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Global Training Report 


Interview with 

Rickson Gracie

Interviewed by Nishi Yoshinori

From Kakutou Striking Spirit

May 1, 2002

Translated by Yoko Kondo


This 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 English. 

An old enemy again!

Nishi: Nice to meet you....... 

Staff: Wa! (surprise)

Nishi: Oh! I'm wrong. It has became a custom to say that. (laugh)

Rickson: (smiling quietly) I'm sorry that I couldn't train with you this time.  By the way, how long have you been doing martial arts?

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 interviewed. (laugh)

Rickson: The name of Kimura is very special to the Gracies. 

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 arts......

Rickson: Wa! ........then who was Kimura's top student?

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 loss?

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 annoyed him]. 

Nishi: Strikers have fear of ground work, because they are not familiar with it. So they become excited. Maybe it can't be helped.

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 fighting.

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 problem. 

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? 

Rickson:  I don't know. Only Royce can answer that question. 

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 struggled with?

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 the Gracies?

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, but....)

Rickson: (a little offended) It is my style. (He took it seriously)

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 world tournament?

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 like?

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 over. 

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 general?

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 ni ne].  

Nishi: Can I fight with Rickson here again?

Staff: Hahaha (laugh).....(evaded the question by laughing)

 What is Helioism flowing in the bottom of the Gracie jiu-jitsu?

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 situation. (laugh)

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 beating you. 

Rickson: Surely. But I am the one who will win. No concession on this at all!

 (c) 2002, Yoko Kondo. All rights reserved.

Other Rickson interviews on GTR:

Rickson  (after Funaki)

Rickson (Athra Pt. 1)

Rickson  (Athra Pt. 2)

Rickson  (from Herois do Ringue)

Rickson (from Gracie DNA)

Rickson (from Tatame)

Order the Rickson Choke documentary below. It's pretty good.







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