“I am very lucky to be a Gracie.”
Interview and Photos by: Barry Laminack
Kyra Gracie is arguably the world’s most famous female Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner. We had a chance to talk to her about everything from the pressures of “growing up Gracie” to the pressures that her perspective boyfriends faced.
Gracie: I love teaching. I love doing the seminars. My goal is to meet a lot of people and see a lot of places. Just having fun and teaching jiu jitsu.
TCD: What is it like “growing up Gracie”?
Gracie: I am very lucky to be a Gracie. I am proud of what my family has done, and I am glad to continue it and continue to promote our family name. I am happy that I can open it up to the girls, and hopefully will get some more girls involved with jiu jitsu. The Gracie family used to be upset when they had a girl, because they thought a girl couldn’t keep the legacy going. Now I am doing those things and I feel very good about it.
TCD: Is there a certain amount of pressure that comes with the name?
Gracie: The pressure comes from other people. They always want to see the Gracies fighting and see if they are good or not. They always want you to do well and submit your opponent. I try and not put pressure on myself. The family doesn’t put pressure on me, but I have felt the pressure from others since I was a yellow belt.
TCD: Do you personally feel disappointed when you don’t finish an opponent. Does it matter to you if you get the submission or win on points?
Gracie: I am always looking for the submission. Of course I would rather win that way, but sometimes at the higher level tournaments it is not always possible. I hope I can be like Roger and finish everyone.
TCD: So far who would you say has been your toughest opponent?
Gracie: I have had a lot of tough fights. Every year or two there are new girls who come to the black belt division and they all want to beat me up. Every time a new girl comes, it is a new challenge. I wouldn’t say there is one particular girl.
Gracie: I hope we have another Kyra Gracie in the future. There isn’t one specifically now, but I am really trying to get my cousins and sisters to train, and hopefully in the future I can retire and there will be another girl to take my place.
TCD: What inspires you not just to compete, but in life?
Gracie: I love teaching. I have a non profit organization in Brazil. It keeps me focused and makes me happy. I have 200 kids from poor neighborhoods and jiu jitsu helps them a lot. They have a passion for the sport. It is giving them discipline and respect. Their parents and teachers notice the difference. I love being able to help improve their lives.
TCD: What is it like training at Renzo’s?
Gracie: I am lucky to have him as my main instructor. I try to be like him as a fighter and a person. I admire him so much. The way he fights and the way he treats others. It is great to be around him, because you are always laughing when you are around him. He always has stories and always has something good to show me. I am not around him all the time because he is very busy, but we talk by phone all the time and he always keeps me focused and makes me believe in myself.
TCD: I have to ask, are you single?
Gracie: No, I am not, and my boyfriend is a black belt!
TCD: Was it hard dating when you were younger with your whole family being fighters?
Gracie: It was hard. My whole family are fighters and they are jealous about me because I was the first little girl in the house. The house was full of fighters. I grew up living with a lot of fighters, and no one could get close to me. Ryan was the most jealous. I went one time to an academy in Brazil. He went there and stopped the training. He said “This is my niece. She is here to train! No one look at her!” No one talked to me and I thought no one liked me, but they were all afraid of him.
Gracie: I like to kite surf and snowboard. When I am in the U.S. I always try to snowboard. When I am home in Brazil at the beach I am always kitesurfing.
TCD: What is your website, twitter, etc.?
TCD: What is something that you would tell the girls out there that are trying to get better?
Gracie: A lot of people think that once you are a Gracie, things are easier for you. Not when you are a girl. I had to fight to show I belonged. I had this dream of being a black belt and teaching. 10 years ago people told me I won’t get anywhere with jiu jitsu. For girls, I would just say to set a goal and go after it, no matter who is doubting you.