Black Belt - - SCREEN SHOTS -


H e hasn’t com­peted in years, but his name is as revered in the grap­pling world now as it was when he fought in Brazil, in Ja­pan and in the United States. Born on Novem­ber 21, 1958, Rickson Gra­cie earned his black belt at age 18, and his life has been a roller-coaster ride through the mul­ti­verse of Brazil­ian jiu-jitsu, vale tudo, no-holds­barred �ight­ing and MMA, a ride that de­posited him squarely on top of the heap.

“Rickson is that rare com­bi­na­tion of un­com­mon in­tel­lect, ex­cep­tional ath­leti­cism and an un­re­lent­ing work ethic,” said Bur­ton Richard­son, a Black Belt Hall of Famer who teaches Brazil­ian jiu-jitsu, silat and jeet kune do. “Add that to the good for­tune of be­ing born into the Gra­cie fam­ily, and you have the com­plete recipe for a cham­pion of the high­est cal­iber.”

That good for­tune re­volves around the Gra­cie tra­di­tion of rais­ing kids in the dojo. Rickson, now an eighth de­gree, told Black Belt he started rolling in the fam­ily gym be­fore he was even aware of it. “My dad He­lio Gra­cie used to play with me on the mat, so it be­gan be­fore I was con­scious of it,” he said.

That fos­tered the devel­op­ment of a master tac­ti­cian, one who’s un­ri­valed on the ground yet still highly skilled at stand-up. “When I was a blue belt, I was chat­ting with Rickson,” Richard­son re­called. “He said, ‘I’m al­ways look­ing to get to an in­ter­sec­tion where no mat­ter how my op­po­nent moves, I will have a sub­mis­sion.’ He was al­ways work­ing to­ward check­mate. I was try­ing one move at a time, hop­ing some­thing would work. I was play­ing low-level check­ers, but Rickson was play­ing high-level chess.”

“In my gen­er­a­tion of jiu-jitsu, Rickson was a su­per­hero in Brazil — a war­rior on the mat and a gen­tle­man off the mat,” Jean Jac­ques Machado said. “He’s a per­son that brings the real spirit of a samu­raiǨ My idol.”

e agree with Machado that racie’s pop­u­lar­ity stems from rea­sons far grander than grap­pling skill. It’s his unof�icial po­si­tion as el­der states­man of BJJ, a mar­tial artist who spouts phi­los­o­phy as of­ten as tech­ni­cal tips. The fol­low­ing are a few of the gems he’s told us over the years.

• “I al­ways look for the pos­si­bil­ity of em­ploy­ing a sub­mis­sion tech­nique, and I al­ways try to de­feat my op­po­nent in the most hu­mane way pos­si­ble, with­out any un­nec­es­sary vi­o­lence. In any en­counter, it is good to be as gen­tle as pos­si­ble.”

• “Whether or not you should play of­fense or de­fense de­pends on whether you’re in­volved in a street �ight or a com­pe­ti­tion. On the street, I’m more than happy to be to­tally de­fen­sive, not com­mit­ting my­self to any­thing. I make sure that men­tally, spir­i­tu­ally and tech­ni­cally, I’m pre­pared to pro­tect my­self against what­ever might hap­pen. In a com­pe­ti­tion, how­ever, many times I will try to set up my op­po­nent by com­mit­ting my­self 50 per­cent to a cer­tain strat­egy. If he is able to re­spond to that strat­egy, then I might cut the ac­tion short and do some­thing else.”

Ȉ “Al­ways it is the in­di­vid­ual that wins or loses. A �ight is not won be­cause of a tech­nique or speci�ic drill. It is won be­cause of the phys­i­cal, strate­gic, emo­tional and tech­ni­cal qual­i­ties of the �ighter.”

• “‘Cre­at­ing con­fu­sion’ is the high­est level of any sport where you com­pete against a hu­man be­ing. When you have to cre­ate con­fu­sion, you have to �low in har­mony. hen you play against an op­po­nent, you have to play all the dif­fer­ent lev­els: men­tal, tech­ni­cal, con­cen­tra­tion, in­tim­i­da­tion, emo­tional and so on.”

In 1995 Bur­ton Richard­son in­ter­viewed Rickson Gra­cie be­fore the sec­ond Vale Tudo Ja­pan and asked him what his life would be like if he’d never trained in BJJ. “It was the only time I saw the ev­er­con�ident ick­son hes­i­tate,” ichard­son re­called. “He pon­dered a few mo­ments be­fore [he said], ‘I can’t imag­ine it. Jiu-jitsu is my life.’”

For his ded­i­ca­tion to the self-de­fense arts and his devo­tion to the deeper teach­ings of those arts, Black Belt has se­lected Rickson Gra­cie as its 2017 Man of the ear.

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