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

Interview with Jiujitsu Global Federation founder Master Rickson Gracie. Part VI

A concise version of this interview was recently published by Blitz Martial Arts, Australasia's leading martial arts magazine. Click here for Part I, II, IIIIV & VI

29th July 2014. 10am Los Angeles Time

LW: Looking at the information on the JJGF website, I saw a distinction between "black belts" and "elite competitors". Can you please describe the difference and how practitioners can go from one category to the other?
RG: We aim to create a ranking system within our circuit, just like sports like surfing, tennis and others. Ideally, once we have everybody in that ranking system, we can look at the elite who may be the top 50 athletes. We will have premium events within the circuit which will have the elite athletes, which will become a professional tour much like in tennis and surfing. That, however, is a vision for the future ahead. We have to divide the average black belt competitor from the premium black belts who for instance already have sponsors and dedicate their whole life to training. We're trying to create a high level of competitors who will become like the professional reference for the rest. We are hoping that this worldwide premium circuit will bring our sport to the next level.

LW: Wow that's unique of in jiujitsu. Do you foresee on the future the JJGF to have a world championship?
RG: the mission of the JJGF is NOT to create a new world championship. It's rather to oversee all the tournaments and create a ranking because we feel that a champion cannot come just from winning one tournament. Winning one tournament does not, in my opinion, give the guy the legitimacy to be a world champion. I think by competing in different events, in different countries and by summing points throughout the tour we can form a better and fairer understanding who is the true champion. For example, if you cannot participate in a particular tournament it shouldn't mean that you are not the best athlete on the planet. Essentially we are trying to add value to the competitors and the competitions. This circuit is what will allow us to attract major sponsors and TV deals and exposure. Much like what we see in, say, tennis and golf.

LW: changing gears a little, will the JJGF interfere with belt graduations at the club / school level?
RG: No, we are not a dictatorship and I think leadership comes from having an open mind trying to bring the people together by listening to and respecting their opinions and observations. We have a belt system with knowledge requirements within each belt centred around technique and reflexes, but again we're not in the game to forbid people from using their own standards for belt testing. Ideally, we're going to legitimise all the existing ranks but we are going to suggest to the black belts to get certified as full instructors and we will share this belt knowledge breakdown and suggest that they consider using it for evaluation. If they don't want to then they don't have to but it wouldn't be ideal.

I think, little by little, the culture will change because this gives the students, the white belts, the voice and opportunity to make choices: shall I go and learn just how to win medals with efficiency or shall go learn the full art? By having this kind of self evaluation based on exposure to the knowledge and the elements of the art, students are going to think "we'll I'm a blue belt under Joe, but I'd be a white belt under Paul. What do I want to be, a weak blue belt or a strong white belt?" All this is going to become part of our new culture that prioritises effectiveness, no matter what the belt is. My blue belts sometimes go to other places and give a hard time to brown or even black belts which displayed either that the black belts don't know what they're doing or that my blue belts are super blue belts. I can tell you that they are just regular blue belts but they just have consistent information.

LW: in your opinion, what makes a good instructor and what makes a great instructor?
RG: a good instructor teaches the programme. The great instructor identifies what the student needs to learn and then teaches to fulfil those needs.

LW: will you still be doing seminars?
RG: yes. As my mission and dedication towards the federation becomes bigger, I will definitely diminish my physical seminars because firstly I'm nota getting any younger and my bones are complaining more and more and secondly I can really achieve great work by spreading the art through this new tool. Of course, I'm always happy to be on the mat and fulfil people's needs by being there and sharing techniques but you know that's not something I'd be focusing on.

LW: thank you very much, master Rickson Gracie for sharing your time and knowledge with out readers.

RG: my pleasure. Thank you for your great questions and for having such a passion for jiujitsu. 

This is the end of the interview. I would like to thank Master Rickson Gracie for his time and my friend Tony Pacenski who made this interview a reality.

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