Royce Gracie Academy Dubai: Your chance to learn from a jiu jitsu legend

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The Royce Gracie Academy in Dubai

The most famous name in jiu-jitsu is now a permanent fixture in Dubai.

Some may say ‘Gracie’ is synonymous with the sport – but it goes far deeper than that.

Effectively without the famous Brazilian family, jiu-jitsu as we know it does not exist, and nor does mixed martial arts.

Royce Gracie is famed for his accomplishments in MMA – using his family’s brand of Brazilian jiujitsu to take on, and defeat, some of the most skilled fighters on the planet. This was at a time when MMA was in its nascent stages with less-defined rules, and no weight categories – Royce would often find himself outweighed in some cases by more than 200lbs.

But, such was his confidence and capability in jiu-jitsu, the way in which the deck was stacked against him was often irrelevant.

Gracie went on to become a multiple time world champion, with an MMA record of 15 wins and two defeats. Now those wanting to learn his renowned style can do so in Dubai – at the recently opened Royce Gracie Academy on Al Wasl Road.

Drawing on the principles of his family, and in particular father Helio, Gracie says his academy is all about the purest form of the martial arts – self-defence, confidence building and the overall development of a person – not just the physical aspects.

“We are here to teach self-defence and teach the new generation respect and confidence,” he said. “My father didn’t teach me how to fight, he
taught me the art of jiu-jitsu.

“If you look when you walk in it teaches hygiene, the place is clean. It teaches respect. It is beyond the mat – we serve as an example. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I eat healthy food. Right there is an example for the kids and what they should learn. It goes beyond the mats and the martial art.

“Today I believe in anything I put myself into, and any direction I point myself in, I want to be number one. I don’t know if I would be able to say that if it was not for jiu-jitsu.”

Such is the value of the family name, anyone wanting to teach Gracie jiu-jitsu can expect at least a decade of learning beforehand – and that includes those now leading the academy in Dubai.

“I am not just giving out franchises to everybody,” Royce explained. “I have to know the person. It takes a minimum of 10-15 years to get a black belt under
me – that’s the way my father taught me. It is not like two years you get a black belt and go and open up a school. I don’t want just
anyone to represent my name – because it’s my name on the line.”

Gracie said BJJ is for everyone, and has praised the UAE for its approach to the sport.

“Jiu-jitsu is perfect for the young ones because it teaches them discipline. It is also perfect for females and the older generation.

“We are going to start with the basics. We have a curriculum that we follow, it is my father’s curriculum. We teach from standup to on the ground grappling, from self defence to defending on the ground. Most fights start standing up so we are going to teach the average student standing up first, then if it goes to the ground, how to escape and defend on the ground.

“What they (UAE authorities) have done over here in putting jiu-jitsu in schools so children can experience it at a young age is unbelievable, it is so good to see. I wish other countries would adapt to that and hopefully one day we will have jiu-jitsu as part of PE.”

While the pure form of BJJ is based around self defence, if someone wants to pursue a career in the sport then the academy is more than happy – but for Royce, those days are now over.

“MMA is where we get together to test our styles,” he said. “In a martial arts school, I am not going to build up students to become MMA fighters. I am teaching them how to defend themselves. If they have talent and want to pursue a fight career we will encourage that – not a problem.

“I am done, you have to know when to stop in this business. The body doesn’t recover as fast when you get hurt. I feel good and people keep asking, but I’ll let my son and cousins do it. They are doing very well, let the young generation take over. I held the torch for a very long time, so I’ll pass it on.”

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