6 Jul 2009

My one-on-one with Roger Gracie

I wonder why 40 is celebrated as one of those big milestone birthdays? Could it be that it marks the moment when you can finally relinquish silly notions you may have previously had of becoming a (i) rock star, (ii) Wimbledon champion, (iii) remotely good at fighting?
Luckily for me, my wonderful wife still lets me believe I can continue my quest to improve at (iii) above and arranged for me to have a private training session with none other than Roger Gracie. It was the best birthday present I've ever had and an eye-opening training session with the World's best grappler.

Private lesson
And so to business. Roger asked me what I wanted to go over. I mumbled something about learning some cool techniques and he suggested we roll for a bit to see what my weak areas were. So we started off with me trying to pass his guard. Roger let me stand up and open the guard, then, in a comedy moment I got excited and tried to step over his legs, rather like you would step over a puddle of milk on the kitchen floor. I was so unbalanced that I tripped and fell on top of him. He laughed and said that I had 'swept myself over'. Um yeah, not a great start. But almost immediately he pointed out some crucial alterations I could make to my attempts that were a great improvement.

Next up was passing half guard. I get caught with this all the time. Roger showed me three very simple but effective passes. All involved simultaneously applying large degrees of pressure onto the opponent whilst trying extract the trapped leg. One involved my shoulder and his gi lapel effecting a choke and Roger urged me to put it on full strength. his gagging, choking noises sounded convincing enough for me to think that I really was choking him out. Maybe I was. He said I was. Good Lord. Imagine little me, choking out the World Champ!!!

Finally, Roger wanted to check out my guard game. Aha! I thought, this is where I am most comfortable, surely the 9 times World Champion would be impressed here. So he sat there in my guard and I gripped here, opening guard there, twisted left, bended right....basically working real hard to do something to break his posture. After a few minutes, I stopped and Roger gave me his assessment. He said, I seemed to look...a little lost. LOST! But I thought I was playing a cool fast and furious game, yet the reality was that I resembled nothing more than a small child fumbling in the dark! I was mortified by his withering assessment. But, all was not lost, he showed me what he prefered I should do; it was nothing more simple than being more patient, not to change grips so often and just trying to break posture before attacking. So I tried again and perhaps faired a little better (ie didn't look so silly).

The biggest lesson he wanted me to take away was to concentrate on understanding what the opponent will do next (as a result of my attempted techniques). I can only do this by repeatedly attempting the same few favourite moves during sparring and analysing how the opponent reacts each time.

Roger gave the example of his friend Braulio Estima. He told me Braulio knows thousands of moves, and yet in the intensity of a black belt fight, he will often opt for only his 2 most favourite moves. These moves have been practised so much, that he knows every conceivable reaction his opponents will make, and thus can counterattack at a hairstroke.

So overall, a great session. One hour seemed to zip along. I felt like we had covered so much and all his tips and pointers were already filling my head, and at the same time oozing out the other side. It was a rare privilege for Roger does not give privates out to anyone. So I have to thank my beautiful wife and my coach Nick, for arranging this.

Insider Knowledge
I asked Roger about his Mundials fights. How was it that he had managed to submit ALL his opponents with basically the same choke? He corrected me, with some pride, by stating that 3 were ezekiel chokes, one was a guillotine and the others were collar chokes. Roger explained that when he finally got into mount position, his opponents were so desperate in trying to shove him off, that they extended their arms to push him away, thus leaving their necks unprotected. It was then fairly straightforward matter for him to attack with chokes. The principles of patience, and using the technique at the right time, that roger taught me today, also applied to Roger himself during his actual fights.

It was also interesting to see Roger train. I got to the RGA academy a little early and he was working on conditioning drills - the same animal workout drills I mentioned before. He said he had his third big MMA match coming up in 6 weeks so was beginning his preparations in earnest. I guess soon he will be going to the States to continue his MMA training with Renzo Gracie. Which leads me nicely onto my final bit...

Renzo Gracie, Legacy.
This week I watched the Renzo Gracie documentary, Legacy. Oh my God, this is THE best martial arts doc I've ever seen. It is just so well made but Renzo himself, is such a HUGE character he positively jumps out of the TV screen, grabs you by your neck and chokes you out. There are several excellent reviews of Renzo's film already online so I won't add to the review list other than by saying it is a MUST SEE film for anyone into MMA, grappling, BJJ or just curious to see what a complete nutter he is (I mean this in the nicest possible way of course). You can buy the DVD here.
More RGA training photos on Flickr here:

About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.


Caleb said...

You are a lucky guy to have such a cool wife!

x said...

Totally cool. That's such a great gift. I'll have to start dropping hints to my wife.

Thank you for the words of encouragement. I'm hoping for a fast recovery as well.

Anonymous said...

Mate that's wicked, Happy Birthday man, you look so happy in that photo. Must have been amazing to roll with Roger. You lucky git :) haha!

Georgette said...

Whoa. Lucky indeed. I need to drop hints to my hubby-- my birthday's a month away :) But I don't live anywhere near Roger... I'll have to settle for someone else. Hmm...

Jadon Ortlepp said...

Nice one! - looked really good. I always have a tough time thinking of what to cover in privates.

I think you have given me some inspiration though. Standing pass! I hardly ever pass standing.

Anonymous said...

Awesome stuff Seymour, hope you had a nice birthday. :)

You look really good for 40 too!

Adam Adshead

Meerkatsu said...

I wrote in my article that Roger is a x9 World Champion but some websites quote him as x6, so I double checked and according to Wikipedia, Roger's CBJJ World titles are:
2000 - gold -85 blue
2001 - gold -85 purple
2002 - gold - 91 brown
2002 - gold - brown open
2004 - gold - 97 black
2005 - gold -97 black
2006 - gold -97 black
2007 - gold -97 black
2007 - gold black open
2008 - gold +97 black
2009 - gold -97 black
2009 - gold black open

Therefore, he has x12 gold medals from 9 years (hence my x9 comment) and x6 of those were as black belt hence other sites' mention of the x6. Whatever - they are all awesome achievements regardless!


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