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What Rickson Gracie learned from felines

Various champions and martial artists have enjoyed watching and learning from the animal kingdom. Muhammad Ali liked to float in the ring like the butterflies. The ADCC trophy collector Ricardo Arona was inspired by the tiger's walk. Professor Helio Gracie was a lover of dogs and horses, which he enjoyed feeding and taming.

Like a good Gracie, Rickson has always been a faithful spectator of nature. More than that, the master feeds off the energy of the surrounding environment and nurtures a strong connection with its inhabitants, which leads him to live in a more serene and happy manner.

There was one time, however, when Rickson found a worthy rival in his backyard. A beast that, in the end, helped him to learn beautiful lessons. He recalled his fierce foe in the last chapters of his book, "Breathe":

"When I moved into our house in Palos Verdes, California, I went out of my way to make the neighborhood animals feel comfortable in our yard," Rickson recounts in the book.

"Within a few months, I had made friends with squirrels, raccoons, crows, and blue jays. I had one enemy, however: a ferocious cat that was always taunting the little birds. I didn't like cats, I thought they were selfish, sneaky and cruel. At first I tried to throw water on him with the hose, but he was smarter. In the winter it had been raining and cold for weeks, and Cassia saw that the cat was wet and doing very poorly without shelter. She felt sorry for him, so she put out the dog travel crate for shelter, and he began to sleep there.

"One day I noticed that the animal was barely walking because of a paw injury. The next time he got into the crate, I closed it and took him to the vet, who said he had had a fight with a raccoon. After he was treated, I took him home and opened a hole in the garage door so he could recover indoors. When he got better, perhaps grateful for what we had done, he stopped harassing the birds. The cat became my best friend and changed what I thought about his kind. We named him Redhead. My cat reinforced the idea that the deeper the connections we create, the more complete life becomes."

What about you? What do you usually learn from your furry friend—or rival?


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