Rickson Gracie is a member of the renowned first family of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The Gracie family is credited to have developed and promoted the mixed martial art known as Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil. Rickson’s father, Helio Gracie and his brother Carlos Gracie were introduced to Kano Jiu-jitsu or judo in the 20s and 30s.
Rickson’s father started teaching this art to others at the tender age of 16. The Gracies formulated and perfected unique techniques in the art of Jiu-jitsu to create a variant that became known as the Gracie jiu-jitsu. This system is believed to have informed the practices of Brazilian jiu-jitsu at large. This rich knowledge was passed on to young Rickson Gracie who started practicing the art at the age of 6.
Rickson Gracie: The Early Days
Rickson Gracie became a prolific fighter and was a world champion in the art for a span of two decades. In fact, he was the undefeated champion who won all his official matches. Born in 1958 in Rio de Janeiro, Rickson was influenced by his father and uncles through Gracie Jiu-Jitsu; the family envisioned taking the martial art to a higher level all around the world. At only 18 years, Rickson received his black belt that was handed to him by his father. At the age of 20, Gracie was already a formidable opponent. In 1980, Gracie managed to silence Rei Zulu, a brawler from Brazil who weighed 230 pounds. This win at only age 20 made Rickson a prominent figure in Brazil. Zulu would however ask for a rematch which happened in 1984 in front of a 20,000 audience at the Maracanazinho Stadium in Rio. Again, Gracie, shamefully defeated his opponent which further sealed his prowess as the world took notice of this emerging star.
Gracie Family Tradition
Rickson stood out as a leading champion in the Gracie family. For nearly 20 years, he held the World Jiu Jitsu title not just in the middle weight, but in the heavyweight category as well. He also participated in open divisions where he asserted his authority as a champion. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu found its way to America through the family. Rickson moved to America in 1989 to assist his brother Rorion in setting up their flagship Jiu Jitsu Academy in California. Rickson would actively train his younger brother for the UFC. Meanwhile, Rickson got the opportunity to compete in Japan in 1994. He fought at the Japan Open Vale-Tudo emerging winner in two bouts. Gracie was able to defeat three opponents in a single night which left the Japanese people devastated. All in all, Japanese fans are said to have admitted that Rickson Gracie had the spirit of a samurai.
King of Jiu-Jitsu
To fully demonstrate that he was the king of Jiu Jitsu, Rickson returned to Japan in 1997 to face the top Japanese fighter Nobuhiko Takada. In the first round, Rickson won the match by submission. To fully settle the dust, the two opponents met a year later for a rematch with 50,000 eager fans watching the fight. Again by submission, Gracie humbled Takada. A 1995 documentary on Rickson Gracie shed some light into his world of Jiu-Jitsu. This insightful feature followed this champion as he prepared himself for the fight in Tokyo. For eager grapplers and fans, it was an excellent way to get a peek into Rickson’s training discipline as well as his personal life.
Critical Role in the Advancement of Jiu-Jitsu
Today, Rickson Gracie is one of the few people in the world to hold a 9th degree red belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. He is a retired master of mixed martial art. To recognize his work and dedication to the sport, Gracie was inducted into the Legends MMA Hall of Fame in 2014. Other inductees included Pat Miletich and Big John MacCarthy. His red belt came in 2017 which is the highest rank of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Rickson has played a critical role in the advancement of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu which is heavily influenced by Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
Gracie Family & Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
The Gracie family modified and developed this sport in Brazil and beyond. In the 1920s, Rickson’s father and uncles were taught the raw version of Kodokan Judo by a judoka named Mitsuyo Maeda, who arrived in Brazil in 1917. The brothers dedicated their lives to transforming the art with additional techniques and modifications which gave rise to the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu system. The modified version teaches that small and weaker people can effectively defend themselves from stronger or heavier opponents by leveraging on weight and employing submissions tactfully. This combat sport was developed by the Gracie family in Brazil With governing bodies recognizing the techniques and practices therein for competitive mixed martial arts.
Jiu-Jitsu is a combat sport that comes in many variants depending on location and influences thereof. It is a self-defense or martial art system that relies on ground fighting, grappling and submission holds. It centers on the ability of a fighter to control the opponent effectively into submission through various techniques. Joint locks or chokeholds are among the various techniques employed to dominate and defeat an opponent. This innovative sport has evolved and the Gracie family have been central in defining Brazialian Jiu-Jitsu.
Distinguished Master and Teacher Remembered Forever
In the year 2000, Rickson went through the biggest tragedy of his life. He lost his first son Rockson who was found dead at a New York hotel room. Rockson was only 20 years old and the cause of death was ruled as drug overdose. This low moment marked the retirement of Rickson Gracie who would not fight professionally again. This distinguished master and teacher of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu will always be remembered for his courage, strength and the ability to endure. Today, many people have found purpose and confidence through this fascinating combat sport. Many do it professionally while a vast majority do it for fun and fitness. Rickson has inspired a movement of fighters who aspire not just to conquer the ring; but the world as well
In his famous quote, Rickson sums up what this martial art means to him in a single sentence, “Jiu Jitsu teaches you how to survive on the mat and thrive in the world’.
And to honor and commemorate the incredible spirit and technical prowess of Rickson Gracie, we offer a tribute “I am a Shark” Rickson Gracie t-shirt. This specific concept perfectly represents the mastery of Rickson Gracie and also inspires all those who aspire to study the grappling arts.
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