Our friend Jesus Carlos (J.C.) recently attended a seminar in Germany with Rolles Gracie and got a chance to sit down with Rolles at a post seminar cookout and ask him some questions. Thanks for sharing J.C. !
You can’t separate Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from the name Gracie. I’ve been training and trying to learn more and improve my skills for a while now. Right now I live in Germany, and there aren’t a lot of places to train, but I try to get on the mats anytime and anyplace I can. So a while back when I heard that Rolles Gracie would be in Holland putting on a two day seminar, I jumped on the opportunity.
As soon as the seminar started, I knew it was different. Rolles made the seminar techniques so simple that we couldn’t believe it. There were a lot of ooohs, aahhs, and heads nodding while he taught.
Rolles showed us some true black belt technique, like how a simple hand placement or adjustment can make your game so much better. He also shared some great BJJ philosophy and analogies to help us understand the mental part of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu better.
After the seminar, I got to talk with Rolles at the team BBQ. He was really a cool guy to hang out with, very down to earth, easy going and joking around with everyone. He was kind enough to agree to an interview which follows.
JC: Where do the Gracie's go to get better?
Rolles: We have family meetings and teach each other. We sit around and try different things and some works and some doesn’t.
JC: How much pressure is there being a Gracie?
Rolles: No pressure, sometimes there is more pressure from the outside. My family will support me no matter what I do. Even if it is not Jiu Jitsu
JC: What kind of mind set do you go into when you compete?
Rolles: Empty mind, with game plan. It's like when you are in school and you have a test. If you go to class and you do your homework, you feel good. But if you miss class you feel bad. So, if you prepare for a fight you feel good. I go in to win, not to whoop his ass. Going in there to beat his ass might have consequences.
JC: If there was some advice that you could have learned or wish you would have known when you were younger what would it be?
He said it is hard to say, because you might not be mature enough for the advice. Even if you were given the advice and did know it when you were younger or just starting off, you might not understand it at the time. They could be giving you the most important advice of your BJJ life, but you might not understand it and just blow it off.
Rolles: Everything takes time. Every one matures on the mat at different times. I might tell one student do this and like this, but another student that is not mature enough or experienced they might not understand it.
JC: He appreciated it more because he was mature enough to understand it?
Rolles: The technique it was appropriate at the moment. I don’t know if he got caught or if it was position, but he was making the mistake a lot of times. Then I finally corrected him, but because he made the mistake so many times, he appreciated the correction. If I probably corrected him the very first time, he probably would not even care. That’s important.
JC: I guess that is why I am picking your brain a little bit. You’re not teaching me jiu jitsu right now. Example pass his guard, you do this or do that. You are teaching me the other side, the mental side.
Rolles: Which is very important.
JC: I would like to think I understand where you are coming from. When I was a new white belt I might have not really understood, but now that I am a four stripe blue belt, I can grasp the concept better.
Rolles: Yea you know what I mean.
JC: But now I feel like I want to get more advance. That make sense, I understand it.
Rolles: Let say if you meet a girl. She has potential to be your wife, the mother of your kids and stuff like this and she has some blemishes, not even blemishes. She’s great on one side and not so much on the other. If you try to correct her right off the bat. She is going to say “Who the ____ are you? Go ____ yourself”. You know what I mean and you lost the potential wife and mother of your kids. So if you start getting to know her and she gets to understand you better what you like and what you appreciate. It’s the same way.
JC: That is pretty cool; you are pretty good with these little analogies aren’t you.
Rolles: Man analogies; I cannot visualize much, but sometime analogy is the best way make it similar.
JC: So you are saying if I have a student and there not doing that great, I shouldn’t try to correct them everything. Just lett'em be, right?
Rolles: It is important to correct, but if you just correct, correct, correct, correct, probably the guy is going to think “I suck”. You know, I want to quit. First you want the guy to train; you don’t want him to quit. So you wanna kind of fix him and encourage him.
Like I have a boxing coach, he don’t let any mistake slide. Even if I am bull_______, he wants me to do it correctly all the time. Maybe if I was a guy starting from scratch, maybe he wouldn’t be so perfect for me, no. But now I understand that I am on a level, that I understand he wants me to be perfect every time.
Because when I step into fight, there is no margin for mistakes. Sometimes one little mistake is gonna cost you a fight, these days, because everybody’s level is so. Some guys are better in the stand up and some guys are better on the ground, but like overall, the level of everybody is right there. One guy compensates with the stamina, one guy compensates with a good chin, other guys compensate with a good ground game and technique.
JC: So does that apply to your jiu jitsu?
Rolles: Everything at some time.
JC: Everything falls into place at some point in training.
Rolles: Exactly, everything falls into place. The main concern is to train.
JC: I’m pretty sure you always get asked, “WHATS THE SECRET”? What can I do, what can I train and the secret is just train.
Rolles: Yes, the toughest guy I seen are the ones spending the most time on the mat. They spend more hours training. Those are the toughest guys I have seen. NO SECRET!!!
JC: What kind of advice do you have for people that feel like they are not ready for their next belt or feel like there coach gave them belt to early?
Rolles: The student should trust the teacher because he's seeing the bigger picture.
JC: For you what is a true black belt?
Rolles: I, true black belt is the won who has a black belt in the heart and a white belt mind.
I was thinking about what Rolles had said while I was getting ready for a big competition and out of nowhere it hit me. I’m not just training my body, I’m really training my mind! We all reach different levels of understanding at different times, and I think what I learned from Rolles is summed up in a quote by Galileo, “You cannot teach a person anything; you can only help him find it within himself.”