Monday, March 16, 2009

The Rickson Gracie Experience


Below is the start of testimonials from our instructors and students who participated in the March 14-15 seminar with Rickson Gracie. Update: if you participated in the seminar and would like to submit a testimonial, email spencercountymartialarts@gmail.com.

Instructor Scott Smith, Master Pedro Sauer Black Belt


We as a group had one of the best times with friends from all over. The seminar was 200 + strong, and Rickson Gracie was everything I've heard he was! A man of PASSION for the art of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and anything else he does...

Rickson took the time to touch almost every person in the seminar; answering their questions and having them FEEL the move. I have been going to seminars for 13 to 14 years and this was by far the best seminar I personally have attended. The way he delivered the concepts was priceless. For me it was amazing to watch Master Pedro Sauer look in his eyes was like a kid, as Rickson showed and explained each move. I knew then, I was in for something special.

I've stated to you all, that I will teach you a move one way today and different tomorrow, that time has come! Rickson displayed moves and concepts of Jiu-Jitsu that opened my eyes in everyway. I feel so blessed to have felt right from the source what he was teaching.

I, like so many, had the chance to be one on one with Rickson, to have him show and feel his moves. The look in his eyes was so intense, you could see his soul, and how he feels about Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. It is his life’s work to perfect what his father has created. Rickson stated, he was a developer of Jiu-Jitsu, making it better, and his father Helio was the creator. Rickson stated: “my father invented the airplane; I'm just making it better for today’s times.”

I can say, I feel my Jiu-Jitsu has grown over the last few days, and I will be driving myself to be a better teacher, father, husband and student. Jiu-Jitsu as stated by Rickson: “will give you so much in your life...confidence and the ability to feel you can do anything.”

Thank you Rickson Gracie for a weekend I will never forget!

Instructor Brian Phillips, Master Pedro Sauer Purple Belt

I never thought that in my lifetime I’d be blessed with the opportunity to train with Rickson Gracie, the legend who is widely recognized as being the best representative of jiu-jitsu in the world, with the finest technique and phenomenal ability to transfer his knowledge to students of all ages, sizes and backgrounds.

I was one of the lucky 200 participants who trained with the Master in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 14-15. This was his first seminar in the United States in more than a decade.

Each day consisted of six hours of instruction, with a break in between each three-hour session.

When Rickson walked into the room, which was a mat-covered high school gymnasium, the pool of participants erupted into applause. With a humble bow to all of us, Rickson started by honoring his father, the late Grandmaster Helio Gracie, and explaining the philosophy that would guide the entire seminar which could be summed up in two words: “Invisible Jiu-Jitsu”, or the fact that jiu-jitsu is felt and not seen.

I’ve attended a lot of excellent seminars in my jiu-jitsu career and have learned a multitude of techniques. Rickson didn’t show a single technique during two full days of instruction. What he taught were basic concepts that were driven by an unseen connectedness between you and your opponent. His teachings were the difference between feeling like you weigh 300 pounds when you only tip the scales at 155; they were the distinction between a technique working and it failing every time.

I would say that there were about 15-17 “concepts” taught during the seminar, which is said to be the first of 10 he plans to conduct in the U.S. One of the very first shown was the Upa, which most people learn the first day they walk into a jiu-jitsu school.

Out of the 200 participants, not a single person could escape Rickson’s mount using the Upa, because a fundamental flaw existed in everyone’s technique – including the many world-class black belts in attendance who tried their hand at it.

After several attempts at this, Rickson would show the correct way to perform the technique, and invite everyone back up to try it again. This was the same process used for every concept shown. In fact, if you didn’t have one-on-one time with Rickson then it was your own fault.

At 50, Rickson is in prime physical shape. The second day of the seminar he demonstrated the “internal massage” and breathing techniques that are an essential part of his daily life. People may have seen this on video, but to witness it in person is surreal. The same can be said for just being in his presence.

The passion Rickson has for teaching, for training, and for passing on his family’s teachings cannot be overstated. You can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. He didn’t hold anything back from us, and when you worked with him it was as if you were the only person in the room. His focus, determination, and heart are simply incredible. He is a true warrior and Master of the masters.

The intention of this post wasn’t to “describe” or attempt to “re-teach” the material covered, for that would contradict and defeat the entire philosophy of the seminar. My experience is just one of many. I can say that it was the best jiu-jitsu experience I’ve had. No matter who you are or what your motivation for training may be, everyone who participated in that seminar walked out as a more efficient jiu-jitsu practitioner and better person.

Now it’s time to share the knowledge gained with our own students and friends. The one thing for certain is that we are all white belts again.

Thank you, Rickson, for such an incredible experience.

Craig Conard, Master Pedro Sauer Blue Belt

First of all, I want to thank those at Spencer County Martial Arts who helped me find Jiu-Jitsu and experience one of the most unique men I have ever met. That man is Rickson Gracie. From the moment he walked in the gymnasium you felt a deafening silence. Such an honor to witness that type of respect from a diverse group of individuals who traveled from all over the world to be there on that rainy weekend in Nashville. I decided to go to this seminar to improve my Jiu-Jitsu knowledge and get the opportunity to meet a legend in his profession. Who I met that day was a very humble man. Someone who was not above working with every student at the seminar. It was pretty amazing, "I got to perfect my elbow escape on Rickson Gracie". WOW!!!!!

As most people in the Jiu-Jitsu community know, Rickson lost his father recently as I did. Rickson showed that emotion as he explained to us what Jiu Jitsu meant to him. I too felt his emotion and the gifts, hobbies and passion for doing something worth while which our fathers shared with us as children. Rickson explained that his father, Helio Gracie, gave him and everyone in that gymnasium the gift of Jiu Jitsu, the foundation and permission to develop each technique. Since day one, our instructor Scott Smith has told us this, "Today my friend I teach you this way, tomorrow I teach you different" of course in his Southern Brazilian accent. The point is, Rickson showed everyone there that certain aspects we have taught and learned are have been updated, changed, modified to better serve.

As I was discussing the seminar with a friend I remember the old analogy about football being a game of inches. Rickson demonstrated that Jiu-Jitsu is the same. Time after time Rickson would ask Black Belts, Brown Belts, anyone to escape his simple mount. Each failed miserably. Rickson then showed adjusting the hips one more inch to the left. Adjusting the head one inch to the right. Connecting to your opponent. Time after time the Black Belt, Brown Belt, everyone was able to escape Rickson's mount. Rickson would seldom answer anyone's question directly. He would always let you feel what he was saying. He did this the entire seminar.

I was asked by another student last night who did not attend the seminar if it was worth it? I said this, "Even if Rickson would not have showed us anything, it would have been worth it just to speak and listen to his passion for Jiu-Jitsu. How he spent so much time showing the basic building blocks for each movement. Constantly reinforcing the concept of technique and not strength. His expression of Jiu-Jitsu and his message that it is seen, not felt. His message of feeling the invisible. To answer that question, Absolutely!

Thank you, Rickson!

Allen Shumate, Master Pedro Sauer Blue Belt

I had the extreme honor and privilege of training with Rickson Gracie on March 14-15 in Nashville TN. During my years of training, I had heard several accounts of how incomparable Rickson Gracie's passion, technique, and teachings of Jiu-Jitsu are. I believed the 'hype' whole-heartedly, but was pleased to experience it first hand. Did my own experience live up to the hype? No, it surpassed it by miles.

Rickson shared 'invisible' concepts that elevated every technique to its fullest potential. He illustrated maybe 15 of these 'invisible concepts' and then allowed EVERYONE to feel these concepts, not just show them. I had the pleasure of working a sweep and maintaining cross mount on the legend himself. As I worked with him he would provide constant feedback such as "no no, more energy on the leg" or "place more weight on the sternum, now move an inch and feel the difference". This type of feedback was reinforced several times through the two-day seminar by the simple statement, "Jiu-Jitsu is felt, not seen". My own instructor Scott Smith, a Gracie Jiu Jitsu black belt under Master Pedro Sauer, has echoed this statement from the beginning of my training and it so nice to hear those same words from the legend himself. It gave me great pleasure to know that my own academy shares the very same spirit of Rickson's teachings.

The experience I had watching, sharing, and learning from Helio Gracie's son will remain with me forever and I pray everyone who trains in jiu jitsu has the same opportunity. If you have the opportunity to attend a seminar with Rickson Gracie, you should seriously consider attending and make every sacrifice necessary. I assure you that you will feel blessed as I do.

Thanks for everything, Rickson.


  1. hey guys! my name is brandon. i was at the seminar. i echo everything you have said here. it was amazing to see someone be the complete master of an art the way rickson is. he was humble and kind and i was blessed to have been there.

  2. Thanks Brandon! What school do you train? We definitely witnessed an historic event. I never thought I'd ever be able to train with him. I hope there are many more opportunities.

    Take care my friend!

  3. I have to disagree with your comments about the 200 people not being able to escape Rickson's mount using the basic upa. I was the only person able to SUCCESSFULLY do so. I am the female 2 stripe blue belt that trains at Groundworks Jiu-Jitsu in Sacramento, CA. Groundworks is a direct representative of Rickson Gracie. I had the honor of learning such a BASIC move from none other than Kron Gracie (Rickson's Son). With that being said, AWESOME SEMINAR!!!!!

    Danielle Battiato
    Rickson Gracie Blue belt
    Groundworks Jiu-Jitsu House, Sacramento CA

  4. Awesome, Danielle! Hope to see you guys at the next one. How was training with Kron?

  5. Wow, I wish I could of been there! Can anyone share any of the techniques that Master Rickson taught you?

  6. I love the testimonials! I wish I could of attended! Anyone care to take a stab at describing any of the concepts he shared?

  7. As always...Rickson is Jiu Jitsu. It was nice to see that all that training (we at Groundworks Jiu Jitsu House in Sacramento CA) do with Kron Gracie is exactly the way his father explains it. These are techniques we have been getting from Kron for years, But to be comfirmed by Rickson is exciting of course- and to know his son is representing his fathers drive and direction is priceless. Seminar was Perfect.

    Scott Willingham
    Rickson Gracie Representative
    Groundworks Jiu Jitsu House Sac CA

  8. Daniell, I have given you credit across the boards! Nice to have a name to throw out there with the info. But as Rickson said, "if you know, you know!" Great demonstration of technique. I was the first person to "earn a shirt" That was uber cool!
    Bill K

  9. You guys are so fortunate to have trained with Rickson.

    BJJ rocks!

  10. hey guys i was there too. drove all the way from florida. I train at ocala bjj.the seminar was awesome. Hey scott willingham and danielle.

    Jeff Kieffer