Observed by 50 other black belts, cousin Rickson and a number of people occupying the spacious new headquarters of Gracie Barra America in Irvine, California, Renzo Gracie carries the red-and-black belt of his master, Carlos Gracie Junior.
Everyone awaited the punch line in the speech, and, surprisingly, the cheerful myth of fighting started gushing copious tears. “Don’t laugh,” he says as he collects himself, before drying the tears and embracing Carlinhos, fastening the new belt around the professor’s waist.
The promotion ceremony held the evening of June 3, 2008 was opened by faithful student Marcio Feitosa, who emotionally handed his command over to black belt and economist Flavio Cachorrinho, who introduced the guest speakers, starting with Rickson Gracie.
“We Gracies have a mission much greater than MMA. MMA was used to demonstrate the effectiveness of Jiu-Jitsu, but our true role is to strengthen the good qualities of the human being through Jiu-Jitsu. And, for all he has built, I am proud to be his relative,” said Rickson.
They also spoke of Carlinhos’s contemporary and the pioneer of Jiu-Jitsu in the United Kingdom Mauricio Gomes, and his son and current holder of Jiu-Jitsu’s most important title, absolute world champion Roger Gracie.
And the one responsible for introducing Jiu-Jitsu to Sheikh Tahoon (and thus the creation of the ADCC), Nelson Monteiro; Carlinhos’s student to have promoted most black belts (60) Vinicius Draculino; Braulio Estima; and also-Carlinhos-black belt and vice-president of GRACIEMAG Luca Atalla. And representing a new generation of students, blue belt Kenny Epstein.
MMA was used for use to show the effectiveness of Jiu-Jitsu, but our true role is to strengthen the good qualities of the human being” Rickson
Introduced only as the best student promoted by Carlinhos, and author of the final speech before the promotion ceremony, Renzo highlighted the importance of the environment Carlinhos created to develop the art.
“To get tough, to be a champion, that all passes. I think the most important thing I found in his academy was love,” he said, crying, before hugging his master.
Renzo recounted an experience from his past to illustrate how his uncle used reverse psychology to stimulate him:
“He looked at me [when Renzo was a lower-belt youth, and trained among family], and said in front of everyone: ‘Renzo, what am I going to do with you? You are horrible!’ All he needed to do was put it that way for me to prove to him I could be good.”
Carlinhos raised the belt fastened by Renzo without pomp:
“Belts hold no importance to me. We are the ones who give the belt personality, and not it that gives personality to us. But I am proud to have all you gathered here. What is what I love and that will never change. In the future, I may have a better house, a better car, but I’ll still come to the academy every day, training with my family.
If you have the moon in your sights and you miss, you are still among the stars. That is why I preach a healthy life and I hope to have all of you gathered here for a long time yet” Carlos Gracie Jr.
“I’m 52 years old, and I model myself on the example of my father, who, when I was born, was 56, and still had five more kids after me. However, when someone shows up with 40, 50 years of age to train and thinks he is too old, I explain that it is never too late to live out our dreams.
“My father stimulated us to dream. As I read the other day, If you have the moon in your sights and you miss, you are still among the stars. That is why I preach a healthy life and I hope to have all of you gathered, white and blue belts already as black belts, 18 years from now, when I receive my red belt. And all this will be ten times bigger.”
Carlinhos, whose achievements are of the caliber of Gracie Barra, the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation and GRACIEMAG, promises:
“This is just the beginning.”