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A jiu-jitsu master named Ocean

If you practice BJJ and still suffer from anxiety crises and similar maladies, there may be something missing from your routine outside the dojo.

Contact with nature, for example.

Master Rickson Gracie once taught in an interview with a Brazilian magazine: 

"I'm an eternally childish person; I have fun all the time, with family and nature. I don't allow stress to knock on the door. In my view, the planet's great electromagnetic pole is in the water. It is my natural equalizer. If I start getting stressed, I jump into the water to relax." 

But the contact with trails, the sea and nature isn't just therapeutic, as maintained nowadays by doctors themselves. As Rickson pointed out, the ocean can also be a great BJJ master—if you're looking out for its signs. 

"Catching waves to me goes far beyond the maneuvers and skills on top of a board," he said. "It's an activity connected to the power of the ocean, to the force of nature. When the sea rises, for example, the first intelligent act is to feel fear. Never to the point of panicking, of course, but instead that feeling of fear that keeps us alert. Aware of the danger, you start acting in such a way as to avoid being submerged and falling off the board, and to think in a strategic way to avoid the risks and go back to land in one piece." 

To Rickson, the ocean teaches one of the most valuable lessons a person can learn in life: that every now and then, things can—and will—escape your control. You have no power over the tides, the winds and the currents. But, like in the ocean, you just need to be calm, analyze the situation, swim with intelligence, and act correctly to avoid a crisis. 

Rickson concluded: "In the ocean, we start to learn the importance of trying to become comfortable in the midst of discomfort, in the midst of the breaking of the waves. The ocean, therefore, has always been a great teacher to me—because we can't fight nature, or keep moving forward when the wave hits your head. You need to understand nature, and learn to deal with it in the best possible way. The sea brings great lessons, and surfing is just a wonderful bonus."
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Rickson Gracie’s first-ever loss

Rickson Gracie, his family's undefeated champion, built his professional journey with many challenges, confrontations, steps, obstacles. The first one of them, as remembered by the master himself, occurred when he was still a child who just wanted to have fun on the mats. 

"I got my first gi before my first diaper," he joked in a recent appearance on Jocko Willink's podcast. "One day my dad, Master Helio Gracie, asked if I would like to compete against other kids. I said yes, and he made me the offer: if I won the tournament, he would give me one gift; if I lost, he would give me two."

Rickson then reminisced on his debut, which can be probably traced back to his time as a green-belt:

"Fight day came, and I really lost. I don't remember if I understood my dad's proposition correctly, but what I learned from those words was that Master Helio would not be mad at me if I lost. And that is one of the great gifts a father can give his son — this peace, this tranquility, which removes a big weight from us as a child." 

"Today, I don't even remember if my dad really gave me those two gifts, but he certainly offered us something much more valuable," Rickson added . "I was able to realize then that practicing jiu-jitsu had nothing to do with the judgement of others. Without suffering any kind of paternal pressure, I competed again, I had success in my following fights, and I became a fighter."
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How to teach, by Master Rickson Gracie

In this class, an excerpt from the Self Defense Unit program, master Rickson Gracie addresses the importance of controlling the intensity to improve the student. The Jiu-Jitsu master gives examples of how to progress and what skills you need to perform as a coach.
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Helio Gracie's best bit of advice for beginners

One time, during an energizing conversation with the VIP members of Rickson Academy, one BJJ fan asked Rickson: what was the most memorable piece of advice you ever heard from Master Helio Gracie when you were still taking your first steps in the gentle art?

Rickson then remembered a great lesson that changed the course of his journey. "Master Helio once told me: if you want to be a special fighter, different from the others, you need to be confident to do what needs to be done, but you must keep yourself in permanent doubt to learn what can be learned."

The piece of wisdom proved valuable like few others: no matter how much Rickson learned, or how many opponents he beat, he should remember to have a curious, inquisitive mind, open to new things — and willing to test everything out. The curious mind is the only type that never stops learning, and that in BJJ is the winning path. 

"Master Helio then added: use your heart, but use your head even more," Rickson recalled. "You won't want to win your battles just because you're stronger and more tenacious than your opponents, because eventually that energy runs out. To go far in jiu-jitsu, you must be attentive to the details, to the apparently invisible minutiae, but which make an outsize difference in a fight. Despite your being stronger than your opponent, always try to see the fight through the eyes of a weak man. And so I opened my eyes and mind to the deficiencies that nobody saw, to apparently invisible resources of our martial art."

How about you: do you look at BJJ from the point of view of a weak student? Just something to keep in mind, coming from the eternal master Helio Gracie.

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Latest Comments

Maria Corio Avatar
Maria Corio commented:

Another reason to be Grateful when I’m not forced to wear a mask
Or to remember my breathe is for empowerment so practice being Uncomfortable to be Comfortable is my goal

November 26, 2021 02:28 PM

Carlos Avatar
Carlos commented:

Luv this 🥊

November 24, 2021 06:20 PM


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