Rickson Gracie, who along with Royce is the most famous of the Brazilian fighting family, was at a BJJ tournament in Portugal with his son Kron when it emerged that his father Helio Gracie, Grandmaster of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, had died. Here he reveals how he felt when he heard the news, and what he believes his father’s legacy will be.
How did you react to the news that your father had died?
At first it was with shock, that sense of physical loss of part of the company, the smile, the hug …We cried a little, but through this immediate wave of surprise and pain we saw in a more general perspective, that our great Master lived life to the full.
He not only lived 95 years with health – even more or less about five days ago he was in good health – he had never entered a hospital. He left a legacy, a treasure, completed all the dreams he had in mind, both for him and the children he involved. He had a life that one can only be thankful for. I wish one day to get there myself.
So, the death was not something shocking, we must expect that to happen one day, nobody lives forever.
In a bit more spiritual sense, I think he became a really old body that was released as he was tired, and now he will be there watching the fights of his grandsons, will be driving and developing within a spiritual way, the continuity of this commitment that we, who love the Jiu-Jitsu, are taking forward. We continue his life and keep it alive through our Jiu-Jitsu.
How did you feel, being at a jiu jitsu tournament in Portugal and not being able to be present at his funeral?
I felt happy to be here, at least bringing his grandson for what he always loved and always did. If I were at a party in the Bahamas, or walking around on vacation, I would have felt like I had a toothpick stuck in my throat.
But other than that, I am happy knowing he is in heaven dancing with family and friends who are gone and is enjoying all this party here, as he wanted to be remembered with a party. [Helio’s will insisted that his funeral be a party instead of a sombre affair].
What is the message you send to the fans after the death of your father?
For fans who are fighting or competing and practicing the sport, to continue practicing, because the teacher will live within the kimono for you. For fans and friends who do not practice, you can be sure that the great master lived a full and happy life, and that love is exactly the reason of our existence.
I think he just left the earthly body, but Hélio Gracie has always been and always will be the creator of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the guy who really made a difference, and that is the fullest expression of what we do today.
What are your plans for 2009?
A seminar tour around the world for the first six months, USA, Japan and so on, then back to Brazil to cover areas in São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Florianópolis. I will continue this sequence, as I believe that my service does not fall within the flag of just one country, I see myself as a reference material [encyclopaedia] of Jiu-Jitsu.
With many fans and so many people who want to learn my art, I am committed to raising the level, committed to provide a complete picture of Jiu-Jitsu, which is not only competition. It has a psychological part, which I think is the formation of man through the practice of Jiu-Jitsu.
The rest of my life will be led on this basis, committed to this service. I have a light inside of me that really began to shine from the time that I retired from fighting and I’m dedicated to serve [the world] through Jiu-Jitsu. This is something that gives me nothing but joy.
Original interview by Tatame Magazine
Translated for Fighters Only by Carlos Ramalho Calado