#selfdefense

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The first commandment of self-defense against weapons

What is the first step for a student to become skillful at defending against an aggressor who has weapons, like knives or pistols?

According to Master Rickson Gracie, the absolute first step is to relax: don't go to jiu-jitsu motivated by fear. 

"Practicing self-defense is an activity that can save the skin of soldiers and officials of security forces, and it will also be useful to kids against bigger people," says Rickson. "But the adult person who doesn't deal with danger daily should not learn jiu-jitsu inspired by the fear of being attacked, but rather by a desire for personal growth, enlightenment and increased wisdom. It's a learning process that increases your range of alternatives, makes your mind more alert, and brings technical knowledge, in case some unforeseen thing happens one day."

As Rickson points out, the best way to live life is with positive thoughts, and not walking around like a Viking fearing a surprise attack. 

"Prepared as I am, I don't want to get tangled with anybody who has a weapon. Jiu-jitsu is not a Viking shield that you carry in the street. It's much more akin to a guardian angel who's there for you," he says. "If a villain really wants to come shoot me, they will probably succeed, because they’re going to ambush me or get me from the back. The jiu-jitsu practitioner should not be afraid of dying, but they should be afraid of not knowing what to do in an emergency situation. Before using your jiu-jitsu, calculate the risk, call the police, run away from there — use your head, basically."

And if the problem spills over and gets too close, you will be calm — after all, jiu-jitsu will be there for you, like a good guardian angel.
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Don't play dice with your BJJ students

What would the perfect BJJ gym look like today — at once connected to modern times and to the traditions of the martial art?

To Rickson Gracie, one of the main aspects would be the quality of the dojo in relation to the teaching both of self-defense and competition techniques, without the practice of one being neglected in favor of the other. 

"The perfect jiu-jitsu gym needs these two environments that many judge to be contradictory to connect," he says. "That is, the teacher must teach both audiences, from the older lady who just wants some exercise to the young man anxious to become world champion."

More than exemplary didactics, this is to Rickson the only way to stop most students from giving up in the first month:

"When you introduce jiu-jitsu to the newcomer through fighting, with more-demanding maneuvers and techniques seen in competition, you are playing dice with your white-belts," Rickson teaches. "If the student is tough and has a warrior's heart, and is lucky not to get injured against a more experienced partner, the teacher has gotten lucky, and maybe they'll stay. Most of the time, however, that doesn't happen — and there are studies that guarantee that more than 80% of practitioners give up on the gi in those first few weeks. When the students don't see themselves as prepared (yet) to deal with confrontation, they jump ship at the drop of a hat. And they never give jiu-jitsu another chance."

That's why, to Rickson, any new student's starting point must be in the gentle environment of self-defense, of the simple defensive moves that enhance any person's mental and physical power. "Starting with self-defense, when the student starts becoming comfortable in jiu-jitsu, then indeed do they feel the confidence to test themselves against other students' technique, in that popular game of chess that are competitions. If the newcomer possesses that competitive spirit, they can get started at the gym in that game of 'my jiu-jitsu against yours': 'Will he pass my guard?' 'Can I finish him?' And so on. It depends on each person's taste, but the role of a good gym is clear: we need to offer self-defense as introduction and sport techniques only to the most advanced. Competition is not for everybody, but jiu-jitsu is. Self-defense is accessible to each and every student profile."

So pay attention: playing jiu-jitsu against someone who knows jiu-jitsu is lots of fun and reinvigorating. But you must leave your gym ready to face an attacker who knows zero jiu-jitsu, but whose only resource, although not very versatile, may be truly dangerous: they just have to know one punch, one headlock, or have one heavy stick, to ruin your day. But only those who don't learn complete jiu-jitsu need worry about that. 

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Rickson Gracie: 'Self-defense is the soul of jiu-jitsu'

For Master Rickson Gracie, self-defense is the heart, the soul and the most valuable treasure of jiu-jitsu. 

Due to its being the base for the learning of BJJ, self-defense works as a pillar that, firstly, enables students to understand more broadly the techniques that are the most elaborate, most frequent and most often observed in competitions. 

"More than 90 percent of practitioners don't have the time or interest to enter jiu-jitsu championships," he says. "That's why self-defense needs to continue to be taught with attention and quality. It is these 90 percent of practitioners who most need the technical, physical and psychological tools sharpened in self-defense training. These are the people who usually suffer from insecurity -- it's the teenager who's new in school; it's the girlfriend who broke up and whose ex, enraged, can't accept it. That's why the first lessons must be fun, light, without confrontation between the white-belts, so that this slice of non-athletic practitioners don't suffer, and fall in love with the gentle efficacy of jiu-jitsu." 

As is usually said by Rickson, BJJ is an invisible force. Not only because it has resources, details and techniques that are almost imperceptible to those who don't study them deeply. But, also, because it constitutes an invisible force that strengthens the person every day, without them even realizing the power of the transformation.

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How to learn BJJ by watching ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Many practice jiu-jitsu; few truly live jiu-jitsu. 

But if you're reading this, you are likely on the second team. You are one of us, one of those people who enjoy the knowledge of the gentle art from the time they wake up until bedtime. Which includes, of course, your leisure — when you choose a book, a TV show or a movie to pass the time. 

Wanna test this theory? Simple. First, take a movie like "Lethal Weapon," "Red Belt" or some other popular flick and try to find out which jiu-jitsu concepts are in it. Okay; now let's move up one step. Let us study jiu-jitsu with help from humanity's most famous love story, in the form of the movie "Romeo and Juliet."

The plot is as well known as it gets, and jiu-jitsu shows up midway through Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 version. It's a curious scene, absent from Shakespeare's text — it's as if the Italian director had chatted with Helio Gracie before filming one of the crucial twists of the story. 

Romeo is furious, breathless, devoid of reason, and challenges Tybald, Juliet's cousin, to a duel. Both men are skilled with the sword, young and athletic, but can't escape gravity: they fall, roll far from their weapons, and the result is a bloody ground fight. As Grandmaster Helio taught for his whole life, "The key to the secret of jiu-jitsu is that over 90% of fights and aggressions end up with two guys rolling on the floor."

Enough spoilers, but it's a shame the Capulets and Montagues didn't have a jiu-jitsu gym in Verona. Maybe the play would have drawn smaller crowds, but Romeo and Juliet could have lived happily, with a bunch of kids running around the palace. 

But cut. Cut back to our common life in the 21st century. Whether you're a lover, a swordsman or a regular student, the base missing from the movie continues to be one of the fundamental pillars for surviving a fight — whether in competition or during an ambush. 

Right in one of the first videos posted to Rickson Academy, the master teaches: "The practitioner's base has nothing to do with physical strength. It's about positioning oneself the right way to be solid in the face of an aggressor. Even while moving, the student needs to maintain a solid base — there is no way to defend yourself efficiently without that."

Take a tour of the site and gain a deep understanding of this concept. First watch the video on the fundamentals of breathing, and then watch video 1 on Base. 

Next time you need this knowledge, you'll get a happy ending.

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Rickson Academy Avatar Rickson Academy posted

Does your BJJ work as an invisible force field?

One of the most important Gracie family mantras, repeated by legends from Master Helio down to Rickson, is that it’s not enough to be a tough world champion if your jiu-jitsu isn’t complete and ready against some unexpected aggression, such as a punch or slap to the face. 

The popularity and global success of jiu-jitsu are owed to its effectiveness against humiliation — a true invisible force field that enables any person, weak or strong, young or old, to be prepared against any sort of cowardly attack. 

In today's video excerpt, Rickson demonstrates how this hidden force field, this shield that is there but is not seen by the attacker, starts with the position of the hands and ends, of course, with a perplexed, immobilized villain. 

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Latest Comments

Carlos Avatar
Carlos commented:

amazing article!! thank you!!

August 08, 2022 09:17 PM

Kim Liu Avatar
Kim Liu commented:

👏

August 08, 2022 06:49 PM

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