Royce Gracie watches over his seminar

It is a rather surreal experience to walk into your humble club in Kent and see Royce Gracie chillin’ on your mats, but that’s exactly what happened last night when I arrived at Dartford BJJ for our seminar with the man, himself. Forty of us enjoyed a wonderful session with Royce, who was assisted by our head instructor, Marc Walder, which began with a flow of self defence/BJJ core techniques from standing to the floor and moved on to examine passing the closed and open guards. I enjoyed an informal chat with Royce and Coach before class and I hope Mr Gracie won’t mind if I share a few of his thoughts with you here.

Chatting with Royce

Royce Gracie and Marc Walder

I had the (slightly scary) opportunity to have a wee chat with Royce and Coach before class, scary to the extent that while the man seems completely oblivious to his legendary status, mere mortals such as yours truly feel rather squirrelly in his epic and historic presence. Nevertheless, it was pretty sweet to hear his views on BJJ, life on the road and how to unwind with the perfect evening smoothie.

On Self Defence

My Coach, Dave Birkett, asked Royce what were the first things he would teach to a person beginning BJJ and Royce, who keeps it real and real old skool, said that he would focus on ‘self defence techniques’, such as defence versus a two-handed grab to the throat, basic upa out of mount and that sort of thing. Indeed, these are the sort of BJJ fundamentals that we look at in our Wednesday BJJ Basics class and the ‘self defence techniques’ that we worked in the first half of the seminar were familiar to us, as they are very much part of our lineage from Dave and Marc Walder.

On The Itinerant Life of a BJJ Master

I was shocked by the rigours of Royce’s schedule; in a different British town every day for a week, back to LA for a few days, then off to NYC, followed by Connecticut. His routine is to arrive at his destination, go straight to class, get to his hotel, do his run and have some down time. The man is an absolute machine and seems completely unphased by what sounded like a hectic and very busy diary of seminars, airports, hotels, trains and auto mobiles. I wondered if his schedule was hard on his family and Royce reasoned that he was home 50% of the time and when he was at home he wasn’t working so was fully there. It was clear that he felt confident that his lifestyle worked for all concerned and it was further clear that he’d developed a methodical approach to his BJJ-touring – not surprising considering his methodical approach to jiu jitsu – which relies on a keeping a tight schedule of running seminars and time away from the public during which he clears his head on a run and takes time out between gigs.

Royce’s Favourite Smoothie

I noted that Royce had a really cool patch on his gi, which was for a sponsoring Acai company. I remarked that I liked frozen acai in my smoothies and so we swapped smoothie recipes. What’s Royce’s preferred smoothie, you ask? Here you go:

  • 1 pear
  • couple dollops of yoghurt
  • 3-4 tablespoons honey
  • ice

The pear should be very ripe, almost overripe and super juicy; Royce claimed to have purchased some on arrival in the UK a few days earlier and that the fruit in question was at the appropriate stage of juiciness for consumption that evening. Aside from that, blend and enjoy!


Open Guard Drills

During the course of the 2.5 hour seminar we covered a lot of ground, including a flow of self defence/BJJ basics; guard passing; blind rolling with eyes closed and lights out. We built up a series of ‘self defence techniques’ from standing like so:

  • wrist lock versus shove to chest/’boob grope’
  • hip throw versus two handed grab to the throat
  • hip throw versus ‘hay maker’ sucker punch
  • body-fold takedown to mount
  • arm triangle from mount

We also drilled guard pass options:

  • seated pass of closed guard
  • pass of open guard (feet on biceps)

Final Thoughts

Open Guard Passing

This is the second time I’ve attended a Royce Gracie seminar and once again I was struck by what a consummate professional he is, a quality I admire in anyone inside or outside BJJ. He is punctual, business-like, runs to a tight schedule and knows what the people want, i.e. he makes sure there is plenty of time for group and individual pictures at the end; the man knows his business and performs it well, which is always a joy for those benefiting from another’s professional services.

Spidey Senses

Royce is also an extremely perceptive individual with a surprising sense of humour. He has a rather stony poker face, and will suddenly crack a joke and a smile that is pretty disarming. I went totally red when he took the mick out of my animal print socks; how he clocked those from the other side of the mats in the brief period they were visible I’ll never know. He also accused me, half mockingly and half seriously – I think – of having ‘issues’ as I tended to choose rather massive male training partners. Honestly, it wasn’t premeditated as there happens to be big blokes in the club and they happened to be nearby when we were asked to change partners. Nevertheless, as folk who know me will agree, I do have ‘issues’ regarding ‘proving myself’ on an equal footing with the guys, much as I try to work on them and recognise that I’ve got the respect of my team; so the guy is pretty astute and sensitive. I can also reveal that he is not ticklish, ahem, as my defensive response to this accusation was to ‘tickle’ his ribs; dear Zeus, I tickled Royce Gracie, the shame.


Dartford BJJ in the house with Royce

Huge props to Coach Birkett for putting together the seminar, which he did at cost for the benefit of his students. Thanks, too, to Danny Suman and Kate Grogan for the photographs, reproduced here with permission.