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Roberto Pedreira


















Q & A with Rickson Gracie 

Rickson Lays it Down

From Gracie Magazine Ano III, No 16


Translated with notes by Roberto Pedreira

April 15, 2020 (JST)


After his resounding triumph over the pro wrestler Nobuhiko Takada on October 11, 1997, at Tokyo Dome, Rickson began preparing for a rematch. Takada had not performed up to the fans' expectations. Rumor had it that Takada "was not at full strength" for the fight. The rematch was set for October 11, 1998. Despite his rigorous training schedule, Rickson found time to go to Hawaii to watch the IV Pan-Americano de Jiu-Jitsu, held at Kaiser High School in Honolulu on February 7-8, 1998.


After the tournament Rickson held a Q & A, attended by various jiu-jitsu black belts, brown belts, blue belts, and others without belts. They included Saulo Ribeiro, Bruno Severiano, Eduardo 'Velho', Tatá, Vinicius Draculino, Fernado Vasconcellos, Mauricio Mariano, Barret [Yoshida], Rockson Gracie, Shaolin,  Pascoal, Ryan Gracie, Sarruça, Carlos Soneca, Hideki Azaoka, Yuki Nakay [Nakai], and Rumina Sato.  


Saulo Ribeiro [black belt, Gracie Humaita, champion absoluto]: Rickson, how did you feel watching the black belts compete in the Pan-Americano?

Rickson: With the growth of jiu-jitsu and the spread of each tournament, I feel that the tree of jiu-jitsu is bearing its fruits and spreading its positive message all over the world, and I feel very proud.

Saulo: Would you compete in a kimono, for money, against some of the best athletes from the Carlson Gracie Team?

Rickson: The question isn't exactly about money. I represent jiu-jitsu in international events of the first class. At the present time it is necessary for Brazil to have a representative of jiu-jitsu at the international level. If that happens [in a special match], I am more than ready to accept such a challenge.

Saulo: In that case would you confront the three best from Carlson's Team?

Rickson: I would do it with great pleasure.

Bruno Severiano [black belt Gracie Barra, champion super-pesado]: What is the best preparation for an athlete who aims to compete in a jiu-jitsu tournament?

Rickson:  First, dedicate 50% of the training specifically to jiu-jitsu. Mix endurance with stretching to polish the technique and other [training] to acquire explosiveness for the perfect combination to compete in tournaments. In the other 50%, the athlete should devote 20% to strength [força] and 30% to stamina [gás], and make sure that the nutrition regimen is sufficient to support this degree of training.

Eduardo 'Velho' [black belt, Gracie Barra, 3rd place super-pesado]: What do you think about supplements?

Rickson: Very Important. Because it's difficult to get enough nutrients to recover and reset from the wear of training for a super athlete. 

Tatá [aka Otavio Duarte, black belt from Jorge Pereira]: What is the secret of beating those giant wrestlers?

Rickson: To have a good guard so as not to get into danger, and then make the wrestler use more gás [energy, power] than you use during the fight.

Vinicius Draculino [aka Vinicius Magalhães, black belt Gracie Barra, champion pena]: Is it a bad idea to face wrestlers in a kimono?

Rickson: That is a question for each individual to answer, but for me personally, I prefer to fight without a kimono. Because I think that not having a kimono to grab is going to make the wrestler use more of his energy. A wrestler is an explosive fighter. But if he doesn't have a rest period the wrestler will suffer enormous physical fatigue. You can see guys like Coleman and others that after 5 minutes they have no gas and are sucking air. So if a jiu-jitsu fighter has the conditions to avoid a wrestler's control and make him use up his stamina, the jiu-jitsu fighter will certainly win, especially if there is no time limit.   

Fernado Vasconcellos [black belt, Machado Academy, 2 x champion medio]:  Training with and without kimono, passing the guard with and without kimono?

Rickson: With the kimono you have 100% of the technical options. You have wrist grips, shoulder grips, and grips anywhere that you can grab. Without the kimono you need to be much more objective about where you hold and you have much less options, that is, your technical options are reduced by at least 60%. But the fundamental principles of leverage, defense, attack, control and distribution of weight, are the same without or without kimono. When you lose the ability of technical movement because of lack of grips, you need to stick to jiu-jitsu basics in order to maintain your efficiency.

Without kimono, it will be more difficult, less technical, more physical. But the same concepts should be used to achieve the results. As for passing the guard, without the grips it will be more difficult. You should use elements that are a little more profound, in relation to distribution of weight and movement. When you have this technique, you will continue to offer danger to the opponent and be sufficiently objective.

Mauricio Mariano [black belt, Gracie Barra, 3rd place, leve]: How do you prepare for your fights without having sparring partners at our own level?

Rickson:  This is a problem. For some time I have not had anyone I can train with individually. What I normally do is to reduce my elements. I put myself in a predetermined position and when the opponent knows what I want to do, it is more difficult to do it, in a limited amount of time from a specific position. Then I look to fight from a position that I don't want to be in.

I try to divide my training into small parts so as to polish each part individually. Instead of my training partners confronting 100% of Rickson, they confront 50% of Rickson.

Barret [Barret Yoshida, blue belt, Relson Gracie Academy, alluding to a technique that sent him out of title contention the day before]:  

Rickson: How to escape a flying triangle? You almost escaped. You should have maintained an upright posture and not let yourself be pulled off-balance to the front.

Rockson Gracie [oldest son of Rickson, blue belt, champion of galo]: Dad, what do you think about the tournament that you watched?

Rickson: I think that jiu-jitsu has evolved in terms of tournaments, but there is a tendency that I don't agree with, for matches to be tied too much. The competitors are focusing on scoring points rather than the principal objective which is to submit the opponent.  I sincerely think that it could be possible to produce a tournament in which it is not permitted to stall, or take a static grip, or grab a knee, or grab a collar only to prevent movement, and then the referee should require them to let it go. Because jiu-jitsu is about movement. If you prevent movement, it will be the end of jiu-jitsu. And what it proved [winning by points by holding the opponent] is, nothing more or less than this, that you have enough strength to hold an opponent for 5-10 minutes. I don't consider this a victory. Someone who isn't looking for a submission, for me, is losing points from the beginning of the fight. Sometimes a fighter will win a fight on points and lose his movement. When he takes off his kimono to face a wrestler, for example, the jiu-jitsu that he knows will disappear.  

Shaolin [aka Vitor Ribeiro, black belt, Nova União, leve vice-champion]: Do you think that the fact that the Confederation doesn't have a "quadro fixo de arbitro" [a regular staff of independent, objective referees] influences the judging? When the referees are from their own academy, for example? 

Rickson:  I think the CBJJ should have officials who are totally independent of any athlete or team.  Maybe a lawyer, if he knew the rules of jiu-jitsu, could be impartial, and impervious to pressure to favor one athlete or team. 

Pascoal [President of the Roraima State Jiu-Jitsu Federation]:  Why has jiu-jitsu expanded so rapidly in various countries of the world? 

Rickson: Because of the demonstrations of the efficiency of jiu-jitsu in vale tudo type events and by the opinions of martial arts experts that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has an efficiency that a fighter absolutely needs.  Jiu-jitsu is an art that complements other styles. No karateka or pro boxer will feel comfortable without jiu-jitsu. Even if jiu-jitsu only complements other styles. This is the reason jiu-jitsu has been totally adopted as a world system and interest has reached a fever level today. 

Ryan Gracie [black belt, Gracie Barra, heavyweight champion]: How do you feel about being the best in the world?

Rickson:  I try to present an image that is not limited to my efficiency on the mats. I present a model that I learned from my family, promoting sport, dignity, and morality. The values you learn on the mat are values that will serve you in life, and apply to anyone, not just fighters and tough guys. I think women and children can benefit from learning the philosophy of martial arts and my mission is to be an example of that. I give it my total effort, because it is very important to me, and it gives me pride and responsibility.  

Sarruça [aka Anderson Xavier, black belt, Alliance, 3rd place, meio pesado]:  Is there anything that you regret doing or not doing? 

Rickson: I'm not perfect but I try to look at my mistakes as opportunities to evolve as a human being. Then I transform my regrets into a process of self-knowledge for a better personal life. 

Carlos Soneca [aka Carlos Machado, professor of Machado Academy in Texas, champion absolute master]: Given that Americans love sports, do you believe that Americans will overtake Brazilians in jiu-jitsu?

Rickson: That would be difficult because enthusiasm for jiu-jitsu in Brazil comes from the blood, comes from Brazil, comes from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I think that, like futebol, it would be difficult to surpass Brazil in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Even here in the USA, the competitors in international tournaments are Brazilians, the best professors are Brazilians. And I think the American doesn't have the cut-throat mentality that is necessary just to survive in Brazil. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu was created in Brazil, in a mixture of blood and temperament, lack of respect, where you have to hustle to do well, and that creates a capacity to learn and live. Jiu-jitsu is very connected to life. By learning jiu-jitsu you learn how to live and by learning how to live you automatically learn jiu-jitsu.  In the USA there are some exceptions but it is difficult to learn the mentality necessary to fight jiu-jitsu.

Hideki Azaoka [reporter for the Japanese magazine Baseball Magazine]: You beat Yuki Nakai in vale tudo. What do you think about his performance in the IV Pan-Americano?

Rickson: He showed that he has ability, that he is a strong athlete, that he wants to learn jiu-jitsu, to bring jiu-jitsu to Japan, to spread this art that he learned in Brazil and respects, he was the only one who showed outstanding superiority, and he seems to have embraced the banner of jiu-jitsu. In the future, anyone who is defeated by Yuki Nakai in vale tudo will be defeated by a representative of jiu-jitsu.

Yuki Nakai [中井祐樹, Japanese brown belt, 2 x champion pena]: The public in Japan thinks that the best fighter in Japan is Akira Maeda. Is there a chance that you will fight with him to prove who is stronger?

Rickson: It is possible but there are two obstacles. First, I hear that Mr. Maeda is going to retire. Second, my next fight will be a rematch with Mr. Takada. If he [Mr. Maeda] hasn't retired by that time, it would be my pleasure to face him him. 

Rumina Sato [佐藤ルミナ, Japanese vale tudo fighter, champion of Vale Tudo Open 1997]: Everyone knows that you are much better than Takada. Why are you going to fight with him again?

Rickson: I have already fought with many Japanese, and thanks to God, I have never lost. It isn't my decision to fight Takada again. It was the first time a first class event considered a rematch. Because they thought Takada could win, and he said he was sick, had a blood transfusion two days before the fight etc., and the promoters believed his story. Now we'll find out if the story was true or was bullshit.   

Rumina: Is there a possibility that I can fight your brother Royler, in the future? 

Rickson: It should happen, God willing. I'm doing what I can do to make it happen.

Note. It didn't happen.

Note. In addition to pro wrestler Nobuhiko Takada, Rickson defeated Yoshinori Nishi in VT Japan 94, and Yoshihisa Yamamoto, Koiichiro Kimura, and Yuki Nakai in VT Japan 95. "Some" might be a more accurate word than "many" but it is true that he never lost. Later he defeated Nobuhiko Takada again, and Pancrase representative Masakatsu Funaki, retiring with a career MMA record of 11-0 (he also fought and beat Zulu in 1980 and 1983, and David Levicki and Bud Smith in 1994). According to the picture above, published just before the first Takada match, Rickson had a record of 400戦無敗 (400 fights with no losses). His actual record at that point was 8 fights with no losses.



Supplementary information from:

Tournament Results: 4th Pan-American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournament. Rickson Gracie International Jiu-Jitsu Association Newsletter, ed. no. 6, spring/summer 1998, p. 2.

Atalla, Luca. (1998). IV Panamericano: Jiu-Jitsu Volta ao Havai. Gracie Magazine, Ano. III, no. 16. 

KRS Pride 1 Special Issue. September 22, 1997. (Pix above are from this issue.)


More interviews with Rickson Gracie on GTR here.


(c), 2020, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.



GTR Archives 2000-2022