Monday, December 19, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

George Gracie


George Gracie

George Gracie

George Gracie was the very first Gracie family champion back in the 1920‘s and 1930‘s. He was taught Jiu Jitsu techniques by his older brother Carlos Gracie and carried the Gracie flag all over Brazil fighting in different styles such as Jiu Jitsu, Luta Livre, Wrestling and Vale Tudo (No-Holds-Barred) having had one of the best unbeaten runs of his time.

George Gracie in Detail

Nickname: Gato Ruivo wich means red haired cat, a name given because of his tenacity when fighting and of course because of his hair colour.

Lineage: Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos Gracie > George Gracie

Favourite Technique: Armlock

Team/Association: Gracie Jiu Jitsu

George Gracie Biography

George Gracie was born in 1911, Brazil, and together with Helio (who was 3 years younger) they were the youngest of the Gracie brothers.

George came from a wealthy and respected family in his native Belem do ParĂ¡, but as the Gracies fell into decay, with his father losing the family business, the family moved to Rio de Janeiro to start a new life and his life of luxury ended.

The Gracie’s were so poor at this point that they had to push the few influences they still had amongst the wealthy families to survive. One of the measurements they took was to enrol Helio and George in a Rowing club so they could be provided by the nautical association. George’s mother knew the president of the club (Clube Nautico do Botafogo) who agreed to have the pair there as part of their free boarding student scholarship. And so the younger brothers of the Gracie clan moved there where they were fed and bedded.

George however stayed the least amount of time at the club for as soon as he could, Carlos (the eldest brother) took him out of the club to have him instructed in the art of Jiu Jitsu. Carlos was opening up his own Gracie Jiu Jitsu gym (the very first ever) and wanted his brothers help in this new project of his. The first brothers taken to the Gracie Academy were George and Oswaldo, Helio only joined them at a later stage.

George and Oswaldo (who was 7 years older then George) soon became assistant coaches, but George proved to be a sponge when absorbing the knowledge Carlos was handing out becoming the “star pupil” at the gym.

Carlos always enjoyed many different aspects of life being his spiritual beliefs or his obsession with dieting. As he developed his diet (today known as the Gracie Diet) George would frown upon these concepts, always eating what he very well pleased, not convinced of the benefits this could bring to his training.

Carlos was very interested in boxing, and together with George he started training in the western fighting style, the pair even competed in the late 1920′s winning an amateur tournament.

As Carlos tried to show how effective his Jiu Jitsu program was, several challenges were issued to the local martial artists. The “Capoeiristas” (Capoeira practitioners) were the first to accept.
The very first challenge intituled “Desafio Capoeira vs Jiu Jitsu” took place and George was faced with a typical “Malandro Carioca” (Rio de Janeiro Gangster). The fight was under what it is called today “Amateur MMA rules”, meaning, strikes were allowed on the feet, but not on the ground, so when the Capoeira fighter (called “Coronel”) hit George’s face repeatedly on the ground, the fight was stopped and the victory awarded to George.

The next event caused controversy amongst the fighting community. George was faced against another capoeira guy called Jayme Martins Ferreira whom he beat with an armlock, but it was Oswaldo Gracie’s fight that caused turmoil. He was set to fight a giant greco-roman wrestler who was named Joao Baldi. Baldi weighed 135kg and was a mountail of a man. Everyone was waiting to see the Gracie be squashed by the big man, but instead Oswaldo disposed of Baldi in 58 seconds with a choke. No one in the stands had ever witnessed such a small man win against an adversary that big and immediately assumed the fight was a fix. The fighter (Baldi) didn’t help clear the air when (maybe trying to save face) he told the press that it was indeed a “marmelada” (fix) and that he would have never lost otherwise. When George read the interview in a newspaper, he was enraged, and being the hot head he was, he went out seeking for Baldi. When he found him, he beat him up in a public square. The beating was such that Baldi was hospitalized, and when he came out he pressed charges against the Gracie stating that he had been beaten with a brass knuckles, the police investigated the case, but as witnesses ditched the allegations stating that it was a fair fight, the case was closed.

In December 1931 George Gracie was set again to fight a “Capoeirista”, this time Mario Aleixo. Mario was a champion, being regarded as Capoeira’s last hope against the Gracie Jiu Jitsu. The fight was a clean sweep for the Gracie once again who won with a quick armbar.

The relationship between clan leader Carlos Gracie and George started deteriorating after the fight between Helio and Fred Ebert (one of Helio‘s first battles). This fight took place at the Sao Cristovao Atletico Clube and it lasted over 1 hour. Before any of the fighters gave up, the police intervened closing the show, stating that it was a gruesome spectacle. Ebert’s face was completely disfigured and he could barely stand but he hadn’t given up, so the fight was declared a draw. Carlos accepted the decision and moved on, but George was furious that the fight hadn’t been given to Helio and was extremely agitated towards Carlos for not sticking to Helio as the head of the family. Because of this the relationship between the two brothers started its collision path, but at the time they managed to patch up and continued training together.

George’s golden period started around this time. He drew against a Japanese Jiu Jitsu fighter named Geo Omori but a succession of wins after the draw made his reputation reach an all time high. For that the fight against Tico Soledade certainly helped. Tico was somewhat of a celebrity in Rio de Janeiro, a power lifter and arm wrestling champion with a luta livre background who loved a brawl. At the time of the fight Tico weighed in at 80kg against the 63kg of George, but size didn’t matter for the Gracie as he finished the fight in the second round with a “Mata Leao” choke.

After the fight with Tico the “Gato Ruivo” as George was called, opened up his own academy. Even though he was still managed by his older brother the distance between the two was evident.

George was a wild man, always taking pleasure in the night life too much, but that didn’t seem to damage his unbeaten run as he continued winning fights. When he was called to fight Geo Omori once again, he got back into training mode and restarted his training with the brothers. He ended up beating Geo Omori when the Japanese fighter refused to come into the ring on the 10th round.

George continued with his playboy behaviour after the fight with Omori, and when he fought another Japanese fighter called Shigeo he was almost caught. He was taken down and mounted but came back on the second round to finish Shigeo with a choke. This was the first warning that his life style was catching up with his fighting career but he didn’t slow down and continued fighting, competing everything he could (luta livre, Jiu Jitsu, Catch Wrestling and Vale Tudo).

In 1934 George spent a week in Jail together with his brothers Helio and Carlos. The 3 Gracies had been acused of beating up a former challenger, Manuel Rufino, who had taken charges against the trio. The court set them free after the prosecution failed to present any sort of evidence.

George started spending more time with the Luta Livre fighters (a form of grappling common in Brazil) and roaming further away from Carlos’s way of life. When George accepted another fight in luta livre rules, Carlos was very upset (as he believed George should stop fighing other styles and concentrate on BJJ) and told the press that George was no longer a representative of the Gracie way. George replied with some harsh words in a letter to the press, he wrote:

“My brother Carlos is nothing when it comes to fighting. Carlos does not have the authority nor the competence to speak about Jiu Jitsu… Who created the sporting tradition of my family if not me, in all honesty, with my career?”

But with the definite split between the brothers also came George’s first competitive loss. It happened on the 6th of October 1934 in Luta Livre rules against a polish fighter named Zbysco Waldek, George lost by armbar. This loss also marked a dark period in George’s sporting career as he drew on his following fight in Jiu Jitsu rules against Takeo Yano.

This dark period was followed by a quiet 1935 were he fought lesser fights until in 1936 George rejoined the Gracie Academy and showed his true colours once again, replacing his brother Helio Gracie on short notice, he fought 3 opponents in one night winning against all of them. He went on to fight another made name in the wrestler and power lifting champion George Ruhmann also winning that fight. But he clashed against Carlos again when a fight promoter offered a great sum of money to put George against Helio on a ring. George accepted, but Carlos was completely against it and so the two brothers parted once again.

George went on to fight all over the country, moving to where the fights were at, again fighting every style out there. He came back to Rio de Janeiro months later to fight a new Japanese fighter who had turned into a big name in the fight circuit, his name was Yassuiti Ono. George fought under Jiu Jitsu rules and lost again due to a strangle hold. George was angered at himself, but wasn’t convinced of the Japanese man’s technical abilities, he challenged Ono for a rematch, but Ono refused saying he wasn’t worthy of one, telling him he should fight his brother instead, an unknown fighter named Haditi Ono. This was a big step down for George and a risk to his reputation, but George accepted the challenge just so he could fight Yassuiti, he fought and won against Haditi but never received the rematch he wanted.

In 1938 Helio retired from competition (at the age of 25), as Carlos and Oswaldo had done before him, leaving George as the only Gracie representative in the country. George fought for many years until he met the love of his life and moved to Sao Paulo to live the life of a business man. However he never stopped being the wild man he was, always spending more money then he had. Leaving him and his wife in dire straits on many occasions.

George’s bond to Carlos was never the same although they re-established contact with eachother in the early 1950′s.

George had a heated exchange of words with Helio when he (George) returned to Rio and opened an academy. The argument started because George decided to open his academy and used the Gracie name to advertise it. Helio did not want George to use the Gracie name as he felt it should be relating to his academy only (The fact that George was charging alot less then Helio was also part of the argument). In the end George stood his ground but hindured his relationship with his younger brother.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Thoughts on BJJ Training

One of my students and my assistant, Rizan asked me last night on my thoughts on teaching BJJ and why I teach the way I teach, and seeing that I haven't blogged for a long time, perhaps its a good time to actually share my thoughts on why I teach the way I teach

First and foremost, my instructor John Will always from day 1 knew I was coming back to Malaysia, and was going to teach. That is why I was always taught so many different variations, so many combinations, so many options. Well, to be honest, I was also the irritating student asking way too many questions, but being the great guy he is, he answered all of them, rather than giving the typical "don't get there" answers.

Competition Training

Before I go on, I would like to express the fact that I KNOW how generally competition gyms are run, how they train. The fact that I don't teach that way, just means that I do not agree with it.

The usual style for most competition gyms would be an intensive workout, anywhere between 1/2 to an hour, then perhaps one or two techniques and lastly 15 mins to half an hour of rolling time.

Now, thats all good and well, if you have the time and resources to train every day, maybe even more than one class a day. However, learning merely 1 or 2 moves a class, and taking only 1-3 classes a week, you will take ages to build up sufficient moves to develop a game. To me, seeing that the constraints are time (I don't believe many students train BJJ full time in Malaysia) this is not be best use of training time.

Heavy workouts are great, if you are still a teenager. Otherwise IMO you are wasting your student's time and money doing situps and pushups and all kinds of stretches. To me, I am being thought to teach BJJ, not fitness, not conditioning nor am I anyone's "life coach".

BJJ to me has always been honest. No bullshit about moves being too deadly. You lose, you tap. Doesn't matter if its to a day 1 white belt.

Similarly BJJ instruction should not be as inefficient in instruction like traditional martial arts. One should not be squatting in the horse stance for several years before your instructor is willing to teach you the "good stuff"

Intense Warmups

I know there are many BJJ students who accept and think that intense warmups are an essential part of BJJ. Many even like it and loves boasting on how tough their warmups are. There are some who somehow need a drill sergeant to yell at them, and they'll be happy.

However, by and large these are not smart people. Many years from now, if you ask them what they learned, somehow all they will be able to tell you about is their intense workouts. Thats what they remember from learning BJJ, and thats a shame

Ultimately BJJ is a mental art just as much as it is physical. It is insane to believe that when you are exhausted after a intense workout that your mind will be able to absorb techniques better. Every single research on learning has shown that you learn best when you are fresh, not when you are exhausted. BJJ is no exception

Another question to ask yourself is this:

If your training is geared towards physical attributes like strength, endurance and explosiveness, will you quit when you eventually lose your strength, endurance and explosiveness?

IMO BJJ is something you should be able to do your whole life, like Helio up to 90+ even. If you too believe thus, then the physical aspect of BJJ should not be the main focus of your training.

Training like a madman for competition is all well and good if you are in your 20s and still want to prove you are the baddest man around.

However, training like a teenager past 30, and you'll end up injured for life. Elite athletes in all sports retire on average at 35. It is unrealistic to think that you can "train like a champion" past 30+ and not get injured, sometimes severely

When the BJJ legends that we all follow and try to emulate suddenly say that they now do not believe in rolling hard, but rather just drill, you know something is wrong.

Besides that, a simple google search will show you, not only BJJ, but intense physical activity that goes seems to go together with BJJ training like crossfit, kettlebells etc, they all have a disproportionately high injury rate, even among their "certified" instructors.

My personal evolution

Anyway, back to my student's question. To be honest, my instruction style has changed throughout the years, and the changes seem to reflect my change in belt color. My students throughout the years may recognize this progression, and perhaps understand where I was at what stage they were training with me.

As a white belt, I was accumulating techniques. I read bloody everything I could get my hands on. I learned from as many sources as I could find, and studied my training partners and mentors, the way they made techniques work for them

When I got my blue belt, and when I started teaching after coming back to Malaysia, I went from just accumulating techniques to working on combinations. The way I taught was similar. One position, maybe 6-10 techniques a night. Or one move, say a submission like an armbar, but from every conceivable position. I thought in groups of techniques.

As a purple belt, I started working on flow drills. How moves flow together, movement drills, movement between positions, limiting yourself in grapples so that you moved differently etc.

As a brown belt, I looked for the universality of position and moves. I thought and taught in universal concepts that apply by and large in all positions. So even though you have never learnt a particular escape, or move, by knowing universally what the goal is and where you want to be, with the understanding of these concepts you can create your own solutions to your problems.

So ultimately, how do I teach my class?

My Current Class Structure and Methods

My classes are one and a half hours long and I still do generally follow the traditional warmup-technique-rolling structure of roughly half an hour each.

However, instead of warmups, my first half hour are normally filled with movement drills, flow drills. I can be anything from basic to complex combination training, everything from takedowns to submissions, submissions flow from in different positions, to currently we are doing MMA takedowns to submissions.

The whole purpose is rather than mastering pushups and situps, it is better to program into muscle memory moves you would actually use in BJJ. I used to teach animal walks etc in this first half hour, but like pushups and situps, you are never going to gorilla walk in a live roll, thus no point in programming those into muscle memory.

Ok I have to admit, this is pretty tiring training.

Then I move on to the instruction part of the class. Here I do have a mix of all my previous ways of thinking about BJJ, as I have students of different levels.

Sometimes I teach groups of techniques. Sometimes I do other flow and movement drills, sometimes I teach universal concepts and how to apply them. It all depends on the plan for those months I am teaching, as well as the students who turn up to class

Teaching purely concepts will help the more advanced students, as the newer students may not have the technique base, nor understand the context of this instruction. On the other hand, sometimes the concepts are so universal and so simple that beginners get a jump start in their BJJ understanding

Teaching techniques is good as well, and although it is good for the beginners as they build their technique base, the advance guys get to revise and refine what they have learnt before, or even classes they might have missed

Lastly, the rolling. I do try to mix this up a bit to ensure the rolling is not always a fight.

Sometimes it is a good thing to be able to go hard and competitive, as long as no one gets hurt. But doing this all the time will cause injuries in the long term, and seriously, one shouldn't start feeling you have mortal enemies in your own gym.

We do slow rolls, time controlled turn rolls, handicap roles. The purpose of all of these is to get my students comfortable on the ground, experiment, get in bad positions, try different submissions etc. There should be a atmosphere of fun, that this is the part the student is looking forward to the most. And so far, I believe it is.

The goal ultimately is threefold.

The movement drills etc is primarily to program muscle memory. These are drills that eventually the student should be able to do with their eyes closed, automatically.

The instruction part is to appeal to the mental faculties of the student. From learning techniques or group of techniques, to understanding overall concepts in BJJ especially in terms of leverage, space and even basic anatomy

The last part, the rolling, personally is not only a training of physical strength, endurance, explosiveness as well as finding out what works for you in a real time resisting spar with your opponent.

To me it is just as important to view it as a training of emotion.

Rolling with bigger,stronger and better opponents gives you courage. Being crushed and smothered teaches you to overcome your fear. Controlling and dominating an opponent in a controlled manner teaches you to be calm.

Ultimately, BJJ is something that you should want to be able to do the rest of your life. Hopefully by these methods, you will get there with the required physical skills, wealth of knowledge and without injuries.

To conclude, the objective in BJJ is to be at all times as technical and efficient as possible. So too should our BJJ training be as technical and efficient as possible.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year and New Beginnings

I have started a new blog for my new gym opening on the 3rd of Jan 2011

We have a new facebook group too at:

I will still maintain this blog for any thoughts that I might share, while the other one will be used for official class announcements and events