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Rickson Gracie Seminar

A couple of nights ago, Monstro and I attended Rickson Gracie's seminar at the Gracie Academy ™ in Torrance.  The seminar, a bargain at $100, was announced over email and sold out in two hours.  The academy was big, with a one-room “Gracie Jiu Jitsu Museum ™”, huge locker rooms, and a large mat.  There were Gracies everywhere.  The sons of Rorion that I could identify (Rener & Ralek) looked gigantic in person.  There were 22 black belts in attendance, one red belt instructor (Rickson), and one red belt host (Rorion).

Monstro and I did not arrive with expectations that Rickson would be teaching anything mind blowing, but we were hoping, at the very least, to learn something we could apply to our games, and to get a snap shot of us and Rickson.

I was particularly excited as I trained for six months at Rickson's academy when I first moved to Los Angeles.  During those six months, Rickson made an apperance once, criticized the way someone was doing their forward roll during warm ups, and then left five minutes later.

The Gracies who attended the seminar (please forgive poor photo quality)

The seminar focused on the theoretical concept of “connections”, that is, the points of connection between you and your opponent, and between you and the mat.  At times, Rickson referred to this as the “invisible” jiu jitsu, which is to say that two people could be seemingly applying the same technique with one focusing his energy and weight more efficiently than the other, while looking identical to an observer.

He then applied this theory of connections to a handful of techniques.  After every technique, he asked if there were questions.  There were always questions.  He demonstrated for the person asking the question, and made the student perform the technique until it was performed perfectly.

After working on a bottom side control technique, a black belt (training close to Monstro and I) asked Rickson for clarification.  In short, the black belt was asking if the technique could be performed when his opponent was positioning himself deliberately to thwart the technique.  Rickson said “You’re being naïve.  You’re a black belt, you should know this,” and then explained that, of course, if the person was over committing to defend the technique, he should take advantage of the over commitment.

Black (and red) belts who attended seminar (please forgive poor photo quality)

By the end of the seminar, we understood the theoretical concept, we understood how it was applied in practice, and we were equipped to look for places in our game to apply it.

Rickson gave a talk after class*, and got choked up as he described how happy he was to reconnect with his family.  He explained how he always kept in touch, but it had been a long time since they had taught or trained or exchanged techniques.  He also announced that he was, in effect, semi-retired and had no interest running an academy anymore.  He planned on teaching seminars one week out of the month, and spending the rest of the time “eating good food”, “surfing”, and spending time with his fiancé.  When asked by one of the Rorion progeny when he would be back, he replied:

“After I’ve spent some time in Prianha..surfing.”  (Monstro and I exchanged glances as we had been to Prianha a couple of times when visiting Rio.  It is, perhaps, the most beautiful beach in the world.)

The biggest disappointment was that after pictures were taken, they did not allow any personal pictures with Rickson.  Monstro was inconsolable, so I cheered him up with a bag of Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies, and promised him I would photoshop us and Rickson together as proof that we attended the seminar.

*A spectator, I don’t know what he thought he was doing, started filming Rickson behind and a little beside him until Rickson angrily said “Hey…Get out of here!  Please!”