The Power & the Poise of Chris Moninga
A boxing and martial arts expert with over 17 years experience, and a man I had the pleasure of creating some portrait photography of.
I am in peak physical condition. There is not one square inch on my body that has not been fine-tuned to perform at the highest level. Amongst my peers at the chamber of muscles, I am a god. A god amongst men who can only imagine what it must feel like to possess the power that I wield. And so, when I approached Chris Moninga with the idea of creating some martial arts/boxing portrait photography of him, I knew his acceptance of me was due to my stature in the bodybuilding game. Either that or he just liked my work as a portrait photographer....
As a London portrait photographer it is vital that you keep your portfolio fresh, varied and up to date. Constantly working when you're not working, is key to a successful career in an ever challenging, and changing business. For this reason, I am always pursuing personal projects. Gigs that are just for me, and help to keep my creativity high. Alongside further extending my portfolio, and possibly picking up extra work off of the back of them.
One such personal project I decided to invest my time in, was the portrait photography of Chris Moninga. A very charismatic, and passionate expert in boxing and martial arts. I had approached Chris because I'd seen a few shots of him in action, read a bit about his story, and knew that I could capture something special.
Chris Moninga is a talented and well respected personal trainer based in London. He is an expert in Capoeira, Kickboxing K1, MuayThai, Boxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. But his journey to becoming a trusted expert in martial arts did not start in the best way, and what drove him into this field was a desire to change the wayward path he was living his life. Back in the late nineties, Chris was overweight, smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day and had a worrying relationship with alcohol and drugs. He felt a change was needed, and a shift in environment was necessary to shake off bad habits. This came in the form of a move away from the city, and to a different country altogether. Chris moved to the Middle East, where he sought solace in his anonymity and the dramatic change in culture. Away from the distractions that big cities can bring, Chris was able to pursue his newly acquired passion, Capoeira.
Chris Moninga spent years studying this ancient Brazilian martial art, one that combines combat with dance to produce a very fluid, and rhythmical fighting style. Through much trial, error and high-kicks, Chris became a recognised pioneer of the art in the Middle East from 2004, and is still identified as a shinning light in the art form to this day.
Never content to settle, Chris Moninga decided to expand his martial arts knowledge past Capoeira, and into other specialised fighting styles. And soon he was able to command respect within the fields of Kickboxing K1, MuayThai, Boxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu - no mean feat for someone who used to smoke 60 cigarettes a day! However, this relentless pursuit of excellence in martial arts did take a toll on his body, and he was regularly injured either in combat, or during training. These injuries, if left unchecked could have been serious, but Chris sought help early, and began to include routine physiotherapy into his regime. Through his own personal journey, Chris discovered the power that physiotherapy brought to his body, and in turn realised the rehabilitative effects it could bring to people who had lost hope. And so from 2009, Chris added physiotherapy and osteopathy into his teaching methods, in order to better improve the results of his clients.
As a result of his extensive studies into physiotherapy and osteopathy, Chris Moninga was able to stand above his peers. And specialise in strength, and conditioning through combat sports training and functional fitness. His approach to fitness and rehabilitation has won him many fans across the world, with some owing their renewed abilities to him.
His secret is not to simply rely on brute strength, because that will only get you so far. To fight, and to survive, you need to use your mind. Or, as Moninga puts it 'no brain, no gain'.
I met up with Chris at his conditioning gym in Battersea for our portrait photography session. He was already halfway through a session of his own, working the various bags and weights available in the gym. The space itself was dark, industrial and lacked in natural light. Which, on a normal day, I would have taken issue with. But shooting Chris within this scenario just felt right, and correlated perfectly with the vibe that I wanted to create. After speaking with Chis for sometime before, and during our portrait photography shoot, I realised there was much more to the man than simply skills with his fists and feet. He was thoughtful, contemplative and engaged with more than what was in front of him. I felt this pensive persona was important to share, and it brought a much more interesting dynamic to the imagery. In juxtaposition to this, I did also capture him in action, and I feel the results really showed just how powerful Chris Moninga is on the outside, and on the inside.
If you are pursuing a career in portrait photography I hope you are maybe inspired by my personal project, and you go on to create something of your own. And to show you how these pet projects can develop, after seeing the finished pictures, Chris asked me to create more martial arts and combat photography for him in the near future! And he has used the images on his social media. Proof that work only comes if you work at it.
I'm off to pump some iron, see you later ;)