To become a complete fighter, master Rickson Gracie developed and selected techniques to complement his training sessions. And now, he organized the most important in over 40 comprehensive lessons for you.
The Empowerment Course is available exclusively to Rickson Academy premium subscribers. Starting on August 19, we will release a couple of lessons per week through the following months until complete.
The day Rickson beat 2 powerful rivals in the same bout
April 25, 1980 is an important date in the history of martial arts in general, and jiu-jitsu in particular. That was when Rickson Gracie, then a young man with talent for BJJ and a passion for surfing, owner of a pretty new black belt, tested himself for the first time in a no-rules duel in a ring in Brasília.
The lessons that 19-year-old was about to learn in the Brazilian capital would change his life forever, and would be branded on his mind as by a hot iron.
Rickson's opponent was heavier, stronger and more experienced. Casimiro Martins, known as Rei Zulu ('King Zulu'), was a colossus of 32 years, 1.9m, about 100kg and only one loss in his career of over 100 vale-tudo matches. Rickson was prepared for his biggest challenge. But how he would come down from the ring was a different story.
The fight lasted 11 minutes and 55 seconds. Rickson remembers: "Around the start of the fight, I threw a very powerful knee that caught him squarely in the face. I had never hit anybody that hard, and in that moment I thought, 'Bullseye -- I win'. It seemed impossible for someone to resist a big knee strike like that. But Zulu shook his cheeks, spat out a tooth and came charging."
Rickson ended the first ten-minute round exhausted, bereft of strength. He thought of giving up, but his father Helio and brother Rolls pushed him back in, with a bucket of ice to the head and some efficacious words. Rickson took a breath and returned.
"After going to his back and finishing, I learned perhaps the greatest lesson of my life. I realized that our biggest opponent, the most powerful enemy of all of us, is inside our mind. If it were up to me, I would have stayed seated on that stool in the break. And, starting that day, I promised that I would never feed enemies in my own head, and that I would never give up when my head ordered me to. And that dying would be more acceptable than retreating."
Learning became part of his essence, and nowadays Rickson endeavors to teach students a jiu-jitsu focused exactly on this: refusing to retreat or hesitate in the face of a great challenge. Creating enemies inside your mind means going against jiu-jitsu.
"To beat a great challenge, and they occur daily in the life of any person, it is mandatory that you not be divided in two -- that is, your heart ready to confront the problem and your mind in doubt, walking backwards,” he says. “Daily, with daily practice of good old jiu-jitsu, adequate breathing and good nutrition, you will see that your emotions and desires are in harmony, and you will be in control to make the best, and wisest, decision.”
Robert Capa (1913–1954), a master of photography, used to say that if your pictures aren’t good enough, you are not close enough. Good for life, good for jiu-jitsu: if your technique isn’t good enough, maybe you haven’t gotten close enough to see and learn.
Your grip on the gi when it’s time to choke, for example. Are you still baffled by the effectiveness of the champions? Does it seem like something is amiss when you squeeze your training partner? Fret not, because our team zoomed in on the invisible details of Rickson Gracie’s grip. So check out this lesson.
The good teacher is usually a great communicator. Master Rickson Gracie is no exception, and he has given us, in the form of many articles, books and interviews, outstanding pieces of wisdom — some of which we compiled here to help you accelerate your evolution. Tell us which one is your favorite.
1. Victories from the past don't matter. Victory, upon being reached, must soon be forgotten.
2. My advice for any student is: More than to do, strive to feel.
3. The fundamental benefit of Jiu-Jitsu is that you get used to thinking under pressure. That will help you in many areas of your life.
4. Jiu-Jitsu teaches you to despise excessive violence. Nobody needs to kill a mosquito with a .45 bullet.
5. In Jiu-Jitsu, it's the heart that matters. Both the son of the maharaja of Persia and the son of the doorman, if they're in the gi, will ditch appearances and show whether they are afraid, whether they can, on the mat, control their emotions.
6. In the ring, I get completely rid of my consciousness and enter a zone of vacuum. My mind stops reasoning, and I start living inside my instinct and my training. I don't think of anything, of anyone; I don't hear sound. It's just me and my opponent.
7. Jiu-Jitsu's positions are like steps on a staircase. More important than to jump two or three at a time, what you need is to make sure you are never taking any steps backward.
8. Fighting needs to be beautiful. It's like art — it's not just throwing paint at the canvas. I'm a martial artist. I've always demanded a lot from myself; I've sought to evolve and hone my technique.
9. If you do not speak up when it matters, when would it matter that you speak? The opposite of courage is conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow.
What is the fundamental recipe for persevering and being successful? In 2003, Bernardinho Rezende, a coach, economist and former volleyball player, had the opportunity to get some tips from Rickson Gracie on this theme, and on how daily BJJ training feeds a positive, victorious mindset in the medium and long run.
The eventual two-time Olympic gold-winning coach (Athens-2004 and Rio-2016) started with this question:
"Rickson, what are the characteristics that differentiate a good fighter from a superchampion like you?"
"I believe that difference exists in an almost invisible field," Rickson answered. "The champion managed to get there because they are talented and received good orientation. But the superchampion goes beyond that point and makes adjustments and adaptations without being guided, but which work out. They start being creative and an improviser."
Bernadinho then asked: "How do you think you developed that warrior spirit in the course of your education, and how did you resist the pressures?"
Rickson reflected and said: "The warrior is always concerned with conquering, whether it's territory, a medal or any challenge. They excel due to trying to defeat any and all foes. And that is something you only develop by always facing more challenges. Once victory is reached, it must no longer have any meaning."
Rickson continued: "If unable to achieve victory, you must restructure yourself so that it can be achieved next time. This constant struggle, without dwelling on conquests, this samurai spirit then becomes a part of every aspect of your life, not just on the mat. It's a desire that you have, that of being at a higher point than you were yesterday.
"The more you train, the more confident you get to take the next step. But the pressure of having to win could explode anyone. What can be done, therefore, through the dedication of a big part of the mind and the spirit, is to surrender to a higher power: Simply do as much as you can, but know that the final result does not depend on you alone. It is with that that I remove the pressure from my routine. I'll just do what is possible -- what isn't possible is already settled. Whatever the result may be, I'll go back home satisfied."
Being creative and an improviser. Knowing how to armor yourself against pressure and finding maximum self-confidence to face challenges. A universal recipe, whether you're a lawyer, a coach or a wise BJJ master.