Anthony Bourdain felt in his skin Rickson's thesis on white-belts
Master Rickson Gracie is one of those rare people who strive to see jiu-jitsu as a whole—with the ability to disentangle the art in its multiple layers, from the brightest facets to the obscure ones.
Rickson realized a long time ago that the jiu-jitsu that protects and saves people also drives them away. That occurs, the master noticed, because the vast majority of schools have the habit of letting white-belts spar with white-belts at will. That's the exact moment where teaching leaves the building and chaos enters.
"When the student arrives at the gym for the first time and learns a technique, they fall in love," Rickson sums up. "There is nobody who doesn't have fun learning jiu-jitsu. The crux of the question is when the instructor calls the student and asks them to lie down, and then calls another and asks them to mount. 'You, keep the mount! You, on the ground, try to escape!' Done; at that point we have released the beasts. Instincts are loose, and nature is a bit out of control. And it does not depend on the white-belt's character: that duel naturally opens up chances for a move that's a bit rougher, for an uncomfortable squeeze, for some aggressiveness that's unpredictable to them. Some enjoy the roughness and come back. Most never return."
Rickson's solution is as simple as it is revolutionary: to practice each position thoroughly, drill a lot, and to learn the maximum number of details from an instructor and a training partner who helps the white-belt, rather than try to rip their head off. It comes down to learning at the gym, not going there to fight.
Some time ago, the magazine Rolling Stone found the secret diaries of Anthony Bourdain, a chef and TV star specialized in restaurant basements and the raw side of life. A white-belt at the time, Bourdain posted anonymously on internet forums about his misadventures and bits of progress on the mats.
The author of Kitchen Confidential and No Reservations reported like few others, in his peculiar style, on how Rickson's ideas seem to be making more and more sense with time.
For example, in the post published on August 14, 2014, at 9:56 p.m.:
“Rolled with another white belt today. He knew nothing — which is okay, because I know nothing. But he was built like a freaking dump truck, and was about as graceful. Also, he’s a wrestler.
“What kind of wrestler, I can’t imagine. He managed to kick me in the nose, WWE elbow drop onto my stomach, and generally throw me around his cage — when he wasn’t just laying on my legs or trying to artlessly squash me with his massive girth. Oh, yeah, he did try and twist my foot off. That was …interesting.
“I don’t think he even attempted a single recognizable Jiu-Jitsu technique that I’m aware of — and raising the subject in a helpful way is difficult as he communicates only in monosyllabic grunts and avoids eye contact.
“What’s the polite thing to do here? I sure as shit don’t want to roll with this Killdozer again. Do I edge over to the other side of the mat when he approaches? Talk to the professor and beg him to put Godzilla back on Monster Island? Shoot him with a tranquilizer dart so we can track him back to see if there are others of his species? What’s the appropriate response to this?”
Great question, chef.
Check out the complete article about Bourdain, here.