Royce Gracie: Changing the Martial Arts Landscape Forever

June 13, 2014
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Royce Gracie: Changing the Martial Arts Landscape Forever

Since day one, it was almost as if Royce Gracie was meant to be a legendary grappler. Son Helio Gracie—recognized as one of the Godfathers of BJJ—Royce was born in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Right away, he began training in the sport under the tutelage of his father and three older brothers, Rorion, Relson and Rickson Gracie. By the age of 16, Royce was already a black belt and had almost mastered the art.

Through his families challenges laid out to other fighters, Royce would hone his all-around game, and before long, found himself walking in the cage to show off his grappling skills in the very first UFC event.

Since that moment when he marched to the cage, Royce has been one of the most important figures in MMA, BJJ and martial arts in general. Revolutionizing the sport, along with his family members, Royce brought the sport to the forefront and has developed a style that generations of grapplers worldwide try their best to replicate.

There is no if, ands or buts about it, Royce Gracie is a legend.

Photo credit: Atama Kimonos / Google Images

Photo credit: Atama Kimonos / Google Images

Techniques That Transcend The Sport

When studying the game of someone like the iconic, legendary Royce Gracie, you know that you’ll be getting some of the most refined skills on the entire planet. Possibly one of the most recognizable names in modern martial arts, Royce offers unique skills that often are lacking in other Brazilian Jiu Jitsu—and Mixed Martial Arts—competitors.

For instance, when you search his name on YouTube, you’ll find pages upon pages of information waiting for you. As you would expect, there is plenty of Royce Gracie related content out there ripe for the picking and loaded with information!

One of the best grapplers on the planet earth, almost everyone can learn a few things regarding the grappling skills of Royce, even if it’s something as basic as using your opponents Gi in order to break their posture while in bottom guard.

However, his skills are rather universal in martial arts, and there are plenty of moves, submissions, sweeps, and even strikes that you can learn from Gracie. For instant, while it may not be strictly Jiu Jitsu, Royce also provides excellent techniques such as the basics of dealing with strike defense, or even breaking free from choke attempts while standing.

Equipped with multifaceted skills, Royce Gracie is truly one of the most gifted martial artists that the world has ever seen, be it on the mat, in the cage or in the ring.

The Bouts That Put Him On The Map

Given his unique path to the top of the sport, Royce Gracie has impacted the sport of grappling in a few different ways. For instance, Gracie didn’t cement himself right away as a fantastic Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitor, but more as a Mixed Martial Artists, or a cage fighter back in the early 90s.

One would argue that one the early—and infamous—Gracie Challenge fights was what helped establish and put Royce on the map. These bouts were often held at a gym or a location that could hold a fight. The point was for those who practiced other forms of martial arts to come and test their might against the mysterious Gracie family. Upon arriving, they would battle, usually with one of the Gracie family members proving their technique to be superior.

These fights would eventually lead to the formation of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, something we are all too familiar with today. Royce was selected to partake in UFC 1, and upon entering the tournament, Royce made it to the finals to face the hulking Ken Shamrock.

The fight would end in Royce obtaining the submission victory, and being crowned the first ever UFC tournament winner, and arguably being one of the most important moments in the sports history.

Yet and still, there was one moment that will live on in the hearts of every single martial arts fan out there, and it was a match that Royce ended up losing! While competing in PRIDE out in Japan, Royce took on Kazushi Sakuraba, dubbed “The Gracie Killer” for his ability to knock off members of the Gracie clan.

Their fight would last over 90 minutes, in what is often viewed as the most grueling fight in MMA history. Sakuraba would eventually walk away victorious, but it was a moment that would cement both men in the lore of combat sports forever.

Royce’s Influence From Now And Into The Future

If you ever run into anyone that says Royce Gracie will be forgotten with time as each day passes, go ahead and laugh right in their face! From the very beginning, Royce was born and bred to help shape the world of modern martial arts, and he did just that.

Be it the Gracie Challenges, UFC 1, or the marathon match against Sakuraba, Royce has influenced a generation of fighters and grapplers and has helped lift the sports to new heights that no one deemed possible years before.

In a symbolic moment, years ago, Royce Gracie returned to the UFC to take on then-welterweight champion, Matt Hughes. The fight was largly billed as “Old School vs. New School,” and the line was drawn.

Ultimately, Hughes would have a rather easy road to victory as the older Gracie couldn’t keep up. What served as a passing of the torch moment, it also spoke to just how impactful Royce has been in the sport.

The martial arts world came to stand still when this fight was happening. It brought out the respect in his peers, and even in defeat, Royce was applauded as one of the innovators of the game and a true legend in every word.

At the end of the day, it’s rather simple, as long as the world of combat sports still exists, then the name Royce Gracie will be held in the highest of regards.

Dan Faggella

Daniel Faggella
Daniel Faggella

Coach Daniel is the founder and head publisher at Science of Skill, LLC. A martial arts black belt and self defense instructor, Dan has spent years training with and interviewing some of the world's best self protection experts. His passion lies in encouraging others to train smart and to improve the skills that make them safer and stronger.

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