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Jiujitsu and the art of dealing with grief, by Rickson Gracie

On Sunday, August 7, the jiujitsu community woke up disoriented, with the brutal death of the sweet and victorious Leandro Lo, a black-belt who won medals and friends in equal measures. 

In an interview with Pedro Bial, a Brazilian journalist and TV host, Master Rickson Gracie had taught a true lesson in losing, grieving and missing a loved one, when he spoke of the death of his son Rockson, in December 2000. 

Both holding back tears, Rickson and Bial talked about the art of living after a tragic loss. Rickson then said:

“It was definitely the biggest loss of my life. Losing my son Rockson later gave me a different light and the ability to recover my happiness. When you lose somebody really important, you die with them."

According to Rickson, the death of a loved one drives away any possibility of being rational, of facing that fact with righteousness and balance. After all, your heart is in pieces. 

"These days, however, I think of Rockson and I don't cry. I think of Rockson and laugh. Because he left me great messages about life," Rickson said. "I lived in enormous grief for about five years, with no desire to fight and train. It was the time I had to cancel a fight for millions of dollars with Sakuraba. One day, when I was meditating in my garden in California, I remembered an old piece of advice from my dad, Helio Gracie. He used to say that nothing, in all of life, is totally bad, and nothing is totally good. And I set out to try to find what could be microscopically positive about Rockson's departure."

It took time, but the master then learned what lesson he could extract from the void inside him.

"In my reflections, I realized that before my son's departure I had a good life, perfect family, status, health and money, and because of that I thought I owned the world. Whenever something unpredictable happened or someone called me, I'd ask for some time, would go surfing and then I'd decide how to deal with it. With Rockson's departure I learned that I wasn't the master of my time."

Starting with that reflection, therefore, Rickson never again left anything for tomorrow. Whatever one of his daughters or friends needed from him, whether a phone call or request, immediately became a priority, and the superfluous stuff got postponed.

"Until that moment, I had never valued time, I always thought I could put off talking to my son until tomorrow, leave a trip or a class for later, that time was just a matter of adaptation in my appointment book. I missed out on doing many things thinking I would have other chances. With Rockson's departure, I understood that tomorrow does not exist."