The Gracie Connection 2.0 [Part 2]
Training for everyone
Due to short movements, the speed does not have to be pronounced anymore. Coordination is automatically improved when the individual techniques are repeated. Anyone (men and woman) can train with the Gracie brothers without special previous knowledge. Thanks to the simplicity of the techniques and principles, the students become confident, not only on the mat, but also on the street.
A right system
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is a complete martial arts method that works realistically against knives and firearms. Rorion Gracie and his brother Royce have also developed special programs for police and military units in Torrance. Another program was created for women's groups.
Today, the "Brazilian" Jiu-Jitsu is now spread worldwide. Probably more in the "variant" of Sport-Jiu-Jitsu than self-defense. I believe that one of the reasons is that many martial arts schools and teachers have taken part of Gracie / Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, especially from ground fighting, in order to expand their repertoire. A second reason is certainly that the BJJ competition scene has grown solidly and rapidly through the formation of an International BJJ Federation (IBJJF) and has done so steadily since its inception in 1995.
In fact, there are also a lot of female athletes at the IBJJF competitions, because it gives everyone the opportunity to compete, technically and tactically, without having to go home with a black eye. Nevertheless, the BJJ competitions are not entirely without danger, because unfortunately, serious accidents happen again and again, especially on legs, feet, back and neck.
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is an extremely popular martial art, and this is evident from the different age groups that are seen in training. In fact, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is also taught to numerous police units and many security companies. We are proud to have been able to present and teach the Gracie System at numerous training centers for special forces, police, military and security personnel in Germany and Switzerland constantly since 1996.
Successes in Japan
Not to forget the fights against various champions that have taken place for over seventy years and are still considered a success of the martial arts scene, even in Japan. The Gracie’s do not wish to harm any style, system, or master through these fights, but rather to show the effectiveness of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to the world.
The exchange with Japan did not only take place when Rickson Gracie, in the middle of the 90's, climbed in the ring at Vale-Tudo Japan. In fact, various champions from Japan and the rest of the world kept coming to fight the Gracie’s. Master Pedro Hemetério told me again and again about the time when he himself still competed at the side of the legendary Carlson Gracie (for his master Hélio Gracie) against Wrestlers, Boxers, Judoka’s, Capoeiristas and Karateka’s. They were not always Vale-Tudo rules, but sometimes they were also Jiu-Jitsu rules at that time: without punching techniques and in white kimono, but without time limits and weight restrictions, and always up to the "submission".
An art is protected
Recently, the name "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu®" has been legally protected in the United States (Editor's Note: In Germany, this is not possible for legal reasons) to ensure the originality of this species and its family members. Today, forty family members actively practice Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Fifteen of them are black belt wearers and each is a champion in their weight class.
When Rorion Gracie, the owner of the then Gracie Academy in Torrance and later co-founder of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships), became more and more successful, he tried to legally protect the name "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu" as a trademark. However, he did not count on Grandmaster Carley Gracie, one of the eldest sons of Carlos Gracie, who had settled in San Francisco many years earlier (in the 1970s) and run a well-functioning Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy there. The fight lasted long and cost a lot of money, but in the end, Grandmaster Carley won.
During this time, more and more top teachers from Brazil came to the United States, and in order to protect themselves from possible legal action, they used the new name "Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu" instead of "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. This was true for many, including those like the Gracie' cousins, the Machado’s.
The motto of the Gracie’s is: "We only teach what is really effective and what can be used on the street." Only two other instructors are in the instructor program at the Gracie Academy in Torrance who are outside the Gracie Family. One is Fabio Santos from Torrance and the other is Pedro Sauer from Provo/Utah. The Gracie family strives to maintain quality rather than quantity through hard training and strong selection.
The Gracie label is certainly still strong today. But Gracie is not necessarily also Gracie! There are many teachers who use the label Gracie today, but they have practically no idea about the complete Gracie System. They are certainly excellent fighters and athletes, but they are competition oriented. Thanks (!) to the YouTube and online jungle, you can now even get your belt via the Internet. This also exists in other martial arts and because they call it "University", you have the feeling you are doing the right thing. Well, this does not only happen in our Jiu-Jitsu community, but also in other martial arts, so why should it be different with Jiu-Jitsu?!
A stone's throw away, in Santa Monica, you'll find another Gracie JJ fighter: Rickson Gracie, who recently won all the fights in Japan. Rickson has fifteen years of teaching experience and over 400 fights - all won. Rickson is also the GJJ seminar expert at home and abroad.
Master Rickson Gracie is certainly the absolute living legend of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Vale-Tudo. He is a role model not only as a fighter, but also as a teacher, with his enormous practical and deep knowledge. In 2014 he founded his own federation to promote Jiu-Jitsu throughout the world, the Global Jiu-Jitsu Federation, based in Los Angeles. As founder and president, he has assembled a team to help him spread the vision of Jiu-Jitsu of his father, Hélio Gracie. As Vacirca brothers, we are proud to have been part of this new adventure from the beginning and to be able to support the JJGF with our partner schools as a Gracie Concepts Team member.
Monteiro Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Nelson Monteiro teaches in Del Mar north of San Diego, California. Nelson has been a student of Carlos Gracie Jr. for ten years (note today the leader and founder of Gracie Barra and president of the International BJJ Federation). He has won several times in Brazilian and American competitions. In 1989 he came to America from Rio de Janeiro to share his knowledge. Nelson teaches not only in his school but also in the Carlsbad Police Department. He will soon open another school in San Diego City. Every year Nelson organizes one of the biggest competitions in California, where the best Jiu-Jitsukas meet. Nelson also teaches at countless seminars in America and perhaps soon in Europe.
In Honolulu, you meet Relson Gracie, another son of Hélio Gracie, who works with the Academy in Torrance. In Corona del Mar, California, a son of Carlos (Gracie Senior), Reylson Gracie, who is not affiliated with the Gracie’s in Torrance, teaches. His headquarters is the "Federação de Jiu-Jitsu de Rio" in Brazil.
Master Nelson Monteiro is one of the coolest and most outstanding Gracie Barra leaders and instructors I have ever met. He has been the owner of the GB school in Encinitas, California for many years now. His Jiu-Jitsu is very didactic and a must for every competitor to get to know.
In the meantime, many new Gracie and non-Gracie masters have come to USA. Grandmaster Relson Gracie is still at home in Hawaii, but Grandmaster Reylson is, as far as I know, from California to Las Vegas and back home in Rio de Janeiro today. To support him, Grandmaster Reylson enlisted the help of the well-known Jiu-Jitsuka Joe Moreira, who was already successful in organizing competitions throughout Brazil. Master Joe later opened his own school in Del Mar and today he is probably the most famous BJJ seminar teacher around the globe. No one like him spends so many weeks and months for the sport. We too have been able to welcome him to Zurich several times and will continue to do so.
The Machado Brothers
The Machado brothers are not unknown to us thanks to the media. Thanks to the help of martial artists and movie stars Chuck Norris and Richard Norton they could find many new followers. This new generation of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu - the Machado’s learned directly from the Gracie’s - came to America in April 1990 and opened the first school in Encino.
I had the great fortune and unique opportunity to learn directly and for a long time from the Machado Brothers, which is a great honor for me. I started with Carlos Machado, but he went to Texas a short time later and so we ended up with his brothers John and Rigan. It was a great and funny time with them both. Today John is also in Texas and successfully runs his Jiu-Jitsu school there. Rigan is still in Los Angeles where he teaches at a famous martial arts school and is extremely popular with the Hollywood stars as a Jiu-Jitsu instructor.
Craig began training eleven years ago with Royler and Hélio Gracie (at Gracie Humaita) in Brazil. Craig is the first American with a black belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu under Renzo (Gracie Academy) in Brazil. He teaches six days a week at three different schools in New Jersey Princton, Red Bank, and New York City. Craig and Renzo Gracie have recently produced educational videos. This should help the family to promote their training, especially in Europe.
When I wrote this article in 1995, we just had visits from Hawaii and New York. A student of Grandmaster Relson from Hawaii and good friend (George) of mine, who was also a top Judoka, visited us during his further education as a doctor in Lucerne and taught a few lessons at our Academy.
At the same time, a student of Renzo Gracie and Craig Kukuk from New York visited us. Unfortunately, I don't remember his name, but I can remember his presents very well, namely red T-shirts with the black and white logo of Renzo and Craig printed on them, which was later also shown on their teaching videos.
Pioneers of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
All families, whether Gracie, Machado, Kukuk or Monteiro, work hard and intensively to promote their training style. The basic principle is the same for all Brazilian families: they all specialize in ground fighting. For all GJJ instructors, as well as the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), 86% of fights end up on the ground. Most martial arts instructors in the U.S. have (therefore) included Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in their own curriculum in whole or in part.
When I go to an event, I practically never walk around with a Jiu-Jitsu T-shirt or hoody unless it is a seminar or training. I am interested, in everything that has to do with exercise and well-being. Recently I was again at such an event, where my good friend Jong-Hyung Schwaar, an excellent Swiss Korean Hapkido master, accompanied me. When we came together in this lecture for small group work, one of the participants asked me if I also came from Karate. I said no, I came from Jiu-Jitsu and so the other one said: "...oh yes, from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu!?" So, the other guy said: "Is it true that all fights end on the ground?" Well, if all (?) fights end on the ground, I do not know, and I do not go down on the street voluntarily, because I do not know if the attacker is alone. But, if I should come to the ground - wanted or unwanted, then for sure, I know what I should do and what I should not do well.
Unfortunately, even today, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is often considered to be an "almost pure" ground fighting system and I think that is a great pity. It is true that some Gracie’s, but not all, have difficulty learning new things - things that do not come from Jiu-Jitsu. But there are some good examples like Kywan Gracie Behring who trains under the Wing-Chun master Randy Williams and many others.
I also remain interested in other things today and continue to train in all aspects that can strengthen and improve me. However, I was and am not an MMA and No-Gi fan, and I remain true to my (or our) Gracie Concepts idea. In the stand I like to continue to learn from my Wing-Chun, Pentjak Silat and Muay-Thai masters, and for me there is no other martial art - like the Filipino Kali and Eskrima, which can teach me practical techniques of handling weapons. The "old-school" Gracie Jiu-Jitsu of my teacher Pedro Hemetério remains the core of our Gracie Concepts, teaching solutions both standing and on the ground in a way that does not require training like an athlete, because this knowledge is meant for the street and not for winning competition belts and medals, which can certainly have its appeal at a young age.
In 2014 I was diagnosed with a chronic herniated disc. After a long and rather hard time between hospital and rehab, during which I also had to close my own Jiu-Jitsu school, it was clear to me that there were some things I could not do in the future in the same way as before. But I can tell you today that my Gracie Concepts has not changed one bit. That has because, as a younger person, I had already investigated the future and was always thinking about getting older. Of course, I had to adapt the training and the lessons a little bit to myself, but overall, it goes on! Unfortunately, even students of mine who studied with me for several years did not understand this. They then preferred to switch to an online program instead of continuing to seriously study Jiu-Jitsu. But that's also the nice thing about it, everybody can call himself master and teacher today, if you can really teach someone something or not, will show up in time, you can buy the belt and the certificate within seconds with one mouse click and your credit card.
In this difficult time, which will still be with us after the coronavirus, I wish all readers a good and above all healthy time. I hope, for all of us, that we will soon have this time behind us and that we will soon be able to train, learn and exchange experiences on our tatami together again.
I dedicate this article to my loved father Vito Vacirca, who has left us these days, and to whom I thank for everything he has given me positive things in my life.
--Franco Vacirca Garcia