Interviewed by Nishi Yoshinori
From Kakutou Striking Spirit
May 1, 2002
Translated by Yoko Kondo
interview was conducted in 1994 just after the UFC 3, but was
published for the first time on May 1, 2002 in Japan, and is
now presented by GTR (June 11, 2002) for the first time in
An old enemy again!
Nishi: Nice to meet you.......
Staff: Wa! (surprise)
Nishi: Oh! I'm wrong. It has became a custom to say
Rickson: (smiling quietly) I'm sorry that I couldn't
train with you this time. By the way, how long have you been doing
Nishi: Maybe for about 26 years.....
Rickson: How long had you learned from Kimura?
Nishi: For four years during my university days. He
was a coach in the university. It seems that I am the one being
Rickson: The name of Kimura is very special to the
Nishi: But I wasn't one of Kimura's top students [木村門下では下っ端]..
However, maybe I am the only one who took up the striking
Rickson: Wa! ........then who was Kimura's top
Nishi: I am sure that the number one was Iwatsuri
Kaneo. He was an All Japan judo champion and the first Japanese
who became a world champion of Sambo.
Staff: Well, Mr. Rickson, how about your martial arts
or jiu-jitsu history?
Rickson:........ For about 30 years..... I was
already doing jiu-jitsu in my early recollection.
Nishi: Mmmm........ I wonder if that (meaning
the four years difference in training) is also one of the causes of my
loss. By the way, looking at you afresh, you are large-boned compared to
your brothers. (Rorion and Royce are relatively tall and thin.) Why the
difference? (Nishi meant if Rickson is doing a special training.)
Rickson: (with a naughty smile) Ask my father!
Why did Royce lose in the Ultimate?
Staff: By the way, Mr. Nishi and I watched the UFC 3
on the spot. Did you watch it?
Rickson: Yes, of course.
Staff: Could you tell me about the cause of Royce's
Rickson: It is difficult to say, because I was not
with him this time and I was just watching it on TV. But I don't think
there was any problem with his technique. I just felt something a little
different from usual in his looks, which might be something mental or
sick........ I will ask him when he comes back over here (Los Angeles).
Staff: It is said in Japan that you have parted from
the Gracie family and are acting separately, but do you still now
keep in touch with them?
Rickson: Even if I am acting separately, I remain one
of the Gracies. Isn't it natural to worry about Royce?
Staff: I see. Then, looking back on the tournament,
what kind of impression did you have about it?
Rickson: It seems that the tournament itself was
successful except for the final match. Suddenly a fresh fighter with a
lot of pep came out and became the winner of the tournament by winning
only one fight. That's absurd. If such a thing happens, everybody will
want to enter as alternates, rather than fighting their way into the
final fight (laugh)
Nishi: In fact, if possible, I wanted to offer to
enter too. But I missed the chance to raise my hand while I was trying
to read my wife's face sitting next to me.
Staff: Surely such a big alternation of fighters
diminished the interest of tournaments.
Rickson: Keith Hackney, who fought with Yalburo in
the first match, retired due to a fracture of his fist, didn't he? It is
not good to just throw punches without any purpose in that position. He
should have used his elbow more often, and could have used kicks
effectively. For example, he could have said the opponent who has fallen
down to "stand up!" and then attacked him at the moment
when he is tried to stand up and was off guard. It reminds me of a kick
boxer in Holland........yes, Jan Romuluda. He made the same mistake in
vale tudo (Vale Tudo '94 Japan Open) and as a result he injured himself.
I wanted to fight with him, because I was annoyed (atama ni kite ita) by
the way he fought Kawaguchi [Rickson doesn't mention what it was that
Nishi: Strikers have fear of ground work, because
they are not familiar with it. So they become excited. Maybe it can't be
Staff: It seems to be said in Japan something harsh
about Royce's stopping the fight [Royce came out, but declined to
fight Canadian karate man Harold Howard] like he ran away from the enemy
standing just before him.
Rickson: In any case, the fact that the name of the
Gracies was disgraced remains unchanged. I believe that Royce had a
reason for stopping the fight, but if so, he shouldn't have entered the
ring. As long as he went in, he should have fought. For me there is no
difference between coming back with a loss and coming back without
Nishi: People in Japan seem to be excited by the fact
that Royce lost. I understand it mentally, but in reality he
didn't lose to anyone. He had a hard fight with Kimo, but he made Kimo
give up. Honestly speaking, Royce is great, because he won by
overcoming 30kg [66 lbs.] difference in weight even though he didn't
have the experience beating opponents without weight limitations, like
Rickson did, don't you think so? [Royce wa Rickson no yoo ni jujutsu
senshu ken no musabetsu wo sei shita ningen dewa naindeshou?] He is
still young enough to get a chance to become stronger....... In fact, I
didn't see any fighters except Royce and Shamrock in this tournament who
showed good technique.
Rickson: Thank you for your backing up Royce! I
wonder which one is a real brother of Royce. (laugh)
Staff: Some people say that one of the main causes of
Royce's loss was that Rickson wasn't in his corner.
Rickson: Surely, Royce did hard training under my
instruction on the first and the second fights. This time I couldn't
train with him, because I was occupied with my own training for Vale
Tudo 94 Japan Open.. But even without me, my other brothers and
relatives were there to coach him. For sure, his conditioning wasn't the
Staff: How about this idea that Royce lacked
sharpness [seisai （精彩）wo kaita, which means something like
"sluggish"] in his fight due to a loss of mental support from
Rickson: I don't know. Only Royce can answer
Nishi: Technically speaking, I felt it dangerous that
Royce couldn't keep the mount position and was rolling.
Rickson: Exactly you are right. It is bad to be
overturned from the mount position. once.
Staff: What did you think about Kimo whom Royce
Rickson: Kimo is a powerful and a dangerous man with
a hot head (pointing the head). When you fight with such a man, you also
should have a determined preparation to such an extent that you would
kill him. What you have to do at first is not to be intimidated. Then,
his technique is so crude that you can attack that point.
Staff: Some people said in Japan that you might enter
the next Ultimate due to Royce's loss.
Rickson: It won't happen to me in near future. The
next Ultimate will be an important tournament to revive the name of our
family, but maybe Royce will say he will do it. And he must grow up
through this experience.
Nishi: The pattern of the way of fighting by the
Gracies.......... at least it was obvious in this tournament that
Royce's way of fighting had been studied by his opponents. That being
the case, aren't you thinking about changing the technique or style of
Rickson: If I were him [watashi nara] I would change
it [the Japanese expressions implies "depending on the
opponent"]. There were many kinds of kakutougi and various
styles in Brazil too. I defeated every opponent from every style.
But when they came to fight with enough study of the Gracies'
technique, I sometimes used a different technique. Compared to the days
of my father (Helio Gracie), many variations of technique are getting to
be known for sure. But it is not good to
adopt new and different techniques at random. Based on the
technique of the Gracies, you should select techniques according to your
need and train it so hard that it can sink into your body. After all, a
key to success is a large amount of training. What is important is
to overcome your experience in the fights, especially your weak point
that you were aware of during the fights by training hard, and make good
use of it for the next fight.
Nishi: Don't you have a fear of striking?
Rickson: A moment when my opponent comes to punch or
kick me is a chance for me. Besides I'm training striking too. [Rickson
has been studying boxing with his friend Sugar
Ray Leonard, according to Ray.]
Staff: Your style like thrusting out the chin is very
unique, isn't it? It is taught in kakutougi based on striking to keep
the chin down. Considering something bad might happen, I guess you'd
better keep your chin down..... (I said that with a light heart,
Rickson: (a little offended) It is my style. (He took
Search for the fighting system of the Gracie
jiu-jitsu aiming at the fights with other style of kakutogi
Nishi: I presume that sambo or judo is the most
difficult opponent for the Gracie jiu-jitsu. Don't you think it would be
hard for you to fight with a first-class fighter competent to enter the
Rickson: If it's under the rule of judo, I will lose.
But I don't think I would be finished with a throw. If I can take him
into the ground, the conditions to win will be there. Anyway, it depends
on the rule. If it's the jiu-jitsu rule, I think I would win. If it's
vale tudo, it would be easier.
Staff: Regarding the jiu-jitsu rule, what are they
Rickson: Fighting time is divided according to the
color of the belt. Basically white belts have no fights. Blue belts are
6 minutes, purple belts are 7 minutes,
brown belts are 8 minutes, and black belts are 10 minutes. The result is
determined by the points set to each technique. For example, 3
points are given to a throw equal to "ippon" in judo
[Take down and throws are worth 2 points, but in the interview, it said
3 points]. Taking a perfect top position from a guard position (in which
a fighter lying on the ground is holding his opponent with legs crossed)
is 3 points. Taking the back and holding his waist with legs is 4
points. Mount position is 4 points, etc. But no matter how many points
either fighter has at that point, if you get a submission, the fight is
Nishi: It is said that a point is given in
consideration of advantageous positions in a fight like vale tudo.
Staff: So the construction of technique can be done
keeping in mind the fights with other style of kakutougi, can't it? If I
remember right, striking is prohibited, isn't it?
Rickson: That's right. But recently there are some
fighters who aim at a decision from the beginning, because they don't
want to be finished by choke. These fighters are afraid of fighting if
striking is permitted. With such a manner they can never promote
themselves to black belts.
Staff: How long does it take to get the black belt in
Rickson: According to the explanation I did a
little before, it seems that there are only three steps from blue to
black, doesn't it? However, there are four steps in the same color of
the belt. In order to become the purple belt from the blue belt, you
have to clear all the steps at first, and then have to become strong
enough to defeat all other blue belts. Of course, this is the same when
you become the brown belt from the purple belt. So even if the strongest
fighter in the blue belts fight with the lowest fighter in the purple
belts, it will never happen that the fighter with a lower color of the
belt will win. But, it might be easy to get the blue belt for a person
like Nishi who has a lot of experience and results.
Staff: How long do you think it will take Mr. Nishi
to get the black belt?
Rickson: I think two years are enough. If asked to
give him some advice, it is only to strengthen the defense.
Nishi: (With a confused look) I wonder what he
means.... if he praises me? or he means that my level is just like that?
Staff: Judo and jiu-jitsu are completely
different........... (To Rickson) By the way, what is your rank
now? And how many people are learning jiu-jitsu?
Rickson: I am the 7th rank
[sete grau]. This rank is
the highest for actual fighters. And I guess the number of people
learning jiu-jitsu in Brazil is about 1,500. But how thick it is formed
is not how many people there are, but with how good their technical
level is when they fight with each other. Now there are 100 fighters in
Brazil. Of those, 30 are good fighters. And five fighters among them are
excellent. And I can defeat all of them in one day [soshite watashi
wa kono gonin no senshu wo zenin taosu koto ga dekiru,. sono hi no uchi
Nishi: Can I fight with Rickson here again?
Staff: Hahaha (laugh).....(evaded the question by
What is Helioism flowing in the bottom of the
Nishi: I have had something to ask Rickson. Is it the
most important matter for your fight to protect the name of the Gracie?
Rickson: What is most important is to protect myself
first (laugh). And I am responsible for protecting the family name too.
Jiu-jitsu is directly connected to my life. So once a fight starts, I
will never abandon the fight even if I get injured. Even if I get my arm
broken, I will never give up. Fighting is not a sport for me. My spirit
is "kamikaze" (Rickson said in Japanese). (laugh)
Nishi: It seems that you inherited your father's
blood more "thickly" [Helio san no chi wo ichiban koku
uketsuide iru mitai da ne] than your other brothers. (bitter smile)
Rickson: (with a happy face) He is still beyond my
reach. Yes, it reminds me of an incident that happened in my childhood.
One day I noticed my father's fist badly swollen, and asked him
"What happened?" With a bitter smile, he said that there was
somebody who got on his nerves, so he was trying to give him a lesson by
repeatedly choking him and then making him come to his senses by
slapping him over and over. I asked him more details with surprise.
According to him, it seems that a famous Capoeira teacher, who appeared
on a TV show with my father, said something critical about the Gracie's
technique. I think my father was over 55 years old at that time, but he
immediately stood up to him saying "let's do it here then."
Finally, a fight broke out during a live broadcast. It seems that the Capoeira
teacher was humiliated. (laugh)
Nishi: I like Mr. Helio, indeed. I wish I could live
the way he does.
Rickson: I admire him too. That's why even in a fight
I keep it in mind to fight fair at the risk of my pride.
Nishi: Speaking of fair fight, when I fought with
Rickson in the ring of the NK Hall, Rickson did a head-butt. At the
moment when the referee said, "it's against the rule.", I
heard you apologizing from the above, saying "I'm sorry". I
thought in my mind that you were a nice guy, despite my difficult
Rickson: You fought very fair, indeed. The situation
which I was in at that time was tense, so I broke the rule without
intention. Unfortunately we met in the first match, but if we had fought
in different blocks, we would have met together in the final match.
Nishi: You are complimentary! (laugh) I lost my honor
and rank due to my loss, but the only thing which saved me is that I was
not deprived of my wife. (laugh)
Rickson: (in a serious tone with a smile) You hadn't
lost anything, rather you could have grasped something big.
Nishi: (Seriously) I really want to fight with you
one more time before my retirement. I want to culminate my career by
Rickson: Surely. But I am the one who will win. No
concession on this at all!
(c) 2002, Yoko Kondo. All rights
Other Rickson interviews on
(Athra Pt. 2)
(from Herois do Ringue)
(from Gracie DNA)
Rickson (from Tatame)
Rickson Choke documentary below. It's pretty good.
Brought to you