On many guy’s BJJ bucket list is a private lesson with Master Rickson Gracie.
Jack Taufer, a black belt under Kama Jiu-jitsu (David Kama himself a Rickson Gracie black belt) had the opportunity to do a private lesson with Master Rickson and I got to talk about the experience with Jack before and after the training.
Jack attended the private with a brown belt named Ty Humphrey who owns and runs Ty Humphrey Jiu-Jitsu in Victoria, Australia.
Jiu-Jitsu Times: What does a black belt ask in a private with Rickson?
Jack Taufer: That is an interesting question. The whole week leading up to my lesson, I was thinking “What I should ask?” I wondered if I should focus on new moves or review and refine things I already know.
I have spent enough time with Rickson to know that he can easily refine any move or position, so I won’t go wrong asking any question. That said, I don’t know what I don’t know. Jiu-Jitsu is a very large body of knowledge. Not to mention, Rickson has refined even the most basic moves so I don’t even know what I don’t know on basic moves. I just felt like I was in a win/win situation, getting to get some of his wisdom.
Thankfully for me, at the beginning of our lesson Rickson asked us if I wanted to cover specific moves or cover concepts to better help me be an instructor. I thought about it for a moment and decided I would get much more out of the lesson if I could better understand concepts that I could apply to all of my jiu-jitsu versus adding 10 specific moves. My friend Ty agreed as well.
I am sure anything I asked would have been eye-opening.
Jiu-Jiu Times: Why those ‘basic’ principles and not advanced sport positions like lapel guard or heel hook entries?
Jack Taufer: Advanced positions and moves work because they are built on fundamentals. There are basics to heel hooks, there are basics to baribolos, there are basics to worm guard… etc. However, there are things even more basic to each of those basics. Not many moves work if you are off balance. Not many work if you are getting punched in the face, if there is too much slack, if you are not at the correct angle, etc. Also, many of the sport only moves will never work in an actual fight.
This is opinion, but it seems to me when people are missing the very core basics like weight distribution and posture, they tend to get into very complicated solutions. For example, to solve how to stay on mount you might need 75 different counters for every possible thing your opponent might do. Oddly, if you have good weight distribution and proper posture you only need five or so.
How is it that Kron’s BJJ works in the gi, no-gi, and MMA at the highest level? Everyone knows Roger Gracie is going to mount you and then collar choke you. Why can’t most people stop him? Because: basics and fundamentals.
Because of the above, I felt it was better worth my time to focus on principles rather on lots of moves.
Jiu-Jitsu Times: As a black belt have you not already mastered the basic techniques or principles?
Jack Taufer: Not even close! About a year after getting my black belt I realized I didn’t know anything. I am constantly working on my basics. You would think that after 19 years of jiu-jitsu I would know how to sit in mount. I didn’t until a one-on-one session with Rickson three years ago. He adjusted various aspects of my posture and weight distribution in mount and it made all the difference in the world! Many people now tell me they have never felt a mount like that. They are shocked.
I might get a lot of negative feedback for saying this, but I PERSONALLY feel black belt is where one starts to really learn. It is a very high level of knowledge but compared to the Greats it is just the start. For me black belt was a new beginning.
Going back to the previous question, the main reason I decided to ask about principles and not just focus on specific advanced techniques or more sport oriented techniques is because Rickson has the simplest way of making things work better.
As an example, I was in Las Vegas recently attending a Rickson seminar and he decided to show a mount escape. He looked around the room and fount the largest black belt in attendance. This guy was huge. He was about 230 pounds. He was an accomplished grappler and had more than one stripe on his black belt. Rickson called him over and asked for him to escape mount. Rickson mounted and stayed there as the man did every possible move he knew to escape. He was trapped. I think Rickson was on top for about two minutes and then asked to switch positions.
Rickson laid down, let the man take mount and instructed him to not let him escape. I swear to god, Rickson was out in less than one second. The whole room erupted in applause. Rickson pointed out, jokingly, that this must be a fluke and that the guy was obviously not ready.
Rickson asked the man to reset and mount, then asked if the black belt was now ready… He said yes. Again, in less than one second, Rickson escaped.
The way I understand that escape is you disrupt your opponent’s weight distribution using what Rickson calls “connection.” Doing that it makes the basic escape much more effective. And these two principles (“connection” and weight distribution) can be applied to every position in BJJ not just the mount escape.
That is why I wanted to focus on basic principles and not more advanced moves. If I could better understand the ideas I could then evolve every move I know.
Jiu-Jitsu Times: So what positions / techniques did you cover?
Jack Taufer: We covered a ton. A bit too much to mention. Some things as simple as the best way to stand and some things as refining high level guard passing.
Part 2 next…”Light bulb moments”
You can check out Jack on social media at: