Living in largely metropolitan areas such as New York City or Los Angeles, it is certain that at some point or another, you came across graffiti art. Not just a tagging of someone's name, but large murals, such as those in Venice or in Williamsburg. In the corner you see a scribbled signature, and you might see that signature pop up throughout the neighborhood you're walking through. Do you ever wonder about who those people are or what life they have outside of their art?
Kristin Doeblin is one such artist you will come across in Brooklyn. Charismatic, friendly, and easy-going, she also trains Brazilian JiuJitsu at Renzo Gracie Academy in both Brooklyn and Manhattan. During the week, she is commissioned to paint for various individuals and businesses, and on the weekends shows her canvassed work at pop up galleries. Her life is pretty busy between training and painting, but that's okay—it's just how she likes it.
PA: Where did your journey in Brazilian JiuJitsu begin? What interested you to try it?
KD: Before I lived in New York City, my friend Vinnie invited me to try a BJJ class where he had recently started training in Wichita, Kansas. I had no martial arts experience but liked wrestling, even though I had no formal training, not even one class. It was such a challenge: not only was this the first martial art I had ever attempted, I was also the only female in the class which added another element—the men in the class were all bigger or stronger than me.
What about art? When did you start painting?
As a kid I was always inspired by art —mainly in the art classes in elementary school, where I was inspired by what I could create on paper. I also liked making sculptures out of pieces of scrap metal and other materials. I started doing graffiti in 2002, when I studied a semester abroad in Hong Kong. The graffiti scene in Southeast Asia has different elements from the scene in the Midwest, so I was glad to meet an all-female crew BNS that took me out painting.
In the past 4-5 years I have experimented with other styles of painting — mainly portraits on canvas and walls. But the past couple of years I have expanded to street art as well. I have shown canvases in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Hong Kong.
You go by the name “ANJL”. What does that mean to you? Additionally, you are in the scene of b-boys and b-girls. How does that impact you?
ANJL is my graffiti name, and I started painting the letters ANGEL originally but later changed the spelling to a more unique lettering. Angel was a nickname given to me in college, which was also my b-girl name. I started b-girling and learning the art of breakdance in college before I got into graffiti. Hip hop music and culture influenced me, which is why I was inspired to start learning breakdance and later graff. Being a part of b-girl culture gave me a sense of community and expression. Graffiti became an extension of my expression and I continued that artform more consistently.
How do you incorporate art with athletics? Do you ever paint anything in regards to training? I enjoy painting themes that are inspired by athletics. I painted the logo on the gate on Bayard Street in Williamsburg for Renzo Gracie Fight Academy as well as the storefront sign for Elements Athletics Brooklyn in Crown Heights on Franklin.
Who and what inspires you? I have to say Renzo Gracie has inspired me for years and continues to do so. A legend in BJJ and MMA, the room lights up when Renzo enters and I always learn something new, no matter what technique he demonstrates. Trying to improve my game a little each time I train to be the best I can be motivates me to improve and to be a good training partner for those around me.
As a female artist and BJJ practitioner, what are some things you feel like you need to be taken seriously? Being an artist and training BJJ in areas that are typically male-dominated, I feel that my self-expression should not be compromised by following social 'rules' of what a female "should" or "should not" be. Basically, I will train and paint around those I know and am comfortable with. But if someone attempts to question me for being a female in the game, I will not back down and always stand my ground.
What is your favorite memory from BJJ or painting? My favorite memory from BJJ is hard to narrow down to one, but the experience I had in making it to compete in the finals in Abu Dhabi in 2012. I never dreamed of winning the trials and getting to the championships, so when I made it there, I truly enjoyed the experience of meeting world champion-level athletes in Abu Dhabi, alongside a few teammates and instructor (Mathias Ribeiro) that I trained with at the time in Madrid, Spain.
Finally, what advice would you give other artists? How can they mix doing sports with their creative pursuits? My advice to other artists is to never stop creating. I try to combine my inspiration for art with that of Brazilian JiuJitsu, and use one to motivate me for the other.