Royce Gracie

Gracie Immersion Camp Offers Martial Artists Crash Course in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu!

Martial artists looking to take a crash course in Brazilian jiu-jitsu need not look any further. The world’s most famous grappling family will host the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Immersion Camp 2012 from May 17 to May 20, 2011, in Destin, Florida.

Each day starts with mat time during which the instructors will cover Gracie Combatives, the Master Cycle, Women Empowered and Gracie Bullyproof, among other topics. Classes are geared for all ages and experience levels.

Training will be followed by athletic activities on the beach, including volleyball, ocean kayaking and Boogie boarding. You’ll also have access to WaveRunners, a rock-climbing wall, a zip line and a “crazy ropes” course at the nearby wharf.

A variety of restaurants and nightclubs will accommodate all tastes once the organized activities have ended. Rooms start at $112 per night.

For more information or to make a reservation, visit

Ralek Gracie Shows You How to Stack Your Opponent!

Take a Quick Tour of the Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Torrance, California!

What Do MMA, Pro Wrestling and Traditional Martial Arts Have in Common?

I had never seen anyone quite like Ken Shamrock, who at 6 feet 1 inch tall and 217 pounds handily dropped opponent after opponent in World Wrestling Entertainment (then World Wrestling Federation) matches. An Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran, Ken Shamrock brought a unique style to the pro-wrestling milieu in 1997, combining wrestling with martial arts acumen to produce a new kind of gladiator—a combatant whose martial arts agility would launch a mini-revolution in the wrestling world.

This crossbreeding has produced interesting results and a host of new fighting styles. Sure, the outcome of pro-wrestling matches may be fixed in advance, but to parrot an old aphorism, it’s the journey, not the destination. These days, the average mixed martial arts fight looks more like a traditional wrestling match than what you might see in a Jean-Claude Van Damme flick. And in pro-wrestling contests, you’re just as likely to see a spinning back kick as the more tried-and-true suplex and clothesline.

Martial arts and traditional wrestling have more in common than you might guess. In both, the goal is to get your opponent to submit through physical restraint or to knock him to the ground. Both involve grappling and jostling for position to put your foe off-balance. In this way, judo and wrestling could be said to be first cousins.

The relationship between wrestling and martial arts actually reaches back to ancient times. In the Book of Genesis, Jacob grappled with God’s angel; he was renamed “Israel,” Hebrew for he who “wrestles (or strives) with God.” And in antiquity, hand-to-hand combat—both wrestling and formalized martial arts—was popular in the Greek, Etruscan and Roman empires as mass entertainment.

Fast-forward to 19th-century Europe. Boxers regularly clashed against more traditional wrestlers in fierce, no-holds-barred fights. The largely unsanctioned contests were as vicious and brutal as their historical counterparts, with the loser often winding up in the hospital or worse. In England, a style called bartitsu was founded; many consider it the first formalized mixed martial art because it incorporated elements of Japanese and European disciplines.

In America, the first fight between a wrestler and boxer probably occurred in 1887 when heavyweight boxing champ John L. Sullivan was bested by his trainer, William Muldoon, a Greco-Roman wrestler, in less than three minutes. Around the same time in the Far East, MMA contests came to be known as merikan, a Japanese word that loosely translates to “American-style fighting.”

MMA largely faded from view after World War I, with wrestling diverging into two categories—real or “shoot” matches, and “show” contests, the forefather of scripted bouts. It would take four decades, but eventually the divorce of martial arts and wrestling began to crumble. In 1986 WrestleMania 2 saw Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mr. T duke it out in a boxing match in New York. (Rowdy Roddy Piper lost by disqualification.) Later in the ’80s, Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling was founded in Japan to showcase more extreme combat, but in 2002, the organization ran into financial troubles and went bankrupt.

Despite those false starts, MMA returned solidly with the debut of the UFC in 1993. Boxers, martial artists and wrestlers were all tossed into the ring, with no one style or discipline providing a clear advantage. It wasn’t about training but about how that training was applied against each opponent. As Royce Gracie trounced the competition to become the first champ, there was instant recognition that something very new (or very old) was happening.

Since then, MMA has experienced a meteoric rise in the United States, where its popularity often comes close to that of pro wrestling. And for those who favor martial arts over traditional wrestling, take a look at the stats: Wrestlers won five of the first 10 UFCs, while Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters took three. Even former heavyweight champ Randy Couture competed in collegiate and Greco-Roman wrestling before coming into his own in MMA.

As with Ken Shamrock, many MMA fighters eventually leave pro wrestling entirely. Former All-American Brock Lesnar shot to overnight WWE fame and was arguably Vince McMahon’s biggest star for a stretch in 2002 and 2003. After legal battles with the WWE, Brock Lesnar jumped to the UFC. (At the time of this writing, Brock Lesnar was scheduled to fight Randy Couture on November 15, 2008.)

So, as in ancient times, wrestling and the martial arts have once again united. No less an authority than Bruce Lee said, “The best fighter is someone who can adapt to any style.” Perhaps that’s why in 2004, UFC President Dana White called Bruce Lee the “father of mixed martial arts.”

(Eric Althoff is a freelance writer with 20 years of martial arts experience. He holds a third-degree black belt in isshin-ryu karate and has studied modern arnis.)

Best UFC Fights From the First 10 Years

November 2003 marked the end of an era for the Ultimate Fighting Championship—and by extension, the mixed martial arts in the United States. Over the course of those 10 years, the sport saw more evolution than Darwin’s notepad. And through it all, despite rumors of banishment, mortality rates, political machinations or simply the laws of attrition, the UFC has stood its ground.

You don’t get this far without being persistent—or dramatic. Unlike the stolid world of boxing or the over-dramatized world of professional wrestling, the UFC found its primal appeal in letting the show takes its own course. Feuds fanned their own flames, favorites rushed to the top and plummeted to the bottom, and underdogs made us believe in the impossible.

Be it through world-class wrestlers or strikers, or the sheer heart of the pioneers, there is no purer evidence to be found of the warrior’s heart than in the stories of the octagon. Let’s open up the gates:

UFC 3: Keith Hackney vs. Emmanuel Yarborough

By the time UFC 3 rolled around, the event was a pay-per-view sensation, creating a spectacle with enough bluster to challenge pro wrestling. The height of such promotion was when 5-foot-11- inch, 215-pound Keith Hackney was paired with 6-foot-8-inch, 600-pound Emmanuel Yarborough. Despite being nearly swallowed in Emmanuel Yarborough’s girth, Keith Hackney managed to unwind with hammer fists to the side of the sumo’s head, resulting in referee intervention. The UFC may never come closer to the fabled gladiatorial spectacles of the Roman Empire. Though many self-important observers were loath to admit it, this was must-see TV.

UFC 6: David “Tank” Abbott vs. John Matua

For five installments of the UFC, it was Royce Gracie’s formidable finesse that drove the fights and the stories. Enter David “Tank” Abbott, the complete antithesis of the martial artist: a street brawler with an ego as big as his belly. David “Tank” Abbott sauntered in and proceeded to decimate John Matua in seconds, sending him to the canvas with such force that the impact induced a seizure. It was an ugly moment for the UFC, but another reality check. Sometimes the graceless slugger got by on pure bad vibes. David “Tank” Abbott would go on to become the first real villain—and antihero—of the promotion.

UFC 10: Mark Coleman vs. Don Fry

Nearly three years old, the UFC had already begun to weed out the weekend warriors whose sensei had drilled in false hopes of athleticism. Dan Severn was the first to arrive wielding a lifetime in wrestling, but it was decade-younger collegiate star Mark Coleman who married ground control with devastating striking. His first tournament bid was a demolition ending in a weary Mark Coleman pounding out an even wearier Don Frye. Submission experts—the former front men—would now have to contend with Olympic-level conditioning and the threat of a powerhouse grappler steamrolling them into the mat.

UFC 14: Maurice Smith vs. Mark Coleman

A cakewalk? Hardly. Just listen to an inebriated Mark Coleman talk about “grounding and f—in’ pounding” kickboxer Maurice Smith in the evening’s main event. Mark Coleman had been an unstoppable wrestler; Maurice Smith was merely an Extreme Fighting vet who had picked up a ground game from Frank Shamrock. The outcome was never in doubt. Good thing no one told Maurice Smith, who weathered an early storm and then picked his shots against an exhausted—and aghast—Mark Coleman. Now strikers who could play a good defense were suddenly dangerous. The sport again insisted on never sitting idle.

UFC 3: Royce Gracie vs. Kimo Leopoldo

After two tournament victories, Royce Gracie was every bit the star as the UFC itself. And again promoters sought a heavily muscled action figure for him to manipulate. Kimo Leopoldo had little formal training, but being tenacious—and heavily tattooed—earned him a slot. For seven minutes, the two nearly abandoned all pretense of sportsmanship and worked each other over. An exhausted Kimo Leopoldo tapped from an arm lock, and an exhausted Royce Gracie dropped out of the show. It was the first time the invincible Brazilian revealed a dent in his armor.

UFC Japan: Frank Shamrock vs. Kevin Jackson

Up until this point, no quintessential mixed martial artist had sprung up—none with the ability, charisma and drive to act as a figurehead for an emerging sport. That all changed in the 15 seconds it took Frank Shamrock to armbar Olympic gold medalist Kevin Jackson. The adopted younger brother of Ken Shamrock immediately made a name for himself, the action inside the ring had come full circle for the umpteenth time and Shamrock could back up his cross-trained ways with a bravado that the crowd ate up.

UFC 12: Vitor Belfort vs. Scott Ferrozzo

With dismal compensation in relation to boxing, there was little incentive for world-class strikers to test their chin in the …

The Gracie Diet: The Secret to Royce Gracie’s UFC Success

Question: If you had to choose between knowing jiu-jitsu and following the Gracie Diet, what would it be? Rorion Gracie’s answer is simple: “the diet, no doubt about it.”

By now, everyone in the martial arts world knows about Helio Gracie’s generational reboot of full-contact competition. His eldest son Rorion dreamed up the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and his sixth child Royce blew minds with his underdog victories in the early shows. The progression of events followed the standard pattern: Man displays unfamiliar skills with style and confidence; his competition adapts to those skills; the man’s art is absorbed by the public; the art ceases to be a secret.

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Unbeknownst to much of the martial arts community is that Gracie jiu-jitsu is only part of the equation. The other part—which, they claim, is just as crucial to their success—is not how they train or how they think. It’s how they eat.

Called simply the Gracie Diet, it’s the result of Carlos Gracie’s six and a half decades of research into the intricacies of health and nutrition. His nephew Rorion, now the family’s patriarch, proudly carries the torch for both family traditions: grappling and a very specific system of food combining.

The Source of the Gracie Diet

When I arrive at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Torrance, California, Rorion Gracie is giving a tour of the on-site family museum. A crew of filmmakers lounges on leather sofas, recharging batteries between shoots. As he will casually inform me, they’re making a documentary on the life of his father, Helio. Rorion Gracie and I settle in his office and begin talking about food and what it means to his family’s way of life.

At 58, Rorion Gracie cuts a lively, lanky figure. He speaks with the cadence of a natural pitchman, yet he offers no pressure to believe what he describes, just a desire to transfer his enthusiasm. I ask him flat out why there’s even such a thing as the Gracie Diet.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that my Uncle Carlos was the spiritual leader of the Gracie family,” he says. “He studied nutrition as the main aspect of health. He read extensively, listened to accounts and compared research from different nutritionists at the time. His studies became increasingly esoteric, and the more he got into it, the more he realized the importance of eating healthy. As a result, he spent 65 years dedicated to the betterment of health through proper food combining, what we now call the Gracie Diet.

“We have to keep in mind one thing: Nothing consumes more energy than digesting a meal. Whatever you’re eating, that piece of food has to go through complex processes to be absorbed, transformed into energy and otherwise distributed as vital nutrients. We take this function for granted—we [grab] a granola bar, stick it in our mouth and think, I’m done.”

What we don’t spend much time contemplating is digestion, he says. “People don’t think that deeply. They say, ‘Give me something that tastes good—let me stuff my face with it.’ No wonder people are so sick in America.”

That leads him to the first precept of the Gracie Diet: You are what you eat. “Combine your foods properly, and your body will be healthy,” he says. “By doing this, you facilitate the digestive process, making it easier for the foods to be absorbed by the body and producing everything with maximum efficiency.”

Following the Gracie Diet

I ask the jiu-jitsu master what the diet’s most basic concepts are and how someone could ease into it without getting discouraged, and he recommends a three-step plan.

One: Space Out Your Meals
Leave at least four and a half hours between meals. Just do that during your first week. Eat whatever you want but don’t snack. The only thing you’re allowed between meals is water—no coffee, tea or anything else.

If you’ve been told that you must eat every two or three hours to keep your metabolism active, forget it. “When you eat something at a certain time and then eat again two and a half or three hours later, that food will impact the chemical reaction of the previous meal, and that’s not good for you,” Rorion Gracie says. “There needs to be time to completely digest before you start a new meal.”

Two: Dump the Dessert and the Soda
Rorion Gracie winces when he talks about the amount of sugar people consume, especially in the United States: “You go to a restaurant and eat the extra-large portion of your meal. After you finish, the waiter …