Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Why Did Skinny Little Royce Gracie Launch Mixed Martial Arts

Could be luck - nope not luck. I first caught wind of this guy, Royce (pronounced like Hoyce - hey, don’t ask me, the guy is Brazilian!) Gracie at the first ever Ultimate Fighting Championship. I was pretty impressed, I must say.

First off, for a little history lesson. The Gracies go way back in the world of Jujitsu. When young Royce was just a kid, his grandfather Helio taught him everything he needed to know to kick butt. At age eight, little Royce started competing in tournaments. And he started winning all the time.

So, here I am at the first ever UFC tournament watching this guy I never heard of armbaring men so much larger than he was, they looked like they could eat him for breakfast. I remember thinking, is this hombre for real? He is 180 pounds, but a wirey 180, you know? He was skinny and did not look too strong. He certainly was not muscular or anything.

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You see, I always heard you get two guys, both of them skilled and the bigger hombre wins, 9 times out of 10. That is how it is supposed to work, right? Not with Royce. I saw him get hammered one time against a monster named Dan Severn. He must have outweighed Gracie close to fifty kilos! Severn picked Gracie up and slammed him back down to the mat a dozen times. He was on top of him the whole match. But right at the last second, old Danny boy taps out! I and the rest of us onlookers couldn’t believe what happened. Gracie got him in an arm bar and that was that. Victory for Gracie and Brazilian Jujitsu. Everyone was shocked.

Up until then, no one really understood the importance of submissions and ground attacks in martial arts. No one had done the types of things Gracie did. No one understood them. But after Gracie captured three UFC titles, people were paying attention then, believe you me! It changed the world of MMA. Technique was critical from that point on. Everybody was scrambling to figure the next best triangle choke to get their opponents to tap out like Royce was doing to everyone. The smaller man now had an advantage if he had a complete jujitsu game.

So MMA took notice of a fighting style that had been perfected by the Gracie family for seventy years. Watching him battle with guts and skill made me a big fan of the sport. The sport received publicity and legitimacy the day he hit the scene. When he won the tournament and starting setting records, it was like everyone else came on board and the sport blew up in popularity from there. The world of mixed martial arts would not be what it is today without Royce and his family doing what they did for the sport.

Yoshi Kundagawa is a freelance journalist covering the martial arts world. Too much time at his computer eating donuts reduced him to couch potato status. He's on a quest to recapture his youth and fitness. You can read about Combat JuJitsu at http://www.martialarts3000.com/jujitsutraining.html

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