Martial arts-Roger Gracie's choke - tap out or black out

Reuters

Mon, 28 Feb 11:59:00 2011

When Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion Roger Gracie sinks his hands around your neck, the choice is simple -- tap out or watch the world fade to black.

The Rio de Janeiro native has won seven consecutive world titles in his weight class as a black belt and despite being just 29-years-old is considered the best BJJ fighter of all time.

At the 2009 world championships the hulking Gracie achieved the unthinkable, submitting nine elite opponents in a row with the exact same move -- sitting on their chests and choking them into surrender.

"That made me so happy because even though they knew what was coming I was still able to submit them," Gracie told Reuters in an interview.

"As the fights went on they started getting scared of that technique. So at some point in the fights when I got into position I felt they had already given up, they were thinking, 'It's over now'. So it actually got even easier."

One of the sport's most basic techniques, Gracie has turned the front choke from mount into a ruthless art form and put it on full display for a Reuters reporter and BJJ students at a recent seminar in Singapore.

With 90 kilograms of pressure bearing down on his ribcage crushing his lungs, the reporter was tempted to tap out even before Gracie locked in his signature choke.

Gracie scissors his hands deep inside the collar of the reporter's gi (uniform), then shifts his huge frame forward and the choke is on, cutting off blood supply to the brain.

In an instant the world goes quiet, dark and horrible. Panic rising in the chest, the choice between tapping out and taking an untimely nap is quickly made.

In 2010, Gracie's opponents got wise to the front choke and were quick to counter, turning over onto their bellies to escape. The outcome, however, was no different.

"In 2009 I was submitting people from the mount, so last year when I got that position they were turning over, desperately trying to flee the mount," he recalled with a smile.

"But my choke from the rear is just as good as from the front." Gracie submitted eight of his nine opponents with chokes from the back to win gold.

"Roger is unbeatable because he was born on the mat," said Rafael "Gordinho" Lima, the 1998 world champion and head of Evolve MMA Academy's BJJ programme in Singapore where the seminar was held.

"He has the best fundamental technique, plus he's very tall and BJJ is based on leverage. So I don't see him losing any time soon, he doesn't make mistakes." 

'FIGHT THEM ALL'

BJJ is a martial art based around ground fighting that was developed by the Gracie family of Brazil in the early 1900s. It focuses on leverage and technique to control opponents through joint locks and chokes without the use of striking.

Roger is the latest Gracie to make waves in the world of Mixed Martial Arts, winning all four of his fights by submission.

He told Reuters he was being lined up to fight Gegard Mousasi in April in Strikeforce's light heavyweight division, though he would prefer a later date as his training had been interrupted by travelling and other commitments.

While the division is shallow in Strikeforce, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is stacked with quality light heavyweights including 'Shogun' Rua, Quinton Jackson and Jon Jones.

"I'm happy to stay with Strikeforce right now, we have a good relationship," said Gracie. "There's a lot of tough fights for me in the light heavy division. There's some tough guys and I'm probably going to fight them all."

Gracie knows his devastating array of chokes, locks and strangles will count for little if he gets knocked out by a fist, elbow or knee in the cage, but his game plan will not change.

"A fight is a fight, doesn't matter what style it is. I get more nervous for a BJJ fight than an MMA fight even though I know I am going to get punched in the face," he said, adding that there was no place for his famous front choke

"It's impossible without the gi," he conceded. "But on the other hand, when I get the mount and start punching them in the face they turn over and then I get the choke."

Mental toughness was crucial, he added, and his approach to BJJ and MMA fights were exactly the same.

"Before I even get into the fight I've beaten my opponent a thousand times in my mind."

 

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