When I was in high school, I somehow acquired the ignoble honor
of being the most picked on boy in school. I don't know what cause this - I was not small
and didn't look like the traditional guy getting sand kicked in the face in the Charles
Atlas ads. When I showed up at North Dallas High School, it wasn't two days before I had
been threatened or challenged by several upperclassmen. This happened over and over
throughout high school, which usually ended with me getting coerced into a fight. There
was one time where I was at a basketball game and a man in front of me turned around and
hit me in the face. It turned out that the person next to me had repeatedly hit the guy in
the shoulder every time he got up to cheer, but the man thought I was the culprit. One
time I was walking out of a hotel with three guys, when the one in the middle was
antagonizing the one on the side opposite me. The one on the end tried to slug the one in
the middle and hit me right in the face.
The irony of all this is that all those guys that
egged me into a fight were boxers, and some very good boxers. The only problem with their
bravado was that they didn't know that I was a wrestler and had participated in amateur
grappling many years at the YMCA. This was in an era before wrestling was a school sport
and I was the only boy in Dallas under 19 that knew how to wrestle (at least that I knew
of). The fights would all go the same - they would swing and I would take them down, turn
them on their fronts and pummel them on the backs of their heads until they gave up.
During all those fights, I never got hit, except possibly glancing blows on the top of the
head. Unfortunately, every time another boxer heard this, they wanted to try their hand
and I was faced with another challenge, usually by someone that was bigger and tougher and
better boxer than the last. In one night, I had five fights, two times with a truck
driver, two times with a group of four guys and again when I caught one of the four guys
alone. Needless to say, I didn't do well against the four guys together, and still have
scars on the back of my head from a bowling pin one of them had. You might ask why I
fought the four guys twice -- and that is hard to answer without admitting I was stupid.
After the first beating, I rounded up a bunch of friends and went after the culprits.
my friends saw the bowling pins they fled post haste, leaving me to fend for myself again.
After high school, I decided to make friends with the world and somehow
the challenges stopped, and I found little use for my wrestling skill. Then one night in a
hard style Japanese karate class in Los Angeles, there was a visiting Nidan (second
degree) black belt teaching us how to fight against multiple opponents. I was chosen,
along with several other white belts to attack this Nidan and see what we could do. He
would not hit us hard, but when we got hit, we were scored dead. I simply got behind the
Nidan, wrestled him to the floor and, on his stomach, he was unable to do anything. After
three repeats of this activity, I was pulled out and told I couldn't participate anymore.
The senior student said that it was disrespectful and I was told to forget this type of
activity, if I wanted to learn karate. I actually felt humiliated about this redressing.
By the time I started teaching karate, I had basically put
grappling in the back of my mind. The only time I used it was that sometimes when I tested
students for their black belt, I would tell them to attack me as the last part of their
test. I was not trying to embarrass them, only to show them that here they were, black
belts, and now had to really start learning to protect themselves. Other than this, I had
put grappling aside. There was just too much left to master in karate, much less worrying
about how to fit ground fighting into the arts. The only time I had to use it in the last
few years was at a kickboxing seminar when a black belt opponent popped me in the mouth
after the referee called break. It made me so mad, I tackled him, picked him up, slammed
him on the floor and incapacitated him showing him how he had no ability to do anything.
He screamed and hollered, but could do nothing until I let him up. Our affray cooled down
when we both realized that we were not taking advantage of the entrance fee for the
seminar. He continued to castigate me, until the seminar was over and he came over and
acknowledged that he was effortless to do anything on the floor.
There have been three major upheavals in the martial arts since
the 1950s. Originally, the oriental masters were invited over to the US by servicemen that
had taken karate in Okinawa, Taiwan, or Okinawa. While many different styles flourished,
the basic ingredients were generally the same -- kicks and punches in a linear fashion.
Then, sometime about 1968, Bruce Lee stood up at the Long Beach International Karate
tournament and challenged any martial artists to real fights. He and his newly developed
eclectic style, Jeet Kune Do, revolutionized the martial arts. Later, kickboxing added a
new dimension, with the non-contact fighting replaced by all out aggression and full hand
and feet pads. A few years later, pressure point Tuite came on the scene with Master Oyata
demonstrating the ability to knock someone out with light blows to the nerves in the body.
Then, a few years ago, the loss of a plane ticket turned the
martial arts community on its ear, like nothing before. Rorian Gracie was visiting
relatives in Los Angeles from Rio de Janerio and he lost his airplane ticket. He was
befriended by someone that found out that Rorian was a martial arts Jui Jitsu instructor
in Brazil. In exchange, Rorian agreed to show him some of his skills and a new era in
martial arts was born. Rorian was the grandson of a Scotsman that went to Brazil to live.
A Japanese master taught Rorian's ancestor how to do judo and jui Jitsu. After the
Japanese master left, the Scotsman used his head to utilize and improve what he had
learned to be effective in real street fights. As I related in the story above of my high
school days, boxers and fist fighters never respect grapplers and the elder Gracie was
challenged many times, always unsuccessfully. His opponent would take a punch, Gracie
would duck and grapple him to the floor and proceed to put him into submission holds. What
he had learned was that if you choke someone for 8 seconds, they will pass out. There is
nothing more debilitating that to wake up and see you opponent hovering over you. Gracie
also perfected the arm bar, where you grab a guys hand, put your feet over their shoulder
and lean back and try to wrench their shoulder socket apart. Chokes and arm bars have a
common denominator -- they hurt bad enough such that the opponent will give up-- no matter
how big they are, and how small you are.
The Gracie family started conducting national tournaments in
Brazil, where there were no rules and no pads, except that you couldn't poke in the eyes
or bite. The Gracie school took on challengers year after year. No matter how many times
they won, there would always be a puncher/striker that would think that they could beat
the Gracie boys, who usually weighed under 180 pounds.
When Rorian published his no-rules challenge to ANY martial
artist in the Black Belt magazine, many people came to his dojo to accept the challenge.
One kick boxer was so humiliated that he required that his face be blacked out on the
video tape. Then, Art Davies got involved with the Gracies and helped promote The Ultimate
Fighting Challenge (UFC). The UFC would be conducted inside of a 20 foot octagon shaped
ring with fenced in walls 5 feet tall. Two opponents would enter the octagon and fight
until one gave up or was knocked out. The entire tournament consisting of 16 contestants
was conducted in one night, which might mean that the winner might have to fight several
of the bare-knuckle fights in a two hour time frame. Also, there was no weight limit -
there were contestants from sumo, judo, boxing, karate and the weights ranged from 175
pounds to 400 pounds. Ironically, the fighters that weighed over 375 pounds usually were
defeated within seconds. In the first four UFC tournaments, Rorian's younger brother,
Royce Gracie won with either chokes or arm bars.
When I saw the Gracies fighting, I knew immediately why they had
an advantage -- that of grappling over kicking and punching. However, it was not until I
trained with the Gracies that I fully understood what they had done. When you see Royce
Gracie, you feel sorry for him. He has skinny arms, almost no chest and his butt is not
big enough to keep his belt up. What the Gracies do to make up for this lacking of size is
capitalize on leverage. Archimedes said that if he had a lever long enough, he could lift
the moon. The Gracies have become masters in arranging their bodies into levers such that
their chokes threaten to squeeze their opponent's head off and arm bars or leg bars
provide the same pain at the racks did in medieval times. I outweighed Royce by 40 pounds
but he was able to play around with me like a baby, without using a lot of effort. When I
felt his choke or arm bar, I would have to tap out immediately.
For photos, see
Out With Royce Gracie
BJJ schools have sprung up all over the US. I used to travel to
Los Angeles to workout but now there are three schools in Orlando. I worked out
a couple of years
with Marcio Simas, a fourth degree black belt in BJJ. I was as proud of passing a BJJ blue
belt test as I was on advanced karate black belt tests.
There have been cases where punchers/kickers have won
the UFC matches. However, for the most part, it was because they spent a long
time learning the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) tactics.