One on one with Carlson Gracie Jr

Carlson Gracie Jr

It wasn't the first ocassion that son of legendary bjj coach Carlson Gracie Jr have visited Hungary but the first time for to have the great opportunity and honor to sit down for a one on one with the master. We'd like to thank master Mihály Sztraka, Gábor Fodor and Thor Gym Zugló for helping us making this happen. Carlson Gracie Jr on life lessons, teachig jiu jitsu, his busy schedule and more!

Q: You started bjj at a very early age but probably you've seen wherever you go that lot of people come into the world of jiu jitsu later in their life yet bjj can turn into a lifestyle really fast. Why do you think that is? Why bjj can be so compelling to people?

A: I believe people live in a world with too much restrictions and although there are some in bjj as well, like the rules in general, the rules of your Academy still it grants you some more freedom. People who start bjj can fight 100%, release the pressure and feel they belong to somewhere. This makes them happy and interested in the game and in improving.

If you want to get to the top you have to train which means showing up as much as you can, get quality training, food, sleep, etc. There are many requirements for becoming good and if you want to meet them it has to be your lifestyle.

Q: On getting to the top. We talked to Roger last year and he mentioned something along the lines that people nowadays lack motivation a bit to truly become the best they can be. He said that about 5% who want to become black belts and maybe even less who want a career in bjj. Based on your experience how do you see this question?

A: Well England is not that big and there might be lot of competition. A bit too much for the country's size. In the US it's different - you have to travel a lot which costs you money. I live in Chicago so for example when my students have to fly to California that's not a cheap trip. As a hobby it can be expensive. But I try to motivate people.

We have local tournaments in Chicago but the big ones are in California. If it's in their blood and it's something they want to do I'll try to push them and help towards that but I can't tell anyone they must compete. It comes with expenses too and unfortunately there are not many sponsors.

Q: There seems to be an argument between the fans of Submission only and regular tournaments where points, advantages decide. The differences are growing and there's also this questions what would work in an MMA or in a real, self-defense situation. What's your take on these topics?

A: Regular competition is more strategic. The term "submission-only" is a bit vague as they have a time limit. If you submit the guy in 20 minutes then you win. Otherwise it's a draw. I don't consider such rules as submission only. It would be submission only really without the time limit and if you catch someone or they get tired and quit. So the term is a bit vague.

It's good to motivate people to take a new step, do something different where you don't have to care about points. In a regular tournament you need to focus on the moves and how many points they worth, the strategy while in a submission only it's all about the submission. Still if people get tired and know they can't catch the other guy they can still stall, play games and then it can get boring.

I've been doing this for a long time and as I see it people don't really focus on the basics, on the foundations of jiu jitsu but try to do all kinds of new moves which can be good but you don't see many guys who can actually fight for real. Jiu jitsu is a tool for all kinds of situations. Sport jiu jitsu is a completely different thing. It changes a lot. They have a lot of new strategies, they have advantages and such. Many people teach this sport version and how to win by advantages but they lack the self defense aspect. They cannot defend themselves.

Q: Do you follow any of the sub-only tournaments by the way?

A: No, I don't follow them. I usually hear the results but I'm so busy with teaching when I have some free time I'm with my family. But I like teaching so I try to do it as much as I can. Sometimes I decide to watch something but then I forget. A lot of my students likes watching them though. Also because I travel a lot for the seminars sometimes it wouldn't fit with my schedule as I could be in a different time zone.

If there'd be a Metamoris right now for example I would need to wake up at 4am here in Hungary. You can watch it the next day online but by the time I usually already know the results which would take the fun out of it for me. A lot of students follow the tournaments and they check Youtube as well for learning things.

Q: Does it happen a lot that someone tries to pick up something online and you have to correct them or explain that it might not be the best idea?

A: I think it's hard to learn something that way. Usually they show you some moves but it's not really explained thoroughly or well why they used a move, what position they are in or why they're in that position. Lot of people simply try to promote themselves. I don't think it's the right way to do it.

Q: With this topic we came to an important thing - coaching. What's a common thing in your and your father's methods or what makes you different from others in your opinion?

A: In my opinion you have to teach everything. I try to teach as much as I can but with some limitations. You know some people try to pass on so much everyone gets confused and nobody understands a thing. If you focus on a few things everytime people will be happier.

The difference between me and others is the experience I think. I always teach the basics, try to give a good foundation. But my students love everything including this new sytle. And you have to learn to be able to teach you know.

Q: If you look back what's the biggest difference in teaching jiu jitsu to people nowadays and 10 years ago?

A: I'd say that 5-10 years ago there wasn't a big difference. Well 20 years for example.. There wasn't a big community of bjj practicioners. Before the UFC explosion we used to learn defending the name of brazilian jiu jitsu. We've learned all aspects including what works in Vale Tudo which was MMA before MMA with less restrictions. Back then we were training so anytime someone showed up for a fist fight or wanted to grapple we were ready. So that was back then.

Nowadays if you put some of these guys into a fight, an MMA fight for example they're going to pull guard and get smashed. There's a different mentality now. It's more of a business now than before. Schools popping up everywhere. The quality? I don't know. But they have followers, students you know.

Q: Now that you mentioned MMA many of the world’s premiere teams were directly related to your father's lineage such as ATT, Brazilian Top Team or Nova Uniao. Are you in contact with any of these teams?

A: Not personally. I think everyone is really busy nowadays. You know André Pederneiras, Ricardo Libório they are my friends but I haven't seen them in a long time. Last time I've seen Pederneiras for example was back in the The Ultimate Fighter House when Renan Barao was preparing to fight Urijah Faber. That's the last time I saw him. Liborio might be 15 years. Like I said we're all busy and the sport has grown into this enormous thing. It's everywhere.

I have my dad's whole lineage to take care of. I have to focus on my people and their training so that they'll become better and maybe one day I can retire. I can't even see my cousins lot ot times. Right now some of them are at the Mundials but I have to be here. I love my life in Chicago and I'm trying to slow down a bit but people keep calling. I guess I'm doing a good job.

Q: You mentioned this problem with time. Everyone is busy, everything happens lot faster than before. Do you think it became an issue when it comes to practicing jiiu jitsu as well that people want results too fast? What are the biggest mistakes you've seen over the years when it comes to training?

A: Actually there's a different issue, a problem. Many people focus on the fitness, the cardio aspects of bjj, strength and you see many of these people taking steroids. More and more guys are getting caught. When I was young we took a spoonful of honey before competing to enhance our performance and look at it now. People doing cycles with steroids, trying to tricks the tests. If you become a champion and famous you're going to make money otherwise you won't.

Q: To switch gears a bit as you mentioned how busy are you do you have to say no sometimes to seminar, etc requests? How do you schedule everything?

A: It happened few times but usually the request is for like whenever I have time. Regarding scheduling I do everything myself. I'd need an assistant I guess but I do everything myself. Everyone is different and if someone else would be doing it for me they'd might think sometimes that I'm tired and would cancel things for me or say no. I know my limits so I can control my schedule better than anyone. But I travel a lot. Most of the weekends I'm heading somewhere. Unless there's a big tournament in Chicago.

[gallery type="slideshow" link="none" ids="6371,6372,6374,6373" orderby="rand"]

Q: How do you see the Hungarian scene and the students here? What's the vision for this school?

A: Mihály Sztraka, who's a black belt under me is doing a great job. This is my 8th or 10th visit as I started coming to Hungary in around 2008-2009 and the the team is really growing. Everybody is working hard and they're achiving good results in tournaments repeatedly. Everytime I come over there are some new students, new faces.

People training hard and the quality is getting better and better. This might be not just the biggest team in Hungary but in this part of Europe. It's a great group where people support each other, they have a lot of respect going on and everyone is seriously dedicated to get better along with the whole team. Hungarians are just so tough. They're just awesome. Every time I come here it makes me really happy.

Q: Do you have a morning routine?

A: I wake up and try to stretch a little bit, drink a cup of coffee then I'm off to the Academy. In Chicago I teach 5-6:30 in the morning. Then I go home, pick up the kids and take them to the school. When I get back home again I have a few hours and then I'm back to the Academy. That's what I usually do. I wish I'd have a hobby. I'd need to sit down to think about it as in Chicago there's no beach which means no surfing and there are no mountains either.

Q: Do you have a favorite book maybe? Something that influenced you and you maybe even give to others?

A: I don't have much time to read anymore but the last one I really remember from a few years ago was about Genghis Khan. I should read books but I'm too busy teaching. Sometimes I check tv shows online but I don't even watch movies anymore.

Q: Your dad was one of the finest Jiu Jitsu coaches to have ever lived. Have you ever felt overwhelming pressure because of him, the Gracie name and to fill his shoes? What helped you through that?

A: Just to born into this family is already a lot of pressure. Everybody is expecting that you'll be doing good. Also always training people to beat you.. You have to be in top shape. So being a Gracie is already a big pressure but to be Carlson's son is even more. What helped me through is that my dad never patted my back you know. He looked at me and said "You did good" and that's it.

If you say too much it can get into your head. There are ways to get better, tougher. You just have to train. That's the way my dad taught me. if you're a champion sitting somewhere just remember that someone else out there is training, rolling right now to beat you.

Q: On a closing note what advice would you give to people just starting in bjj or young practicioners out there?

A: The most important thing for the guys who want to become good in jiu jitsu is to follow their master. The one you chose to be your teacher. Follow the instructions and be humble enough to understand no matter how good you become you'll always need a teacher.

I've been doing this my whole life but I'm always learning. It doesn't matter how many times you become a champion it's not just because of you but who's behind you. That's the most important thing. No matter how good you've become it's because someone spent time on you and helped you to become who you are. You are never the champion by yourself.