I recently shared my experience visiting the Gracie Academy in Beverly Hills and getting to roll with Ryron Gracie.(If you missed it check it out HERE)
I believe you can learn something every time you roll regardless of the skill level of your opponent. This requires focus and being in the present. Like any other sport, if you train with someone better than you, it’s an especially important opportunity to be aware of what is happening so you can learn. The only caution is to ensure you don’t focus so much on your opponent that you forget to play your own game. Here are some of the notable takeaways I got from my roll with Helio Gracie’s grandson:
- Always keep your guard up: Ryron’s style can lull you into a sense of security. He was more aggressive than I expected, which I really liked. His string of attacks towards the end of the match revealed his capability of rapid fire submissions and that he had another gear of attack making him all the more dangerous to go up against.
- Make your opponent uncomfortable: He said he liked to “bother” his opponents, whether by pressure, speed, not letting them get what they want, or even by pinning their wrist down to annoy them. By getting them to think about those little nuisances he distracts them from playing their game.
- Attack Physically and Psychologically: Many people have seen the videos of Rickson Gracie doing breathing exercises. Ryron had his own form of breathing while sparring and it often turned into a growl. He explained the concept was to hear yourself breath out to remind yourself to breath in. By being intentional about breathing you help yourself stay better oxygenated. Additionally, the growl can be an effective psychological tactic to keep your opponent worried of an eminent attack and wear them down mentally.
- Technique over everything: If he got tired he didn’t show it. He is so efficient whether defending or attacking that he conserves a ton of energy. Our fight probably lasted 10 minutes and even as the intensity picked up to a sprint, he didn’t fatigue.
It’s always memorable when you get to roll with the big names of our martial art and this was especially enjoyable because I walked away with more than just a few new techniques. I hope these concepts help you when you train and I’ll see you on the mats!
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