I attended the Rickson Gracie jiu jitsu seminar in Amsterdam, Holland on the 3rd/4th of November organised by his black belt Mr Harold Harder (how cool is that name!). I can now die a happy man. I spent more than 6 hours learning from the MAN and was never further than 2 meters away from him while he was instructing (much to the annoyance of other eager, but shy, seminar practitioners). In fact, I was privileged to be his demo partner for a few of those techniques and received his seal of approval that I was doing them right. Lucky, lucky man!
I was inspired to say the least by Master Rickson Gracie and I will be sharing many posts based on what I saw that weekend. Not so much of the jiu jitsu we learnt because he wasn't lying, that stuff really is invisible. You have to feel it to understand it. Rather, I would like to share some of the things I absorbed from observing and listening to Master Rickson.
Rickson Gracie is a warrior. He is a truly fulfilled man. When he grabs you and looks at you, he sees all of you in one go. One of the best articles I've read on explaining greatness is this one on StephanKesting's website Grapplearts.com and they nailed it. He sees situations from a much wider and bigger perspective but doesn't get muddled by that vision because he immediately isolates the most important factor and focuses on it like a laser beam. On several occasions, after he'd explained a technique or movement, people asked him about this or that "detail" and he'd reply "that depends on situation, but it's not really vital". He was very clear on the big picture, but also very clear on what really matters within it (what Rener Gracie calls the "make-it-or-break-it-detail")
After the first day of the seminar, my instructor David Onuma and I were chatting to people in the training hall, assuming Master Rickson Gracie had left the building. After a few minutes, we went upstairs to the changing rooms to find him lying down, getting a back massage. To say the least, we took our sweet time getting changed and engaged the master in a long conversation about jiu jitsu, life, energy and making decisions. He talked very candidly. I'll never forget when he looked me in the eyes and said "You know, I have nothing left to prove! I have no regrets in my life!". That's a very powerful thing to say and when it's said by a legend and an idol, it changes you.
I'll leave this post with this simple observation. I've been to many Martial Arts (Karate, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo ...etc.) seminars in my life and, naturally, this seminar ranks as the top one ever. But that's not my point. At each one of the seminars where the attendees had not met / trained with the instructor before, they behaved in a generic but safe manner: They bow strictly, they make oriental utterances like "OSS!" or "HAI!" when they are asked "do you understand?", they put they free hand under their other elbow when they shake hands, they speak very softly if at all, perhaps avoid direct eye contact...etc. They basically played it safe to check the mood and the lay of the land. The same thing happened at the Rickson Gracie Seminar. We walked in and the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Master was warming up on the exercise ball. The seminar attendees who had arrived before us (the seminar started at 3 and we arrived 2.30) were moving cautiously and bowing to the mat as the got on or off it. Their eyes were glued on the relaxed, cat-like moved of Rickson. Suddenly, he stopped warming up, dried his face with a small towel then started walking towards them. It was so easy to spot those who had met him before from those who were experiencing the honour for the first time. The former were relaxed, smiling and extended their arm to shake his while the others stood solemnly, hands glued to their side and bowed with a nervous Oss! In both cases, Rickson smiled gently and stretched his arm for a handshake which he more often than not pulled in for a brotherly hug. He asked people how they were and where they had travelled from to attend the seminar. By the end of the seminar we felt his genuine respect for our devotion, and that is something very precious.
"Let's think about all the masters we have met in our lives. All the masters who have helped us in our lives."
Rickson Gracie said before he invited us to bow to a large portrait of his father Grand Master Helio Gracie, and then he turned to face us and said:
"And now, I bow to you"
ZHOO ZHITSU IS FOR EVERYONE!
Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi
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