Richard Bresler:  Jiu Jitsu Changed My Life

Richard Bresler: Jiu Jitsu Changed My Life


Kris: Today is March 13th.

Richard: Friday the 13th.

Kris: Friday the 13th. My name is Kris Shaw. I’m sitting with Richard Bresler.

Richard: Bresler.

Kris: Bresler. And we were talking… I said that Jiu Jitsu is a very jealous hobby and it won’t allow you to keep any of your other bad habits. And then you said that, Jiu Jitsu changed your life like it has many, many other people. Take us back to 1980.

Richard: I’d been doing to Jiu Jitsu for just around a year at the time and I was in therapy. My own life was going nowhere.

Kris: How old were you?

Richard: I was 28, I believe, 28, 27 or 28. And I wanted to change, I was sick and tired. I wasn’t happy. I was doing something that I didn’t like, and meeting Rorion [SP], JiuJitsu gave me something. And then when I was in therapy, I was talking to the therapist going, “I gotta move away.” I was living with two guys in the music business. Music business was all about drugs and partying and I was part of that lifestyle. And so I just said, “I gotta move away.” And I happened to talk to Rorion. I said, “I need to move out and I need to get a cleaner place.” And Rorion says, “I need to get a place too.” He says, “Let’s get a place together.” And I literally thought to myself, “Is this guy nuts? Why would he want…?” [inaudible 00:01:57] Talk about self-esteem in the gutter. Why would he want to live with me? Rorion being opportunistic at the time and never really thinking… And he always saw the good in everything. So he needed credit. I had credit. So we got this beautiful house in Hermosa Beach, which was known as The Garage, for years.

Kris: I’ve seen pictures.

Richard: Yeah. And like I said the first day there… The first week we moved in–

Kris: Everything was on the lease at The Garage?

Richard: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Kris: Dude.

Richard: Yeah. Put this way, we got the place because of me, because of the credit that I had.

Kris: Holy Cow!

Richard: I had a ’76 BMW 2002, the brand new paint job, and he says, “Richard, can’t park your car in the garage,” and I’m like, “What?” He says, “This is the academy.” And so my car [inaudible 00:03:01], and I totally understood. And at first, even back then I don’t really remember what I said to that but there wasn’t much of a argument there. And then–

Kris: In the picture, there is, I think, a brown Jetta parked out in front of the garage. I don’t remember.

Richard: It was a Rabbit.

Kris: A Rabbit.

Richard: Yeah, that was one of Rorion’s first cars.

Kris: Amazing! We also touched briefly on what people are calling self-defense vs sport. And I have a problem with that because self-defense, to me, is diffuse the situation and make a safe escape. To me, it’s more street applicable Jiu Jitsu vs. sport Jiu Jitsu. And that’s the way you were brought up. That’s the way you are taught, more in the street applicable Jiu Jitsu.

Richard: Right. Yeah, Rorion really never ever stressed or said anything about doing competitions or anything. He said, “Look…” He said it’s specifically for me. Maybe he knew something about me, and I think you really get to know something about a person when you’re teaching them, that I wasn’t interested in the competition. I was interested in protecting myself because I had such a… Like so many people that come to it, they don’t feel confident in the street. That’s the way, when he taught me, it was always to be aware of other situations. We did stuff blindfolded, we did stuff with always throwing little slaps, being aware of when the person can hit you.

Kris: Well, when did you get your Blackbelt?

Richard: I get my Blackbelt in. It didn’t come from Rorion. I got it from Fabio Santos.

Kris: Good man.

Richard: Yeah, and he gave it to me. Because I left the academy in ’96 in the summer, and–

Kris: After 16 years.

Richard: Yeah. Rorion and I, we had a difference of agreement, just some things going on. It was a very busy time at the academy and we had a misunderstanding and I left there. And Fabio said, “Well, I can’t believe Rorion didn’t give you your Black belt.” He says, “I’m giving you your Black belt.” So he gave it to me in… I think it was late ’96 or spring ’97, which would put me in what they called the Dirty Dozen, which I never… My name is not listed there. Chris Saunders, I don’t know if his–

Kris: On some lists, Chris Saunders is listed in the Dirty Dozen.

Richard: Because Chris is [inaudible 00:05:49] first black belt and it showed that it wasn’t on some list, too, so yeah.

Kris: That is very, very debatable, and according Chris Howder [SP], you have to have gotten it in ’96 or you don’t make the list. So everybody has a different opinion.

Richard: Right. Well, then I can say I got it and whoops [inaudible 00:06:08]

Kris: No.

Richard: To me, it didn’t really matter. All I know is that when Fabio gave it to me, I was very happy. And then–

Kris: Were you Fabio’s first Black belt? American Black belt?

Richard: I have no idea.

Kris: I’ll ask him next time I see him.

Richard: Because Fabio was at the academy with me and I don’t know if he left before me.

Kris: He is on my list. I need to interview him.

Richard: I really liked him and I really need to get down to see him because I was a Black belt under him, too. But I just haven’t gotten down to San Diego. And then in 2010, I got a call from Helio Gracie [SP]. And he said, “We’re having a special… we’re having a belt ceremony at the academy. Would you please by? Because we’re going to be talking to, saying something about my father and so it would be nice you can come by there.” So I came by and said where would it be? So I was in there and if you can, they were giving out other belts and then Rorion came up and I went, “I’m not here to talk about Rorion.” And they said, “Richard, come up here.” And they gave me the official Gracie black belt, which was really nice and I built the black, so it was… how many guys can say, they got two black belts?

Kris: That’s a very, very nice part. How do you stripe yourself? How many stripes do you have?

Richard: Well, technically it’s supposed to be…

Kris: Every three years for the first three.

Richard: …right. I… all I have is the teacher…

Kris: It is the belt.

Richard: …as the belt. I know from Fabio is told me, he say’s come to San Diego but it’s not going to change the way I teach, it’s not going to change anything about me. I’ve also, Henry [SP] had said and other people have said after the age of 40, about every 10 years, you lose a ranking in your effectiveness when you’re rolling. You might have some guys say that look there is people don’t said if you catch Rickson. I heard this and people have said listen because most of us, we’re grown up with movies and the old time master. But look, as we get older, our reaction time, our strength, our speed everything changes. So, effectiveness to come competition especially. I know guys that would never prompt catch in purple belts that would catch…

Kris: I wish, I would have met you three years ago, when my arthritis started to get bad. There is no road map for retirement and it makes me crazy. They’ll show you how to be a black belt? They’ll show you how to be a champion. They’ll show you how to be on top. But the downhill slides sucks. I don’t know what to do with myself, I don’t know what to do with all the hungry black belts that come at me. I’m talking about myself instead of you.

Richard: …how old are you?

Kris: 46.

Richard: 46.

Kris: Yeah and it’s brutal, I’m very upset about it.

Richard: I hear people that say stuff like that or people that saying in their 30s, it’s so hard to recover now. I’m like. You guys don’t have a clue, you don’t have a clue because I’m 63. So it’ll totally change and I’m very selective and I’ve been selective for years who I roll with. I mean, who I teach right now, lot of guys will come in will do like spot spar and okay. What to do they did this? I remember, there was a guy that… few different guys. I remember, we’re showing certain things; how do you get to triangle from the mountain and when the guy get to trunk in a mountain, this big guy… I was showing the classroom, there is a big guy will get to trunk nothing rolled the guy off and he would be able to lift the guy up and possibly slam, would slam him. But I just. And I say okay, let’s try it with me. And I got on top. Sure enough, the guy rolled me. The guy was… Here you’re talking about these guys were 180. This guy was probably 210. I mean, a big boy…

Kris: And all muscle.

Richard: Yeah, he was just big and fast. And I think he was from the U.K and I never… I got on top of him; sure enough, he rolled me and I snatch the triangle and he attacked before he could let me. And I was just like… and then I thought about, “Why am I putting myself at risk here? I don’t have to prove to them.” And I remember a bigger guy, probably 250, pass my guard and folded me over. And as he folded me over, soon as I got smashed like a pancake and then he, get my legs free. I put him back in guard and I went like… I’m not doing this again. It’s… you get one. And I was barely 150 pounds. Right now, I’m 148. All the guys are bigger, heavier, stronger…

Kris: Faster.

Richard: …yeah, that again.

Kris: Faster.

Richard: Right, so. I teach… you want to do something, go with one of those guys. I’ve plenty of students that will wanna say, “Oh yeah, I want to test things out, test it out with them.” But even a guy… one of my students just had a knee surgery. His name is Will, so he hears that. And he was telling me that he said, “I’m rethinking the way that I want to train with guys.” Because he is 40. And he goes, when he first started doing and he really, he would come in and he would train with anybody and then the older than he got, he’d always want to put it on the line. He said, “Look, after the surgery, it’s making me re-think. My body doesn’t recover.” And so but as far as yourself, you have to just… if you’ve gotten to where you’ve gotten to, then you don’t have to keep testing yourself.

Kris: And that’s mental. You want the high, you want the glory, you want it back, you want to re-live it.

Richard: The equal or let’s call it, the ego. That what it is…

Kris: Over that.

Richard: …because that’s why I would put myself on the mat with those guys. Oh yeah, I’ll mount on you and you roll me.

Kris: I really enjoy being a really badass.

Richard: And I’ve never been a badass. I never ever… I remembered almost getting and fight about 7 or 8 years ago in Santa Monica. I’m walking, I went for a walk and some guy in a crosswalk… I was in the crosswalk and some guy was the second guy behind. And I guess he didn’t me and he beeps the horn. I turned around and go like relax and he jumps out of the car just because I said that…

Kris: Oh my goodness.

Richard: …and he just… really started coming at me and right away my hands…

Kris: Came up, yeah.

Richard: …I’m talking like this. And finally, make a long story short, he is like in my face telling me this and that. And I’m thinking the whole time, let’s see. Like a bow and elbow and I take him down like this. And I’ve going like, “One, I could get hurt. Two, he could get hurt. We can both arrested or we can both end up in the hospital and I said, over nothing? And I said, I’m just going to just keep my hands up and defend if he does something. And finally he was through yelling and he was looking my face telling me this and that and I said okay. I says, can I go now? And he goes, I’m the king of jungle and he was yeah and I said okay and he goes and you’re a punk ass a bitch and I said thank you. And I continued to take off and I was a little bit… but I said, you know what? I walked away. Why fight, over nothing?

Kris: You’re right. And that’s one of the gifts that Jiu Jitsu’s given me is I used to be a little bit of hot head, maybe some people say I still I am. But after you fight five guys in the academy, you don’t want to fight anyone else. You’re just like, “My friend, it is a very nice day outside. Why don’t we go and have a coffee? I have already fought; I don’t need to fight any more today.

Richard: Right. Being around Rorion too and all the guys is that and maybe because I heard some stories about Rorion when he was younger, but I met Rorion when he was 29 or 28. So, that’s been the same age. I think he is two months younger than I am. And I hear some of the stories. And when I lived with him, I lived with him and his wife at the time. And some… it was in the evening and Rorion still had his gi on. We’re sitting down to dinner and some guy walks. Has a trench coat on, looks like he is just some guy… you can tell he was wasted. And he was kind of a bigger guy. And Rorion, I immediately said, “Why?” Because here I’m, like, a blue belt and just like… and then Suzanne was like… And Rorion walks up to him. “Hey, you just passed my children. Hey, my friend…”

Kris: We’re friend.

Richard: …what can I do for you? How can I help you?

Kris: That’s right.

Richard: And he says, “Is so-and-so here?” And he says, who? And then I would talk because Rorion was in next room so I could talk. And he goes, yeah I’m looking for so and so. He says, isn’t this, whatever… I forget our address. And he says no, this isn’t 4th street. It’s 3rd street. He goes, I’m sorry walks off. But Rorion was just like… never was… just calm, just….

Kris: What was the address of the garage? Can you remember? It was Hermosa Beach.

Richard: It was on 3rd street, Hermosa Beach. I almost said my address, but that’s my address now. I don’t remember the address.

Kris: We’ll do some digging; we’ll find it.

Richard: Yeah. I could drive over there and tell you exactly what it was.

Kris: I wanted if it’s been knock down.

Richard: No, it was little… it was a quiet little house. I remember going back there, not too long ago and it was still there, right. And there was a beautiful location on the top of the hill that you could… and my bedroom was in the back and his was over inside… And Rorion gave me the nicer bedroom with a view on both sides so I could see the water. He didn’t really have that same kind of view.

Kris: Nice.

Richard: So, yeah.

Kris: Did he force you to eat clean? Was the refrigerator just bananas and chicken?

Richard: You know what, Rorion never… I mean like, when and because I’m, I was … I remember one day; I had cocaine, I had quaaludes, I had pot.

Kris: Oh my god.

Richard: So Rorion… one of the stories we have was on my car after a class, and this is before we’ve moved into together. And I’m sitting down in the car. He just got back from Brazil and I hadn’t had Jiu-Jitsu in a couple of months and I was jonesing for it. And I went through the worst binge of my life as far as drugs. It was just after Christmas; we had a class he was giving. And he said, do this, do this. Oh, you almost got in that! And he couldn’t get this move right, whatever. And I was feeling so sorry for myself. I went out to my car and I was sitting there and I kept crying, going, why am I doing this? I’m obviously not going to learn. Poor little rich man. I mean, I was just like boo hoo. And then he comes out and he goes, what’s the problem? And I goes why are you wasting your time with me? I said, I’m never going to learn this. You could… you tried to get me to do something and I couldn’t do it. And he says Richard… he said, and that’s why he gave me this speech, there is no such thing as a bad student. There’s just bad teachers. But he said I’m the best!

Kris: You’ve nothing to worry about.

Richard: He said, you just show up. And then when he’s thinking to my… I always said I’m the best student, there’s no such thing as a bad student. I’m thinking, the guy’s lying to me because he needs me to come back to take a class with them. That’s took when I thought of myself. So he said just show up to class. And then he said, and then keep a good diet. He says and I said, “Why? I’m just going to go home and getting stoned and take drugs.” And he said, “Don’t you understand? That’s the reason why.” He said, do you want to give yourself the best possible chance for that? And he never gave me the lecture about diet, about drugs; he just said, if you want to do it, this is what you want to do.

Kris: This is the path.

Richard: This is the road, that is the road map. He never said…

Kris: No lecture.

Richard: …stop taking drugs. He never said that. He just said this is your goal because, and there is one… I read things and listen to a lot of self-improvement tapes. And they said, if you want to stop something, you got to replace it. Your goal can’t be the stop smoking, your goal is to live a healthy lifestyle. So I focused on eating a good diet, doing everything that I could to take care of myself and all the other stuff just took care of itself. It just went away. People go, did you ever go to… And I said, my therapist didn’t help me. They basically just… why are you the way you are? I’m like, I don’t care. I just want to change.

Kris: You’ll be surprised to know that wrestling, grappling, grappling has been recommended, it’s now in the guidelines for therapists, to recommend to their patients suffering from any kind of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to get involved in a grappling martial art because of the intimate contact.

Richard: And Rorion told me that one of the guys, I think one of their students, was a well-known therapist and they said that Jiu Jitsu’s an excellent therapy for people like that. Because a lot of it’s also confidence that you… when you live a certain way, you develop more confidence in situations. And I know that it’s helped me.

Kris: Nice. How many black belt have you given?

Richard: I’ve never given any black belts because you’ve have to remember; I teach at Krav Maga.

Kris: Okay.

Richard: I’ve been… I left because I started the… I left the academy. One of my students from the academy called me up. He said, what are you doing now? And I was, I don’t know. Right now, I’m not doing anything, I just left it. And he was, why don’t we start at Jiu Jitsu school? And I said, well, money.

Kris: Yeah, there’s that.

Richard: And he goes, how would you and then one of the guys that was a friend of mine that also left, was named Lowel Anderson, who got his black belt, I think under Craig Kooka [sp], he says, why don’t call Lowel? You guys will be the talent, the teachers. And he said I’ll do the money.

Kris: Okay.

Richard: He says, let’s go get a place. So, we started Beverly Hills. Beverly Hills Jiu-Jitsu was ours. I’m one of the original founders.

Kris: I didn’t know that.

Richard: Yeah, so… and it was across the street from where it is now. It was 369 South Robertson. It was in Jane Fonda’s old school. So, we started that and we were there for… things didn’t turn out like… for the partner, he got really assy. And we were making the $100 a month unlimited. We wanted to… we’re trying to set a precedent; cheapest Beverly Hills. And we only got 50 guys in a few months and it wasn’t enough for us to…

Kris: Stay open?

Richard: Well, it was enough to stay open but not enough to pay salaries.

Kris: That’s terrible.

Richard: So I.. and then things got really weird. He didn’t turn out to be the guy that I thought he was. So Lowel walked away and then a week after, I walked away. And then I wasn’t doing anything and I walked over to Krav Maga because one of my friends told me about it and said, hey why don’t you go over there. And so I walked in. I saw one of my former students from the academy. He came over to me and introduced me to the owner and said are you teaching anyplace? I said no. And he says, okay I gave him my card and he contacted me the next day and said you want to teach? And I said, well do you want me come in and teach a class, so you can see what I do? And he says, no. He says you want to teach here? And I said, yeah. I said, but you’ve never… do you know, you’ve just met me. And he says, you have a reputation. I’m like, reputation? I remember maybe in the 70s, I would consume a lot of drugs but…

Kris: It was something else.

Richard: …but yeah, so anyways because of being around Rorion and the teaching that I got from him and I guess from what the student told him and I guess he could look up things about me, I went to work there. So, I taught from… I talk to Jiu Jitsu at Krav Maga because it helped them develop their grown program. But they called my class ground fighting because all they saw was Jiu Jitsu as fighting on the ground. Even know I taught self-defense aspect on the ground, it wasn’t any of the self-defense stuff to stand up. And guys would come to me and that stayed for maybe… some guys would stay for a few months to maybe, some guys stayed for 4 to 5 years. But there wasn’t a lot of classes that they offered. So what happens is, guys come… Like, this one guy–I told you, he just had a surgery–he is a sport. He likes… A lot of guys have left over, but he has been with me 7 years now. And there is another guy that got his purple belt from someone else that comes over. And this basic foundational stuff.

Kris: You really do leave the ego out of it. Every single bit.

Richard: Well, the thing is I’m not a… I’m a guy that just… I know where my strength is. My strength is in passing foundational fundamentals. I had so many guys to come back to me. There is two things that I hear over and over again. One, thank you because you’re such a great teacher, you… and when I mean back, I let a fire under them for Jiu-Jitsu. Because it was fire that was lit under me and I passed it along and I help them. They say like wow because guys come and they know moves, but they don’t know how to execute them. And I teach them fundamentals so they can execute the move. And those are the things that I hear over and over again. So…

Kris: And one more thing that I’m going to end with. You said it in the roll video. You said that Rorion told you, win with Jiu Jitsu and win convincingly. And I thought that was just amazing. That’s what we’re missing. We’ve been having a huge debate that’s been going round and round and round and round. Why are the worlds boring? Why is the Pan-Ams boring? Why is it boring to watch Jiu-Jitsu in competition? They’re not winning convincingly. They’re winning by an advantage.

Richard: Well but then if you look at… because when Rorion said that, he meant if you’re in a fight and use Jiu-Jitsu to win… I mean, that’s why if you’ve ever watch the inaction videos with Rorion, he’s always like when he… he always said, “Look, if you’re in a situation where you’re mounted and you go to punch,” He said, “Don’t lay a punch on the guy.” He says, just let him know they were hit. He says you don’t want to break your hand. He just said, give him a like little so they can protect, so you can get an arm or they’ll turn over. And he always like… I mean I never say Rorion ever in those early days with the challenges, ever like show his anger or show his… You’d see him hit somebody hard, he hit them to turn around so he could choke them out. If you watch Rorion fights, its collar choke, rear naked choke. He liked to choke like his father. He was very much like… he says because the guy can fight with a broken arm. If they’re sleeping, there is no fight anymore. So it was that, that kind of attitude because if you watch some of the other fights with [Inaudible 00:27:10] and he was really angry with because guys would give up and they’re trying to knock their heads off. And I understand this, especially when you’re younger but as they got older, they… so what Rorion would do is when he fought, if the guy would try to grab his groin like a dick, guys did when he held a choke, he held it little longer. They would tap. And it was just like, this is what I could do to you when you hold a choke. Like Hoyce did when he fought George Odell [sp] in the UFC because the guy bit his ear. So he held a choke and you could see Girard Bardot [sp] tapping, tapping, tapping. And Hoyce knew, Hoyce knew he was tapping. This was like…

Kris: Yeah, respect, it’s like respect. Respect the choke.

Richard: And show… we can show you what we could do. That’s what he would do. He says, can you imagine? So that’s what he missed like.

Kris: Yeah, very nice. My last question; I know I said the last one was my last question. This isn’t really a question, I’m going to give opportunity to thank your sponsors, thank your family, thank whoever it is that you have on your list that you need to thank.

Richard: I guess, I’d like to thank my parents for leaving Chicago when they did because my dad could never get along with his family; he was a younger brother of six. And he left Chicago and came out here and I kind of resented my dad for so long because I was in the fast food business with him and hated it and wanted to get out. But it was because of him leaving and going through the stuff in the food business and going through all the drugs, not being happy that put me right where I needed to be. So I could meet Rorion and find out about Jiu Jitsu. So to people who were going through like those bad times, there’s always a silver lining.

Kris: It gets better.

Richard: Yeah, it gets better. I mean, if you want it to get better, focus on something. And you will. And thank you to my parents for… and thank you to, and I can’t say enough to Rorion and Jiu Jitsu because…

Kris: Jiu Jitsu changed my life. Thank you, sir. 30 minutes, right.

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