Q & A with
Rickson Lays it Down
From Gracie Magazine
Ano III, No 16
notes by Roberto Pedreira
April 15, 2020
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
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
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
Saulo: In that case would you
confront the three best from Carlson's Team?
Rickson: I would do it with
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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. 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.
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.)
with Rickson Gracie on GTR here.
(c), 2020, Roberto Pedreira.
All rights reserved.