Interview with Rickson Gracie: jiujitsu master and founder of theJiu-Jitsu Global Federation

Interview with Jiujitsu Global Federation founder Master Rickson Gracie.

A concise version of this interview was recently published by Blitz Martial Arts, Australasia's leading martial arts magazine.

This interview was conducted on 29th July 2014. 10am Los Angeles Time

Liam Wandi: How's your morning been?
Rickson Gracie: It's great man. Just waiting for your call and excited about this new endeavour.

LW: Of course, and we are all excited. The whole jiujitsu community is excited. We met a couple of times during your seminars, once in Amsterdam and once in Glasgow and I am curious, were you thinking about forming the federation as far as back then in 2012?
RG: The idea of doing something about the sport is always on my mind and a while ago a friend of mine tried to create a new federation and gave me that idea. But at the time he wanted to have me in it but also to be the main responsible for it which I disagreed with because once I get into a federation, it will have my body and soul and creativity and ideas and I cannot just be his employee so we didn't go through with the idea. Finally, I got into a position to go ahead and create my idea and everything just fell into place.

LW: Fantastic. What is your role within the newly started JJGF?
RG: My role, with my current experience, is that I could identify the real problem with we have to solve today. Then, I give my input and my ideas on how we can approach and address that.
My partners, experts in technology and the corporate sides, and I will get together and try to build a platform where the message can be exposed and shared. We are working to achieve a very balanced federation between the technological and the business sides.

LW: Absolutely. What would you say is the mission statement of the Jiu-jitsu Global Federation (JJGF)?
RG: It's service. Our mission statement is service because I think that's what is the most important need, not only for the sport but also for the community.

BJJ / Grappling Tips: The four corner stones of Gracie Jiujitsu

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to be on the mat at the Gracie Academy out in Torrance California when Ryron was giving one of his first introductions to a 4-pronged approach to grappling and jiujitsu. He saw me intently taking notes and started laughing. Knowing my intentions, he asked me to not publish them immediately so, 2 years down the line, I feel I've honoured my promise.

In a nutshell, he explained that he approaches every exchange with these objectives:

  • Defend: anything the opponent may try to throw at you: including distance management
  • Escape: When the time is right, escape the bad position
  • Control: Using 3 methodologies (explained below) control the chaos when you are in a dominant position
  • Submit: only if it fits within the grand objective of survival.  It's not always necessary to submit.

Why do I compete in Jiu-jitsu or Judo?

Jiu-jitsu for me is the lens I use to see and interpret combat and, by extension, life. That is why I choose to see it as a complete martial art first and as a sport second. So why compete at all?

When I am a student in a martial arts class, I am not competing with my training partners. My will to win barely exists in that context. The dials are all turned down, most of the time at least. I go for things chiefly because I want to discover their flaws and how I can fix them. My aim is simple:

Perfect technique – Perfect timing and weight distribution – Perfect spirit.

When I compete, however, I live in the now and I wear my heart on my sleeve. When I take on the role of an athlete, as opposed to that of a coach, instructor or training partner, there is no diplomacy. No middle grounds.

When I win, I feel amazing! I raise my arms and shout as my happiness and endorphins rush through my veins.

When I lose, I always feel like burning my gis. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to watch any matches. I don’t even want to be in the competition venue any more.

Win or lose, however, I always feel like parts of both me and of my competitor have died and melted into the tatami, into the arena and down to the core of the Earth.

Adult life can often be too tame and full of the necessary masks of civilisation. True genuine moments exist, of course: When I share a deep laugh over an inside joke with a loved one. When I finally get “too-cool-for-school” students to understand how to tackle a mathematical problem (or at least care enough to engage with it in the first place!). Rare moments, where the masks fall off.

Likewise, you will occasionally come across the downhill spiral when you don’t get what you were hoping for. When we suddenly have to deal with loss, rejection or “failure”. One-way ticket to “The Zone of Self-Pity”. We’ve all been there.

But we remind ourselves that we are adults. We keep up the mask. We soldier on.

The thing is…

We need to feel.

Introduction to BJJ: How To Progress Fast in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Here's a very short post I've been meaning to write for a long time.

Every jiu-jitsu practitioner should, as compulsory reading, download and study this free resource.

A Roadmap for Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

About the Author, Stephan Kesting:

BJJ / Grappling Tips: Focusing on the Fundamentals Fosters A Truly Gentle art

When you hear the words Jiujitsu, BJJ, Gracie Jiujitsu or even grappling, what images come to mind?

Most uninitiated would probably visualise Hollywood Karate-esque pyjama fighting. Those who have witnesses Mixed Martial Arts events such as the UFC or Bellator may envisage that a jiujitsu mat is full of brutes wrestling each other to submission and, finally, those who have had a taste of the art will describe what they know to the level they know it with the grappling vocabulary they possess.

But the truth is that while Jiujitsu is a martial art and a thriving combat sport, it’s only as violent as the instructor teaching it. My own personal journey has lead me to favour brain over brawn, even though I fully appreciate the importance of athleticism and physicality. I am a self-diagnosed Martial Arts Geek, but I also love pushing the boundaries of what my body can do.

Making the best of what we were born with

When planning and / or delivering a private lesson, a group class or a seminar, I try to stay true to three rules:

BJJ / Grappling tips: Jiu-jitsu works, always!

Positional sparring is a fantastic way to sharpen your execution of a technique. Way more important than Free Rolling and that's not just my opinion. It's the opinion of practically every single world champ or Gracie family member I have ever interviewed.

For those not familiar with the term positional sparring: The instructor introduces three triangle fundamental escapes (for instance) then you drilled them in isolation (against progressive resistance) and then you roll, but every roll started from inside your partner's triangle set-up position. This is an excellent way to learn fast and learn well!