Describe Gracie jiu jitsu to someone who knows nothing of the style.
It’s a grappling art, a self-defence art, where you don’t need to be big, you don’t need to be strong. In boxing, you need power. Karate, you’ve got to be heavier to have an advantage with the strikes. With Gracie Jiu Jitsu, you put two men in a ring, it’s a question of who knows how to move better. The smallest person can outswing the bigger and heavier guy. My father always said, ‘Give me the right leverage and I will lift the world.’
How is the seminar going to run out here?
It’s my first time in Dubai so I’ve got to check out the levels of people. I’ll figure most of it out when I get there, I’ve got to look at people’s faces, the way they move. It’s a three-hour seminar, the first two hours will be moves and sequences and the last hour I’ll spar. If you are a beginner or advanced, you’re going to learn something.
How would you describe your teaching style?
I’m a fighter. I don’t care about tournament point systems. All the martial arts were created to fight: karate, tae kwon do and capoeira were created for fighting, but over time people lost that. Judo became just a sport; a competition and not a fighting art. Tae kwon do, by being in the Olympics, is teaching people how not to hit because they’re not driving their punches through. It’s giving people the wrong habits. So I’m teaching self defence, but I always I keep in mind that I’m on the street. I’ll still show the traditional jiu jitsu, but very much self -defence street fighting. On the street it doesn’t matter if you do something big and beautiful, it’s not going to win the fight.
Your father invented Gracie jiu jitsu. Do you see yourself as a continuance of the tradition?
I don’t see myself as the next one in line. I am one of the Gracie brothers, I am part of the tradition. That’s what I know and that’s how I know what to do. That’s what I’m going to continue.
Was there ever any pressure being a part of the Gracie family?
I certainly don’t put myself under that kind of pressure and neither did my father. He actually used to take the pressure off in a way that I’ve tried to do with my kids. If we fought in a tournament when I was a kid, my father used to give us, say, US$5 if we won, but he’d give us US$10 if we lost. It was reverse psychology. I’ll pay you more if you lose. I don’t want to lose, but if I do he’s saying, it’s OK for you to lose. He was all about that when we were growing up.
So your kids are getting into it?
I work hard with them. I never got pushed into doing this, to teach, to do Gracie Jiu Jitsu, it’s something that comes naturally for us. I just did a thing in California and I took my young boys and my little girl – 12, 10 and seven years old. The 12- and the 10-year-old were teaching the class with me to other kids. I bring them in, show them the moves and say ‘Go to work, boys.’ And they walk around teaching people. They learn from a young age and become natural at teaching and explaining. It’s about teaching them how to teach. It’s not anything I can explain, it’s something that comes naturally. We need to teach the new generation, the young kids, so when they grow up it comes natural to them.
Would you ever consider going into another martial art form?
No, it will always be Gracie jiu jitsu for me. You don’t have to be big, you don’t have to be strong and you don’t have to be fast. You’ve just got to know what you’re doing and that’s what I like.
Royce Gracie will be leading a seminar in association with the World Black Belts Centre at Alittihad School on May 3, Dhs350 per person, Dhs400 on the door. Beginners welcomed. For tickets call Tam Khan, 050 104 5008.