"I feel myself as an artist. I like to do things because it's beautiful, because it's intense. It's edge. It's action. It's love."
Rickson Gracie is widely considered to be the greatest Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner of all time and his "unconventional" training methods have become legendary. The 1999 documentary Choke showcased some of these techniques and it blew the minds of many martial artists including Joe Rogan, who recently had Rickson on his popular podcast (check out the clip where he asks Rickson about yoga here).
Of course, most yoga practitioners will recognize the techniques as various asana, pranayama and kriyas—like the nauli stomach churning that amazed and confounded Rogan and so many others.
"When you control your breath, you can actually control yourself mentally and physically. You can really understand your fears and your emotional stress."
Rickson freely mixes yoga posture and breathing exercises with strength and mobility drills culled from gymnastics and wrestling training in a completely natural way. He is not interested in labels or dogma—he only cares about what works, and he credits the mindstate he's able to achieve through this blend of movement and breathing practices with his ability to excel in his chosen art, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
"Sometimes when I make my routines, I get in a very special state of meditation. And this is beautiful because I'm able to exercise and totally clean my mind and keep myself in the present moment."
If that's not yoga, I don't know what is.
If you're a martial artist or coach and you're interested in incorporating yoga into your training, please contact me. As a former martial artist and a martial arts fan, I'm able to tailor a yoga program to make you, as Rickson puts it, "very smooth, a combination of very flexible, very strong, very fast, very well co-ordinated, with very good balance, and a very good breathing".