Rose Gracie’s Determination to Improve Jiu-Jitsu Events

Kron Gracie
Competitors at Rose Gracie’s January event who fought for 40 minutes in the finals of their division. Image courtesy Rose.

Rose Gracie is the daughter of Rorion Gracie, the grand daughter of Helio Gracie, and wife of jiu-jitsu black belt Javier Vasquez. In recent years she has begun promoting grappling tournaments. Earlier this year she began using a submission-only format. The FightWorks Podcast caught up with her in advance of her Gracie Worlds event in San Jose in July to see what direction she plans on taking things next.



The FightWorks Podcast: In January you held your first submission only event at the LA Fitness Expo. How did it go? How many competitors did you have?

Rose Gracie: It was absolutely amazing! Fun to watch, fun to participate. I definitely feel like it was the first step towards the solution and I was extremely happy.

The FightWorks Podcast: You’ve been hosting tournaments for several years now. What have you learned along the way, and are there any specific improvements you’ll incorporate into this upcoming event in San Jose?

Rose Gracie: I learned that you can’t please everyone. These changes like the one I am making now do not come with an instruction manual and I have to pave the way, make discoveries and obviously mistakes all on my own. Everyone wants to give in their 2 cents about what I should and should not do. I have an open mind for things and information and I learn something new everyday but I will choose the ones that make sense to me and will discard the rest. Because of that constant goal of not just improving my events but setting my standards so high I will always be making changes. In San Jose the rules have slightly been modified not just for the safety of the athlete but to make it a realistic competition. I also won’t allow any other color gi’s except white and this week I am debating on removing the female divisions out of my competition.

The FightWorks Podcast: Will there by any big names competing in San Jose our audience should know about?

Rose Gracie: All I know is that my brother Ryron will be competing with whoever signs up at his division plus I am not concern with any big names coming in… It’s just not my priority at this point. I am more concerned with making sure that every athlete that signs up gets out of there feeling like that this was the best competition of their lives and that people start to realize the importance of what I am doing so the entire mentality behind the sport can change forever.

The FightWorks Podcast: You’ve criticized some jiu-jitsu events these days for not taking steps to address performance enhancing drugs. Will there be testing in San Jose?

Rose Gracie: Absolutely! I will always test people.

The FightWorks Podcast: Some observers of your earlier submission only format liked the emphasis on submission, but they didn’t like how there was still a time limit and that both competitors would be eliminated if they weren’t able to submit before the time limit. Any tweaks to that format in San Jose?

Rose Gracie: What makes one guy a winner? The fact that he attacked the whole time and could not tap the opponent? Or the fact that the opponent defended the whole time and never got caught? They are both different aspects of jiu jitsu therefore it is not in my place or anyone else’s to decide who we think applied jiu jitsu in the best way. I could care less of what these “observers” think. If they are not happy they know where to find plenty of matches that they can “observe” ref’s decisions…. Shockingly they have actually been pretty popular in the world so they won’t have a hard time finding them and they can enjoy that while it lasts. Just to make it clear, I will never change that rule. It is one of the key rules that has made my event a success.

The FightWorks Podcast: Anything else our audience should know about?

Rose Gracie: I have no words to express how grateful I am to all the people that have jumped in this with me and have provided me with all the support and encouragement I need to keep this machine going. I have received proposals to run this tournament in all corners of the world and I will be in Colorado on November 2012, Los Angeles for the Nationals (Jan 19th and 20th 2013), and NSW Australia beginning of May 2013 then back again to San Jose (June 29th and 30th 2013). It would be really stupid of me to start running a bunch of crappy events all around. My events are not just a competition. It’s an entire experience and that is what sets me apart. I will go to other places but it has to be slowly. I have been interviewing some people that run local events to potentially partner up with me but because I am such a demanding perfectionist, not everyone is able to click. Just know that as soon as I can I will be in a city near you =)

For now … just sharpen your submissions skills and follow me on twitter @rosegracie.

I would like to give a special thanks to other “jiu-jitsu and grappling” competitions for messing up so badly and making my job that much easier. Give yourself a little tap on your back LOL.

7 thoughts on “Rose Gracie’s Determination to Improve Jiu-Jitsu Events”

  1. Wow. I wish we could have had more follow-up questions! Such as:

    1. Why would you want to eliminate the women’s divisions from your tournaments?
    2. What do you think about the sub-only format of US Grappling’s tournaments? they don’t have any time limits, and still the average match time is 7 minutes!
    3. What kind of testing will you perform and on whom? will it be randomized or only on request? only on division winners? Etc. etc.

  2. US Grappling has been leading the way since 2008 with their submission only, no time limit tournaments. , so it is great to see the submission only concept being taken up by more and more tournament organisers.

    Like Georgette, I’m disappointed Rose is considering removing the women’s division. I’d be interested in hearing why she feels that way: is it a business decision, as she isn’t getting enough female competitors signing up, or some other reason?

  3. I think this event is not profitable, so women will be part of it, maybe, if there isnt enough women to participate, things may go this way…
    I admire her dareful attitude, courage, determination, but it seems some bitter family competition in her speech . I think it may somehow spoil the whole investiment.

    What about if no one goes to finals? One guy may fight in order to not let the other win so he takes the opponet out of finals as well.

    It´s not wise to say that 50/50 is useless. It can´t last minutes of curse, but good athletes can get the opponets´back with good estrategies!
    Can´t wait to see the Words in July!

  4. Though I like much of the concept and format, her implicit arrogance is, right now, what I think will be her biggest enemy.

  5. Hey Georgette

    1) I am eliminating them from the event because I just never have enough ladies to form brackets and it ends up being a big headache at the event. I also dont feel its fair to them to have to compete with their belts and weights all mixed up.
    I am giving them an option of creating a bracket outside of the event and if they have one then I will run it. But I just cant do it right now.

    Eventually if we get consistent brackets thn I certainly bring it back.

    2) any tournament that is submission only is doing the right thing.

    3) testings are done randomly with winners of the divisions and something that I keep it under wraps to respect everyones privacy. I am looking forward to partner up with another company that can do themselves because at this time I handle the process within my staff. and its hard to do.

    hello Slideyfoot

    I actually did my first submission only tournament back in 2003 with my dad and if i am not mistaken that is where us grappling got their idea from. I am very familiar with this system for about 10 years. but only now I figured a way to put it to practice in a bigger setting.

    Hello Egon

    My goal with this event never was and never will be to make a profit.
    If I get paid for working so hard thats great, but if I dont get a dollar from it I am still happy
    there is so much more here than just money.
    It is about changing the way people see jiu jitsu, It has become a art that i dont even recognize it anymore. I hope to change peoples mentality. What i hear the most is that after competing in my event most competitors have a hard time competing in a point system event. I went to a tournament this weekend ( regular ibjjf rules)
    I cant tell u how many people got out of there frustrated and decepointed . That is sad to see =(
    Like I said before many times
    I am not in the business of running tournaments I am in the business of saving jiu jitsu. I just use the events to show people what they need to be doing better and educate them on my grandpa’s jiu jitsu philosophies.

    If not one taps …. guess what …. nobody wins! I much rather have that ! I cant stand bad calls and I cant stand someone else deciding ur match.It is ur job to tap ur opponent and it is his job to tap u.

    about the useless 50/50: jiu jitsu was intended to teach people how to defend themselves, ultimately that is why people go into our jiu jitsu schools. Problem is that with this competition jiu jitsu ( that my grandfather did not approve of) people have created ways to use some moves that u cannot apply in a street fight
    liek the 50/50 guard
    yeas u might put someone in the 50/50 guard in a street fight however if u sit up like u would do it at a tournament u will get HIT IN THE FACE therefore it is useless in a street fight .

    another thing in my tournament that is different
    is that i do not allow slam HOWEVER if the guy is holding on to his opponent like a koala bear the refs will stop and have him open his legs and get out of that position … again… because if u do that in a street fight they will jam ur head into concrete… useless move again.

    Hello Andre!

    I am not out there to please everyone. Either they like me or they don’t. One thing you can be certain … I have and will always have the best intentions at heart and my goal is to make sure that I save a martial art that has been completely lost.
    I rather be arrogant than take extra money from anyone to pocket it
    I rather curse than have anyone feel like they got robbed at my event.
    I rather tell anyone to shut the hell up than to have a competitor be dq because he is not wearing the proper gi…
    I rather be me than to be someone else I am not =)

  6. Cool: always good to see people willing to answer questions. :D

    The earliest submission only event I’m aware of, in a specifically BJJ context, is the Wallid vs Royce match. Did Rorion have any part in those rules too?

    Also, is the 2003 event you’re referencing the old IGJJF comps? As if so, I didn’t think it was true sub only (unlike US Grappling) due to this rule:

    “MATCHES WILL END: With a tap out; when 12 points are accumulated or by referee intervention (disqualification).”

    I would be interested to hear Chrissy’s perspective on where US Grappling originally got the idea. Either way, it is good to see that submission only is growing as a format: I can think of several other competitions in recent memory aside from the ones already discussed.

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