Rickson Gracie near the beach in Rio de Janeiro.
The first episode of The FightWorks Podcast of 2009 is here! Our feature interview is with Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Rickson Gracie. While the name Gracie is synonymous with Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Rickson Gracie holds a special mystique for practitioners of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
In this interview Rickson will speak about everything from the current state of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, how he keeps in such great shape, the proper role of BJJ in mixed martial arts, his new series of jiu-jitsu seminars that have been very successful in Brazil, and much, much more. (Rickson is offering to conduct seminars for those who are interested; inquiries can be made at firstname.lastname@example.org!)
Rickson Gracie instructs at a jiu-jitsu seminar.
Earlier this week we reported on the story of Drew Heredia, the nine year old here in Southern California who rescued a neighborhood girl from an attacking pit bull by applying a rear naked choke, a common Brazilian jiu-jitsu attack. Drew and his mother, who began training BJJ two months ago alongside Drew, will discuss Drew’s heroic action in today’s show.
Drew Heredia, the boy who saved a girl by choking an attacking pit bull.
Our final conversation this week celebrates the winner of the Best BJJ Blog of 2008 as voted by you, the listeners of The FightWorks Podcast. Christian Graugart, who runs ShogunHQ.com joins us on a call all the way from Denmark and discusses his formula for documenting his journey in jiu-jitsu, and making friends all over the world via his blog.
Don’t forget that you can contact us to get your questions answered here on The FightWorks Podcast: BJJ Radio too! Just call (877) 247-4662!
EXCERPT FROM THE RICKSON GRACIE INTERVIEW.
Colin: Hey people this is Colin Foster with the FightWorks Podcast. I am here in Rio de Janeiro with Rickson Gracie. Rickson, is it accurate to say that you have relocated to Brazil and that you do not plan to return to the USA for any extended period, and if so, why did you make the change?
Rickson Gracie: First of all I would like to say hi to you and to the listeners of the Podcast, and it is a pleasure to be here with you. Yes, I moved back to Brazil. I still have a lot of plans overseas. I feel like at this point living in Brazil is the most important thing in order for me to recharge my batteries and be, let’s say, in a spiritual level which I felt like is the best for me to handle things 100%.
Colin Foster: You have started a series of one-day seminars. I had the privilege to attend the first seminars – number one and two – recently here in Rio de Janeiro. You coined the term “Secret Jiu-Jitsu” and used this all through the seminars. Would you like to tell the listeners more about the seminars and what you mean by Secret Jiu-Jitsu?
Rickson Gracie: Actually it’s not Secret Jiu-Jitsu, it’s Invisible Jiu-Jitsu, which is the way I suggest is a very important way for us to try to understand the dimension and the depth of the knowledge, because the most important thing in jiu-jitsu is not what you see, it’s not what you understand, but how it feels as you execute. And that is not exactly visible. You have to feel and you have to execute in a very profound way. So that is why I call it Invisible Jiu-Jitsu.
Colin Foster: Okay so you say you’re going to have a total of ten or more of these seminars, and that it’s a prerequisite for each seminar to have attended them in numerical order? What is your plan with this?
Rickson Gracie: Yes, they are sequential. In order for the students to get familiar with the whole concept, he has to start in Level One. And then they go in sequence to the next seminar, with more techniques, up to the tenth seminar. Without getting the idea from the basics, it’s very hard for me to teach someone the advanced classes, because sometimes he would not understand the way I try to explain things, so I try to create a sequence in order to favor all the students who go through all ten seminars.
Colin Foster: Personally I found it very interesting in the seminars Rickson because you took some very basic things like the guard and the side guard and showed some new twists on it and exactly showing the invisible moves, that if somebody doesn’t know the moves you are explaining, they will not notice it. That’s why you call it invisible, right?
Rickson Gracie: Yes. I don’t like to just teach my students new techniques. I feel like the best thing is to teach them a profound understanding of the basics and from that concept, from that understanding, the evolutionary process becomes much more solid because they start to understand what makes the whole action and the future actions work 100%.
Colin Foster: One of the things you said towards the end of the seminar was that over the period of ten seminars, that you can make people invincible.
Rickson Gracie: Yes, because in my idea, the first important goal in jiu-jitsu is not to defeat anyone. It is exactly to understand where your leverage is and where your techniques are for you to be able to – with comfort – survive under pressure. The defensive concept is the one that is unbeatable. That’s what I feel like is the most valuable thing jiu-jitsu can offer. It’s how confident you can be once you learn the proper techniques. That’s pretty much why I say being invincible is the most important thing.
Colin Foster: During the seminars you talked about bringing back the pureness of jiu-jitsu into mixed martial arts. You spoke strongly about the practitioner’s duty to cancel out the skills (the karate, kick boxing, wrestling, muay thai and others) of their opponents during fights. What about actually showing the opponents one’s jiu-jitsu and forcing them to counter?
Rickson Gracie: In my understanding, I believe jiu-jitsu is more than enough when it is used completely. I see a lot of mixed martial artists today cross training in different martial arts and trying to control the fight in every aspect. It is very hard, and it’s very unusual for a guy who just started training boxing to become a great boxer, or for a guy who just started wrestling to become a great wrestler. For the jiu-jitsu athletes, they have to understand what is important to win a fight. It’s not exactly to start competing in other people’s martial arts, but it is to understand the anti-game of the other arts and bring the solution with jiu-jitsu. That means neutralizing their game and by bringing the fight to our expertise we have a much better chance. We have to use the entirety of jiu-jitsu.
Colin Foster: You have a unique viewpoint and position in the world of jiu-jitsu. How do you feel about the progress of Gracie jiu-jitsu among other sports and martial arts? How big do you think it can be? What is the place jiu-jitsu deserves? Do you think it should get to the Olympics?
Rickson Gracie: I definitely think jiu-jitsu is the most growing martial art in the world today. Not only as the body of jiu-jitsu grows in world tournaments and championships, but in the mixed martial arts universe, for every athlete who is an expert in boxing, or wrestling, or other kind of martial art, they also learn jiu-jitsu to support their cause. So jiu-jitsu grows not only in the practitioners of jiu-jitsu, but also grows among people who practice other martial arts. So I feel like jiu-jitsu is growing everywhere. Jiu-jitsu is getting huge. But in order for jiu-jitsu to go to the Olympics, I believe the components of sportsmanship, the organization, and the philosophical contents have to increase in order to for more people to understand that jiu-jitsu is not only about effectiveness but is also something that benefits society as a whole.
Colin Foster: Rickson we have got some questions that have come from the listeners. Here’s one: “Imagine you are a doctor and you have to examine the health of jiu-jitsu. Do you think there is anything threatening the health of jiu-jitsu now or possibly in the future?”
Rickson Gracie: I don’t see it being threatened, but I see a wound because jiu-jitsu now is portrayed as just an effective art. It is very effective. That is sure and is already recognized. But I would like to see jiu-jitsu be more complete and serve more to diffuse positive elements for society. That means teaching students to be respectful, they have to learn self-control, they have to have the philosophy of martial arts more integrated into their classes. This will create a more complete body of knowledge to support the practitioner. Not only in its effectiveness, but in the philosophical and spiritual components.
Colin Foster: Here’s another one: “What do you feel that Gracie jiu-jitsu has accomplished, and what do you think Gracie jiu-jitsu still needs to do?”
Rickson Gracie: I think Gracie jiu-jitsu has done a huge amount of exposing the Brazilian arts in a very profound way. Today we are recognized not only for our soccer abilities, our beautiful girls, but we also have Brazilian jiu-jitsu which definitely makes a difference. Of course we have to keep looking for more exposure, and keep giving and receiving a much more positive energy.
Colin Foster: Rickson you have said that one of the goals of Gracie jiu-jitsu is to create character and build personality. Would you like to talk a little about that?
Rickson Gracie: Through my seminars, I am now focused on developing a sense of understanding jiu-jitsu as a way to support the growth of peoples’ personalities, increasing self-esteem, increasing inner peace, increasing confidence, and increasing the human capacity to strategize, to think under pressure, and to control their fears. So all this is not only taught by the effectiveness of jiu-jitsu, but also by the demonstration of the philosophy of martial arts. So I think we really have to create a venue through seminars which I plan to do all over the world to dedicate a more profound attention to all those benefits jiu-jitsu can give.
Colin Foster: Rickson I think we have two questions here we can run together. What can you tell us about how you keep in such great shape at your age? Can you talk then about diet and the Gracie diet in particular?
Rickson Gracie: My father always said, “Sickness enters through the mouth, and age comes through your legs.” And every time he said that, he would stand up and do a couple of squats just to prove his legs are still alive (laughs). It’s very funny. But I follow a little bit of this concept where what I eat is reflected in me. I try to eat very healthily, eating small meals through the day. I eat about 6 small meals a day. I like to stay away from alcohol and read meat, but I drink socially and I eat red meat maybe once or twice a month. Basically I eat a lot of fruits, a lot of vegetables, a lot of starches. I try to stay with organic and natural foods, which have more vitamins. I also use some supplements like vitamin C, calcium, vitamin E. In terms of exercising I try to have a very methodic routine which takes me to the beach every day, either to surf or to swim, and to get some sun. I also do some hiking in the mountains, and some weight training once or twice a week. I do jiu-jitsu training maybe three or four times a week. I also do Ginastica Natural, which has a lot to do with breathing, yoga, postures, flexibility, explosion, coordination… So I am pretty active. I don’t feel as if I am twenty one years old, but I feel very healthy, and definitely recommend that everyone think about their lifestyle and thinking about how those things are balanced in your life.
Colin Foster: Well I have certainly seen how well you stand up over a two-day seminar taking on all the black belts that challenge you in the seminars. How old are you now Rickson?
Rickson Gracie: I try to forget about my age because just the affirmation of how old I am is already negative for me. I don’t think it’s a positive thing for you to refer to yourself as a number. That takes you from where you are and closer to being an old guy. I was born in 1959. I am not ashamed of that. I am very comfortable in that. But, I am ageless. And I really feel like I have to feel as if I am ready, and I do everything I have to do to wake up in the morning and feel as silly as if I were 18, or as old and grumpy as 100 years old, depending on what’s going on.
Colin Foster: Many people saw you in the recent movie The Hulk. Are there any plans to be in more movies? Do you feel a temptation to portray a jiu-jitsu teacher instead of an aikido teacher?
Rickson Gracie: I was very happy with the movie because I was able to portray an image which follows my concept of self-control, so I was there to teach the Hulk to become calm. I felt like this was a good angle. Of course I am interested in participating in new movies. There is nothing better than fake blood and real money. I think there’s a possibility for me to work in the future, especially on a project with Jose Padilla, who made Tropa de Elite. He is considering making a vale tudo movie and I probably will be in this project with him.
Colin Foster: Well I am sure the fans will be very anxious to hear more about that. So, winding down. Obviously when the Gracies introduced jiu-jitsu to the world through mixed martial arts, it was great publicity for jiu-jitsu. What can people who train jiu-jitsu today do to further promote the sport that we all love?
Rickson Gracie: I think we have to really put some attention on the valuable aspect of the philosophy of martial arts, and to try to bring that to our daily jiu-jitsu activities. I don’t like to see a jiu-jitsu school which is only planning to train hard but has no respect, no bowing, no feeling of gratitude, no respect for the people you train with. I like to see a concept where the martial arts school is someplace for you to learn how to fight, and how to learn to present yourself against other people, not to fight, but to be able to relate yourself in a very balanced way.
Colin Foster: Rickson looking back on your career up to this point, is there anything you would have done differently?
Rickson Gracie: Definitely not.
Colin Foster: Short and sweet. I like that answer. So what are your future plans, Rickson? Do you have any goals, or anything you want to accomplish?
Rickson Gracie: Yes with my decision to stop competing, I definitely feel like for the next say 30 years or so if God permits, I will be focused on disseminating the profound aspects of jiu-jitsu. I feel like through seminars, and through the diffusion of basic concepts, philosophical concepts, and advanced concepts, I will preserve the material which will favor the generations to come and to not just preserve, but support the huge foundation we’ve already created.Rickson Gracie:
Note that I have taken some liberties in correcting some of Rickson’s English here and there to make it read a little clearer. I have attempted to make sure the meaning was not altered. – Caleb