Just another WordPress site

Rickson Gracie

A conversation with Gracie Jiu Jitsu Master Rickson Gracie

author: Maynard Keenan

A conversation with Gracie Jiu Jitsu Master Rickson Gracie
Balance. This simple concept seems to be the underlying answer to all
questions posed by Steve and I to Rickson Gracie (pronounced
Hickson) this morning. Rickson, a native of Brazil, is one of the
older brothers or Royce Gracie (three time champion of the popular pay
per view event “The Ultimate Fighting Championship”) and, with a
record of far more than four hundred straight wins, is considered to
be the most formidable of the Gracie Jiu Jitsu practitioners. Steve
and I asked at great length what, in his opinion, made it possible for
him to achieve such a status. Much to my pleasure, it had nothing to
do with being a three hundred pound hairy ape on steroids. It had
nothing to do with lifting weights till you achieve stretch marks or
eating any and everything all day long. Nor did it have anything to do
with hatred, psychosis, or whateveraphobia. It did, however have
everything to do with balance.

Rickson: Jiu Jitsu is like a philosophy. It helps me learn how to face

Maynard: In what way?

Rickson: In every way. To understand our society, to relate myself to
people, to compete in an actual self defense tournament, to feel
confident to walk on the street and to be able to help people, to be
strong enough to forgive…

——-Balancing the Scales of Justice——

Maynard: Do you think it is better to avoid a fight rather than to
provoke a fight?

Rickson: I believe that you must do what you believe you have to do.
If I don’t believe I should fight, I’m not gonna fight. My decision
is based more on my personal honor than it is on who I’m channeling my
anger towards. For example, if I see a guy smacking an old lady I’m
going to do something about that. I don’t care who it is. It’s a
moral concern. I cannot live with this on my mind without taking
action just because I don’t know who it is. In cases like this my
honor, my dignity, and my moral code is much more important than my
physical body.

——Balancing Aggressive Nature with Physical Limitations——

Steve: Do you think that Gracie Jiu Jitsu has something for the person
who doesn’t have a natural talent?

Rickson: Definitely. I can’t think of any one with less physical
ability than my father, Helio Gracie. When my father was twelve the
doctor said that he couldn’t do any exercise because of vertigo. If he
ran 200 yards in a sprint, he would pass out. But he is a very short
tempered, tough guy. So with the impossibility of using power while
training with his uncle in Jiu Jitsu, he was forced to develop his
own technique thus balancing his inability. We like to say that
Einstein was to mathematics what Helio Gracie is to Jiu Jitsu. He
totally invented 80 percent of the Jiu Jitsu we have today. Leverage
and sensitivity and using the opponent’s energy against himself are
basic to Jiu Jitsu, but the application of these principles was never
done in the way my father developed them. My father broke the mold. He
initiated a different perspective. It used to be that when someone
told you, “hey, there’s a tough guy coming here to kick your ass,” you
imagine this big guy with and ugly face. He’s 280 pounds and has big
fists. You don’t imagine a guy who weighs 135 pounds.

——Balancing Wants and Needs——

Maynard: I don’t know if you realize how significant it is but, seeing
your whole family showing up in support of Royce at the UFCs is a very
moving image for many people. It seems that you don’t see that kind of
family love and pride much anymore.

Rickson: Especially in the big cities. People don’t make the time to
give to each other. I think that’s just a sign of our times. Smart are
the ones who try to preserve those old elements. People today just
want to make money. I understand that and respect that but… I find
myself in a very fortunate position because I love what I’m doing and
I’m good at it. So I make a living.

Maynard: It seems that here in the states, people are more concerned
with doing something to make money than they are with doing what it is
that they love to do. They decide that money is the goal and then
begin to figure out what they’ve got to do to get it. They forget to
listen to themselves to find out what it is they really are not only
best suited for but are passionate about as well.

Rickson: Yes. I think exactly the opposite. You need to make money but
it should never be the priority. What you like to do is what you
should try your best at doing. The money is gonna come. That’s the way
people really get rich, you know? They just enjoy what they do and the
money comes in some way. It’s the same with the work out. Some people
think that the workout is to increase heartbeats or flexibility or
endurance or coordination. So they make up exercises to improve one of
more of these areas. When I’m doing exercise, what I’m trying to do is
meditate. Get in a state that I feel a balance between body, mind, and
spirit. It’s just enjoyment. When I train in Jiu Jitsu I don’t have a
clock in mind. I’m just feeling and flowing. When playing or surfing
or hiking there are no timings or special rules. If you love it you
just get into it with your whole body. You don’t care that it’s

Maynard: …and the endurance comes.

Rickson: I can’t imagine going on a stair master or lifting weights or
whatever to get in shape.

——Balancing the Diet——

Maynard: I heard that the Gracies also follow a specific diet.

Rickson: Yes. It doesn’t have as much to do with what or how much you
eat as it does with how you combine your foods. You can eat
vegetables, fruit, rice, beans, meat, or whatever. But the most
important thing is the food combinations. The digestive process is the
biggest workout your body does on a daily basis. You use energy to
digest. You can save energy by choosing foods that digest better in
certain combinations, and you can absorb more nutrients and gain more
energy by choosing food that use compatible enzymes to digest.

Maynard: So in the reverse…if you eat something that is difficult to
digest and has no nutritional value…

Rickson: Exactly. You waste even more energy. We are not cows. We
don’t have to eat all day long to maintain. We eat, digest, absorb,
then rest. For me, I think three meals a day is enough. I spend at
least four hours in between without anything but water.

Maynard: A very traditional Brazilian dish is black beans and rice,
but in your diet this is a bad combo.

Rickson: That’s right. What you really want to fight in your body is
the fermentation process. Fermentation basically is a bad combination
between acids you produce to digest your food. For example, when you
eat rice, your mouth produces specific acids to break down the rice so
your stomach can begin the digestive process. When you eat ice cream,
or an apple, or watermelon juice, your mouth produces completely
different acids. And that can create a bad chemical reaction in your
body. You feel heavy or sluggish which is not good. It’s not only
uncomfortable, it’s counter productive.

——Balancing Perspective/Points of View——

Rickson: I believe that you should have an evolutionary point of view.
You must meditate, you must pray, you must be thankful, you must give.
I think those things are very important spiritually for you to be at
peace with yourself. Once you’ve tried to improve spiritually,
physically, and mentally your are in a good way. Even if I lost my two
legs now I don’t think that it would make me lose the sense of life.
Of course I’m not gonna be a fighter anymore, but I’m able to allow
myself to do other things. I’m gonna try to swim. I’m gonna try to
surf. I don’t know what else, but I’m definitely going to still be in
love with life and learning. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play
the piano, but I’ve never had the time. Or play the guitar. So many
things. Some people have legs and they don’t use them because they’ve
focused on something else. I think every bad thing has a good way to
look at it. Of course I love to do what I’m doing, but if I get
sick…understand? The mind is so beautiful and so wild and you can
have so many different things. There’s always a good side to
everything. Nothing is totally desperate. Like “Oh…I lost my job.”
You lost your job? Go to the beach, man. Get some waves.

Maynard: If you have a clear mind like that, and if you have
confidence in life and in yourself you’re going to get fed.

Rickson: Definitely. You can’t be negative all the time.

Maynard: You can, but don’t expect for things to come to you very

Rillion Gracie’s Angle on the Guard-From Gracie Magazine

The guard is the salvation of the weak,” said Rilion Gracie in a GRACIEMAG interview in February 2009. Well today, after wins from stars Fabricio Werdum (in Strikeforce) and Anderson Silva (in the UFC), everyone seems to understand a little better just how important Jiu-Jitsu’s leg game is in a fight situations.

Whether you are an MMA fighter looking to avoid getting put through a family-sized wringer, a Jiu-Jitsu competitor or impassioned practitioner, you need to delve deeper into the concept of the guard to evolve in training.

Rickson Gracie always said you have the best guard of the family. What makes a guard good?

The guard has always been a way of evening the playing field in a fight between two people, bringing the fight to the ground, where a 60kg guy balances out the strength difference and even goes on to have better chances of surprising the 120kg guy.

When I got my black belt, 25 years ago, I weighed 59kgs. And I always had the winning spirit, understood my family’s Jiu-Jitsu to be an art of self-defense, but one with the objective of submitting the adversary. The same way these days we see hundreds of scrawny guys, with good guards for lack of other options, the same went for me. The guard is the salvation of the weak.

How did you go about developing your game?

Guided by Rolls, Carlinhos, Rickson, Crolin, professors who I mirrored, I realized I had to have a really good guard to face anyone, but a complete guard – I wasn’t interested in just holding out against opponents, defending myself without managing to do anything in the fight. But the first idea that clicked for me, at blue belt, was: if I can’t manage to neutralize the guy with the guard, with which I have millions of options of barriers, my legs and hands and all, if he passes I’m dead – I have to exert triple the force, and on top of that with the guy’s weight on my chest, squashing my neck, ears. So my first concern is not to lose.

And what would be the second stage?

At purple belt I was already real flexible, and with a guard famed for being unpassable, at the little championships. But it happens that I’d win because the guy on top would wear out, and ended up leaving openings for the triangle, or I’d end up on his back and such. So, I went on to the next stage, developed at brown: to reconcile defensive with attacking guard, incorporating a varied game of submissions from the guard, sweeps and taking the back. That’s when my Jiu-Jitsu started improving on all fronts, because I started landing on top of my adversary, and I had to make the most of the favorable situation. These days, I think I’m better on top than on the bottom. I prefer playing on top – my objective is to jump the fence and attack my adversary.

I specialized in leaving an opening for the guy to pass, as that is the moment he exerts force – and so he wears out and falls in a trap” Rilion

What other tricks do you have for making adversaries fall into traps in the guard?

One kind of guard is that where you grab onto the sleeves, tie up the guy’s arms, but you can’t do anything either, and it becomes an ugly fight. Another is the guard where you give the guy a little taste. He sees his chance to pass, exerts force but doesn’t pass. I specialized in that, in leaving openings for the guy to pass – and there he either exerts force and tires, or falls into some trap.

Because I don’t believe there are humans who don’t tire. The best prepared guy in the world, confronted with the right technique, executed to perfection, he will be forced to apply force, and at some point will wear out. Everyone has their limit, it’s up to you to find the method and path to pushing your adversary to it.

Which is your favorite guard?

Jiu-Jitsu to me is easy and effective. It’s that which you can teach any student who walks into your gym, otherwise they’ll pick up their things and never come back.

I look to play guard right at the guy, at least in my way of fighting. I try to keep the guy worried about getting submitted the whole time, fearing getting tapped out. Even if the guy knows how to defend, the worry will fatigue him, exhaust him. And when he makes a mistake, he gets caught. The better your adversary’s technique, the more you need to worry him.

So of course, I’ll even play half-guard, sometimes. But, if the adversary is really good, after I sweep him he will still put up a fight from the bottom. So then one gets a sweep here, the other gets one there, and then it becomes that fight we’re seeing in competition these days. Of course, you need to know your objective when playing guard. If it’s to sweep for points, perfect. But I don’t want my opponent only to be concerned with not getting swept. He has to feel threatened the whole time.

Is there any bad type of guard?

I respect all positions. If I teach a technique to ten different people, I know that, as much as I’d like it to be otherwise, each student will be more suited to one aspect and not the other. Jiu-Jitsu is an infinite art; a shorty won’t have the same game as someone with long legs. That’s why a master can’t go blindly labeling one guard bad and the other good. The secret is to make out the weaknesses and virtues of the position, never condemn, arrogantly. Now, the guy who wants to be a reference in the guard cannot just know one guard. He has to know other paths, for the day he encounters a rock in his way.

Jiu-Jitsu is sensibility” Rilion