Seminar Review Wednesday: Rickson Gracie Seminar

by Caleb on July 21, 2010

Rickson Gracie Seminar
Rickson Gracie advises an attendee at his seminar in Brazil. All photos courtesy Dev Kostal.

Rio De Janeiro, 21 July 2010

I’m going to start this review by prefacing everything I say with this: I am a blue belt. I have just enough experience to know that I don’t have nearly enough experience to have gotten everything I could have out of this incredible seminar. So for everything I missed, or didn’t understand… I apologize.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…

Master Rickson Gracie’s seminars on “Invisible Jiu Jitsu” have become the stuff of legend. Pirated bootlegs of older seminars have made their way through the underground market to our clamoring hands, because it always seems as though we just can’t find anything. Is he a ninja? Is he a ghost? Shrouded in mystery, it seems as though no one has ever actually attended one of these mythical seminars… maybe The Man himself doesn’t even exist? Except that he does. And he’ll be the first to tell you: There is no secret. Just technique.

I had the extraordinary opportunity today to attend a seminar given by Master Rickson Gracie. The seminar was the first time Master Rickson has presented in English in Brazil, and the intent was to appeal to the visiting international competitors who are here for this weekend’s Rio Open and Master/Senior Mundials.

Apparently the seminar was put together only 9 days ago, and I’m not entirely sure the word got out enough. That said, Master Rickson will be conducting another seminar this coming Monday, 26 July 2010. I’m hoping this review will help get the word out, and I know they’re going to announce it heavily during the tournament.

A who’s who of black belts was in attendance, not least of which were Kron and Kyra. I’m guessing about 100 total people were in attendance, and there was a film crew there, apparently recording it for a future documentary. Choke II, anyone?

We started off with a series of drills revolving around the concept of “connection.” In every movement in jiu jitsu, be it sweep, escape, submission, there is a fulcrum point (my word, not his) around which your body must move to be successful. We all know “hips, hips, hips,” but in many cases, the hip movement is enabled by the connection of another point of your body on your opponent’s. A shoulder, or a hand, etc.

Beginning from standing, he demonstrated these concepts through application in basic escapes or control positions, then we worked in pairs to drill them. Collar control, defending a rear choke, and a few others.

Everything after this revolved around that same idea of connection, and focused on the tiny details in basic movements.

We then went to the ground. We began with the simplest movement, the upa, and its use in the escape from mount. Master Rickson showed how just the smallest adjustment of head position can make this movement that much easier for the person trying to escape.

Much of the time was spent in side control, and we worked details and connection points for escapes from head-control kesa gatame with arm control and without, kesa gatame with far-side underhook with near-side arm control and without, and several other types of top side control. Master Rickson demonstrated how a connected shoulder or hand can control the position enough to get your hips out, or under, your opponent, depending on the situation. We also worked several techniques from bottom guard.

Since this is my review, I’m going to tell you what I took from the seminar. As a blue belt, I grasped this (new-to-me) concept of connection, and the idea of solving the problems from each position by enabling your hip movement with those points. As a concept-oriented person, this really took on the life of Master Rickson’s “invisible jiu jitsu.”

Additionally, one practical thing he highlighted really struck home with me, and that’s shoulder movement. I know it probably seems elementary, but the amount of difference in some of these escapes and movements that is created with larger shoulder movement was astonishing to me.

At the end, Master Rickson sat down and provided several thoughts on his BJJ philosophy: the larger concept of using jiu jitsu for self-defense – which is his entire focus as espoused, of course, by his father Master Hélio. And he discussed jiu jitsu as a metaphor for life, the idea that while these techniques benefit us for self-defense and tournaments, the larger picture is that we can use them to build confidence in ourselves and in our children, our friends, our coworkers.

So… the mysticism? Secret ninja techniques? Nope. What we got was even more valuable: a way to think about each movement, a way to connect our bodies to our opponents’, and enable our own techniques to work better. A way to think about jiu jitsu. A way to carry ourselves. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m pulling back the Wizard’s curtain. What Master Rickson showed us today is there is no curtain to pull back.

I feel privileged and honored to have attended this seminar and shared the mat with 100 of the most professional jiu jitsu practicioners out there. Many, many thanks to Master Rickson for his time and patience, and for providing us the opportunity to attend.

PS I apologize for the pictures, too. In my own defense, I was more worried about training than filming, so I only got the camera out during breaks. And my obligatory picture with Rickson didn’t come out, darn it all. Sorry.

Devlin Kostal is a blue belt under Daniel “Ventania” Thomas at Zeus BJJ in Monterey, CA. He has been traveling through South America, and has been fortunate to train in Lima, Peru, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. His blog, Fueled By Fear, can be found at http://devbjj.blogspot.com.


Dev Kostal and Kron Gracie. Dev: “Why yes, that IS a ‘Fueled By Fear’ patch on the front of my jacket. Thanks for asking!”

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

PhilQNY July 22, 2010 at 2:26 pm

That is an awesome experience!

Dave July 22, 2010 at 2:29 pm

I too am a blue belt and recently attended a Rickson seminar in Houston TX. My experience was very similar to yours and thanks for taking the time to post this review.

I feel that my eyes were opened to a concept that permeates every aspect of my Jiu Jitsu – looking for and trying to make connections. Really humbling stuff to see him move and hear him put it all into words.

At one point toward the end of the day he had arrived at the topic of BJJ for the mass market – Books, DVDs, etc. I won’t do him the discourtesy of wrecking his words, but he finished with a quote that nearly brought me to my knees and judging by the audible gasp in the room, it had the same affect on everyone else.

He said, “… and that is why you’ll never see my Jiu Jitsu in a book, you’ll never see my Jiu Jitsu on a DVD. My Jiu Jitsu is invisible and is to be shared with my brothers.”

dirtywhitegi July 22, 2010 at 11:03 pm

man that would of been awesome to attend. From what I’ve heard though he doesn’t allow filming or not taking during the seminar itself right? still I’d love to see his concepts and thoughts one day

Rob July 26, 2010 at 10:10 am

Same here. I understand his feelings about his jiu-jitsu being invisible, but I like many of you would also love a glimpse of his techniques/views. I hope the seminar schedule was published so I can try to attend one.

Thanks for the review.

Daniel July 28, 2010 at 9:29 am

I had the opportunity to attend BOTH seminars last week in Rio. You are spot on with your review.
What a wonderful teacher he is…

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