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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 sleeping faces."

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 held."

"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.

Ryron:  "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 jiu-jitsu."

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 their chests.

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 tudo.......

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 jiu-jitsu. "

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. (laugh)

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 so unanimously.

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 Rener unanimously.

But Ralek was a little bit different. "I like the way of fighting Rickson does. I want to be a fighter like Rickson."

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 technique?

"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 cabbage."

He always talks back to me like this, which is exactly same as Rorion in that he uses a metaphor and talks in a provocative tone.

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 years..."

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 Gracie family.

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. 












GTR Archives 2000-2022