25 years Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy Zurich

BUDO INTERNATIONAL – July 2020 Edition

As I had never been a fan of short-term goals and especially of shortcuts, it was immediately clear to me that the “Gracie Way” would involve me for many years and I accepted this as a positive challenge.
I remember being told when I was awarded the Blue belt, “…now that you have the Blue belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, let’s hope that you will continue to work on it and you did not just jumped on the bandwagon as it passes!”
In my opinion, and I say this with pride, after 30+ years of dedication to Gracie – Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, this path has become much more than just “jumping on a passing train!”

I am writing these lines during the coronavirus crisis, and these days we spend a lot of time thinking about our loved ones (family, wife, boyfriend, children, and friends). For most people, their own family is important, and it is often said that blood is thicker than water – which is certainly true. But strong friendships are also important and make us happy and keep us healthy too. We do not need any research or studies to prove this.

At the same time, like Mitsuyo Maeda more than 100 years ago, many people today must leave their homes, the place where they grew up and their families live. In such a situation, one is happy to find some like-minded people. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is not only a great way to meet new people on the mat, but we also get to know a person much more closely than we might think during the training. We spend a lot of time with our GJJ colleagues and share many things with them in a very intense way, completely independent of age, gender, religious interests, political views, etc. Not only can they take away the fear of uncertainty, but deep friendships can also develop, which is doubly valuable. Anyone who have lost someone in their lives, know this very well. It is indeed important to have people around you who you can depend on when it counts. And for some people such friendships are even more important than their own family.

So, joining to a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu school not only gives you the opportunity to meet new people, but can also help you to reorient yourself and adapt to a new life situation. Continually reorienting yourself and adapting to new situations is also a key competency in the strict technical sense of the term to progress in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu – the parallels of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to everyday life are indeed many and varied. Regular Gracie Jiu-Jitsu training will positively influence your daily life in many ways.

At work or when going out we also get to know a lot of people, but rarely with the same intensity. Because during a training session we focus all our thoughts on the moment, that leaves no room for distraction. We are fully present in the moment and share it with our training partners, which is always a very intense experience.

So, I think it is also a contradiction in terms to be a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu teacher and at the same time unapproachable. Perhaps from a traditional perspective, this is different in other martial arts. But most of the older Gracie Jiu-Jitsu teachers, that I have had the opportunity to meet over the last thirty plus years, have remained on the Tatame among their students until their last breath. Those who were forced to retire for health reasons and therefore hung up their Kimono and Belt usually stayed away from the scene completely and were hardly ever seen in the Dojo, and certainly not with the sternly distant gaze of the gray eminence in the background.

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu teachers gain the trust and attention of their students by supporting and encouraging them to follow their own paths. As teachers, we do this best by setting a good example and always seeing ourselves as students again. We support our students not only in good times, but we also stand by them in difficult times. However, we should always remain objective and professional; we are not gurus or omniscient experts of life, but always have an open ear. Many people talk about respect and friendship, but only halfheartedly adhere to these virtues. A Gracie Jiu-Jitsu teacher who is a true believer, however, needs to live it day in, day out, both on and off the mat.

On the road with Grandmaster Carley Gracie

This is because students learn not only by taking part in lessons, but also by observing the behavior of their teachers beyond the mat. That is how I felt with Grandmaster Carley Gracie. If you ever can meet him and perhaps attend a class, you will see that he is the same open and warm person on the mat and outside the Dojo. He always welcomes everyone, no matter if Black belt wearer or absolute beginner, with a nice smile and a friendly, welcoming attitude.

He always emphasizes himself how much he enjoys sharing his knowledge with everyone. So last year our members had the opportunity to learn from a true first-generation Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Grandmaster in Zurich, Berlin, and Athens.

The way our Grande Mestre Carley teaches the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu of his father (and co-founder of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), Grandmaster Carlos Gracie Sr., is unique and so directly to the point that anyone can understand it. From beginners to professionals, anyone, regardless of their level of experience, can work with it and learn something new. Not only does he himself have a very solid knowledge of self-defense, but he also knows a lot about competitive sports, be it Vale-Tudo (MMA) or Sports-BJJ. He has trained and coached numerous professional fighters, not last his son and successful BJJ athlete Clark Gracie, the ‘King’ of Omoplata (leg shoulder-lock).

He corrects the Black belts and instructors just like all the other lower graduates. In his opinion, being a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu teacher is an art within an art! Not everyone can become a teacher, you must invest a lot more time to acquire this skill. As one of Carlos Gracie’s eldest sons, he was not only trained directly by his father, but later by his uncle Hélio Gracie and his assistant Pedro Hemetério, who was my teacher for many years.

A new alliance for a common and better future

To spend time with such a valuable person like Mestre Carley is priceless and inspiring. I keep saying this, but if you ever have the opportunity to train with such true Grandmasters of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, please don’t just focus on the technical aspect, but try to get more out of it by perhaps asking questions about your view of life.

We all have our ups and downs in life and therefore in Jiu-Jitsu training. In bad times in life, friends and family help us to overcome them. On the Tatame, it can be your teacher who guides and accompanies you on the Gracie Way. A grandmaster like Carley Gracie can be a true role model in this sense. As far as I am concerned, he has become an important person in my life, inspiring me daily to continue the path of Gracie – Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for at least another thirty plus years.

I am incredibly grateful to Grandmaster Carley Gracie that we are now acting as one and the same organization and that together we can teach authentic Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to my partner schools in Europe. Therefore, in the future, you will see the Grandmaster Carley Gracie logo, titled “Carley Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Network Europe,” in place of the old Gracie Concept symbol.

Grandmaster Carley knows my passion and professionalism toward the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu community and has so much confidence in me that I am now the Managing Director and Professor responsible for the Carley Gracie System. In the coming months and years, we will be able to do a lot of good and of course all our partner schools and students throughout Europe, both active today and in the future, will benefit from this. I am grateful to our Grand Master Carley Gracie for this and look forward to this great and important step in my life.

At this point I would like to thank our trainers and leaders who have supported us for so many years and are part of our Zurich Academy and Network Europe. Without their generous support and professional commitment, we would not be where we are today.

A special thanks goes to:
Domenic Schnoz, in Zurich (4. Degree Black belt)
André Stock, in Magdeburg (3. Degree Black belt)
Peter Angerer, in Reutlingen (3. Degree Black belt)
Thomas Mehnert, in Berlin (1. Degree Black belt)
Enrico Gargiulo, in Zurich (Black belt)
Mike Felder, in Zurich (Wing-Chun-Master)
Luca Gorgoni, in Zurich (Kettlebell Instructor)

I look forward to your contact

Now, if I can encourage you today, through this report, to visit us soon, then please send me an email to the following address at vacircabrothersjiujitsu@gmail.com and I invite you to visit our network homepage at www.graciejiujitsu.eu. Here you will find the upcoming dates and lots of useful information. Of course, my seminars remain open to all interested parties, no matter if you are a beginner or a professional! I am looking forward to getting to know you soon.

Stay strong and healthy.
~Franco Vacirca

Published by Franco Vacirca

Martial Arts and Self-defense Instructor, Teaching Consultant, Author, Public Speaker, Personal Development Specialist