Helmed by MMA fighter and longtime BJJ practitioner Chris Spicer, the academy’s focus will be on teaching what he labels as “the most complete and effective martial art system in the world” as it was originally intended to be passed down by Grandmaster Helio Gracie and his Hawaii-based 8th degree red/black belt son Relson.
With that being said, the school will also include Muay Thai and Western Boxing in its curriculum along with MMA and classes focused strictly for self-defense.
In light of Relson Gracie Waco opening up for business this weekend, we spoke to Head Instructor Chris Spicer to get his take on what he hopes to offer the city of Waco and Central Texas through his new academy.
Chris, congratulations on opening up Relson Gracie Waco this weekend. Before we talk about the academy, let’s start with your own background. When did you first get involved with martial arts?
I was first introduced to martial arts just like everyone else, by watching old Kung Fu movies and the Ninja Turtles. I first fell in love with combat sports while I was young practicing Karate. It’s fun to punch and kick your friends when you’re young and not getting in trouble. Now my love is Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and self-defense. Competing in MMA is something I do just for fun and to prove that Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu will work in any situation.
Did you grow up in Texas? What was life like for you outside of martial arts growing up?
I grew up in Robinson, TX. A small town outside of Waco. My family has always been athletic and competed in sports. My father practiced Judo when he was younger and my brother played football at the college level. Growing up I played every sport you can think of with a ball up to high school. Then I just played football all the way until I decided to focus strictly in martial arts.
What’s your training background in Jiu-Jitsu and MMA?
I began my Jiu-Jitsu journey learning No-GI grappling in the back of the old boxing gym I was working out at in Waco. After a few months of training I began driving to Austin to train with Phil Cardella at Relson Gracie Austin a few times a week. I would drive up and train sometimes 3 classes a day then drive home that night and teach at Baylor or the Boxing gym the next day.
This went on for a few years then I moved to Huntsville, TX to study Criminal Justice. During this time I still drove up to Austin most weekends to train and would drive back to Huntsville and teach at Death Row MMA. After school ended, I moved to Austin to train full -time in BJJ and MMA until now. My main instructors are Relson Gracie, Phil Cardella (2nd degree black belt), and Richard Giberson (1st degree black belt) of Relson Gracie Austin. I have also trained with many other Gracie black belts and many top-tier professional MMA athletes.
How did your training background shape the type of BJJ you practice now and how you approach spreading that knowledge to others?
I represent the only way. The Gracie way, specifically Relson Gracie. What this means is at my core is self-defense and my style reflects this. I go straight for the submission. There are no points to be won on the street so I do not factor that into my training. As for what position I favor, it is the guard. My guard developed thanks to Phil Cardella – who in my opinion has one of the best guard games in the United States.
I know you’ve been competitive in MMA in addition to Jiu-Jitsu. Why did you get started with that endeavor and is it something you plan on continuing while running your new academy?
Absolutely, I love to fight! Jiu-Jitsu is my way of life, income and my passion. Mixed Martial Arts is what I do for fun and it’s my hobby. I also compete in the cage because I want to prove that Relson Gracie techniques work, even when an opponent knows what he’s doing and is getting paid to hurt you! I also want to show my students, friends, and the public that I am a legitimate instructor who has had ring/cage experience.
What do you hope to offer Waco with your Relson Gracie BJJ academy?
I hope to offer Waco and all of central Texas a legitimate Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and self defense academy that can prepare everyone for their own “worst case scenario.” Whether is a 10 year old who is being bullied or a mom who wants to know how to defend herself and protect her family. It is also the place where a person who wants to try and compete in MMA can have solid, technical training to help them reach their goals in the cage.
Did you pick the city of Waco for any specific reason?
My wife and I picked Waco because it is where we both grew up and our family and friends are here. Ever since my journey began I wanted to bring Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to Waco and I am very excited and looking forward to building a strong academy for many years to come.
What can prospective students expect from you guys? Are you teaching only BJJ or other stuff as well?
Our primary focus is Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and self defense. Students can expect to learn much more than just sport grappling. We also cover weapon defense and other street applicable techniques. We also offer instruction in MMA, Boxing, and Muay Thai. As well as a women’s only street safe class and kids programs. I am also talking with many local law enforcement agencies, fire departments, paramedics and local schools including Baylor about self defense seminars.
Is there anything else you can tell us about the new academy?
Our facility is the only one in central Texas with a safe and certified 18ft hexagon cage. We also have a very nice bag rack with many different heavy bags and 1,100 sq. ft. of Dollamur mats that will be cleaned and disinfected daily. We will also be installing a shower and washer and dryer soon for out-of-towners that want to stop in and train.
When’s the grand opening and what’s it going to be like? Who’s invited?
Our entire schedule starts October 1. We will announce our grand opening after we find out when Relson will be coming down. It will be open to the public and many association members from all over Texas will be in attendance. I hope to have a big turnout and will tell the local media of his arrival.
How can prospective students get a hold of you?
Anyone interested can contact us at the academy at 254-235-2200 or on our Facebook Page. We are currently building a website now so I’ll tell you when that’s up.
Anything else you’d like to add Chris?
I want to thank my wife and father for helping me accomplish my dream of opening a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu academy in my home town. If it wasn’t for their help I could not accomplish any of this. My wife especially who runs the day to day operations and will one day teach our women’s class. I also would like to thank all the association instructors and students. Including Phil Cardella, Richard Giberson, Christy Thomas, Josh Labur, and Lance Yeager. And of course Helio, Relson and Rhalan Gracie for giving me this beautiful art to share with the world.
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