October 22, 2013

"Every Move Works. Every Move Sucks" - A Weekend With Rener Gracie in Seattle, WA.

95 Strong Friday Night
At first I glazed over the comment just like everyone else; "Every move works.  Every move sucks."  It is not Rener Gracie's style to pause and wait for effect so he continued explaining the technique, but as the days pass I cannot shake this simply profound statement that has greater context.  He was paving the road of self discovery via the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and most of us just laughed it off.  The greatest technique one takes away from a Rener Gracie seminar is not a "technique" at all, but rather a philosophy on how to approach Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and ultimately life!

Our great friend Craig Hanaumi once again hosted Rener Gracie, grandson of Helio Gracie (founder of modern day BJJ) at Interlake HS in Bellevue, WA. The workshops included a Bullyproofing for the kiddos, Triple Threat Mastery, Arm Bar Mastery, and Foot Lock Mastery.  I attended all except for the kids seminar, and by Saturday evening my cup raneth over!  Rener forewarned everyone that one of his seminars is equivalent to months in a regular class.  No truer of a statement has been made as the information, while congruent, came at a steady flow.

All photos courtesy of Craig Hanuami
Rener is a charmer and guides his charges with a sharp wit and stearn voice, weaving through the crowd (which peaked at 95 on Friday night!!) ensuring that each group got a once over by him.  If someone had a question or was not getting it, Rener would patiently walk them through the technique, and then make sure they repeated it correctly.  Principle based in his teaching made instructions easier to follow.

For example in the Triple Threat Seminar the overall theme was posture control, emphasizing breaking down your opponent and forcing them to expose their arm(s) inside of your guard.  This was the basis of the entire seminar and from this foundational principle we worked arm bars, triangles, and gi chokes.  The idea behind the "Triple Threat" being that one sequentially sets up the next, or in other words make the threat so real he offers an easier option attack wise.  

"The degree to which he (your opponent) blocks the choke is the degree he accepts the arm bar."  - Rener Gracie

This gives us insight into how Rener Gracie works.  Sure... we can go to a seminar and mimic the movements he does and teaches us, but to truly understand how he thinks / how he approaches training / his strategic game plan.  These are the aspects you start looking for as you progress higher in rank in BJJ, and for those who are ready to receive those lessons they are ripe for the picking at a Rener Gracie seminar!  It was at this point in the seminar someone asked about finishing the arm bar with the feet crossed or uncrosssed.  Rener answered with utmost honesty..."I have learned both ways.  Every move works, every move sucks."   His point is that we are set on the path of mastery by our teachers, but we must walk it alone.  I mean what do you say to Rener Gracie whom was taught by his father Rorion to cross the ankles, yet training with Rickson Gracie last year got him scolded for the same action.  No one man is right nor wrong.  We must find what works for us and more importantly WHY it works for us!

Rener is a hands on teacher who not only makes the rounds and answers questions, but will also suddenly test you and see if you can work the progression he just taught.  His philosophy is always geared towards learning, growing, improving, and really focusing on the positive of any bad situation.  This is where his teachings supercede the mat.  On the surface his comment after pinning an attendee in side control, "If you cannot escape its because you have not failed as much as I have" seems rather obvious.  But applying it to the no time limit, submission only match called life their seems to be a whole new connotation conveyed. 

Technically the information was top notch.  Again Rener gave us key points that were pivotal for the remainder of the seminar.  Such as the case with attaining the far side underhook during the arm attacks seminar.  Relying on predictable human behavior Rener guided us through a series of attacks that were essentially trouble shooting for how our opponent reacted to the far side underhook.  Combo's are key.  Always attacking with combinations!

Tightening up the footlock brought in the same amount of detail to such a misunderstood submission.  Rener talked about how to anatomically destroy the foot, and I will be honest the details he shared are game changers!  And again the strategy and minute details he offers... referring to not looking at the appendage you are about to attack, "If you look at it, you don't deserve it."  But also touching upon the deeper aspects of the gentle art where he addressed failure, and he said something very telling about the emotional aspect of BJJ.  "We often miss submissions because we are too invested emotionally!"  Let that marinade in your caffeinated infused brain this morn and apply it to the mat tonight. Think of the tension you cue off to your partner when attempting a submission.  We all get eager, impatient, and this energy is conveyed to those whom are sensitive enough to read it. 

What can I say that hasn't been said a thousand times about Rener Gracie and the amazing seminars he puts on all over the world year in and year out!?  I can honestly say there is not a single thing missing from one of his seminars and the only thing I am left desiring is merely a selfish desire of more one on one time to ask more detailed questions about my specific game.  I even learned a new term over the weekend... "perpindiculates."  That's right, as in "My opponent perpindiculates his hips to match mine."

Thank you so much to Craig for all your hard work and enthusiasm in the art of BJJ!  Also a big thanks to Andre my crazy Canadian friend and Jordan for partnering up with me.  And of course mucho gracias to Rener Gracie for more amazing lessons both on and off the mat. 

Keep It Playful, and Real! 


  1. You Jake, are a talented writer! That was an excellent run down of what was said/taught as well as what not said/taught!

    I'll be keeping an eye out for more of your musings~


    André Lannertone
    Inner Strength
    Mukilteo WA

    1. Thank you Andre! Follow my blog if you like!