February 19, 2016

Royce, you have nothing to prove. Why fight Ken Shamrock?

With less than 24 hours until fight time, this is the question that’s on the minds of so many MMA fans. As a Royce Gracie Network affiliate school, the fast answer for us is that we remain absolutely confident in the effectiveness of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. If the man who proved that to the world in the first UFC wants to get back in to the cage, he gets back in to the cage. Who are we to even posit the question?

But, we also know Royce at what might be a less mythological level than the typical MMA fan. We’ve trained with him, attended his seminars, been tested by him. A few of us have even had him tie on our black belts. And as phenomenal a jiu jitsu practitioner and instructor as Royce is, we also know him for his tremendous generosity, patience, and sense of humor. (Many people are surprised to learn what an absolute cut-up Royce can be; you really don’t know him until you’ve been the victim of one of his practical jokes.)

Familiar with him in that much more human perspective, we could risk asking out loud: “Why?” Just as quickly, however, we have our answer, which is rooted in a philosophy, a way of life, that Royce and his family have fearlessly embodied since the earliest garage challenges, or even earlier in the arenas of Brazil. For all the adulation given to the Gracie family, their jiu jitsu itself is an art of fighting and self defense that was formed by constant application. It’s a way of fighting that earned distinction because it was constantly being tested, and constantly triumphant. The answer, then, is an always ready, affirmative response to that constant test state. No isn’t unacceptable, it’s unthinkable.

If there are few rules in today’s contests, there were none in those earlier fights. If today fighters can earn big payouts, sponsorships and celebrity, yesterday’s challenges were all but unseen. Just a few grainy hours of video taped footage attest to what the first Gracie Jiu Jitsu fighters had to demonstrate. Royce and his brothers and cousins were formed in that crucible, which makes fighting not the family business, but rather the very stuff that defines the family itself.

I recall attending one of my first Royce seminars, a freshly minted blue belt sitting on packed mats, exhausted after about an hour of non-stop sparring. Before ending the session, Royce took a few minutes for Q&A. One participant began asking him if he would fight this opponent or that opponent, naming some of the up-and-coming combatants in MMA/NHB. Royce held up his hand to silence the inquiry. The room was quiet, and he seemed to savor the dramatic pause. Then he smiled, and said: “I’d fight them all, man. I’m a fighter. It’s what I do.”

That is the only answer.


Check out Unrivaled: Royce Gracie for a closer look.

by J. Ferrari

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