Exclusive interview: Ami James Talks Tattoos and MMA

| September 16, 2011 | 2:49 pm | 4 Replies

Anyone who has watched one MMA event in their lives has seen the following: technical martial arts training and skill and tattoos. A once “taboo” brand of self-expression, tattooing has developed into a mainstream sensation over the last few years, much like MMA given its negative early connotations and now is the fastest growing sport in the world.

As tattooing is a skill in its own right, there are many who are talented in the form and then there are the few who truly are great and are natural in the art. One man stands in the few who are world-renowned and that man is Ami James. Israeli born James was raised in Israel and Egypt throughout his youth, before moving to the US at 12 yrs old. He moved back to fulfill his enlistment obligation to the Israeli Defense Forces, serving his time as a sniper.

Receiving his first tattoo at 15, the experience immediately inspired him to pursue tattooing as something to learn and a career. Being an artist from childhood, drawing helped him focus and calm down from suffering from severe ADD. As his knowledge and love for tattooing grew, he was also drawn into martial arts, where he trained and learned with equal desire to become the best for himself.

“I got into martial arts in 1995 and still practice today. My disciplines are BJJ and Muay Thai.” While in Miami, Fl working and building his shop, Love Hate Tattoos he began training and befriending prominent names in MMA, training alongside Thiago “Pitbull” Alves and others at American Top Team in the sunshine state.

“I wanted to fight professionally when I started to training but had to stop to preserve the health of my hands, this is when I was 30 (2002); I have broken my hands numerous times from fighting. It was and is unfortunate but something I had to do.”

Knowing that tattooing and combat fighting have received their share of criticism and objection from the public, James is glad to see the acceptance grow for both outlets. “Obviously, tattoos were taboo for a long time, thank god it has become more mainstream and now we can make some money form it. Street fighting and competition fighting are two different things as well; the sport is only taboo to those who do not understand the challenges, athletics and technicalities involved in the sport. A comparison is – boxers who fight in the street do not make money; real tattoo artists are creating art and do not make the mark of a criminal.”

As a fighter only becomes great with training and enlisting the help of a team/ trainers, tattoo artists are required to fulfill an apprenticeship which can vary in time depending on the person, “My apprenticing took two years; the timing all depends on the progression of the student. It is much like how a fighter grows after learning things and how they work for themselves and how they implement what they learn.”

Thiago Alves

Having his art displayed on numerous citizens we would see on the street and not know it, his work is also on MMA fighters we all know by name and have seen fight. “My art has been put on Thiago Alves, Minotauro Nougeria, Paul Buentello and a few others.”

Not one to settle with being at a set level, Ami James is ambitious and always pursuant of being better than he currently is, “If I was not tattooing and my body could do it, I would be fighting for a living. I do what I do (with tattoos) because I love doing it. When I train, I like to push myself and I enjoy training. I get a similar gratification from both activities; when I am doing tattoos I like to surround myself with some of the best artists in the world to get better. When I go and spar, I always try to spar with those better than me. Again, it is always about pushing yourself to improve.”

Ami James’ new tattoo shop is in New York; Wooster Street Social Club (www.woostersocial.com) and follow Ami James on Twitter @amijames. Thank you again to Ami for taking the time to do this interview.

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Category: Exclusive, Featured, Interview, MMA

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