Global Training Report
The Third Generation
Ryron, Rener, and Ralek Gracie
From Sports Graphic Number 569
Feb. 20, 2003
By Kondo Takao
Photos by Raita Yamamoto
Translated by Yoko Kondo
"I saw the
sandbags hung which were not there one year ago."
Rorion spent six months deciding on names for his
three sons after they were born.
"A Name has a big influence on one's life",
explained Rorion, " so I didn't want to give them ordinary names
like John or Albert. I thought it over every night watching their
The oldest of Rorion's three sons is Ryron, which
means "Iron" in English. He was given that name with a wish
that he would grow up physically strong like steel. As expected, he is
biggest among his siblings.
The second son is Rener, which was named after
"Inner" of "Inner Strength" with a wish that he
would be stronger mentally rather than physically and be smart. Then
guess what has happened! He always gets A+ in school work.
The third son is Ralek, which means "Malik"
in Arabic and "King" in English [note: this doesn't make
sense, but it is what the article said], named with a wish that he would
live bravely like the king of all the animals. "When Ralek was
eight years old, I showed him the UFC video tape for the first time.
After that he asked me when a tournament that he could fight in would be
"One's name is important. I believe that a
unique name with a special meaning can influence
one's life in a positive way. I want my sons to have life with
full of personality which can't be imitated by anybody else. "
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in the early afternoon,
located in Torrance in the suburbs of Los Angeles. It is undeniable that
this town have ruined since LA riot occurred eleven years ago. The white
letters of "SELF DEFENSE" written on the glass door of the
front seems to be more real. In this academy, where I have visited many
times so far, something drew my attention when I was on the way to the
big academy going up the steps after passing through the reception area.
I saw a light on in a room which used to be a storeroom. I saw that it
had been converted into "the Gracie Museum." There is a lot of
stuff to document and commemorate the history of the Gracies displayed
in a space equal to 20 jou [note: the Japanese measure room
sizes in terms of how many standard sized tatami mats it is equal to: Jou
is the counter for tatami mats--20 jou = 20 mats]. The walls are
covered with pictures of Helio and his older brother Carlos; a family
tree of the Gracies; a lot of clippings reporting Helio's great fights;
and a model of the famous UFC octagon on display. Not only the fighters
produced by the Helio's family, but also the fighters like Renzo, Ryan
and Rodrigo who had fought in the ring of Japan are introduced in
pictures. There are some interesting materials too.
"It was completed last autumn. It was Ryron who
suggested doing it in the first place." Turning my head,
Rener, the second son, was talking to me. Helio, Rorion, Ryron, and
Ralek were too behind him. We exchanged greetings in celebration of
meeting again, and got into the interview.
Small guys defeat big guys. That was the theory of
the Gracie jiu-jitsu. If big guys master the jiu-jitsu, they would have
a possibility to be the strongest.
The third generation of the Gracie........
It is my first time to talk to Ralek, the third son,
who still has a baby face, and the first time in two years to meet Ryron
and Rener since they came to Japan with Rorion for the fight between
Royce and Sakuraba. I was surprised by how big they had become. They are
over 190cm in height and weigh over 90kg [198 lbs.]. Unlike their father
and uncles, they are a heavy class for sure. Ralek is 185cm in height
and weighs 82kg [180 lbs.] too. He will get bigger.
"I don't know why I have become big myself (laugh). I just
strengthened my body by learning jiu-jitsu from my father and by doing
many kinds of sport in school. After graduating from high school, I have
been training here and teaching as well."
Rener: "I am training jiu-jitsu everyday
while going to El Camino Junior College. I went to Mexico City for a
seminar with my father just a little before. I played basketball in high
school too, but not anymore. "
Ralek: "I am playing football and
wrestling in high school. Of course, I am doing jiu-jitsu in the academy
too. My brothers wrestled too, and I also think it is useful for
They are by no means well-mannered [the writer means
this in the Japanese sense of staging a sort of "hospitality
performance" for the guest]. There are three sons surrounding
Rorion in the center. Ryron is sitting with his legs stretched out, and
Rener is glaring at me. Only Ralek, who has a freckled face and a blue
belt tied around his waist, is quiet.
"So, you came to ask us when it will be that we
make our debut to the ring, didn't you?", said Ryron. When I asked
them if they were sure that they are going to enter the ring of a mixed
martial art, they nodded saying "of course" while sticking out
I wonder since when they started to be aware of
fighting vale tudo? I think they had already put on jiu-jitsu gi since
before they can remember, though.
"I don't remember. I don't even have a memory
that I was aware of it. Eight years old, 10 years old, 14 years
old.......I don't know when it was, but it's coming to realize day by
day for sure. " Ryron answered, and two others nodded.
It is said that it is destiny for a man who was born
in the Gracie family to be a jiu-jitsu fighter and fight vale
Ryron: "I like jiu-jitsu very much. I
respect both my father and grandfather, and I also have a better
understanding about the environment where I grew up now. But when I was
a teenager, I thought I wanted to do something else. There was a time
when I didn't want to go to the academy, because I was distracted by
cycle, bike, and skateboard. But I came back. I guess I like it".
Next to him, Rorion, his father, is moving his
fingers as if he were counting dollar bills, and says. " To tell
the truth, I paid them money." It seems that Rorion sometimes told
them that he would give them one dollar if they come for training, in
order to let their interest turn to jiu-jitsu.
Rener: "Yes, I remember that. There were
too many things we wanted to do. (laugh) But we realized that we like
What about the results of tournaments lately?
Ryron: "I participated in the fight of
the heavy class in the American National Jiu-Jitsu Tournament last
November. I climbed up to the final match, but lost by point there. I
don't mind though, because it was a decision."
Rener: "My brother Ryron and I both won
several matches in the tournaments sponsored by my father without either
a time-limit or a decision. I fought for one hour and 10 minutes in that
tournament and Ryron fought for one and half hour. Ralek doesn't have
much experience yet, but he always spends two hours on having a meal.
Next to him, Rorion is laughing too.
"Are you paying attention to Pride and UFC?"
I asked them.
Rener: "Yes, I am. Including the level of
fighters, Pride is great. The whole production is good too. I want to
fight in that ring too."
When I asked them, "Then, did you watch the
fight between Royce and Yoshida held last summer?", all three
of them suddenly made a grim face.
"If a referee is out, I would fight with Yoshida
at this moment." Ryron said. Then Rener followed him and spoke fast
in a furious tone. "I will do it right here now. Bring Yoshida!
I'll prove it."
Ralek seems to have something he wants to say, but he
hesitated to do it before his older brothers and kept silent with a
harsh face. Rorion, sitting next to Rener, was tapping the back of Rener
who kept talking with passion, as if he tried to make him calm down.
Let's change the subject. How do you think about Bob
Sapp who is popular in Japan now?
"He is not strong." All three brothers said
Rener: "He has no technique, or nothing,
just is big. If he is small, I wonder how weak he is."
Ryron: "Minotauro was great. I would
fight the way he did too. I would make Sapp tired for 10 minutes. I
don't care even if I get a few punches. I will finish him with a
arm-lock in the end."
Ryron looked very confident!
Ryron: "There is a lot more that we have
to learn. Even my grandfather says that he is still learning. But I
think I'm ready to fight in the ring now. It is OK with me even if I am
offered to fight next month"
Rener: "When is it going to be that we
fight? It's up to my father. He says that we need more experience. But I
want to fight soon."
What type of a fighter do you want to be in
future? Who in your family do you admire most?
"My father, Rickson, Royce....... I respect them
all. I want to be a fighter who can mix the good points from them.
I have a confidence that I could surpass anybody", said Ryron and
But Ralek was a little bit different. "I like
the way of fighting Rickson does. I want to be a fighter like
I was a little surprised to hear him saying that
fearlessly before his father, Rorion. Then Rener added as if he changed
the mood on the spot. "A deer admires a lion. But all the members
of out family are lions. So it doesn't happen which lion I admire.
That's interesting. Then Rener, what is your favorite
"Choke, arm-lock, foot-lock, ...."
You mean all? "That's right. It is the same as a salad bar. I
like a salad, not just one ingredient, cucumber, tomato, or
He always talks back to me like this, which is
exactly same as Rorion in that he uses a metaphor and talks in a
After three brothers left for the academy, Rorion
said. "Do you know why the Gracie jiu-jitsu had kept on winning in
spite of having a physical disadvantage?"
I kept silent. Then he continued. "Small guys
defeat big guys. That was what the Gracie jiu-jitsu is. Small guys could
defeat big guys because big guys didn't know the jiu-jitsu technique.
But now big guys are learning the jiu-jitsu technique too. If so, big
guys have an advantage. Then there is something to be required there. If
big guys master the perfect jiu-jitsu technique, it means......
Fortunately, my sons are big."
That is, his sons, who inherit the blood of the
Gracie family and are physically big, are the strongest.
"In fact, we already got an offer from the Pride
side regarding my sons. But I turned it down."
Is it because you can't accept the judge of the fight
between Royce and Yoshida?
"That is one of the reasons. I had a feeling of
distrust after that fight. But there is one more reason. They still have
something left to experience. Compared to the time when my father, Helio,
had fought, and the early time of UFC I started, the way of fighting has
largely changed due to adopting a time-limit. Even if you have no power,
you could win with technique before; that is, you made your opponent who
had power tired, and then could finish him with a choke. However, in a
short fight like 5 or 10 minutes, it would be possible to win with only
power. No matter how much great you are in technique, it might be
possible to be stopped the fight due to a time-limit and consequently to
lose by a decision. In a short fight, a fighter who has power and is
good at striking has an advantage. Namely, if my sons fight, we need to
make a condition that they can win even under the Pride rule. It's not
my idea that I want my sons to fight with Sakuraba or Yoshida and defeat
them. I'm thinking about something else."
Does it mean what they should experience is that they
need to learn striking?
"Most important thing is the jiu-jitsu
technique. No compromise about it, and no doubt about it. But in the
case of a fight with a time-limit, it will require striking technique
and weight training too. Now I ask for it to my sons."
Rickson said to me before that it is hard to accept
that a jiu-jitsu fighter changes to a total fighter. a jiu-jitsu fighter
should show the technique he has as fully as possible. And the fact what
he tries to be a total fighter prevents him from doing it.
However, what Rorion said is different from that of
Rickson. Rorion tries to bring up his sons to a total fighter by making
use of their big body. In this period, he feels that it is necessary to
master striking in order to fight along the rule of Pride.
The superiority of the Gracie jiu-jitsu became
well-known in the world for two reasons; one is that Helio laid the
foundation of the Gracie jiu-jitsu, and the other is that Rorion started
UFC. Surely jiu-jitsu has spread extensively. But the legend that the
Gracies are strongest has been destroyed since Royce was defeated by
Sakuraba at the end of 20th century. It is inevitable for Rorion to
think that he has to restore this situation.
"Both power and striking are necessary. With
them, my father and I hope that they will show the technique of
jiu-jitsu and show off its superiority."
No more loss is allowed. It is understandable why he
is so cautious and takes time for his sons' debut.
Then how many more years are necessary for his sons
who are going to be changed to a total fighter to enter the ring?
After a little pause, he murmured. "Two more
Rorion wishes as father that they will have life full
of personality. But on the other hand, he also leaves the future of the
Gracies, that is to regain the power, to them as the eldest son of the
After finishing the interview, I stopped by the
academy on the second floor. I saw the sandbags hung which were not
there one year ago.
(c) 2003, Yoko Kondo, all rights reserved.
**Rorion is thought to
be one of the best GJJ teachers (that is GTR's opinion anyway), and his
sons evidently have mastered his pedagogic style. The older as well as
the newer GJJ dvds are models of clear, coherent exposition and always
worth watching, or reviewing, both for beginners, and for advanced
practitioners who aspire to be teachers themselves. The GIA tapes,
needless to say, will never go out of style. You can order below.