Legendary Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA master Rickson Gracie released the riveting, insightful memoir – “Breathe” – last year, weaving together the story of his career within the larger history and intricacies of the Gracie family dynasty. He explains how Brazilian jiu jitsu came to be and how he and his brothers were raised by Grandmaster Hélio Gracie to be fighters and the ways in which that developed further in his life. Rickson also shows how the connection between mind and body can be harnessed for success both inside and outside of the ring, on and off the mat.
If you really want to understand the roots and values of jiu jitsu, this book is a must. Not only does it give raw insight into the family dynamics of the famed The Gracie Family, but it delves deeper into how jiu jitsu progressed from various martial arts into something innovative and beneficial in all fighting aspects. An interesting note is that Hélio was not the biggest guy, but jiu jitsu was formed on the basis that muscle, strength or size are not essential to winning; it’s about using technique and evaluating your opponent to secure a win.
Rickson does not try to paint himself or his family as saints, and this vulnerability honestly is where the book shines. He is direct and feels no shame in admitting his own faults or failures, regardless of any pushback to come. It is also important to mention that he does not try to apologize for his mistakes; rather, he understands the pain they sometimes caused but doesn’t try to run away from them or rationalize them. He talks about drugs, sex, cheating, fighting and death, and does so without holding back.
Though it is Rickson’s own memoir in his own truth, there are moments in this book that seem almost unreal. From details during fights and the immense pain endured to the fact that the Gracie family almost seemed like a cult, without many people even noticing. The Gracie Family are famed for a reason, but that doesn’t mean everything was perfect. There were still deceit and dishonor and disagreements. But Rickson emphasizes his own lesson that loyalty should be above all else, as well as respect for your opponent and always for the roots of jiu jitsu.
“Breathe” takes you on a spiritual journey through Rickson Gracie’s life, both the ups and downs and the ways in which he became the person he is today. Even if you are not a devout martial artist, this book is worth the read to understand success and the many sacrifices it may take to get there.