Ever since I saw Clark Gracie win the 2013 Pan Ams from my front row seat with the Carlson Gracie team, I knew it would be an incredible experience to get to train with him. What I didn’t know, is soon I would be lucky enough to be a BJJ Girl getting to train with one of the best competition Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters in the world! While I had met Clark before when he had come to the Carlson Gracie school in Murrieta, I had not been able to fully take advantage of his class because of a recent rib injury…
Friday, August 16th – Normally, Fridays are a relaxing training day where students show up to roll freely and work on technique they have been trying to improve on. However, this Friday was special. The owner of our school’s location decided to work out a special training event where Clark Gracie came to teach. I was excited! After reading the post on Facebook that said he was coming the following friday. So I made sure my night was free. I had always heard about all the cool moves and ideas that Clark brought with him, but now I was going to finally fully be able to experience it for myself! I arrived late…of course! Luckily Clark knew some students were still coming and waited to begin. Clark lead a long warm up that was great and had the students ready to train.
When it came time to learn technique, there was no disappointment. Yes, we learn moves, positions and series of techniques all the time, but a new instructor always brings a fresh perspective, and Clark was showing moves that became instant favorites. After spending quite a bit of time on some great ways to turn an opponent’s pass attempt into taking the back from guard, we moved onto sparring. The best part is that we decided to train hard and do 10 minute rounds! As crazy as that sounds, I rolled six times and only took one break; it really felt good to roll that hard.
From there, like any class with a guest instructor, we bowed out with some inspirational words and an invitation to our team to come train at Clark’s school in La Jolla, CA (Clark Gracie Jiu Jitsu). We took a team picture and class broke for the evening. Now, while I was excited about meeting Clark and taking his class (and writing about it on my blog, of course!), I was not prepared at all for the opportunity that came next. While it had been suggested that I try to feature Clark on my site, I had no idea how it would go, or if it would even be a possibility. Obviously, the thought of meeting, talking to, and maybe even rolling with a Jiu-Jitsu legend made me feel incredibly nervous. It didn’t help to be the only adult woman on the team and having all the guys make fun of me for being anxious about the evening! As much as they wanted to downplay it, I know they were just as excited as I was. Hello !?!? its Clark Gracie!
My instructor introduced me personally to Clark, and I found that he was very nice and charming. I was nervous going in, so I decided to just spar, and my anxiety left immediately as I went into training mode. I have one word to describe it, AWESOME! I roll with different people all of the time; people that smash me and people that go easy, and even others that I am able to dominate (occasionally!), but rolling with Clark Gracie has really been the most educational and gratifying experience that I have ever had training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu thus far. He was able to think many steps ahead of me, and guide my technique without saying a word. I moved easily from position to position, feeling like my transitions were working much better than they usually would when even going with the newest of students. Towards the end of our rolling session, he stopped and actually gave me a personal lesson based on the moves and techniques that I was trying to perform.
Clark was born in California, but grew up traveling between Rio De Janeiro and San Francisco, following in the training footsteps of his father, Carley Gracie, and his grandfather, Carlos Gracie. After training with Clark, we sat on the mat for a little bit I asked what it was like for him when he first started. He said, “I don’t even remember what it was like when I first started training, because I started very young. It’s always been a part of my life.” To me, this sounds like an experience of a lifetime, but I can see how there would be a lot of pressure. He told me that when he started to really shape his BJJ career, he would go to other schools and feel targeted because of his name and lineage. While I am sure this hardened him and made him the champion he is today, Clark is proof that the journey to greatness is not an easy one no matter who you are, but it is still very much worth it. Speaking to Clark, I felt that he is truly passionate about his training and that he has great love for this sport and amazing art-form.
I felt inspired leaving the school that night; not only did I get a great workout and learn some really amazing techniques, but I got to roll and talk BJJ with a rising star and Jiu-Jitsu hero. I will never forget the experience, and I know I will take it with me for the rest of my life on my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu path, but one thing he said to me will stay with me forever; “Keep training. Don’t ever stop, have good training partners, and live a happy life.” I would like to send a big Thank You to Clark Gracie and his students for coming to Carlson Gracie in Temecula/Murrieta. This was a great experience for all who attended, and one that I will not forget. Thanks again Clark!