Rickson Gracie gives off such a peaceful aura, it’s hard to think he can make you cry “uncle” and tap out with the greatest of ease. But only a fool would doubt his deadliness. The 58-year-old Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and mixed martial arts legend boasts an undefeated record and a level of respect few can match in the fighting community.
A large part of Gracie’s peaceful demeanor off the mat, though, comes from expressions of nature, be it art or surfing, music or snowboarding. And that connection is on full display in his partnership with Citizens of Humanity during their yearlong program “Just Like You.” The campaign spotlights more than 20 individuals who inspired the fashion brand with a video package and limited edition T-shirts designed in collaboration with the visionaries. Gracie’s video debuts today, and the proceeds from sales of his tees will go to The Rockson Gracie Foundation, a charity created to give underprivileged youths refuge in Jiu-Jitsu.
The charity represents Gracie’s attitude toward Jiu-Jitsu and MMA: neither are just a fighting tool. In that vein, Gracie offers five surprising reasons why MMA is one of the best—and most beneficial—workouts around.
It helps you handle stress. Dealing with office politics takes its toll on even the most level-headed man, and a workout based in mixed martial arts—which offers a chaos your regular gym workout can’t match—will teach you how to handle yourself under pressure. “Mentally, you learn how to have emotional control in stressful situations,” Gracie says. Experience with gaining control over your stress will translate into your personal life, giving you a more calming presence.
It gives you unbelievable confidence. Whether you’re staring down the toughest competition in the gym or the biggest project at work, MMA training will build the confidence to help you tackle that monumental challenge. “Physically, you develop techniques that give you a sense of confidence and capacity in life for any situation,” Gracie says. “You know that you are strong and capable without having to be the biggest or strongest person in the room.”
It teaches you respect. Enduring a competition-based workout like MMA breeds a sense of self-worth and appreciation for your opponents. “Jiu-Jitsu taught me to have respect for the people around me as well as respect for myself,” Gracie says. “It made me believe in my own strengths and knowledge.” Think about it. You and your competitor share the same goal: to take the man across the mat down. But you have to go through each other to get there. With time, you’ll believe in your abilities and appreciate the hard work of your opposition.
It builds total-body strength. No part of your body will be neglected, meaning you’ll be stronger across the board—not just with your arms or your legs. “When I was fighting, each fighter represented a single style of martial arts,” Gracie says, “but today, all the fighters cross-train in different styles to be comfortable in the various dimensions of the fight.” Cross-training prevents any weakspots from appearing, and it will ensure comfortability with every muscle.
It makes you feel invincible. You’ll want to take on the world and welcome any challenge, so long as you carry the same attitude Gracie does. “Something my dad would say was that it’s not important to win, but it’s important to know how not to be defeated,” Gracie says. “The art of invincibility is the most important attribute in Jiu-Jitsu.” Never head into a fight just to win, but make sure you aren’t beat.”