Conversation with a Master: Mestre Royler Gracie
Master Royler Gracie
This trip comes at a time of collective evolution. I've chosen to evolve past Brampton Muay Thai and create something bigger and more meaningful for the community at large. I am not by myself anymore. I have a team. This isn’t just about Muay Thai anymore—I now work alongside doctors, therapists, trainers and martial artists who believe in this vision of contributing to the communities well being.
Each of my teammates contribute to the community in their particular vocations method. Muay Thai is a part of that sense of service, and there is still room for more.
A recent part of that vision, is helping my friend Jose's dream come true of being a full time martial artist. He wants to do in Jiu Jitsu, what I do in Muay Thai. So for the last 5 months we've worked diligently in the background to make this dream come true. Essentially, it was a matter of sharing my views on what a Martial Artist is, and how that becomes ones career:
Martial Artists have a full time career when the way they present their craft becomes of use to the community.
I believe, a modern day martial artist should be no different than the intent of the elder masters: leading a community to a higher standard of morals and ability. It's more than about being able to create champions, set memberships and deliver abs. It's about adding to the existing community, then multiplying that creation over time.
These are major concepts to absorb and is best learned by experiencing it ourselves. So I felt we needed to visit a master in their element, not just a seminar.
So we booked a trip to the Mecca of Jiu Jitsu: San Diego, California to meet and talk with Royler Gracie.
We were originally scheduled to have a semi private session with Master Royler (Myself, Dr. Don, and Jose) but we decided it be better for Jose to have that time to himself with the Master Royler and just connect. This was for him, not us.
So as the session began, Doc and I stood on the side lines just taking in Gracie Humaita dojo of San Diego.
As we looked from afar they spoke briefly prior to changing for training and seemed to just be connecting. What they spoke about remained between the two of them. As we anticipated them to get changed, Master Royler gets up and makes his way toward us.
He says (in that awesome Brazilian accent), 'Guys let's get a coffee!'
Doc and I look at each other with that 'is this life right now' type of incredulity.
As we hit up the local Starbucks, Master Royler buys everyone drinks--and I'm amazed at his openness. He would have every reason to be limited in his accessibility but here he is going out of his way to welcome us.
Note to self--Definitely something I need to improve on. If he behaves that way, I have no reason to be anything less.
As we settle in, I am absolutely ecstatic. It isn't everyday a master chooses to sit down and share time with you.
You have to understand that those rare moments with a Master are not to be used to thump ones chest, or to be opportunistic and leverage in any way.
It is a pure learning opportunity in an open way and one learns only with what is asked--
So ask questions worth asking.
I couldn't lose this moment with small talk and casual conversation. We didn't travel all this way to shoot the shit. We were in search of a master and that's what I was going to do: be curious.
So as formalities evaporated and rapport fortified, I asked him:
'Master Royler, how has Jiu Jitsu evolved throughout the years?'
MRG: Too much emphasis on Sport. When my father taught us Jiu Jitsu, it was only about to defense my self. Not about winning. He'd always say, 'you don't wanna go to the gym, ok no problem. But remember, one of these days you gonna ask your brother to come save you from something, what you gonna do then?' So for me I want to do that for the community too. Most people don't want to be champions or anything. They just want to be strong, and not scared. Sport is good and ok too, but you should be doing and teaching martial art for self defense first, and sport later.
'Your father is an absolute legend in the Martial Art world, what was he like growing up?'
MRG: <fondly laughing and reminsicing> You know when we all used to go to competitions, he'd give the winners 10 bucks and the losers 20 bucks hahahhaha! We were like, 'why the loser get more money?' I know that was his way of taking the pressure of winning and getting us to just focus on Jiu Jitsu...not win or lose.
He always liked to be in school...helping solve the students troubles. He would talk to the students and ask them why they are having such a hard time and coach them through their struggles. He just wanted people to improve, and be strong. He didn’t want anyone to be a pushover. So, he always loved being there and I like to do the same. I like to just be in the academy, helping the students, or even taking class myself.
BUT, he also told us to hit back if someone hit us. He didn't say to hit anyone, he says hit back. My father always wanted us to defense ourselves, not be weak.
Master Royler grew silent for a moment, as if to drift and I realized how much he missed his father. So I thought perhaps this might not be a subject to stay on. So I chose to ask him a question that only someone of his stature could truly answer. Mainly because I am in deep search of a master to learn from—they are a rare breed these days. I was very nervous asking, because he'd either view it as absurd, or important. There was no middle line.
I asked him: 'Master Royler, what in your view would you define a 'Martial Artist' if in fact there even is such a thing?'
He didn't answer. And actually looked downward. And I began to panic because I thought I pissed him off or offended him in some way. 'Shit shit shit' is what I thought. But then he looked up and said:
MRG: You know, I'm no fighter. I don't consider myself a fighter. My father just teach me to defense myself. So now, I'm not scared of no one. Big guy, strong guy, whatever I not scared. I look at some guys sometimes and say, 'yeah you big...' but then I look at his neck and say 'oh, he got a long neck, let's see what I can catch him with hehehe...then I look at his feet and realize, 'oh! He got beautiful feet' hahahha!'
I think the little kids should feel that way too. No one have to feel weak or scared and that what Jiu Jitsu did for me.
But also, people forget that BJJ is a lifestyle. It’s about balance. For me, I go surf, take class (childishly grinning loving the fact that he is who is he is and still just being a student), you know I like to take my gi and tie it around my belt like a backpack and go to the academy and help students. Sometimes my instructors will say ‘Master Royler! would you like to teach?’ I always say no because I just want to enjoy learning. BJJ is about balance.
Sometimes I see champions hold onto being a champion for too long. Like holding onto a grip for too long when you roll, you have to know when to let go. You have to know when competition is over and when life changes. Thats what I mean about flow with the go mean. You have to know when to change, when to let go, when to keep. So, I am not a champion or fighter. I’m a teacher, I’m a student, I’m a father and I just like to surf.
You guys wanna go to the gun store?
So how did Royler answer my question?
When I reflect, he communicated that being a ‘Martial Artist’ is not an esoteric thing. It is a very simple and tangible thing:
A desire for a teacher to make their students less vulnerable, paired with a desire for the student to not be weak.
But in a larger sense, Martial Artistry is simply about understanding how the circumstances and frequencies have changed around one's life and our ability to change alongside with it. It's simply about being present. Master Royler simply defines himself based on what he is at the very moment in which he lives and behaving as such. Too many times, our behaviour is shaped by old experiences that we hold onto too tightly and force them into life frequencies that are irrelevant to do so.
It is easy to define Master Royler as a martial artist based on his accomplishments as an athlete in the past. But in his mind, that is not how he defines himself. His definition of a Martial Artist comes from the present, what he is, at this very moment (a father, a teacher, and surfer).
The world of Martial Art is a commune of mentorship. Men, teaches boys about manhood. Women, teaching girls about womanhood. And that is a life long pursuit and why we must always search for masters. Our sense of adulthood is always superseded by a larger view of adulthood by one who has 'gone before'.
It's for this reason that I stay in search of masters. I hope you do the same.
Kru Yai Nick Bautista