• 07.14.11

What Can CEOs And Presidents Learn From Gracie Jiu-Jitsu?

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is the Nike of self-defense. It has reached a level of notoriety as the most effective, fastest growing form of self-defense that people are learning to confidently protect themselves–executives are even starting to reference Jiu-Jitsu moves in business conversations.

I recently spoke with Rener Gracie, a third generation master of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, about what CEOs can learn. In 2008, Rener and his brother, Ryron, were entrusted with the task of making Gracie Jiu-Jitsu easy to learn in every country of the world. Together, they produced the top three home study self-defense programs of all time: Gracie Combatives, Gracie Bullyproof, and Gracie Women Empowered. In addition, they launched, the interactive online learning center of the Gracie Academy, which now has over 45,000 active students in over 189 countries. His remarkable knowledge base and his passionate teaching style make Rener one of the most sought after instructors in the world. When he’s not devising new training programs or teaching classes at the Gracie Academy, Rener spends his time traveling the world teaching people of all kinds, from U.S. Military and Law Enforcement personnel to bullied children and Hollywood celebrities.


Shawn Parr: What is Gracie Jiu-Jistu?

Rener Gracie: Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is a system of self-defense that was created by my grandfather, Grand Master Helio Gracie, and brought to America by my father, Rorion Gracie. In 1993, my father created the UFC to showcase the effectiveness of the system to the world. It worked. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was adopted by the U.S. Army and virtually every federal law enforcement organization.

SP: How is it different from every other form of Jiu-Jitsu or MMA?

RG: Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is widely considered the most effective self-defense system on the planet, specifically because it is the only one that has proven, over three generations, to enable the weak to defeat the strong.

SP: How have you become the fastest growing martial art in the world today?

RG: It works and anyone can learn it. While most other disciplines rely on the physical attributes of the practitioner, Gracie Jiu-JItsu is based entirely on leverage and timing rather than strength, speed, and flexibility, so anyone can learn the techniques and be successful. Since it’s so easy to learn, students become instantly addicted to the techniques and the lifestyle.

SP: What does the Gracie brand stand for?


RG: Efficiency.

SP: Tell us how you started your business?

RG: In America, the journey began in a small garage in Hermosa Beach, California. My father taught private classes for 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 11 years. In 1989, he decided to open a school to accommodate the growing number of students, bringing his brothers from Brazil to help make it happen. In 1993, he created the UFC, and the rest is history.

SP: What does Gracie Jiu-Jitsu promise its participants?

RG: Confidence, on the mat and in life.

SP: What are the key principles you teach as a foundation to the art?

RG: When fighting a giant, don’t worry about how you’re going to win, focus on not losing. At any given time, be more concerned with what your opponent is trying to do to you than with what you are trying to do to him. If you don’t lose, you will eventually win.


SP: Why do you think you have such successful results?

RG: For three generations, we’ve continuously sought out a more effective and efficient way of doing each technique.

SP: What do you think a CEO can learn from these principles?

RG: Learn to be comfortable in the worst case scenarios because once you are, they cease to exist.

SP: Why is your teaching methodology so successful?

RG: It has been refined over a span of 85 years and we really care about the students.

SP: What do you think CEOs can learn from the Giant Killer move?


RG: Anything is possible.

SP: What do you think CEOs can learn from the Rear-naked choke move?

RG: Leverage your strengths to yield optimum returns with minimal investments.

SP: How do you think the idea of “less is more” applies to business?

RG: Instead of investing more to make more, focusing on making the same with less invested. Once you figure that out, then you can scale up from there and benefit much greater in the long run. The same idea applies to everyday life.

SP: Explain why you started the Gracie Bullyproof program?

RG: Realizing how privileged my siblings and I were to be brought up the way we were, I wanted to give parents around the world a step-by-step road map to follow to raise their children the Gracie Way. A child cannot verbally assert him/herself against a bully if he/she feels like they might get hurt. By giving children the skills to neutralize physical attacks, we are giving them the confidence that they will not be hurt by a bully. That confidence will then enable them to speak up against bullies, which, in turn, will lessen their chances of being targeted. The more a child learns to fight, the less likely they are to ever use it.


SP: Do you think people get bullied at work? How do your principles apply here?

RG: Exactly the same as with children–as long as a person fears physical or emotional injury, they will not assert themselves. With Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in your back pocket, you have nothing to fear, so you can speak up and confront bullies without violence and that will almost always put an end to it.

SP: If you could change one thing about Gracie Jiu-Jitsu what would you change?

RG: Make it available in more countries around the world. We developed, an interactive online learning center for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, and we have over 45,000 active students in 189 countries. However, there are 195 countries in the world, so we still have some work to do.

SP: What’s the best advice you were ever given?

RG: Help enough people get what they want, and you can have ANYTHING you want.

Shawn Parr is the The Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, IDEO, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen and World Vision.

About the author

Shawn Parr is the Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, Ideo, Sony, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie’s Homegrown, Kashi, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, The Honest Kitchen, and World Vision.