HOUSTON, TX, October 24, 2011 – When I was first invited by Leonardo Xavier to stop by his grand opening during the seminar put on by Rickson Gracie, I must admit I was eager to observe the longtime family champion of the revered Gracie family and try to catch a glimpse of this aura of his that’s been validated by top black belts from all around the world.
The son of Grandmaster Hélio Gracie, Rickson was born into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has spent his entire lifetime championing the art and gaining international acclaim as one of the world’s top freestyle fighters while competing in no-holds-barred tournaments during the infancy of the sport we now call Mixed Martial Arts, ending his career in the genre without ever having been defeated.
Now 52 years old and an 8th degree black and red belt in the art his family created, Rickson spends much of his valuable time giving seminars and developing BJJ as his father saw it – as a tool for empowerment that gives the physically-weak individual a chance against the strong; a medium and a means to gain confidence and enrich ones’ life.
With an impetus on developing a greater understanding of his BJJ philosophy, here’s what we gathered from observing and briefly speaking to the master.
Rickson Gracie and the Concept of Invisible Jiu-Jitsu
Just as suspected, Rickson didn’t spend his limited time teaching the latest and greatest innovative guard techniques or expounding the virtues of the flying toehold at his seminar. Instead, his focus was on sharing the essence of jiu-jitsu as he’s learned how to see it through a lifelong love affair with an art he was born into.
Based on what we gathered from observing a portion of the affair and speaking to attendees afterwards, this seminar wasn’t about learning moves as it was about understanding the mechanics and feel of the most basic ones.
Less new technique, more understanding. That’s what this occasion was geared toward.
Invisible Jiu-Jitsu, as Rickson described it to those in attendance, is the “profound aspect to connect yourself and be stronger from your feet to your hands” in order to achieve efficiency. It’s feeling the connection between movements and not just initiating them. It’s also a principle that applies in both Jiu-Jitsu and everyday life.
“Every time you struggle, you’ll figure out where you’re not connected and be able to develop yourself with smooth movements. It’s that invisible force that you can continue to gain understanding of. That’s my motivation today – to understand Invisible Jiu-Jitsu, what is there besides what you don’t see.”
According to the master, it’s the understanding of this concept that keeps one efficient even when they’re tired, even when out of shape or gassed. It’s this principle that will help an athlete, an executive, a woman, or child use Jiu-Jitsu to protect themselves against a larger attacker. That’s the spirit of Jiu-Jitsu as he sees it – as it was originally intended – not just meant for competition but for life in general so we call learn more about ourselves and discover our possibilities.
According to Rickson, it’s a philosophy he’s gone full circle in understanding all while he continues to learn.
“I get all this love and everything and now my mission is to bring it back,” he says. “In my life I was passionate, gifted, a perfectionist, and I always listened to my dad but I continue to understand this feeling and develop that knowledge (about Jiu-Jitsu even now). I had to take my own fears and learn now to connect this force.”
“I’m bigger than my own flag,” the revered master says about how he feels nowadays. “Jiu-Jitsu is still always my motivation but it’s not about competing or defending the flag. I realized my motivation isn’t just competing or creating competitors but to bring back this invisible force. Now my flag isn’t just Humaita or Rickson Gracie… It’s Jiu-Jitsu.”
A Brief Q&A with Rickson Gracie
TXMMA.com : What is the general meaning of Jiu-Jitsu as you believe it to be? How do relate that to how it’s been adapted in MMA?
Rickson Gracie: I think the evolutionary process of Jiu-Jitsu brought a lot of attention and efficiency in competition to the sport of MMA… I feel like this proved that Jiu-Jitsu is efficient but much more than that is the philosophical aspect and self-defense aspect which provides a good peaceful state of mind for the practitioner. It’s not exactly just about being a competitor but having the knowledge to feel safe against an attacker. Jiu-Jitsu has a much more complete spectrum of service than competition and MMA. I emphasize the need of everyone to learn Jiu-Jitsu to develop more their sense of safety and internal peace. I feel like more attention on self-defense and a focus for women and kids is important and that’s exactly what Leo (Xavier) has been doing. That’s the kind of emphasis that needs to be spread out with more intensity.
TXMMA.com: What’s the main benefit that comes with someone dedicating themselves to training Jiu-Jitsu?
Rickson Gracie: It’s not about learning something you can only express outwards. I feel like by learning Jiu-Jitsu you will be able to learn more about yourself. By interacting with Jiu-Jitsu you start to develop a great sense of self. You’ll understand if you’re too tense or too timid or too passive. Then you can start to develop those elements to become sharper mentally and physically to keep you going forward in a progress which you feel like without Jiu-Jitsu it will be hard for you to go to your limits and your deep sensations. With Jiu-Jitsu, you can start dealing with very stressful situations but in a controlled environment with a very positive element so you can get tired, deal with problems, and resolve those problems. You go home more peaceful and more confident. Jiu-Jitsu works for anyone whether it’s an executive, engineer, police officer, athlete, woman, child, anyone. This is a very good community and activity.
TXMMA.com: It’s a pleasure to see a man of your esteem visiting us here in Texas and supporting Professor Xavier. When do you plan on being back?
Rickson Gracie: I hope to come here as often as I can. Of course I have a tight schedule but it’s always a pressure to support Leo in terms of what he’s doing here. I feel like he’s doing an outstanding job and it’s a matter of time for him to have more schools and become more involved in the community to provide a good service. A guy like that is not exactly one you find in trees.
Rickson Gracie – Additional Resources
• Rickson Gracie Hosts Special Seminar to Bless New Leonardo Xavier Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Sugar Land, TX – here
• Rickson Gracie (interview) Article by Maynard Keenan – here
• Rickson Gracie Seminar Thoughts by Tony Pacenski – here
• Rickson Gracie seminar at Gracie Academy: a legend returns to his roots by Andreh Anderson – here
• 6 Questions for Rickson Gracie by Marcelo Alonso – here