BOOK REVIEW: Breathe by Rickson Gracie

Breathe: A Life in FlowBreathe: A Life in Flow by Rickson Gracie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars Page

Out: August 10, 2021

This autobiography of the phenomenal Brazilian Ju Jutsu practitioner, Rickson Gracie, begins with ancestral origins that include a Gracie who fought in the US Civil War through Rickson’s boyhood in Rio and his professional fights in Japan, and onward to how he reinvented himself after family tragedy and the end of his fight career. Along the way, he conveys lessons learned not only through personal experience and from his father and uncle, the founders of Gracie Ju Jutsu, but also through his studies with Olando Cani — a yogi and developer of bioginastica. While the book is overwhelmingly about a life in Ju Jutsu, Cani’s influence plays a crucial role as the yogi taught Rickson about breath control, and, among a huge pack of skilled Gracie fighters, that ability was pivotal in Rickson’s rise to the top. (The book’s title, “Breathe,” hints at the role breathwork played in Rickson Gracie’s legendary capacities for enduring, flowing, and keeping his head in seemingly unfavorable situations.)

The memoir is candid, offering insights into not only Rickson’s path to success, but also his failings (which, not unexpectedly given his single-minded obsession with Ju Jutsu and fitness, more often involved life as an impetuous youth, as a father, and as a person – generally – than it did his life on the mat.) The book also explores some of the fissures in the Gracie clan and how they grew under the pressure of the family’s mammoth success. With autobiographies, it’s always a challenge to know how true a picture one is getting, but Gracie’s willingness to self-critique makes this book feel truthful.

This book is fascinating and highly engaging. If you’re interested in martial arts, it’s a no-brainer for one’s reading list, but any reader who enjoys a memoir of a life intensely lived will find the book highly readable.

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4 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: Breathe by Rickson Gracie

  1. I think we’ve discussed it before, but I can’t say as I care at all for the Gracie family’s early promotional tactics here in the U.S. Trolling, old, long retired fighters in attempts to bully them into matches was just childish.

    Sad part is, they didn’t even need to stoop that low. The Gracies are all very accomplished fighters with Rickson being near the top of the family list.

    BTW, if you want another good book to check out from the Gracies, look for “The Gracie Diet”. It’s how they eat, and they attribute the diet to a large part of their training success.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the recommendation. He does talk about the diet, but not in great detail about what it consists of — i.e. more just, as you said, that it was a critical piece. He talks more about breathwork because I think that was fairly unique to his practice (at least back in the day, now days more may be following suit.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Given your focus on health, I think you’d enjoy the book. Breathing… OLD news in the East as you know. It’s starting to get the attention it deserves in the West however.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Of course, with the cover and title they may also have wanted to capitalize on his brief, but memorable, role in the Ed Norton Hulk movie — to capture some readers who aren’t as into martial arts.

        Liked by 1 person

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