When I think of Helio Gracie, I think of the phrase “If you do not lose, you can only win.” After graduating high school, I tricked my father into allowing me to skip college to spend some very valuable time with my Professor, Grandfather, and friend. Having Helio Gracie as my Grandfather was unbelievable; it actually meant that Helio Gracie was my professor for life. I was privileged to spend six months in Brazil eating fresh foods, working around the house, having discussions about life, and learning Jiu-jitsu.
In a large valley in the hills of Brazil, at the end of a long hall past all the bedrooms at my grandfather’s house, there was a small mat room where we put Jiu-jitsu to the test. We would train about 3 days a week at home and then go to a local school to mix it up a little. It was not uncommon for my grandfather to open his house to guys we would meet at the local academies. So long as you wore a gi and were part of the Jiu-jitsu family, you were good in his books. In the six months I was there, we had about 12-15 guys come train at the house. Few people had the opportunity to train on that mat, and those who did were able to experience the Gracie Diet lunch feast or our dinner juice. The meals got me to 210 lbs. Lunch meals usually included fish or chicken accompanied by a starch. Fish soufflés and chicken stroganoff were some of my favorites. Without a doubt, he also made one of the best acai drinks in town!
Once a week we would take an hour drive to Rio to train at Gracie Humaita. This was where my uncles taught and my grandfather would actually do a private once in a while. We also went to Saulo’s academy a few times. When training at any academy, I specifically remember my Professor/Grandfather instructing me to not get off my back. I would lie down and have someone mounted or side mounted on me, and he would ask the guys to go to town. This was a little frustrating because sometimes I had opportunities to get on top and possibly do good. Most of the time my training partner was a higher belt so that was even more reason for my ego to want to do good. This went on for months, sometimes changing positions to the guard or back mount. Training consisted of me being in the inferior positions so often that, at times, I preferred to not train at all. My frustrations sometimes got the best of me, and only years later was I able to see what he had in mind for me. More often than not, the student does not know what he or she needs, it is the instructor’s job to create a training environment that will help the student reach his or her highest potential.
What we were doing was preparing for worst-case scenarios. The belief was that if you were fully prepared for worst-case scenarios, there would be no worst-case scenarios.
This brings me back to the phrase “If you do not lose, you can only win.” This phrase is the truth because to survive is to win. It is what draws most of us to the mat, “Self Defense.” I see why my grandfather was so successful in all his years of fighting. He would walk into the ring with no expectations of defeating his opponent; no emotion, no negativity towards his opponent, just respect and a curiosity as to what his opponent could surprise him with. He was the ultimate example of a scientist.
I wonder if it is possible to find victory within defeat. One knows that if one does not lose, one shall win. However, can one discover both victory and defeat simultaneously? If you Keep it Playful, the answer is absolutely!!! All is mind.
Thank you Grandfather and Grandmaster for forcing me to spend time in the most inferior positions. Thank you for helping me find comfort where most find discomfort. Thanks to my level of comfort, I am able to keep it playful on a whole different level.
Happy Birthday Grandpa!!
October 1, 1913 – Forever