Friday, March 20, 2009

Rickson Gracie Interview with The Tennessean


Below is an interview with Master Rickson Gracie, conducted by Nashville's daily newspaper, The Tennessean. This occured while he was in town for the March seminar. Enjoy!

Video interview with Rickson: click here

Jiu-Jitsu champ helped martial arts popularity


The stranglehold mixed martial arts has taken on American spectators is bittersweet for one whose family is credited for bringing the sport to this country.

Rickson (pronounced Hickson) Gracie, whose part of the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu family in Brazil, worries the sound techniques he emphasizes in his teachings have given way to mayhem that is often seen in today's fights.

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master visited McGavock High School this week to conduct a two-day seminar on the art form. "I love to see the action, I love to see the exposure of the sport and the growth," Gracie said. "But I miss … the essence of martial arts, which MMAs has gone away from and become more like an extreme sport than an actual martial arts confrontation."

On April 1, Nashville will serve as host to the Ultimate Fighting Championship Fight Night at Sommet Center. It will mark the UFC's first appearance in the state. Tennessee legalized MMA events last year. Gracie's father, Helio, was a practitioner of Jiu-Jitsu in the 1930s and his family eventually made it a goal to help introduce the martial art to America. Gracie said his family wanted to compare the different styles of martial arts in head-to-head fights to see which were the most effective.

The idea blossomed into what has become as Mixed Martial Arts. "The first intention to bring about the idea of MMA by our family was the confrontation of styles," Gracie said. "We believed Jiu-Jitsu was superior. In the beginning, when my brother (Royce) was just devastating all the other styles, it was a shock for the whole world.

Then the different styles started to crosstrain to become good MMA fighters." Gracie has advice for anyone who has never seen the sport but plans to attend the UFC event at the Sommet Center. "It's violent, it's pure action," he said. "You have to understand people in that confrontation are prepared for that. That's what they live for. You cannot relate yourself as a participant." But the sweeping popularity the sport has gained since the 1990s has even caught Rickson Gracie by surprise.

"It goes beyond my imagination," Gracie said. "I felt like MMA had the potential to make a huge impact to the society, but now it is even getting bigger."

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