“I feel extremely honored to be a member of the Gracie family, my father is Grand Master Rorion Gracie [9th degree red belt and co-founder of Ultimate Fighting Championship] and I can’t speak for other Gracies’ but me, I feel like an absolute blessing to be born into a family where the entire purpose of this family is to empower, educate, and build confidence, and give people the tools to protect themselves and the ability to look life through a different lens. Said Rener Gracie in an exclusive sit down with TSJ from his Gracie Academy in Torrance, California.
“Jiu-Jitsu to me, is much more than a martial art, even much more than a self-defense, it’s a perspective, it’s a mind set, a lifestyle and we use the technique to learn, understand and to build our knowledge of these concepts but the truest application of Jiu-Jitsu goes beyond the map”
Rener and his brother Ryron are the head instructors of the Gracie Survival Tactics program for the US Army and Police departments,a program that has been running for 24 years now with Law Enforcement in the USA.
“Gracie survival tactics is a very specialized Jiu-Jitsu based program that we created over the last 24 years since we started working with the US Army in 1993 when the UFC exploded, US Army contacted our family and requested our help in developing a program that would give soldiers the ability to defend themselves in hand to hand combat”
“That evolution of Jiu-Jitsu began there and then it worked it’s way into law enforcement. It’s such an important situation now in America because as you see on the news, we have incredible challenges in America specifically with use of force. Officers being too aggressive with suspects and the people they are trying to arrest. When an officer does not feel confident or safe or capable of controlling someone with their hand or body, then they are going to use their tools prematurely, whether it’s a gun, baton, pepper spray or taser, this premature usage of the tool belt to me is one of the greatest concerns facing law enforcement today and the only solution is to increase the efficacy of their training and to give them tools that are much less violent, and that’s where jiu-jitsu comes into the question.
“The problem is, jiu-jitsu in its organic, natural form does not apply to law enforcement, and the best way to explain it, jiu-jitsu – the idea is to grab someone and take them to the ground, the problem is the Police officer has a gun, knife, taser, baton and if they get into a fight and go to the ground, now they are putting their tools within access of the suspect, who can easily grab the tools and use them against them.”
“The secret to our success is that we essentially teach an anti jiu-jitsu almost. You have to understand jiu-jitsu to get out of the ground fight because an officers most important skill if they get taken to the ground by the suspect is to protect his weapons (weapon retention), protect their face from punches, and on a moments notice, be able to exit the fight and get back to their feet so they can make distance and use their tools.”
“The problem is they cant get out of a fight on the ground if they don’t understand the fight on the ground, that’s where our knowledge and expertise comes into play and what’s beautiful is that even though my brother Ryron and I are the head instructors of the Gracie Survival Tactics Program, the participants of the course are the contributors. They give us scenarios that they faced with suspects and ask us questions on how they should’ve dealt with them the right way. So this gives us the opportunity to modify our program and make it as realistic as possible”
The Gracie Survival Tactics (self-defense) Program takes a week long to learn.
“Gracie Survival Tactics Program is a one-week, 30-hour instructions program. We teach them for three days, six hours a day – we teach them 23 techniques, critical self-defense techniques only for law enforcement. After the 23 techniques, we spend two days, teaching them how to teach those techniques so when they go back to their departments; they are very capable of teaching those techniques to other officers. It’s train the trainer, instructors certificate course. Once they complete they are certified for 18 months. They can teach other officers throughout that entire time”
“All the techniques are 100% Jiu-Jitsu based, and every technique we teach has been modified over the last 20 years to be much more law enforcement based.”
With the rise of the digital age combined with poor access of certified world-class instructors and academies around the world, Rener and Ryron Gracie started Gracie University.
“GracieUniversity.com is a website that my brother and I created with the sole purpose of teaching Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to anyone around the world. As of now we have over 150,000 members learning Jiu-Jitsu from their home, all over the world in 196 countries because of these people don’t have access to an academy but want to learn Jiu-Jitsu. So we decided we are going to make the most structured jiu-jitsu curriculum ever created – in order. There are many Jiu-Jitsu websites but their techniques are presented in out of order. That’s confusing for a new student.”
“The best thing is that any student who is learning these techniques anywhere around the world can then come to California to our academy or any other certified academy and take a test to see if their techniques are perfect. So they can get their next belt and climb the ladder.”
Even though this is the new evolution of Jiu-Jitsu in the digital age, but Rener hesitates to put a tag on this online success.
“I don’t know what to call it, but we are all eventually going to pass away and I cannot allow what my father and grand father, my unclestaught me, to die with me. Jiu-Jitsu is growing very fast; especially in the UAE, like incredibly fast but the rest of the world is not doing that. So there are many places where there is absolute deficiencyof qualified jiu-jitsu instructors. So if someone cannot go to a qualified school and learn in person, we wanted to give them the opportunity to log on and learn from Ryron and Rener Gracie, the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu”
Rener thinks that UAE is on a league of it’s own when it comes to the development of the sport of Jiu-Jitsu and they have no idea how lucky they are.
“The UAE stands in a league of it’s own in terms of what they are investing and the energy that they are putting towards making Jiu-Jitsu a national sport that all, especially kids can learn with such a young age, obviously you know the rest of the Jiu-Jitsu world is very jealous of the UAE, in terms of the progress they have made and we wish if we can implement this in America and all over the world. Unfortunately we don’t have a very influential, high ranking political figure who can say yes I want do this and everyone in every school in America is gonna do Jiu-Jitsu now, that’s what we need, maybe one day will have one and until then we will do it the old fashioned way by growing little by little.”
“People who live in the UAE have no idea how lucky they are, kids who are growing up there are learning jiu-jitsu in school have no idea how lucky they are to have access to this amazing lifestyle at such a young age as part of the schooling system is very amazing”
“Sheikh Mohammed and the royal family they are doing incredible things, and that’s all it takes – one person who has the access to the right influence and have the right opinion about something so special like Jiu-Jitsu. They can position and do these and apply the necessary resources to make such a significant change but unfortunately most other countries don’t have a royal family or sheikh who is so committed to a positive movement, especially for the youth and like I said, we are jealous but one day hopefully that would change”
‘Jiu-Jitsu’and ‘Olympics’ are two words that does not belong in a sentence, another word that makes much more sense with those two words is – ‘politics’.
“I think one day Jiu-Jitsu will reach the Olympics, its impossible for something to grow this healthy and this strong but not actually get into the Olympics. So with the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation and the entire UAE pushing Jiu-Jitsu the way they are, I think it is possible but it needs a champion and UAE is the champion for Jiu-Jitsu to happen this happen. I think its possible but the process will be gradual and it will take time. You have to apply jiu-jitsu to the jiu-jitsu situation”
Why is Jiu-Jitsu is more fashionable when there are other martial arts?
“The answer to that is very simple – Jiu-Jitsu delivers what every other martial art promises”
Rener appreciates the evolution of the fighters andthe new tactics and techniques in Jiu-Jitsu but he believes it serves the opposite purpose of the actual form of the gentle art
“Jiu-Jitsu is evolving in some very unique ways because like any sport the rules dictate the outcome and the outcome dictates the emphasis in training, so when the rules are positioned a certain way where awarding certain points for certain behavior, people at the gym do not practice for the big objective of jiu-jitsu of self-defense or even submission sometimes, they practice to earn the points to be proficient and to essentially win the ‘match’, win the game of jiu-jitsu and to me this is creating a slew of techniques that have absolutely no effect or application in a real fight but are extremely effective for the points scoring process of jiu-jitsu competition and u think this is absolutely natural, I think it is a very healthy process of evolution and creativity, some of the techniques are fascinating but unfortunately the illusion is created and still exist that if you are still practicing jiu-jitsu as a sport, earning points and playing by these rules that your simultaneous preparing yourself for a street fight and unfortunately that is not true.
“For me that is the only concern that I have about the rapid expansion is that even though it is great as a sport, like soccer like baseball, football, basketball, like any sport it is great, it is good comradary, good for athleticism, exercise, team building, but when the practice of the sport begins to jeopardize the integrity of what the art was originally popularized and designed for that’s hen you have to have a little concern and there’s nothing”
What is Rener Gracie and Gracie Academy’s next step, after all their success?
“That’s a good question. Right now our primary focus is to created more qualified instructors, so Ryron and I are 100 percent committed to the certification of instructors throughout the united states and all over the world to make sure that everyone, everywhere in the world, kids or adults, men or women have access to the purest and most well structured and street self defense applicable jiu-jitsu that we learned from our ancestors and to make sure we preserve it.
“My message to all jiu-jitsu lovers in the UAE and the entire UAE jiu-jitsu Federation and the people who are just fans of jiu-jitsu there, keep training, know how privileged you are to be in a country that has prioritized the training of this art, absolutely I wish I had this in America and if you are ever in America visiting, please come to the Gracie Academy on California, train with us, we would love to share the mat with you and the people in the UAE who are hearing about the movement of Jiu-Jitsu but are a little bit hesitant to get involved, know that the Gracie University is there, log in, watch some lessons train it at your house, get more comfortable and then you can join an academy.