Friday, January 30, 2009

A Tribute To The "Gracie Way"

Well, by now, all of you probably know that yesterday morning, Professor Helio Gracie died at the age of 95 at his home in Brazil. I actually didn’t find this out until our training session last night. At first, I took the news in stride. After all, Helio was 95 years old, and led a full life. But as I thought about this news during and after class, I began to feel both sad and grateful—sad for Helio’s family, for the Gracies have lost their patriarch who has made immeasurable contributions to the world of Martial Arts. I felt a sense of gratitude for this man bringing to us Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Without Helio, Jiu Jitsu as we know it today would not have defined and permeated mixed Martial Arts or vale tudo fighting. Without Helio’s brand of Jiu Jitsu, there would be a lot more victims in this violent world.. And without the philosophies evident in the Jiu Jitsu he created, the familial-like comradery that is prevalent between Jiu Jitsu teams and their members who ordinarily wouldn’t hang out with each other, wouldn’t exist. So I’ll add my voice to the “thank-yous” that are echoing around the Martial Arts world to the man who has given to us all so much. I’d also like to express my deepest sympathies to his family, and hope that time coupled with lots of good Helio memories might dull the pain that they must feel. Visit the Gracie Academy. on-line to read about Helio’s passing, and to read a decent tribute by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, visit

Needless to say, we didn’t stick to the ordinary class format last night. Darren taught a couple of sweeps from the open guard which can be executed when somebody stands up to pass your guard. This is my most obvious, glaring weakness in my BjJ game. I absolutely HATE defending the pass when people stand up, and usually deal with it with a couple of sweeps while keeping my guard locked. I felt OK with the first sweep he showed, a tripod sweep that I’ve drilled before, but had a great deal of difficulty with the second sweep. I know that I need to work diligently on parts of my game that are my weakness, so I’ll blog about this second sweep after I execute it successfully at least 50 more times!

At 10:00 p.m. last night, we had a moment of silence in honor of Helio. It was the first time that I’ve heard Darren not speak for 60 seconds while awake—LOL—so I know that Helio’s passing had a profound affect on him as well.

We then split the class into two teams and had matches. I won my match, but I wasn’t happy with my rather shitty rolling performance last night. I don’t know if I was just tired, or the news about Helio was bothering me, but my Jiu Jitsu was at about a C Grade level—I just couldn’t get moving, or put things together—don’t ask me why, but I was beginning to rely on my brand of "caveman jiu-jitsu" and muscle through things too much. So as a self-imposed punishment, I forced myself to roll for a while with Andres, our team’s 18 year old phenom who, (and here comes an LTrain prediction) will be a black belt world champion by the age of 21.

At the risk of embarrassing her (which is not my intent, for she reads this blog from time to time),I was extremely impressed with one of our female students, Aekam, who had a hell of a match last night. Aekam’s been training for around 7 months, I believe, and she had a match against a blue belt who’s been training over twice as long as her, and who outweighs her by about 25 pounds. Aekam really hung tough for the entire match using Jiu Jitsu principles to keep herself safe and stay in the match. I really haven’t paid much attention to her rolling up until last night, but I have to say that she really exemplified what Gracie Jiu Jitsu was all about in her match. Without technique, Aekam wouldn’t have been able to control someone that much bigger and stronger than her, and that is what Helio Gracie’s brand of Jiu Jitsu is all about. It was only fitting that she had such a good showing on the day that he died.



1 comment:

  1. It takes more then that to embarrass me Larry, lol. Thanks for the compliments.

    Not to hijack your blog, but last night all I was focused on was that I could have done better. Thinking about it in light of your post though makes me realize that I have really learned a lot. In my first lesson ever, Darren took mount and asked me to get him off of me. I had no idea what to do and just kinda squirmed there panicked. Last night, helpless panic wasn't even on the radar screen, just frustration at not being able to tap him, lol.

    Thanks for the perspective!