The organizers at Tap Cancer Out are holding their first West Coast fundraising tournament on Jan 17. We got a chance to ask them the important questions.
Who should go? Cancer doesn't discriminate, so why should we? In all seriousness, our tournaments are great for everyone. It's a low-pressure and well organized environment, perfect for someone testing the waters of their first tournament. We allow the higher belts to go first, since I think they've earned it. Plus, black and brown belts compete for FREE. We offer a masters division for white and blue belts, and we have a dedicated ring for all women's divisions. The morning features Gi and the afternoon is No-Gi. It really is designed to give a high quality tournament experience no matter where you are in your BJJ journey. We're a community and we welcome all. Plus, it's very affordable—$50 for one division and $70 for two and free for competitors that fundraise over $250—so it's a low risk, high reward proposition. We unfortunately don't have children's divisions yet but are looking to change that this spring.
What is Tap Cancer Out? Tap Cancer Out is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funds for cancer-fighting organizations. We do this mostly through our innovative fundraising tournaments, like our upcoming Winter BJJ Open in San Diego, where competitors can fundraise to compete for free as well as earn great prizes. Since 2012 we've raised nearly $200,000 for various beneficiary organizations, including donating $100,000 to the St. Baldrick's Foundation in 2014. They'll again be our beneficiary organization in 2015.
We hosted our first tournament in 2012, not knowing what charity tournament would look like or how it would go over. But it was a huge success and people loved the opportunity to fight for more than just themselves. Our tournaments gave them the opportunity to share their stories and fight for those who are in the fight of their lives. We've hosted five tournaments in all (which is a big undertaking for a small nonprofit) and hope to host four more in 2015. We're located in the northeast, so all our tournaments have been in Connecticut and Massachusetts, but on January 17th we'll have the opportunity to bring our cause to San Diego and we couldn't be more excited. We've already exceeded $10,000 raised and will most likely raise $5,000 - $10,000 more in our final few weeks of fundraising, helping us reach our goal of $20,000!
When is the Winter Open? Our Winter BJJ Open takes place on Saturday, January 17th at the University of San Diego Recreational Sports Center. Doors and weigh-ins open at 8am and we'll start the GI divisions at 10am, the No-Gi divisions at approximately 1:30pm, and will wrap the day up around 5pm. We've finished every single one of our tournaments on time and this one will be no different. We pride ourselves in how efficiently our tournaments are run.
Where is the venue? The event specifically takes place at the University of San Diego Sports Center 102 at 5998 Alcala Park San Diego, CA 92110. There is free parking nearby. http://www.sandiego.edu/maps/#42
Why? Why have you made Tap Cancer Out? Why have tournaments? Why come to the west coast? It was back in 2010 that I came up with the idea for Tap Cancer Out. I had been training BJJ for two years at that time and realized that while the sport and community was filled with great people and growing every day, there wasn't a philanthropic presence. I also noticed that I personally wasn't doing anything to make the world a better place. I didn't really know what Tap Cancer Out would be, but I knew I wanted to start it and just figured I'd learn along the way. We met some obstacles and had some false starts, but ultimately we realized that fundraising tournaments was a way to empower the BJJ community to create change. It was the perfect way to marry their hatred for cancer with their love for BJJ, and also a way to show the world what BJJ was truly about, since it's such a misunderstood sport.
We don't have a single full-time employee at Tap Cancer Out. We have a very small team and we all have full-time jobs that pay the bills, working on TCO in our spare time. That means it's difficult for us as an organization to expand. We have 2,400 square feet of beautiful Dollamur tournament mats, but we can only conceivably use them with a 3-5 hour driving radius. We certainly don't have a team of people that could drive our mats and other equipment around the country. So we've been working diligently to find partners who could help us bring a tournament to the West Coast, where we had so many fans that were eager to take part. Luckily we hooked up with GrapplingX who are supplying the mats and found a venue at the University of San Diego. It's honestly been a dream of mine to bring a Tap Cancer Out tournament to the west coast and I can't believe it's finally going to happen. I can't wait, and I hope to see the entire west coast BJJ community there.
“Just seize every opportunity you have, embrace every experience. Make a mark for all the right reasons.” Chrissie Wellington
Picture it, Copacabana, Rio DeJaneiro. In 1992 an up and coming 16 yr old handball star had to suddenly give up on her dreams of being part of the National team due to a partial tear in her ACL and relocation issues. Did any of this stop her from pursuing a new dream, ABSOLUTELY NOT. 3X BJJ World Champion, 4th Degree Black Belt, Professor Alessandra “Leka” Vieira has encountered multiple setbacks throughout her 22 year career, but she never stopped. Her drive to compete sent her looking for another sport that would always be challenging, enter BJJ.
One day out of the blue, Professor Vieira entered what could be described as “Thunderdome” at her own risk thus beginning her BJJ journey. A predominantly male-oriented sport, she was fighting an uphill battle in extremely hostile environment. Professor Vieira is a well known pioneer for BJJ and that was never her intention. Every training session Professor Vieira attended she had to prove that she was just as serious, if not more so, than her male counterparts. It took some time, but her relentless drive began to yield the results she had been working so hard for. Professor Vieira’s road was rocky, but that never stopped her. The diligent student earned her blue belt in six months (an unprecedented amount of time for a female) from another pioneer Master Aloisio Silva (first BJJ professor to make a female BJJ black belt world champion).
After a year of training, she entered her first competition. Just like many competitors starting out she did not come out victorious in her first competition but she definitely won. The 3X PANAMS Champion never repeated the same mistakes after her first loss. In 1998, she reaped the ultimate reward for all she had worked for and received her black belt. In 1999 she became the first female black belt world champion. Professor Vieira was crushing goal after goal all because she never stopped. When she made her way to America, with 200 dollars in her pocket and a dream, even she didn’t realize at the time what lay ahead for her.
In 2004 Professor Vieira opened her own school Leka Vieira BJJ out of Torrence, California with classes for women focusing on BJJ and self-defense. Things got off to a slow start. BJJ still wasn’t main stream (especially for women) and the classes were not meeting her expectations. Notably, Professor Vieira extended an invite to a female student from another school to attend her class and the response she received was unusual. I believe the individual compared Professor Vieira’s classes to tea party. Professor Vieira responded by attending the student’s school, staying for a class, and blowing through male and female attendees like a Category 6 hurricane. This had nothing to do with egos, this was like 1992 again and this pioneer was proving that women are just as good as the men. If the women were not backing women then clearly there was a bigger problem facing females in the sport. Years later, under Professor Vieira this same student received her black belt. Professor Vieira is absolutely genuine and her mentorship is something up and comers would benefit from.
Knowing the art of BJJ is not enough, especially for women. It is imperative that women (whether you compete or not) become immersed in the background of the higher ranking female black belts. It is only a matter of time before a Professor Duarte- Magalhaes or Professor Vieira becomes the first female Grand Master. This may bring about a change for women in BJJ that will ensure the playing field is permanently leveled. Perhaps part of the promotion process should be about knowing more than passing the guard, sweeps, etc. BJJ is not Professor Vieira’s only passion. Her family is her foundation. Her mom, husband, and two children are the center of her universe. She found the perfect balance between her two true loves and couldn’t wish for anything more. You can’t ask for better out of life.
Professor Vieira’s injuries early on continue to plague her and have kept her from competing as consistently as she once did. That still hasn’t stopped her from pursuing goals. Leka Vieira BJJ may have had a slow start but that is no longer the case. Her all women’s classes at Gracie JJ Valencia (located out of Valencia, California) are doing very well. Professor Vieira provides an environment that promotes safety and empowerment. The culture these women are in thrives because her primary focus is ensuring techniques are being executed properly. It is not about speed. It is about ensuring nobody gets hurt and that proper BJJ and self-defense is being taught. Building the self-esteem of these women helps each one achieve the ideal comfort level. They are not timid and when it is go time, these ladies are like panthers in the Serengeti. They go hard and when time is up….on to the next.
Professor Vieira has created an environment where the synergy keeps women coming back. The fun starts the minute she sets foot on the mat. The women push each other in order to progress. Once again Professor Vieira is a 1st, she is the first female black belt to start an all women’s class and 10 years later it is still going strong. Her contribution to the BJJ community goes above and beyond anything a 16 year old handball player could have ever imagined. Her path changed and because she never stopped, she has brought about significant historical changes to BJJ.
Her tenacity will always be at the forefront and that is a great thing for the female BJJ community. We all start from the bottom and having the opportunity to receive mentorship on any level from Professor Vieira would be a blessing. She is always open to provide guidance to women at any stage on the gentle art of BJJ through seminars or camps. Her advice for white belts starting out is to do your research before joining a school, ensure the school is legit, the teacher is a black belt with a lineage that can be authenticated (otherwise there will be safety issues) and never lose faith. You must stick with it. It takes time but eventually you will be the one smashing instead of being smashed.
Her thoughts on the blue belt curse are simple. Women reach the next level and are plagued by injuries. There are not enough female counterparts to train with and their male counterparts show no mercy. The other issue with some students can be lack of instruction. If the student is struggling and they are not provided much needed guidance eventually the already isolated student unfortunately walks away from training. Lack of support is probably the main reason students leave a school and female blue belts appear to have that problem more than any other belt level.
As far as BJJ has come since Professor Vieira began 22 years ago, she still believes it has a long way to go for women. Her advice across the board is to focus on having a complete game. If you are weak on top, you need to work on the bottom. There is no way around it. If you are asked what is you weak side, your answer should be I have no weak side. If your game is not complete, then your game is lacking. One would think between her family and BJJ, Professor Vieira couldn’t possibly have time for anything else, then came the 25th hour in her day.
Professor Vieira is not only an advocate for women defending themselves,’ she is also an ardent advocate for children. Her love for them led her to begin donating to a children’s food bank: http://www.helpthechildren.org/hunger-in-our-world/child-hunger/how-often-do-you-think-about-child-hunger. Professor Vieira is the type of wife a husband is always proud of, the type of mother a child looks up to, the type of teacher one wants to emulate, and the type of woman one aspires to be. 2015 is already bright for those of us that have followed the professor’s career as she has decided that she will return to competition this year. In all this time and with all the setbacks, Professor Vieira never stopped. If she couldn’t train, she was conditioning herself and watching and learning. She never strayed from the path. Winston Churchill sums up Professor Vieira’s whole attitude “If you are going through hell, keep going” she has done it more than once and she won't stop.
Today in the Rickson Interview: We talk to Rickson about Ronda Rousey's comment that she thinks she could beat any BJJ woman under any set of rules. Rickson - "So I hope she has a great, brilliant future."
On the GreatMMADebate June 23 2014 Ronda Rousey stated:
"One thing I couldn’t stand when I was only watching MMA coming from Judo, is all these people saying that that all of these Jiu-Jitsu people would beat any judo fighter on the ground. It was such a stereotype. I still think that I can beat any BJJ girl in the world, any weight division, gi or no gi, black belt all the way, in any rule set that they want.
To be able to pull off being someone in Judo that can submit on the ground, it takes so much more skill because we have so little time to do it. Like Flavio Canto, Olympic bronze medalist from Brazil, who was known to have one of the best ground fighters in Judo... He could definitely win a world championship in Jiu-Jitsu. I really feel that the Judoka who excel with their ground work, have never really gotten enough respect.
This fight against Alexis, who is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, the kind of person that should be the type to tap me on the ground with no problems, it would be nice to prove a point."
BJJ Legends: Recently Ronda Rousey was noted for saying that she could beat anybody, any female Jiu-Jitsu athlete in a Jiu-Jitsu competition. I have two questions. One is: What are your thoughts on that? Do you think it's true of not?
Rickson Gracie: In Jiu-Jitsu competition?
BJJ Legends: Yeah. And two, either way, whether you think it's true or not, do you think it says something about what the perception is of Jiu-Jitsu, outside of our community?
Rickson Gracie: No. First, she's saying something based on her momentum. She may talking... Because she never competed in a Jiu-Jitsu tournament. If she competes in one and win easily, I will maybe respect what she's saying, believing what she's saying, but she never proved.
She's been demonstrating a lot of good positive elements on the cage. I don't know if those opponents are weaker. I don't know if she's really super.
BJJ Legends: Well, she has that medal in the Olympics as well.
Rickson Gracie: Yeah.
BJJ Legends: Do you feel that plays a role at all?
BJJ Legends: So as in judo... Judo is a very tough sport. In order for you to become an Olympian, you have to really commit and be exceptional. In order for any Jiu-Jitsu competitor to be facing, it has to be a world champion. It has to be somebody in that level.
Even though I cannot confirm if she can really win or lose, I think she should be more focused on what she's doing right now, which is a great job in the MMA, and leave Jiu-Jitsu aside. I know she's been training some Jiu-Jitsu with my cousins and stuff. So I hope she has a great, brilliant future.
For fans of the Magazine we did a quick YouTube search and found these two old videos of Ronda competing in what looks like a BJJ no-gi tournament. In one she indeed kills it and the second she has to work a little harder. Neither opponents appear to be black belts or world champions.
Today in the Rickson Interview: Rickson on women in MMA, "Maybe one out of 100 [women] that makes a very special desire to confront, to go, and feels like, 'Okay. I'm born to do this.' I have to respect that."
BJJ Legends: How about Kyra? When she was on her path towards MMA... It's been temporarily set off for even better reasons now. Bless you and your family for that. What are your thoughts on her competing or women competing at large? I know I've heard you talk about Ronda a little bit. You seem very enthusiastic and encouraging about her, but there's some questions.
Dana White, himself, said you'd never see women in the UFC, which essentially meant you hardly ever see them in MMA. He changed his mind. Ronda Rousey made him change his mind. I've seen Kyra compete a number of times in Jiu-Jitsu competition. Lovely girl. I had the opportunity of interviewing her as well.
What are your thoughts on a member of your own family, who's a female, competing in MMA, as capable as she is? And how does that apply to other women as well, to the sport?
Rickson Gracie: If you pick generally 100 women, at the most, 10 will like to compete in something like that. I don't believe, based on my experience, women have this appealing desire to compete in such a violent and aggressive element.
Normally they don't belong to that kind of competitiveness. It's not common. It's not for everyone. Even for men, it's a kind of little fraction there who doesn't fit. Imagine for women, but that is maybe one out of 100 that makes a very special desire to confront, to go, and feels like, "Okay. I'm born to do this." I have to respect that.
For those very small percentage, Jiu-Jitsu competition, Vale Tudo or MMA will fit. But for the 99% who doesn't kind of have the appealing for that, they'll still be very motivated to learn self-defense, to learn how they can be able to deflect some aggressor, how to stand up from a guy who's trying to keep her and force her or something.
So the idea of deflection, the idea of empowerment, the idea of defense is appealing for any women or any children. The aggressiveness, the competitiveness, the toughness, and the willing to sacrifice every day and get punched, that's not appealing for every woman.
For these few who like it, I encourage and be positive about it, but that's not exactly... I don't believe every woman has to compete or even to have the pleasure to see a fight. Some don't even like it. They see the fight. They turn it off.
They put on something. So I'm favored to help those too. I think Jiu-Jitsu has a place to favor those general women, like soft art. That's why Jiu-Jitsu is also called soft art.
Tomorrow: We get Rickson's thoughts about Ronda Rousey stating she could beat any BJJ female in a BJJ competition.
Today in the Rickson Interview: Rickson, "I think the MMA today is a completely different sport than was developed Vale Tudo, because back then, there was no time limit and no weight division."
BJJ Legends: Let's switch tracks a little bit, not too far off, but we're still going to talk about Jiu-Jitsu here and the role that the JJGF provides. Now, we're going to talk about the athlete. For much of the conversation, we discussed some elements of amateur aspect of Jiu-Jitsu and how that helps individuals. But what about the professional?
We talk about professionals in terms of instructors. We can talk about professionals in terms of competitors on the Jiu-Jitsu scene. Of course, the other element of the art of Jiu-Jitsu is the Vale Tudo element, what we call now MMA, specifically, although I understand that you believe there's a difference between Vale Tudo and what we now call MMA.
For MMA, you have a son who's approaching MMA. Kyra was talking about MMA until very... Roger Gracie had an opportunity to make his foray into MMA. External to the Gracie family, but part of the Jiu-Jitsu community, we have Braulio Estima.
So there have been some contemporary Jiu-Jitsu competitors who have been making and are making their foray into MMA. What are your thoughts on making that transition nowadays, from Jiu-Jitsu into professional MMA?
Rickson Gracie: I think the MMA today is a completely different sport than was developed Vale Tudo, because back then, there was no time limit and no weight division. As you engage, you have to approach with a full capacity to adapt, sometimes by using techniques to defend yourself, to be resilient, to wait for the opportunity, and then come up with a submission, whatever.
Those days, the rules are very short, like five-minute tournaments, rounds. So that makes a much more explosive, much more physical, and much less time for you to approach strategy or techniques. So the MMA today translates more in the individual.
Of course, back then, everybody fights a style against a style. So Jiu-Jitsu has pretty much a comfortable way to deal with all those elements. Now, everybody training the same. Everybody train Jiu-Jitsu, box, wrestling, and so on. So they're cross-training.
Also, the fights are much shorter, much less explosive, and also the technology on the sport. That means a guy who walks around with 200 pounds, he competes at 185. If you have 185, and you go in the competition in the 185 pounds, you're in deep problem because the guys are much stronger in the weight division.
So in order for you to be comfortable with those new setups of rules and of engagement, you have, of course, to try to use the best technique you have, but you also have to do all the other protocols, like Chrome, for example.
He walks around with almost 180 pounds. He's going to compete 155. You know? His training is not only a Jiu-Jitsu comfortable training. He has to learn and develop the cage. So he has to breathe the environment. He has to train with the boys, and he has to be familiar with the rules and with the attention. The guy don't want to fight on the ground. He wants to... So he had to adapt to the new game and be very physical, be very explosive, like everybody else. Plus, if he had the edge of sharp techniques, I believe he can win.
Tomorrow: Rickson talks about his thoughts on women’s MMA.
Today in the Rickson Interview: BJJ and the family unit - I don't work for the family. I work for the individual. When they become a better individual then they become a better family.
BJJ Legends: Family is the umbrella under which all that falls, whether it's children or even a police officer who's a father, a mother, as you noted. That's a very important structure, unit structure, in American society and other parts of the world. What role do you feel, within the family unit, Jiu-Jitsu can offer?
Rickson Gracie: Man, you tell me how children can become better children, how the mother can become a better mother, how a father, executive, police officer. They will always have something to learn and to improve with Jiu-Jitsu, individually. So I don't see the function in Jiu-Jitsu work in their relationships or the family itself.
I make the children become more respectful to their parents, more capable to control emotions, and more capable to handle pressure. So I make the father more confident, more peaceful, more empowered than he normally is if he don't have that kind of self-confidence. I make the mother more...
Everything can be transformed positively. So I don't work for the family. I work for the individual, and they become a family, and they become a better family.
I think by doing a good job in Jiu-Jitsu, they completely will fulfill that need, from police officers to mothers to children to executives and competitors. I think a good Jiu-Jitsu school can really present itself as a community service academy. So I feel very confident. A good Jiu-Jitsu school can provide a great service for the community as a whole.
Tomorrow: Rickson talks about making the transition from Jiu-Jitsu to professional MMA.
On the day of the first Eddie Bravo Invitational in June 2014, Geo Martinez and his brother, Richie, arrived at a dark and empty downtown Los Angeles at 4am. They rode a red-eye bus from Las Vegas, after breakdancing all day in a major competition. They had not eaten in twelve hours and had barely slept. Tired and worn, they were sitting against a badly-lit corner of a building, hoodies over their heads, looking like two homeless dudes waiting for a shelter to open for breakfast. Unbeknownst to Geo at the time, this would be the final morning of the last day of Jiu-Jitsu anonymity. Some time later, their ride arrived to get them ready to make their professional jiu-jitsu debut at Florentine Gardens in Hollywood later that night.
Geo won the EBI tournament, defeating Jeff Glover in the finals. To say that Geo, a.k.a. Freakahhzoid, twenty-seven years old, from San Diego, had a good year would be an understatement. In January of 2014, he received his Jiu-Jitsu black belt. This feat was accomplished after only three years of training. He started under Sean Bollinger, then Ryan Fortin, and finally, received technique polishing from Eddie Bravo himself.
This year, he went undefeated in all his tournaments. He conquered the regional tournaments nearby. He also captured gold at larger venues like Gracie Nationals. His breakthrough, and his debut to the world, though, came at Eddie Bravo’s submission-only tournament. The first one was held in June, in which Geo defeated the well-respected Jeff Glover. In October, he fought again, at the second EBI, this time beating Fabio Passos (a Cobrinha black belt) in the finals.
The world at large, though, really took notice after his performance at the ADCC North American Trials in early December. Geo submitted all his opponents, some as fast as forty seconds with a rear naked choke, a calf crank, a kimura, and a variation of a D’Arce choke. When asked about competing at IBJJF events, he said he would have loved to compete in the NoGi Worlds of the IBJJF. However, he was denied entry because he did not meet the IBJJF’s time-in-rank requirements at purple and brown. Jean Jacques Machado vouched and signed Geo’s registration, but was denied by the organization.
IBJJF notwithstanding, the right people have taken notice of Geo. He was scheduled to fight at Metamoris 5 against Rubens Charles "Cobrinha" but an undisclosed hitch held that match up. Rumors are, Geo will fight at Metamoris 6.
Who would he face? Who does the jiu-jitsu world want him to face? Geo’s preferred fighting weight is at 135lbs. This puts him in the range of Caio Terra, Bruno Malfacine, Paulo and João Miyao, Gui Mendes, Rubens Charles “Cobrinha,” Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes, and Gianni Grippo. To those not in the know, to place Geo in this list seems incredulous. Those that have had a chance to train with and compete against Geo would love to see him go against one of the above. This writer hopes Ralek complies.
10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu had a lot to be thankful for in 2014. Eddie Bravo’s performance against Royler Gracie in Metamoris 3 in March didn’t so much “redeem” his victory against Royler from the 2003 ADCC, as it completely obliterated a decade of misinformation and prejudice his style of Jiu-Jitsu has faced. This new era has brought new attention to Eddie’s Jiu-Jitsu, which he doesn’t like to call a system, but more of an approach, or a philosophy: to have an open mind, discard with what doesn’t work, and use what works.
With this new regard, Eddie has been able to showcase one of his star fighters, Geo, who along with Denny Prokopos, Nathan Orchard, Richie Martinez, and Sean Bollinger, are coming to represent a new wave of 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu fighters in what perhaps can be classified as the second significant era of 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu.
I had the good fortune to interview Geo over the holiday weekend. I found him to be incredibly humble but passionate; intelligent and intuitive. I and many others look forward to what 2015 will bring.
Interview with Geo Martinez.
Seeing how most of the people that will read this are from outside of 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, could you briefly give us your biography and jiu-jitsu biography? Who were your instructors? How was it possible you got black belt in 3 years?
I was born in 1987. I’m twenty-seven. I started training jiu-jitsu 4 years ago. I started training with Sean Bollinger then Ryan at 10th Planet Vista. Honestly, I just kinda got obsessed with it and trained every day. My brother, too.
Your brother, Richie, is an awesome jiu-jitsu, fighter, too. He took Garry Tonnon to the limit at the first EBI final. Do you and your brother, Richie, keep count of who has tapped who? What’s it like to train with your brother?
It’s a blessing to train with my brother. We’ve been doing everything together, bboying, video games, and doing jiu-jitsu. We want each other to be better. No one’s keeping count but it’s always nice to compete against someone who wants you to be better, too.
What sort of training methods and philosophies allowed you to get your black belt so quickly? Did your skills from breakdancing help your transition into martial arts?
Breaking taught me discipline, to be with a crew, and rely on others for your training. We train hard. Breakdancing is very difficult for your body. So I’ve been training my body for complex moves and sets for a long time. As a dancer, I understand techniques as a pattern. Bboying also helps you take risks. You know, you gotta go for it, throw yourself on your head and spin. Is that why you like the rolling kimura attack? Oh, yeah, I love that attack, and the trucks and rolls to the truck. Feels natural to me.
What attracted you to 10th Planet in particular?
Eddie. Simply Eddie. He was the freakshow in jiu-jitsu. He got hated for it a lot. But he’s always been kind to me and is a generous, open teacher. Eddie inspired me beyond movement and technique. He accepted me and my crew (all in my crew do jiu-jitsu). He helped me in my life. He never wanted to do anything to harm anyone. He just loves jiu-jitsu. He’s open to anybody. Has a laid back mentality. Ben Saunders, an American Top Team fighter, is one of Eddie’s new friends. You can come from anywhere and he’ll accept you.
Do you have a theory of jiu-jitsu? In your documentary before EBI-1, you said, “Jiu-jitsu, B-boying, what’s beautiful about it is endless patterns.” Can you elaborate on the idea of “endless patterns” and its connection to jiu-jitsu?
Jiu-jitsu patterns are the foundation of our movements and our opponent’s movement. Everyone has a particular “set” they do from this or that position. It’s less about “seeing” patterns than about feeling them. The less you think, the better. When you’re free, your movements are a lot more creative, and you feel your rolling partner’s patterns. When dancing, you’re performing and you have to execute the move.
Tell me about your nickname Freakahhzoid and your crew’s name The Freakshow.
Being a freak means we accept everybody, and we don’t wanna be robots. When we started dancing, it felt like everyone was the same. Personally, I’ve always been an opposite’s dude. I like taking the detours, because that’s when you are yourself.
The truck. Is that your go to position? Do you finish most of your fights from there? Or where?
I’d rather take the truck than the back. There’s only a few counters to the truck. I get a lot of my submissions from there. But the submission I hit the most is the kimura.
Do you think you’d ever transition to MMA?
I’m a sucker for MMA, am a huge fan, but I know it’s a lot of work. I still want to battle, dance, do jiu-jitsu. My brother’s opening a new 10th Planet San Diego, and I got my school in Oceanside. If I do anything, I have to dedicate it all.
Finally, any shout outs?
I want to thank Phalanx. They’re my biggest sponsor. They’ve believed in me since I was a purple belt. Great company and great gear. A huge shoutout to my brother, Richie; and, of course, Eddie.
Geo Martinez is available for workshops, seminars, or camps. He is a highly regarded teacher. He gratefully accepts inquiries through:
Today in the our Rickson Interview Series: What kind of BJJ community do you envision?
BJJ Legends: So when we left off, you were talking about the under-represented, under-served portion of the community. A large portion of the community is served by the current structure, but there is an element out there that is not top competitors, but the general person that wants to come into Jiu-Jitsu or the blue belt or even white belt that's starting to compete in Jiu-Jitsu, as an element of the community.
I'm curious also about the community at large, the place in which the businesses actually reside, what you see, if anything, as a responsibility of the Jiu-Jitsu practitioners, in particular black belts and instructors and school owners, have to serve the community at large.
Rickson Gracie: I think by doing a good job in Jiu-Jitsu, they completely will fulfill that need, from police officers to mothers to children to executives and competitors. I think a good Jiu-Jitsu school can really present itself as a community service academy. So I feel very confident. A good Jiu-Jitsu school can provide a great service for the community as a whole.
Tomorrow: Rickson discusses what role Jiu-Jitsu plays in the family unit.
Today in the our Rickson Interview Series: What are the Master and Development Councils and what’s the difference between the two?
BJJ Legends: To further that and help facilitate that, my understanding is you have two councils. There's a Master's Council and a Development Council. Is that correct? Can you explain to us the difference between the two?
Rickson Gracie: The Master's Council is a roundtable with the guys who have been forever in this sport. They're all graduates. They're all guys who have a good understanding of the needs. They have a complete view about the sport, the evolutionary process, what is good, rules. They know everything. They've been around forever. So those guys are an important voice to be heard by the community and also to be part of our council to create some kind of voting system, to create a democratic system to resolve the problems which are still to come.
The Development Council is different. The guys don't have the senior aspect of being masters, but they have three, four schools. They've been around. They participate, very active in tournaments. They bring a lot of guys to compete. So their force is in the community, in terms of generating competitors and also understand the motion of Jiu-Jitsu, the growth of the students, the diminish of...
So they know everything about class programs, what has worked, what has not. So they can facilitate, and also they can speak to the community about what is really functional for the sport.
Tomorrow: Rickson explains his vision for the BJJ community.
Today in the our Rickson Interview Series: How did you choose your executive team Carlos Gama and Tony Pacenski?
BJJ Legends: Overlooking all of this is your executive team. Tony is here with us today. You are fortunately here with us today. Carlos Gama. I haven't seen him, haven't met him yet. How did you go about selecting your executive team?
Rickson Gracie: Our culture is very simple. First, I don't believe in coincidences. People get attracted by the motion of the positive motion. So the way we met, me and Tony, was a very magical way. When we met, we felt like we have a lot in common, based on his desire to accomplish something, based on my possibilities and my vision.
So immediately got a very important synergy, but the whole idea for our culture here is to provide service and also to give us the feeling where our motivation is based on the result. That means I expect nothing less than steady growth. If the growth doesn't happen, something's wrong. So let's fix what's wrong.
If the wrong is on the executive, he has to go. If the wrong is on the platform, we have to rearrange. So the idea here is production, is results. So I'm not here trying to bring my friends and cousins to work with me. That's not about hanging jobs. It's not about facilitating things. It's about to be in a highest level of service.
So I expect nothing less than everybody to ask for the Federation and make a question. I expect nothing less than he be heard and answered. So that is very easy because, for me, it's strictly business. We are in the business to provide service, and our mission is to restore effective.
So whoever is embracing that cause will be welcome, will be part of the force. Whoever wants to have private intentions or personal endeavors, that's not going to fit in our culture.
Tomorrow: Rickson tells us about the Master’s Council and Development Council and what’s the difference between the two?
Today in the our Rickson Interview Series: What do the belts mean in BJJ? What do you expect from a blue belt, purple belt, brown belt and most of all a black belt?
BJJ Legends: Speaking to that preservation, it's important to manage people's expectations across the board, so that people know what they're getting into. It seems as though you're making a good effort to do that. The belt system is something that I think we use to broadcast to others and within, what you can expect from that individual.
In past interviews, I've talked to other black belts, and I've asked the same question. We can talk about your ranking system within, that you propose within the JJGF, but what I'd like to talk about more is what those belts mean, both to the layperson and to an individual.
I know Royce said... Royce told me once that Helio said, "The belt only covers two inches of your waist. You have to protect the rest." What do we expect from... What do you expect from... What does the Federation expect from a blue belt? A purple belt? A brown belt? And most of all, a black belt? Because you make some distinguish... You distinguish on your website between black belt instructors, of course, and referees, in terms of the expectations you have of them, as opposed to, say, just a normal participant.
Rickson Gracie: Yeah. First of all, and most important, we are not here to divide. So everyone who has a belt in his waist, if he's legit, if he's promoted by somebody, if he has a record, we will validate. So we're not here to say he don't deserve the belt he has on. That's not the case.
We firmly suggest to him to understand the level he's supposed to be, as he has his belt in his waist. So it's more like a reference, a guidance of what you expect from a student in that level, what he's supposed to know. That is the suggestion.
We give them a reference to know because, for me, the black belt... When he comes in, just from a tournament perspective, he can be a very tough guy, but he's just an amateur black belt. If he becomes professional black belt, that means a teacher, he's supposed to have the whole full program of self defense.
If he don't have, I'm not saying he don't deserve the black belt. I will suggest him to open his eyes and see what he needs to fulfill that gap, because his school will be better, and everyone else will be pleased with his work. So if I don't have self defense in my program to teach, I will be no more than 25% than I am, by teaching only competition Jiu-Jitsu.
Tomorrow: Rickson tells us how he choose his executive team, Carlos Gama and Tony Pacenski.
Today in the our Rickson Interview Series: What's in the JJGFs Code of Ethics
BJJ Legends: The Jiu-Jitsu Global Federation has a code of ethics... coming off of these things that you were talking about. Can you explain to us what the code of ethics is for? And what gives the Jiu-Jitsu Global Federation the authority, morally, to impose a code of ethics on those that participate within the federation?
Rickson Gracie: I think in order for us to have confidence to portray a good federation, a good institution for the benefit, we had to be involved in the educational aspect. We cannot just expect people to do it. We have to guide them how to do it, because that's the way, how you go in a university and start to lecture. You have to learn first.
So we have to expose for many of those instructors and school owners what Jiu-Jitsuu is about, from the roots, from our beginning, and allow them to learn that concept. I think this is crucial for us. With that education, also coming what we believe is a code of ethics for any professional, in Army, in Jiu-Jitsu, in politics, or any other institution, we should have a code of ethics which, as the guy at least reads that, as the guy agree with that, he put himself in a position where he represents that kind of entity. He represents that kind of force, positive force.
If the guy has no ethics, how I can validate him as a person if one day or another, he starts to be a pervert or be a... So he can be for anything he promised. Okay. I have my integrity. I have my values. I agree with everything has been said here. I don't impose to nobody because that's not something I impose, but I like to make sure he's reflecting about it, and he's agreed.
We're in a positive environment. We are in a positive idea to enhance the community. Anyone who disagrees with that, from the beginning, should not participate at all because from the perspective of a school owner, a teacher, a competitor, a practitioner, or even independent promoter, I think any of them are supposed to have a code of ethics, because that's just crucial in any situation to preserve the integrity and the positive vibe.
Tomorrow: Rickson talks about the belt system in BJJ.
Today in the our Rickson Interview Series: What does BJJ offer to someone who has never had BJJ?
BJJ Legends: I think I heard you say or somebody said, "Courage is essential for the warrior." What do you think BJJ offers to someone who's never had BJJ in their life before?
Rickson Gracie: I think it's experience, experience with confrontation, experience the idea of . . . In a very recreational and a very friendly environment, he starts to experience his animal within. He has to develop. In a same group class, I can see a guy who's lazy, and I'm going to say, "Hey, man. Don't allow this. Go, go, go, go." The other guys are so tense and so stressed. I say, "Hey, man. Just breathe and relax and try to find your pace."
So regardless the elements in the class, the opinions, the advice is different from student to student because as I analyze the whole group, I can see this guy is too tense. This guy is too lazy. This guy is just not sharp enough. This guy is kind of insecure about himself. So I have to view the possibility and show him where he's strong and he don't know. Show the invisible power. So all those components are there to enhance their possibilities and be positive influence in their lives.
Tomorrow: Rickson talks about the JJGF Code of Ethics
Since I own 3 other gi’s made by 93 Brand, Kris Shaw, whom I train with at Tinguinha Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Yorba Linda, CA and also the owner of BJJ Legends Magazine asked me to review the latest gi by 93 Brand, the Zodiac. I haven’t wrote anything other than a email since my last English final essay in college 15 years ago, hopefully I don’t make too much of a mess out of this.
Manufacturer’s description of the gi: The gi features a 350gsm pearl weave gi top, 10oz rip stop pants, and interior yoke panel plus customers get to choose from any of the twelve circular zodiac patches designed by BJJ artist Meerkatsu.
First impression: When I took the gi out of the bag, it felt very light. The gi is minimally patched, which I prefer, and the color combination of white and blue look sharp. There is a small strip of patches on the shoulders with the company name. The side vents on the gi top and the gi pants have blue tape with stars on them to keep with the theme of zodiac. It kind of reminds me of the U.S. Air Force uniform. I don’t usually like ripstop pants due to being too stiff, but these pants felt softer than other ripstop pants I own. The gi also came with a patch with my zodiac sign, Aquarius, which depicts a guy holding a water jug. There are some cool looking patches that come with other zodiac signs, such as Pisces, Scorpio, or Leo, but as my luck will have it, I got a guy holding a water jug.
Measurements (all measurements in inches):
After 3 washes;
After 15 washes;
As you can see, there is minimal shrinkage with the gi. I always washed the gi with cold water. Gi top were always hung dried but the pants were put in the dryer at medium heat after the 3rd wash but the pants never shrunk.
Review: I have trained in this gi for three straight weeks, 5 times a week. This was possible due to the gi being so light that even after being washed and hung to dry, it usually dried within few hours. Although the material is very thin, I did not notice the gi being stretched when it was soaked in sweat and my training partners tugging on the sleeves/pants etc. As for the fit of the gi, I am 5’11” tall and weigh 165 pounds and the A1L fitted me like a custom made suit. I have gotten many compliments from my training partners regarding the look of the gi along with how great it fits.
Conclusion: If you need a great fitting, light competition gi or a gi that you can hang dry and wear every day, this will be a great addition to your collection. I can’t wait to patch it up with my school flag and add to my collection.