Last night’s Royce Gracie Seminar was marvelous. Over the course of several hours we built up a flow of techniques from take down, to mount, to transition between chokes, arm bars, more chokes and more arm bars. In contrast to seminars by some elite martial artists that I have attended (inside and outside of BJJ), the evening’s work concentrated on bread-and-butter work; less about flash, more about smash. While the whole range of skill levels that attended the seminar could handle the drills, there was a lot of technical finesse that more advanced attendees could benefit from. This was seriously refreshing and impressive to me. There was no attempt to ‘sell’ the art, we worked very much in the way we do in regular training at Dartford BJJ, both in terms of working through a logical sequence of techniques and building up a drill from standing to ground and where we failed to grasp a technical aspect of the drill, we were corrected by the giants that are Royce Gracie and Marc Walder. A big thanks to Marc, too, for putting together such a superb evening. His humility, skill and love for the game are an inspiration.
We started with the body-fold take down to land in mount, moving to an arm triangle. If the choke wasn’t happening we switched to control the wrist as from a side-mount, collapsed the opponent’s arms, used the body to roll them to their belly to end with an RNC. Where the opponent resisted having the arms collapsed to allow us to take the back, we moved to a figure-four grip in order to transition to an arm bar. Where the opponent defended the arm bar, we switched to a two-onto-one grip on the opponent’s wrist/forearm, used the body to roll the opponent forward and then back, slipping the hooks to move to an RNC. If the opponent then leant forward to frustrate the RNC, we moved to the opponent’s side in order to drop to our shoulder, swing the leg around to move to a seated position in preparation for an arm bar. As the opponent defended the arm bar, we used the free hand to place our shin on the ‘X’ made by the opponent’s defending wrists, triangled the legs to pop the arms open and finish with the arm bar. During the evening we would work a new section of the drill in isolation and then put it all together from standing.
Q & A with Royce
Before the conclusion of the evening we had the opportunity for a Q and A session. Again, Royce’s practicality came through. In response to a question regarding multiple opponents, he playfully responded ‘That’s why I have a big family’, but went on to candidly state that no one can fight multiple attackers and diplomacy or ‘knowing how to talk’ were what was important in such a situation: isolate one individual, de-escalate the situation and make a call for help. How cool is that?! This is why I love my Gracie Barra world so much, there’s no pretending and fantasising about super hero abilities. It is practical, it is technical and it is candid. In response to a question on the importance of the self-defence aspect of BJJ, Royce noted the impact of competition on arts such as Karate, where competition requires participants to ‘touch’ each other. What does this teach? ‘How not to punch’. Royce reinforced that BJJ is about the full fight, from standing to clinch to finish and thinking of drills in terms of fighting rather than competing was essential. Finally, I took the opportunity to ask if Royce had any strategies for encouraging women into BJJ (of the 50 or so participants, 4 were women). He admitted that this was a ‘tough nut to crack’ and that retention from women’s classes is disappointing and in the final analysis many women – inside and outside martial arts – find the contact-levels of grappling uncomfortable/intimidating. I entirely agree with this assessment, but, surely, there’s a way to pitch this beautiful thing for a feminine audience…