Rickson's unique trajectory in Brazilian jiu-jitsu contains many, many lessons for students and teachers. A recent interview gave the master ample time to go over the decades of work that have culminated in making him the teacher he is today. Here's the first part of what he had to say:
"I have dedicated my life to jiu-jitsu, and at one point I decided to stop school because I wanted to be a jiu-jitsu instructor, and that was at about thirteen years old. I started helping my brother Rorion to teach privates, like a guinea pig: he'd tell me to lay down, tell the guy to mount, and I'd start to move the way Rorion told me to do, which would accommodate the technique or— So I was a dummy for the students as Rorion would teach.
"And at the end of the class, or the end of the week, he'd give me some money for me to spend on my weekend things. And I was happy with that kind of process and very much enjoying it. And one day I asked my dad, 'Dad, what should I do to become the best teacher I can be?' And he told me, 'If you wanna be a good teacher, you learn with precision the armlock, the choke, the escape from the mount, and try to pass this with precision to your student, for him to execute the move. But if you wanna be a very good teacher, you have to understand what the student needs to learn, and then you teach it.
"So, with this, he gave me a perspective of being a good professor/psychologist, because how are you gonna teach somebody without knowing him better? So I started to become curious about trying to figure out 'what is it about this guy?' He's tense, he's lazy, he's soft, he's aggressive, he's sharp, he's a dummy, he's very smart, he's uncoordinated... So, based on that kind of conclusion, that kind of analysis I do, I start to define the best way to approach this guy. Because this guy who's lazy, I have to get him to be more sharp, 'Lift your head,' be more precise, develop his reflexes with more agility. For the guy who's tense, I have to go 'Hey, man, relax, breathe, be more calm; wait for the move.'"