The name ‘Nails and Hammers’ comes from a quote from Renzo Gracie, one of the Jiu Jitsu’s most revered figures, who said:

“Sometimes you are the hammer, and sometimes you are the nail.

The secret of this sport is, while you’re the nail, hang in there, let them hit you, until the day you become the hammer, then you smash them back!”

In short, Nails and Hammers is a long-term portrait project focused on grapplers and grappling communities across the United States. It’s a celebration of the grappling arts from Jiu Jitsu to Judo and Sambo to Wrestling and especially of those who put their energy and passion into those disciplines. It’s a visual examination of the similarities and the differences between beginners (the nails) and the hammers and everyone in between.

And it all kicks off in Portland, Oregon. I started training Jiu Jitsu in April of 2009 and have been a proud member of the Portland Jiu Jitsu community since. I’ve watched as the art I love has exploded here locally, and with it the number of gyms and even black belts exploding with it. And not only Jiu Jitsu, but Portland is now home to the largest, most active Judo dojo in the entire United States. In the process of all of this amazing growth, I’ve met countless wonderful human beings with whom I share the strange, unspoken bond that grapplers share just by virtue of their hobby.