Igor Gracie Seminar (07-09-2011)

Igor Gracie Seminar (07-09-2011)

Igor Gracie brazilian jiu jitsu seminar

Today was a very special day at Renzo Gracie Pittsburgh. This morning around 11:30 a.m., twenty two jiu-jitsu students assembled at the academy in Lawrenceville and eagerly awaited the arrival of Igor Gracie; a member of the legendary family who pioneered the sport and art we happily devote so much of our time to. The moment he walked through the door, an empowering aura washed over the room. It instantly felt as though all of us there had realized we were part of something much greater than ourselves. Right away I knew the students attending, including myself, were in for an enlightening experience that would forever impact the way we practice jiu-jitsu.

Igor began the seminar by giving us a lesson on maintaining side control. First, he broke down the hand positioning of the head-and-arm cross-side; explaining the importance of using the shoulder to “choke” the opponent’s neck and force the head to turn away. Done properly, the technique makes it extremely difficult for the opponent on the bottom to effectively bridge or escape due to the contortion being placed on his/her spine. Igor then taught us how to react to the knee being driven in and posting up the arms, two common escapes from the cross-side. At the beginning, I remember him saying there is no such thing as a backward step in jiu-jitsu. Much like in warfare, once a side secures a valuable strategic position on the battlefield, it makes no sense to ever give it up.

After establishing this foundation, Igor moved on to teaching one of the most powerful attacks in the art: the kimura. He demonstrated a version of this technique that linked right from the transitional head-and-arm to head-and-hip drill we practiced earlier. It involved moving to a north/south position on top while scooping the opponents arm and using the legs and hips to posture him or her up onto their side and into the attacking double wrist-lock position. From here, Igor added in an interesting supplement to the technique. He pointed out that if the opponent were to leave his or her bottom arm out in the open, it should immediately be scraped back by the attackers leg. This destroys any remaining defenses the person on the bottom may have left. Once I drilled a few of these with my partner, I was amazed at how big a difference this little tip made. Afterwards, Igor showed us two more attacks: one was an armbar that stemmed from the kimura and the other was a crafty collar choke in which the opponents own belt was used to trap his or her arm; leaving them with little defensive options. Next, it was time to leave our sweaty kimonos behind as we switched to the nogi portion of this exciting seminar.

To start things off, Igor declared that every student of RGA should have a good guillotine, because that was always Renzo’s signature move. Much to Lance’s dismay, Igor chose him to be his teaching partner as he demonstrated a crushing series of chokes. First, he taught the basics of the technique on the ground from half-guard. This included making sure the choke was being applied on the same side the legs were locked and binding the arms BEFORE laying down to finish. However, above all else, Igor emphasized using the shoulder to connect the elbow to the ribs when performing the technique. He explained this was the most important part of the guillotine because the vice-like choking power comes from using the entire upper body, not just the arms. Igor went on to show two more versions of the attack: one from a standing clinch position and one with the arm trapped. I had the most trouble with the arm-in guillotine because it required a technical precision and sensitivity that could only come with frequent practice. It’s definitely something I look forward to improving in the future. In addition, we practiced keeping the guillotine locked in while the opponent rolled around on the mat attempting various methods of escape. It was a very dynamic technique.

After Igor extensively covered the guillotine choke, the seminar had just about reached its end. To wrap things up, the second-degree black belt explained how it was more important to be taught just a few moves in one session and be able to drill them heavily than to be exposed to numerous techniques with little time to practice them. I couldn’t believe how fast the hours flew by. Learning from Igor Gracie was an experience I will benefit from immensely and never forget. My favorite thing about the seminar was how friendly and down to earth Igor was to everyone. He seemed less like a celebrity and more like an average guy who works hard every day to achieve his dreams; something we’re all trying to do. Not to mention, his teaching methods are amazing. I can recall just about everything he taught today even down to the finest details and I never wrote anything down. He is truly made for this type of thing. Finally, I remember Igor saying something that really stuck with me. He mentioned that often times in jiu-jitsu there isn’t a right way or a wrong way to do things; it all depends on what fits your individual self. I think that’s something we can all apply not only to this art but to the way we live our lives as well. All in all, I’m sure every single person who attended this event at Renzo Gracie Pittsburgh had a great time today and came out of that building a better martial artist than he or she was going in. Thank you, Igor!

– Dino