Working Out With Royce Gracie

By Bob McCauley

Then, a few years ago, the loss of a plane ticket turned the martial arts community on its ear, like nothing before. Rorian Gracie was visiting relatives in Los Angeles from Rio de Janerio and he lost his airplane ticket. He was befriended by someone that found out that Rorian was a martial arts Jiu Jitsu instructor in Brazil. In exchange, Rorian agreed to show him some of his skills and a new era in martial arts was born. Rorian was the grandson of a Scotsman that went to Brazil to live. A Japanese master taught Rorian's ancestor how to do judo and jiu Jitsu. After the Japanese master left, the Scotsman used his head to utilize and improve what he had learned to be effective in real street fights. As I related in the story above of my high school days, boxers and fist fighters never respect grapplers and the elder Gracie was challenged many times, always unsuccessfully. His opponent would take a punch, Gracie would duck and grapple him to the floor and proceed to put him into submission holds. What he had learned was that if you choke someone for 8 seconds, they will pass out. There is nothing more debilitating that to wake up and see you opponent hovering over you. Gracie also perfected the arm bar, where you grab a guys hand, put your feet over their shoulder and lean back and try to wrench their shoulder socket apart. Chokes and arm bars have a common denominator -- they hurt bad enough such that the opponent will give up-- no matter how big they are, and how small you are.

The Gracie family started conducting national tournaments in Brazil, where there were no rules and no pads, except that you couldn't poke in the eyes or bite. The Gracie school took on challengers year after year. No matter how many times they won, there would always be a puncher/striker that would think that they could beat the Gracie boys, who usually weighed under 180 pounds.

When Rorian published his no-rules challenge to ANY martial artist in the Black Belt magazine, many people came to his dojo to accept the challenge. One kick boxer was so humiliated that he required that his face be blacked out on the video tape. Then, Art Davies got involved with the Gracies and helped promote The Ultimate Fighting Challenge (UFC). The UFC would be conducted inside of a 20 foot octagon shaped ring with fenced in walls 5 feet tall. Two opponents would enter the octagon and fight until one gave up or was knocked out. The entire tournament consisting of 16 contestants was conducted in one night, which might mean that the winner might have to fight several of the bare-knuckle fights in a two hour time frame. Also, there was no weight limit - there were contestants from sumo, judo, boxing, karate and the weights ranged from 175 pounds to 400 pounds. Ironically, the fighters that weighed over 375 pounds usually were defeated within seconds. In the first four UFC tournaments, Rorian's younger brother, Royce Gracie won with either chokes or arm bars.

When you see Royce Gracie, you feel sorry for him. He has skinny arms, almost no chest and his butt is not big enough to keep his belt up. What the Gracies do to make up for this lacking of size is capitalize on leverage. Archimedes said that if he had a lever long enough, he could lift the moon. The Gracies have become masters in arranging their bodies into levers such that their chokes threaten to squeeze their opponent's head off and arm bars or leg bars provide the same pain at the racks did in medieval times. I outweighed Royce by 40 pounds but he was able to play around with me like a baby, without using a lot of effort. When I felt his choke or arm bar, I would have to tap out immediately.

But working out with the Gracies is a pleasure.  If any of the Gracie brothers spot a newcomer, they immediately come over and introduce themselves.  Also their students are very hospitable. 

The photos above, were taken in the Gracie's dojo on Carson St. in the Los Angeles CA area.  They have very large dojo with an entire upstairs workout area larger than 4000 square feet.  This area is sanitary clean with padding on all walls.