Interview with Rener Gracie on the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu World Championship (August 19, 2006-Los Angeles, Ca.)
To Pre-Register for the 2006 Gracie Jiu-Jitsu World Championship visit www.igjjf.com
Rener Gracie is the second son of Rorion Gracie, eldest son of Helio Gracie. In addition to following in the family tradition as a devastating competitor and accomplished instructor he has taken on a new role, as the promoter of the IGJJF tournaments. We sat down with Rener to talk about the IGJJF and all of his latest ventures.
Gumby: Okay, I'll start off with the first question. What is the IGJJF?
Rener Gracie: The IGJJF was developed to preserve the quality and objectivity of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Worldwide.
G: Why do we need another Jiu Jitsu Federation? What sets IGJJF apart?
RG: To many Gracie/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners worldwide are focusing solely on preparing for the technicalities of traditional jiu-jitsu tournament, points and time limits, and as a result, they are not practicing jiu-jitsu for the purpose it was originally intended for, victory in a street fight. The IGJJF however is constantly looking for ways to encourage practitioners worldwide to tailor there training in such a way that it will be useful in competition but more importantly in a street fight.
G: The coming IGJJF tournament on August 19th and 20th is generating a huge buzz among competitors. This will be the fourth event you've thrown. What makes this tournament stand out?
RG: The IGJJF tournaments are a step above the rest simply because of our rules. In nearly every other tournament you have hundreds of unsatisfied competitors because they felt that their opponent utilized the points and time limits to win even though they weren’t a better fighter. The most common example is when someone scores a point or an advantage, and then they do everything possible to hold on for the remainder of the short time limit so that they can be declared the winner. In our tournaments this doesn’t happen, because they have to score 12 points or submit the opponent to win. In a real street fight, scoring 1 point and then stalling for 5 minutes is virtually worthless, so why should it be the determining factor in so many tournaments.
G: How did you come to develop the rules for this tournament? Do you think these leads to more exciting matches?
RG: Over the course of many tournaments, we developed and fine tuned the rules to such a point that we now have a submission ratio of approximately 75% of all matches. This makes the tournaments much more exciting to watch and even more exciting to compete in because the better competitor always wins.
G: Even with the longer 30 minute time limits, the tournaments always seems to be one of the smoothest running out there. What steps have you taken to ensure this, and what improvements can we look forward to?
RG: Because of the rules, the competitors are very encouraged to achieve submission since they know that if they give up a point in doing so, that it doesn’t mean the fight is over. As a result the fights are action packed, and during the action, the competitors are so focused on submission, that they either get it or they get points and after 12 the fight is over.
G: Now Rener, initially it was your father (Rorion Gracie) who started and ran this first tournament, but you've seemed to take over most of the main duties of promoting this tournament. How did that come to pass, and how actively involved is your father at this point?
RG: My father is extremely busy focusing on some plans that will once again revolutionize the martial arts world, so he selected me to organize and execute the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu World Championship.
G: You and your brothers (Ryron and Ralek) have also seemed to contribute a lot to the Gracie Academy as well. How have your roles as expanded there?
RG: We are at a stage now that we have the determination, discipline and energy to perpetuate the run it so and we’re doing just that.
G: What makes for a good instructor?
RG: A good instructor must be patient, friendly, encouraging, versatile, humble, and knowledgeable.
G: I'll be frank but give you an opportunity to squash a rumor once and for all. At one time at one time a lot of people accused your academy of being closed-minded, holding back techniques, or only participating in events that favored them. I haven't see that: the Gracie Academy actively participates in many tournaments under all kinds of rules, your students do well and furthermore appear knowledgeable, and you and your brothers compete all the time. Is this merely a shift in perception on spectator's, or has there been an evolution at the Academy?
RG: Although we and our students do compete in other events from time to time, we are very aware of the limited objectivity of the rules of the traditional tournaments, and since we have developed a competition that is far more objective it is true that we are more likely to compete in it. To say that our tournaments favor our students is not true. Our tournaments favor the better competitors. About the hidden techniques, that isn’t true either ask our students.
G: How do you prepare your students for tournaments? How would you recommend preparing for the IGJJF with the shift in rules and longer time limits?
RG: Since there is not time limit in a street fight, we never prepare our students for short time limits, so the preparation doesn’t change much for the tournament. But other schools which only train for 6,7,8, or 10 minute time limits should definitely up the time limit a little but more importantly they need to change their competition mindset, if you go in trying to dominate the fight in 5 minutes, you will gas out, but if you go with the objective of not losing or giving up points early onm, and then wait until they tire out to attack you are much more likely to win.
G: Your grandfather Helio Gracie (founder of Gracie Jiu Jitsu) is also going to be at the tournament. A lot has been said about him already, but these days, how active is he in Jiu Jitsu and day to day academy activities?
RG: The Gracie Academy Headquarters in Torrance is moving to a new location in November. Classes are growing and we found a spot with a bigger mat space. As a result, we chose to have my grandfather come to the grand opening of the new school instead of this year’s tournament.
G: When are we going to you and your brothers compete next?
RG: Gracie Jiu-Jitsu World Championship.
G: Everyone has been speculating on the MMA debut of Ryron Gracie for sometime now. Is that going to happen soon and where?
RG: We have no contracts signed, but he is ready to go and we are just waiting for the best opportunity.
G: BTW- I've got to add that the Ryron Gracie Signature shirts are really nice! AS our the IGJJF competitor shirts! When are we going to see the Rener Gracie line :)
RG: My designs are more discreet, I am the quiet professional. All the best designs that weren’t Ryron’s are mine, I just don’t plaster my name all over them. But I have to admit, Ryron did it very big when he designed the Submission Series.
G: I've got to ask what did you think of your uncle (and long time former instructor at the Gracie Acadamy) Royce Gracie's match against Matt Hughes at the UFC?
RG: Royce’s purpose on this earth was to show the world that an average guy can defeat a larger stronger opponent, provided he knew Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and his opponent didn’t. He did this in 1993 and since then, Matt along with every other professional fighter, has adopted Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (regardless of what they call it) as a primary element of their arsenals. The objective of the Gracie Family was never to show that we are the best fighters in the world, but that Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is the best martial art. When we see tough competitors like Matt using our techniques, it is a compliment and a testimony for their effectiveness. Royce lost but Gracie Jiu-Jitsu won.
G: How busy is being Tournament Director of the IGJJF keeping you?
RG: It’s a good cause that keeps me very busy but very satisfied.
G: Are there any plans of expanding the IGJJF tournament? Perhaps running tournaments in other parts of the US and the world?
RG: Eventually, yes.
G: You're relatively young, but have accomplished quite a lot already. What are your short terms goals you'd like to fulfill? Long term plans?
RG: Short term-stay focused and continue learning from those who came before me. Long term-Global Domination.
G: Who are some of your standout students at the Gracie Academy?
RG: There all standouts. But the biggest standouts to me are the 55 year old ones who never compete but treat the Academy like their home and never give up.
G: The IGJJF has always attracted some big names in all divisions. Any word on who we can expect to see competing this year?
RG: Since Black Belts compete for free, they usually wait until the last minute to sign up, but you can be sure that their will be some tough guys.
G: With MMA becoming more and more popular these days, has this changed the role of the gi at all? Why are Jiu Jitsu Tournaments with the gi still important?
RG: The reason the gi is important is because by wearing it you are simulating clothing that you could be wearing in a street fight. MMA is great, but training with only shorts and no shirt on is very un objective for a real fight, and a person who trains this way will be very confused when someone grabs on to their jacket in a real fight. By preparing yourself with the gi on you are preparing for the worst case scenarios of a potential street fight.
G: There's an old interview your father did, in which it was said you and your brothers were given lollipops, but being raised on the Gracie diet, you had no idea what they were so you started smacking each other in the head with them. Do you see your upbringing as being very different? If I brought a bag of lollipops to the IGJJF, would I incite an in-family brawl?
RG: Yes, my upbringing was quite different, my father always encouraged us to do the right thing, and one of these things was to eat properly. The Gracie Diet was designed by my Great Uncle Carlos Gracie to help digestion, causing you to feel better and keep you at optimum health for fighting. My father taught us everything through leading by example and I plan on doing the same for my children.
G: Anything else you want to add?
RG: To Pre-Register for the 2006 Gracie Jiu-Jitsu World Championship visit www.igjjf.com, you’ll thank me later.
Thanks a lot for the interview Rener.