Archive for March, 2008

My Jiu Jitsu

I probably started studying Brazilian (Gracie) Jiu Jitsu in the late 1980s, it may have been the early 1990s (but it was certainly before the first UFC in 1993). My first instruction came when my brother-in-law and I split the cost of buying the Rorion-Royce Gracie, Basics of Gracie Jiu Jitsu VHS tapes.

We were dedicated students of the Gracie’s techniques. We drilled and drilled and drilled every technique and every position. The stuff I learned then hard-wired in me and serves me well to this day.

Our first formal class was with Royce Gracie at Steve Maxwell’s Maxercise in Philadelphia. Royce had come from California to Philadelphia to teach some classes for Steve. Steve, I believe, had his purple belt and I remember him telling a story of being in “the Old Man’s guard … and, I swear to God, he was asleep … I still couldn’t take him.”

The “Old Man” is Helio Gracie. He and his brother are the originators of Brazilian/Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Their style is a modification of traditional jujutsu and judo. This is something that I’ll get into at some other time.

After our first semi-private class, Royce showed me and bro-in-law to the door and said, “Tomorrow, come with questions.”

“I already have my questions,” I answered.

“Oh. What are they?”

“Just teach me how to fight.”

He put his hand around my shoulder, smiled and said, “You already know how to fight.”

Royce Gracie told me that I already knew how to fight. And this from diligent study of his tapes.

My bro-in-law and I took several classes from Royce that trip. And later found out that Dave Lentz, a Gracie Jiu Jitsu blue belt, had a martial arts school about a half-hour north of where we lived. It was a meeting place for area people who were interested in Brazilian/Gracie Jiu Jitsu. We befriended him and I made frequent trips to his martial arts school to roll around.

Shortly thereafter, Craig Kukuk, the first American black belt in Brazilian/Gracie Jiu-jitsu moved from California to New Jersey and began teaching in Dave’s school. My bro-in-law and I immediately signed on with him.

There was a short period of time where I was making three to five trips a week up to the school.

After a year or so, I was unceremoniously promoted to blue belt. On the way out the door one evening Craig said to me, “Hey, Jim. You’re a blue belt. I don’t have any extra belts with me right now, but when they come in, you deserve one.” Nice.

Eventually I grew tired of what I was doing. I was no longer learning self defense but was learning how to wrestle and counter fellow students. I guess this is good, but my interest wained. I felt confident then and remain confident that I can handle myself in most steetfighting situations.

That coupled with tensions between Craig and his teacher, Rorion Gracie, and an increasing politicized climate amongst the students caused me to lose interest in going forward with my studies.

My brother-in-law continued formal studies even after Craig had another row with Rorion’s cousin Renzo causing Craig to leave the state. I would roll with my bro-in-law from time-to-time and even drilled some of the old stand-up and self defense techniques that the new instruction was starting to leave out.

Bro-in-law recently joined the army (he’s 37-years-old!) and is no longer in the area. I have his mats and have recently been rolling around with another of my wife’s sister’s husbands. He wants to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He enjoys my company; enjoys that I’m old school Brazilian Jiu Jitsu; enjoys that I want to re-drill and re-drill the basics; enjoys that I don’t mind sharing what I know; and enjoys helping me remember what I forgot.

There are three Brazilian Jiu Jitsu schools near my home. When I feel I’ve adequately got my chops back, I plan on further my education under one of those instructors.

That, basically, is my jiu jitsu story.

The Master

There are people who do nothing wrong, say nothing wrong, but thinks wrongly like there’s no tomorrow. To this day there hasn’t been a single human being who didn’t think wrongly. I am even trying to correct that in myself, not to think bad things anymore …

Death? Why fear death? I don’t need anything, I don’t have anything, I don’t want anything. I think it’s silly for somebody to be scared of dying. One should be afraid of being born.

~Helio Gracie Interiew


Austin Powers
Only two things scare me and one of them is nuclear war.

Basil Exposition
What’s the other?

Austin Powers
Carnies. Circus folk. Nomads, you know. Smell like cabbage. Small hands.