Photo by Marcos Vilas Boas
Rickson Gracie is regarded by many as the greatest warrior of the Gracie clan. Part myth (he claims over 400 MMA fights, a claim disputed by father Helio), part verifiable badass (throughout his twenty-year MMA career he notched eleven straight wins, never losing a professional bout), and as much as brother Royce, he is credited with bringing jiu jitsu to the core fans. So when it’s announced that mid-July he’s launching a new BJJ league called ‘The Jiu Jitsu Global Federation,’ it’s worth a look.
In 1995 Rickson starred in the seminal documentary Choke, which followed his preparations for that year’s Vale Tudo Japan tournament. More than the actual fights, the film featured Rickson’s soulful approach to MMA—demonstrating yogic breathing techniques on the beach, and talking philosophy. “I feel myself as an artist,” he said, “I like to do [MMA] because it's beautiful.”
From a historical perspective, this was our first deep exposure to the nascent sport of MMA—which at the time Senator John McCain dubbed ‘human cockfighting.’ Keep in mind, this is when the UFC was struggling to just put on events, and the organization’s positive-messaging-machine was still light years away. That’s why for true fans, this documentary is must-see TV.
The film also features Helio, the Gracie family patriarch, who spent his life promoting jiu jitsu as the ultimate martial art. “Rickson is the champion of the family,” Helio told the cameras, “he is the strongest, has the best technique and sharpest mind. Because of that, he is, like all my sons, invincible. But it's not them that's good. It's the art that's good.”
Although Rickson fought MMA, he has also spent considerable efforts carrying his father’s torch. Since the early days of Helio’s proselytizing, BJJ schools have fractured along the lines of ‘sport’ jiu jitsu (focused on points and competitions), ‘self-defense’ jiu jitsu (focused on street confrontations), and no-gi (self explanatory).
What this means, is that if you don’t train at a sport school, you’ll probably cry from boredom while watching the nuanced grip-fighting of most tournament matches.
Rickson aims to change that with a point system that rewards submission attempts (3 points), gives minimal nods to positions (1 point for side control, mount, and taking the back), and penalizes those who pull guard (-1 point).
Despite the hype surrounding Metamoris, I’ve remained skeptical that any rule changes will rouse casual fans. But after watching this clip of UFC Middleweight contender, Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza, competing in the similarly-ruled 2005 Rickson Budo Challenge, I’m now a believer.
Check out how he quickly racks up a 23-0 lead by attempting submission after submission before catching his opponent in a triangle choke.
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