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10th Planet  X  Dark Side United

In 2003, Eddie Bravo opened his first 10th Planet Jiu–Jitsu school in Los Angeles. Bravo's system emphasizes submission–only grappling, and training without the traditional Gi.  Within this body is Scott "Einstein" Epstein's Dark Side United moniker just outside Beverly Hills: a distillation of 10P's brutal form.

What is Jiu–Jitsu, really?  Why is MMA fandom growing so quickly?  Is it just an expression of the aggression and angst of our time?  Or is it something spiritual, connected on the local level – something imperative to our physical and mental well–being, as we grapple with society's changing form?

Julian Ayes

Vincent Chavez / Clean & Simple Studios

Struggle Short Film

The Ecstasy of Defeat

Most of us haven't been tested very seriously in life.  We've learned over time to be conflict–averse.  We've become used to expressing our dissatisfaction anonymously, behind keyboards.  Yet, we crave confrontation: we want to know our limits.  We want an adventure. 

We want to be told a story, and figure out how we fit into it.  So many of us are walking around in resentment, vulnerable to bad ideas, spoiling for fights we can't handle. 


When we're finally confronted with physical force in a controlled environment, right away we understand something new: we really aren't tough. 


We really don't know much about ourselves, let alone others.  Everyone in here and out there might actually be stronger, faster, and scariest of all — more tactical than us. 

We begin to learn a new respect for strangers passing on the streets after being handily submitted by men who look like plumbers, and women 1/3rd our body weight.  Something is changing...


...something odd happens: in defeat our resentment begins to burn off.  The fear of physical encounters – of getting hurt, and even hurting, fades.  We begin to gauge how fragile and durable we really are. 


The arguments in our heads quiet down.  Our suggestibility to influence and ideology begins leave the body like a toxin.  We regain a natural sense of scale: what we can and cannot change. 

The world narrows to two people: our self, and our opponent — soaking wet, inhaling each other's spent breath, watching frozen seconds on the clock. 


A shin on our chest like a crowbar. A rib cage on our face like a wall of dull knives.  Weight.  Pressure.  Exhaustion on a level we've never known: hopeless, and endless...struggle with no end.

Then, suddenly – an opportunity.  We reach down and find a little more.  We relax.  We slip away.  They're caught off guard.  They thought we were done.  Now we're on top.  It could be victory.  Maybe someone is seeing this...


But the world flips again – legs and arms seat–belted around our trunk and neck, constricting, vision blurring...and we tap, just before see the white lights.

We've lost.  Again.

And yet...we cannot remember feeling more purposeful.  The world has never felt more real.  For showing us our faults, we feel a respect for our destroyer that verges on love.  Sleep has never come so easily.  We wake up stronger, and smarter, and we go back to the beginning, without assurances of either.

Jiu–Jitsu, at least at DSU, really is life.


The Mark


The original idea of a 10th Planet was thought up by a guy named Zechariah Sitchin, who theorized that humans were created as slaves to aliens for mining gold. 


These aliens are from an extra, hidden planet in our solar system called “Nibiru", which  Eddie Bravo named his brand of Jiu–Jitsu after.  And that pretty much sets the tone for just how out-there — how truly "unmarketable" this world can be.  What do you do with a brand like that?

The rash–guards, worn in place of traditional Gi's that Dark Side United is known for printing are a kind of SciFi psychedelia: bright neon solar flares weaved into galactic space–pattern backgrounds, alien exoskeletons, Tron–guy lines, Headshop unicorns, and lots of Star Wars imagery. 


Convincing Scott "Einstein" to try and do something more structured and branded was a lost cause:  lack of structure is the DSU brand.  Scott hails from a storied graffiti circle in NYC, which is another tale.  Like Bravo, Eisenstein's gym is rife with conspiracy theories that pepper the action, steeped in sci–fi lore, alien sightings, flat–earthers, Q–anon enthusiasts, and so on.  Even with this, there seem to be no real sides, no particular allegiances outside the gym.


The best fighter is a retired P.I. – a jolly, cherub of a man who never tires.  Scott's dogs – a pit bull with a massive head and the chihuahua who could fit in her jaws – watch over the tangle of neon arms and legs. 

This jumble of cultures made for a one–of–a–kind ID task.  I wanted to solidify DSU's place in the larger, well–known 10th Planet landscape with a static, though flexible mark.  I combined the geometric, fictional typography found in Star Wars control panels (which is a real language, and a real type–face known as "Galactic Basic") with Scott's East Coast graffiti roots. 


I wanted letter–forms that interlocked like Gable grips and S–grips.  The result is the main DSU mark: a stable logo surrounded by a modular system of visual design, and endlessly weird permutations.

The original 10th Planet logo itself was a vectorized cease–and–desist waiting to happen, so I updated and flattened the Death Star in this process.  It is not yet official.

This is by far one of the strangest ID challenges I have taken on. Bringing any degree of design–thinking to an organization that puts people in touch with their bodies, confronts them with danger, and helps them understand that there are many nuanced levels of escalation along the path to violence, and as many chances to stop it, is more rewarding than the highest paying rebrand I've ever done.


Behind the Scenes


The teaser–trailer "Struggle" is a proof of concept for a documentary about quarantine and Jiu–Jitsu in West Los Angeles that never was.  I collaborated on this project remotely with my creative partner and friend Vincent Chavez of Clean & Simple Studios.


But this project turned into something else:  a focus not on the problems, but on resilience — a word that was thrown around quite a lot in corporate structures during the pandemic. 


But, what makes us resilient, truly?  It isn't about mixed martial arts, per se, though I recommend the sheer physical challenge.  It's about togetherness.  It's about people who risk their health to come together regardless of the narrative, stay active, stay sharp, and stay interested.  People who got invested, when it was never easier to sever.

Jiu–Jitsu is problem–solving in motion, and in 2020, in the heart of L.A., we were surrounded by problems on all sides...cordoned off from one another, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

For as rough as 10th Planet can be, I have never felt more  welcome, more grounded, more mentored, or been around a more uplifting group of people.  A tough gym in a tough town at a tough time in history – yet nothing could have been gentler.

I applaud people in my industry, in martial arts, and in any skilled practice who can translate feelings of isolation into a creative process, and come out the other side tougher, and with something to show for it all. 

That is all this study is.


Scott "Einstein" Epstein
Dark Side United™ Beverly Hills Crew
Eddy Bravo / 10th Planet™
Vincent Chavez / Clean & Simple Studios™
All the fighters & students who 
sweat for this project
The City of Los Angeles in 2020:  who endured and continues to endure the Struggle.


Julian Ayes




Vincent Chavez
, Clean & Simple Studios


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