I am fortunate. I found jiu-jitsu at the perfect time for my own personal development. I will never be a competitive athlete in the sport, but I do feel that I can contribute to the art either through my photography, my participation in the grind or through my writing about my own experiences and struggles. I have been so humbled by the gracious practioners that I have met over my past year’s study. Whether it is the teachers in my home gym, those I have met in my travels or the three Masters I have taken seminars from: Robert Drysdale, Rorion Gracie and Royler Gracie. While there is a clear difference between the ranking of the two sons of Helio Gracie and Master Drysdale, I feel all three are exceptional teachers and icons in the transmission of the art.
On Sunday, I dragged my sluggish corpse from bed to drive out to Gracie Woodbridge. I knew that I would learn and that the opportunity to have a few hours with a true red/black belted master is so rare in our world today. I could heal from the tournament the next two days, but this was a once in a lifetime chance, perhaps.
This is the second seminar that I have taken at Gracie Woodbridge within the last month. The students and the instructors are welcoming and enthusiastic towards visitors, and I sense a true love of the art within the walls of the gym. My practice partners have been understanding, if not amused, that I would visit from a non-Gracie no-gi gym, but they help me along with the details that I might misread through a different training path. In fact, my partner, Miguel, showed me a phenomenal amount of patience and willingness to teach me as Master Royler led us through four demanding drill sequences over the three hours. I learned how to improve my approach to takedowns, my judo hip throw, a shoulder lock control and an approach to armbar. Each move was foundational and yet fresh in its approach, and, for me, critical to improving my understanding of the actual game of jiu-jitsu.
The value of seminars is often questioned in the modern day of YouTube and online academies, but nothing replaces shaking hands with a legend, hearing him speak, watching him move and having your white belt signed while learning key approaches to the art you love. Every teacher has different approaches and it was clear that Master Royler like questions to drive his instruction. I only wish that I knew enough to ask the types of questions my peers eventually gained the courage to ask. Would I recommend a seminar in lieu of a private lesson or a month of wrestling classes? I would suggest that each type of instruction has its place and that every student should try every opportunity available to him or her.
In the end, it was a superb few hours wherein I gained more experience in the gi, made a few new acquaintances, stood beside local masters and had a lot of belly laughs with wonderful people. I may be no expert, but I do enjoy meeting the community who practice this brilliant martial art of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.