Archive for February, 2011

Feb 24

Krav Maga Meets Gracie Jiu-Jitsu: A Chance Meeting That Changed a Life

Many times in our lives an event takes place that, when we look back on it, represents a pivotal point of change. This is one such event that has not only changed the life of the recipient but has had an effect on all those that train at KMW Training Centers™.

Buuurrrrring, buuurrrrring. My cell phone rings on an otherwise boring evening in front of the TV.

"Champion!" said a voice I recognized. It was Richard. He always calls me champion. It’s a joke between us.

"Sensei," I responded—I call him Sensei out of respect, "what’s going on?"

"I have good news! I got a call from Ralek the other day, inviting me to a belt ceremony at the [Gracie Academy a.k.a. Jiu-Jutsu Heaven]. And during the ceremony, after they had given out the blues and browns, Rorion asked me to come up and presented me with my Official Gracie Black Belt."

"Wow!" I said. "That’s amazing! Congratulations! You have to let me share this with the students at KMW."

Many of you may not know just how close Richard was to what can only be described as the explosive growth of B.J.J. in the U.S., and how the KMW Training Centers™ Ground Fighting Program evolved under his tutelage, forever connecting two revolutionary fighting arts—Krav Maga and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

• • •

The story begins with a chance meeting. Richard is selling a water bed mattress and returns a call from Rorion’s roommate but gets Rorion on the phone instead. Rorion tells Richard that his roommate already purchased a bed but that he was interested. As it turns out, they only live about 30 minutes away, so Rorion makes the drive to Richard's place in the Marina.

“He was a really calm, very very confident person," says Richard Bresler, about meeting Rorion for the first time.

Rorion made quite an impression on Richard with his quiet confidence, and ended up talking Richard into selling him three sets of waterbed sheets for the price of one. (No easy feat for those of you who have haggled with Richard.) Richard wanted $15 dollars a set and Rorion got all three sets for $15.

“You never know when it will come back to you," said Rorion, then asked Richard if he had any experience with martial arts.

Not wanting to appear a wimp, he replied that he boxed a little.

Rorion then told Richard about his family and how for the past sixty-five years they have been teaching Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil and were a family of champions. He invited Richard to have a “free” class—“free” is Richards’s favorite word—so he drove to Rorion's house and had a lesson in the small garage.

The rest, as they say, is history. Richard was amazed by the techniques. He was hooked and knew he had to come back.

After class Rorion made him a fresh glass of apple juice. This was before he had enough money to buy an electric juicer: he peeled the apples, grated them with a plastic grater, put it through a cloth bag, and squeezed it. Richard thought, “Not only do I get a class with the guy, but he gives me fresh juice.” Quite an impression. That is where his martial journey began.

His many accomplishments during the early days of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in America include assisting Rorion in the opening of the Gracie Academy in Torrance, teaching with the Gracies at the Academy, completing the first instructor training as well as assisting in the Gracie challenge matches and the early UFCs. Make sure to keep an eye out for Richard during UFC 2 on DVD. Richard later left the Gracie Academy to pursue his own teaching and was awarded his Black Belt from Fabio Santos after he helped open Beverly Hills JJ Academy.

After a brief stint at BHJJ, Richard was asked by Howard Mallen to join the staff of Krav Maga Worldwide™ and became the Chief Ground Fighting Instructor at Krav Maga. Richard assisted in the development and upgrading of the Krav Maga ground curriculum and has been teaching his students to survive a street ground fight ever since. If you have not taken the opportunity to train with Richard, you should get “on the mat” with him and learn from an instructor who was part of the Gracie story here in the U.S. Richard was awarded his “Official” Gracie Black Belt this past year, signifying the start of a new chapter on his martial journey.

Truer words have not been spoken than Rorion’s “you never know when it will come back to you." The chance meeting, a good deed and a life changed, the power and influence of one man of character can never be underestimated.

Richard Bressler and the Gracies

For a more detailed and less entertaining version of this story, visit the FightWorks Podcast and listen to episode #195.