As the second oldest son of Grandmaster Helio Gracie, the red-and-black belt is known by many as one of the family’s champions and a proponent of teaching a ‘street effective-style’ of Jiu-jitsu which Lauber continues to pass down to his own students at his San Antonio academy after being a student of the style for over fifteen years.
Congratulations to Josh Lauber on receiving his black belt from Relson on June 22, 2011 at their main academy in Oahu, Hawaii!
With such a huge lifelong goal now turned into an accomplishment for Josh, we wanted to talk to him about his BJJ journey and get his insight on what may help others traveling down the same never-ending path.
Josh congrats from all of us here at TXMMA.com on your recent promotion to black belt. How long have you been training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
Thanks for your kind words. 2011 is my 16th year in Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. I started at the Waialae Avenue academy when it was called ‘Gracie Hawaii’ and Rorion Gracie owned it. Relson Gracie was the head instructor.
What originally got you into the sport?
I have always been small in stature with a pretty loud mouth. That led me to traditional Japanese martial arts as a teen. As I got older, I saw the UFC in 1993 and thought how Royce was winning looked kind of familiar but also kind of different than what I knew from Newaza (ground fighting in Judo).While visiting Oahu for two weeks in 1996, I met and took as many classes with Relson as I could. That led to me moving to Oahu mainly to study with Relson about 3 months later.
It’s well-known in BJJ circles that it’s pretty difficult to attain a black belt from Relson. How did you feel when you received yours?
To receive a black belt from Relson is an unbelievable feeling. We had to pass like a two-and-a-half-hour self defense review that covered the unarmed program and the weapons defenses that include club, knife, chair and 16 gun defenses!
What is so incredible to me is Relson is one of the first Gracies to teach in the United States, where he opened up his own academy and chain of associations. He is now up to like 53 or 54 in the United States and 1 in Costa Rica. With all of those students and teachers he has only given 34 black belts! I think I am number 29.
Did you have any challenges that stand out most on the way to receiving your belt? How did you surpass them?
I have been teaching since 2002 and running my own academy for 5+ years, injuries are a fact of the lifestyle. Frustrations too. Injuries are a matter of training around them and a healthy diet. I am a huge proponent of the Gracie Diet. The help it gives you in energy and in recovery is just unbelievable. I also need to mention Alvaro Romano and Ginastica Natural because he and his methods are my alternative to surgery. I have had bad knee problems and his exercises have given me more flexibility and improved elasticity in problem areas.
Who has helped you the most in your jiu-jitsu journey?
First and foremost, Relson Gracie. Relson is still my number-one hero and favorite Jiu-Jitsu player after all these years and after meeting many stars of this world. His lifestyle, attitude and mores are an example and something I try and emulate in my own life.
My Hawaiians made me tough and technical and are too numerous to mention but a few are Ronn Shiraki, Todd Tanaka, The Furutas, Jeff and Andrew, Kimo Kreis, Keone Gaspar, the Onzuka Bros , Shane Agena and Reyn Morimoto.
Also, Rhalan Gracie (Relson’s only son) is a huge inspiration to me. His evolution as a technician, teacher, and humble human being continue to impress me. He got his Black Belt on the same day as I did and was my partner for the test. He and I worked a lot on our self defense together and he really helped prepare me. Ryron Gracie has influenced me a lot not just with his clean simple technique but with his philosophy on being ego-less and living in the now for life and competition.
Phil Cardella, Christy Thomas, and Relson Gracie Austin gave me enormous support when I moved to Texas and I value their team almost as much as my San Antonio Division. My students are a huge inspiration and they have made this the happiest chapter in my life! They continue to inspire, make me laugh and fill the mats with pleasure as I do the best job on the planet!
Now that you’re a black belt… what’s next?
The thing that got me this far is repetition. Nothing changes that. In the end I am just looking to continue doing exactly what I am doing now! I love the Jiu-Jitsu life! I walk around in shorts and flip flops and my business attire is basically pajamas! It doesn’t get any better.
What advice would give others that have been on the path, blue belts, etc. as far as what they need to do to get to black belt?
The only difference between a white belt and black belt is 10,000 times and not giving up. Don’t worry about your belt. Worry about good basics and good teammates that will help you progress. Make sure you are having fun and being as egoless as possible! The less ego the better, who cares if you tap or who you can tap! For a Relson Gracie Black Belt, you also must know the self defense program. Go buy Helio’s book Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and start at page one. I am a stickler about my students not just knowing how to pass the guard and defend the mount but also want to know that they can defend against headlock with punches, bear hugs, kicks and collar grabs, not to mention how to protect yourself when you are mounted and someone is trying to punch you.
What about somebody who may be considering BJJ but haven’t started yet? Any advice for them?
Carlos Gracie said that everyone should know 3 things: How to Fight, How to swim, and How to ride a horse. I would argue that nothing has changed and those are 3 skills that will serve you well in life. When you know the self defense program, that confidence you receive is priceless. The benefits are mental, physical and spiritual. This is an art that is good for all ages and sexes. Today is always a great day to start!
We look forward to seeing you around at competitions but any last words for now regarding your accomplishment Josh?
I want to thank Relson Gracie, I cannot say enough about how much he has changed and influenced my life. Obrigado Campeao! Rhalan Gracie, My brother in arms! Team Relson Gracie – all divisions and associations! Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu San Antonio, you all are the best students anyone could ask for! Mike Campos, my Gracie Grappling Cup partner, thanks for all the tireless support and work! Just wait for the next one! And thanks to you Mike for setting up this interview.