagine trying to explain to my school teacher why I turned up with a bruise on my face (that time I just came back from a tournament, and although I brought home a silver, I still got my butt kicked, it was quite epic). So why oh why did I decide to go back to martial arts last year, after 10 years of absence? Yeah, that baffled me too.

When I was 6 my parents threw me into Taekwondo training… I wasn’t impressed. At that age I didn’t understand why I needed to do all these activities I was doing. I started Balinese dance lesson, piano lesson, and swimming lesson at the age of 4, and the only thing that I actually requested was to learn how to swim (my parents would get me into a swimming class anyway since both my parents are SCUBA divers and I’d tag along on the dive trips a lot). By the age of 8 I added tennis and English language classes to that. The list goes on. By the time I was leaving for NZ (I was 16), I was doing Balinese dance, jazz dance, Aikido, Taekwondo, squash, tennis, English language, guitar, piano, swimming and Chinese brush painting classes everyday after school Mon-Sat (I’m sure I miss something somewhere). I have to say I benefit a lot from all these training, and very glad I did them (and I have my parents to thank for that), but I must also be honest that I didn’ t enjoy some of that – I did it anyway though.

One in particular that sticks with me (aside from SCUBA diving) is martial arts. As I’ve mentioned, when I first started, I hated it. Well, to be fair, I came home with bruises on my legs and those weren’t even from getting hit! Instead they were from running into chairs during training. We had routines where we had to jump over chairs and also do jump kicks over chairs, as a white belt I wasn’t required to do the jump kicks, but I was required to do the jump over chairs, and at the time the chair’s height was too tall for me – it was probably slightly higher than my mid section at the time (I was a short kid), so you can imagine the effort trying to jump over them usually would result in me running into the chair instead. So the Sabum (teacher) let me jump over one of those 15L water bottle instead until I was tall enough or could jump high enough to clear the height of the chairs.

I continued on with training, and eventually I got to sparring, and again, I hated training. No, getting kicked wasn’t really how I’d imagine how I’d spend my evenings. But eventually I learned how not to get kicked, to evade or block those attacks, counter attack, and so I kept going. I was never a fan of sparring though, and instead I love Tae-geuk (form/Kata). I worked hard to keep training because to be completely honest it was never in my blood. It took me weeks of practice (every day) to be able to deliver what was considered a perfect roundhouse kick… good thing I was patient and I had patient teachers.

One of the things that helped me to continue training when I was little was the martial arts movies I constantly watched. I watched a lot of Jet Li, Van Damme, Stephen Seagal and Mark Dacascos movies as I was growing up and was also a little-big-fan of Michael Dudikoff (Luke Skywalker may be my Prince Charming when I was a kid, but Michael Dudikoff was my Knight in Shining Armor. HAHAHA), and I remembered staring wide-eyed at the moves those actors made, and for the first time I genuinely wanted to learn martial arts (yes, I know the interest was a bit misplaced, but give me a break, I was not even 10 years old yet at the time), and my parents wanted me to learn so that I can take care of myself if needed.

So at least I had a genuine interest in it then, and I picked up Aikido later on. I still didn’t like sparring, by the way, and my first tournament fight was a disaster. I ended up limping and had a badly bruised foot for about a week. But the reason I did Aikido was that I realized I’m small, and I don’t have that much strength to drop a person if I need to, and that my defensive skills are limited to kicks. Aikido was a good option for me, and I love Aikido. It feels like dancing and the movements are so graceful and it was almost meditative.

Then I moved to NZ. I continued my training, by this time I was a 3rd dan black belt (finally a full black belt instead of junior once I turned 15) in Taekwondo and a brown belt (1st kyu) in Aikido, and I finally got my 1st dan black belt in Aikido when I went back home for a holiday – all these times I still hated sparring.


Above is my Yudansha card (I call it the Aikido passport). It only has one stamp on it from my Shodan (1st DAN) grading.

Then I came across a Kung Fu club and joined them. It was with them that I did a big chunk of my tournament fighting (I did one with TKD), though it was mainly in open style tournaments. It was interesting to fight other styles. Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed it (despite the fact that I still hated sparring then). I did it all, the Kumite (full contact fights), Ippon (point) fight, Kata (form), and Weapon Kata. I never thought I’d win any medals or trophies, but I did and it was one of the most satisfying moments I’ve ever had. I never changed my mind about fighting/sparring. I still disliked it, but I needed to know if I could do it, even if I got my butt kicked. So I’m happy to know that I could.

IMG_2867 IMG_2875 IMG_2880

The photos above are photos of my 1st Open Championship since I joined the Kung Fu club, and it was the 2nd trophy I’ve ever received (my first one got lost when moving house). I wasn’t allowed to fight yet, so on this tournament I was participating in Kata division.


Medals from tournaments I’ve parcticipated in – a Kyokushin Open Championship and a Taekwondo National Championship.


This one was one of the 2 trophies (both for 2nd place) I received in an open style competition, I think it was a Lower North Island region.

Sadly, I stopped training when I was at Uni due to personal reasons, and unfortunately, I was also drinking and going out every weekend and smoked back then – no I’m not proud of it (and now have been smoke-free for over 5 years) – I toned it down during my final year at Uni. I did train on and off on my own, until I met one of my friends I used to train with. We started training together for a little while, but stopped when work got too busy (I’ve started working at this point). So I didn’t really train for about 10 years until 30 was around the corner and the realization came around and kicked me in the butt hard enough for me to notice.

I was unfit, and was very uncomfortable in my own skin, I was out of shape (I’ve lost definitions and flexibility, and I gained quite a bit of weight), and in result, I wasn’t happy. I realized how much harder it was to keep the shape and the weight off, especially with an appetite like mine. Diet really isn’t for me, I tried Detox once and I just wanted to bash everyone. But I did change what I eat (though I don’t change how often), and I started going to the gym again. To be honest, I hated the gym because I spent so much time in it since a very young age. When I went home for holiday, I’d have to get up at 0430 (AM) to go to the gym with my parents. So I really didn’t consider that to be a holiday or fun thing to do, it felt like a chore. But I’m good at sticking to routines, so I fell back into it pretty easily. In 2 weeks I felt a lot of improvement, I felt much happier and it was the main thing.

photo (1)So, I finally found my way back to martial arts in a different form. I found a local Muay Thai club and tried a class. What do you know? It felt right. I didn’t even bother to try another club or form of martial arts. I was happy there. Great atmosphere, great people, and it gave me a familiar feeling of belonging. I missed that, and was glad to find it again. And sometimes I wished I found them earlier.

It was (still is), however, frustrating to find that I used to be able to do a lot of the kicks and punches gracefully, and my body still remembers how to do so, but lacking the ability to because of the absence from training for that long. In other words, I’m working to re-build that from the ground up.

Somehow no matter how far I’ve strayed from it, I still managed to get back to doing kicks and punches.

I think for something I hated the most when I first started, I did a pretty good job in staying at it. Overtime it became a part of me, and something I actually love. So maybe I’m not good at it, and maybe I’m not naturally talented like many of my friends are, but I know one thing, I’m having fun, and it makes me happy. That is enough for me.

All images are © copyright of the photographer. You may NOT replicate, manipulate, modify, or use these images in any way without permission.