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Rickson and the mental pressure on super-athletes

After Rickson Gracie decided to hang up his gloves, for a long time he lived with that classic kind of speculation that surrounds the great sports idols, particularly fighters. 

“Why doesn’t he return to beat the current champion?” “Since he’s in shape, why not come back to give fans this one last gift?” Rickson always dealt with all of that with the serene mind of the samurai. In an interview with Graciemag in 2005, he explained how he handled this pressure coming from all sides. And how his mind stayed serene, away from depression or the inquietude that punishes many retired champions. 

“I always try, more than anything else, to thank God for having put me in this position of prominence as a martial artist,” he said. “And I strive, within this gratitude, to do my best to give back — to society, to my family, to fans, to friends and students.”

He added: “I seek, therefore, to live every day of my life without having the expectation that I have to prove something, to beat someone, to do something more. I try to live my daily life with the utmost respect for my neighbor, and a big desire to help others. When I spend a day where I feel I did good to people and myself, that’s a day where I can feel no other way but happy. And I await the next one, with the same levity.”
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How do you control your opponent’s movement?

One of the dearest concepts to Master Rickson Gracie is that of connection. It’s an element of fighting that is as important as it is imperceptible, and that is present in all positions — from the takedown to the guard, from side control to the mount. In each training session, you and your opponent will be in connection; but it’s necessary to understand and be alert to the concept in order to better develop it. 

Connection in jiu-jitsu is not the grip, or the contact with the opponent. Connection is something deeper than that. When you truly connect, you control your opponent’s movement. 

“I feel connected to my opponent when I’m in base and use my balance to cancel and capitalize on their moves,” Rickson says. “Connection is the energy that makes us grab the opponent, when they want to move back but can’t. If they keep up the pressure, they will be launched with their back to the ground, because that’s where their force leads. The same happens if I’m connected and they try to push me. Their force will be used against them, in a forward takedown.”

Think about connection as if two individuals were exchanging energy to the point of fusing into a single organism. The energies are in conflict, but it’s mandatory for your connection to prevail and be the stronger one, so you can lead both where you want. 

Rickson teaches: “In each position, there are multiple ways to connect and take control of the fight. Use the connection so your physical structure prevails and you control the opponent. The secret to evolving is to strive to be connected one hundred percent of the time as you train.”
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My routine on fight days, by Rickson Gracie

In my times of professional fighting, I liked arriving at the venue three hours before putting on the robe and jumping into the ring. 

I'd go with my team to the locker room and, to the surprise of those who did not know me, I'd go to a comfy corner and take a nap. I'd usually sleep for one hour thirty, one hour forty minutes. 

My recipe for sleeping soon before a decisive match came down to the lungs. I would breathe in, breathe out, relax my body and especially my head, and sleep deeply, like an infant. 

I'd wake up when there were sixty minutes to go, and start a warmup that lasted forty-five minutes. In this stage, my heartbeats would reach 160, 140, and the sweat would start running down. My body was already prepared for the crunch. 

And then I would sit for five minutes. It was enough to use my lungs to breathe in and out, and drastically lower my heart rate. Meanwhile, my opponent on the other side would jump, run, make faces, his heart rate way up. 

When the fight started, I was always at an advantage in relation to the heart rate and breathing. That's what would lead my opponents, sooner than me, to get their heads confused, make tactical errors, see their arms get too heavy. 

Breathing, therefore, was always my best friend as a fighter. And better still: it's the best weapon also for people who will never need to put on fighting gloves or a gi. 

After all, as I learned across so many years of locker rooms and training sessions, the lungs play quite a role in our body: they are the true caretakers of our brain and our heart. 

Try this as soon as possible: fill your lungs to the brim and exhale slowly and gradually. Repeat the process for three minutes. You will comprehend that it will be impossible to think about problems and errands; after all, your brain starts focusing on the commands of the respiratory movement, deterring any stressful thoughts. As a bonus, you slow down your heart. 

Then, you will feel, like I felt on those days of war, a peace that is hard to describe. 

Breathe, and be happy. 
Rickson Academy Avatar Rickson Academy posted to Empowerment

Empowerment 19th class: the "upa"

Master Rickson Gracie suggests an exercise to train hips, arms, shoulders, and neck to execute a perfect "upa" bridge, a crucial Jiu-Jitsu move for escapes.
Empowerment 19th class: the "upa"

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Rickson Academy Avatar Rickson Academy posted to Empowerment

Empowerment 18th class: Standing up in base

Master Rickson Gracie and his wife Cassia demonstrate physical exercises to strengthen your base, coming from the ground and up, as you would have to do to open a guard, for example.
Empowerment 18th class: Standing up in base

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Latest Comments

jiujitsu Avatar
jiujitsu commented:

Obrigado, Professor

October 21, 2021 06:12 PM

stuart.farris Avatar
stuart.farris commented:

Things change for the better when you realize life isn't about you...it's about serving others.

October 21, 2021 05:25 PM

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