Vice.com, November 2014
10 Questions for the Gracie-Torres Family
By Pedro A. Olavarria
Thanksgiving is about family and gratitude. In the world of mixed martial arts, family is also associated with another G word: Gracie. Although Thanksgiving is as old as our nation, it is reinvented every year in the homes of new American families. So who better to talk to about Thanksgiving than two members of MMA’s oldest family, who are also a new American family, celebrating their first Thanksgiving together: Rener Gracie and Eve Torres Gracie.
Most MMA fans know Rener Gracie for his Gracie Breakdown videos wherein he and his brother Ryron dissect and describe the details of jiu-jitsu, as they apply to MMA, submission wrestling and self-defense. A firm believer that jiu-jitsu is primarily a self-defense art, Rener is the founder of GracieUniversity.com , an online educational service that provides the fundamentally essential, though almost universally neglected, self-defense curriculum of Helio Gracie; and Bullyproof (GracieKids.com) a self-defense program tailored to the unique challenges children face at school. He is also jiu-jitsu coach to the who’s who of modern MMA, from Ronda Rousey to Lyoto Machida. The other half of this jiu-jitsu tag-team is Rener’s wife, Eve Torres Gracie.
Eve is most famous for being a three-time WWE Diva’s Champion. She is also a former member of the Los Angeles Clipper Spirit Dance Team and a proud USC Trojan. Today, she is a dedicated practitioner of Gracie jiu-jitsu and is focused on empowering women through Women Empowered, a Gracie self-defense curriculum created specifically for women. Eve is also an actress; who can be seen in the upcoming, Scorpion King 4, set to be released in January 2015. Rener and Eve were gracious in taking time from their busy schedules, to answer a few questions about Thanksgiving, Gracie style.
1) Rener, how did the Brazilian origin of your family influence how you celebrated Thanksgiving growing up?
Rener: In my early childhood years, we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving because my father had just arrived from Brazil and didn’t know much about the holiday. Not to mention, in those years prior to the UFC, also known as the “Garage Days,” finances were super tight and we definitely couldn’t afford an extravagant meal. Things have changed a lot since then, the entire world is learning jiu-jitsu, and we celebrate every year with a huge turkey!
2) Rener and Eve, who does the cooking on Thanksgiving? Does it adhere to the Gracie Diet?
Eve: This is actually our first Thanksgiving together as husband and wife. Typically, I do most of the cooking unless is has to do with slicing avocados because Rener insists that he has the most efficient technique. And yes, Thanksgiving in the Gracie household definitely adheres to the Gracie Diet. No mixing of starches, no cranberry sauce, and no pumpkin pie! The hardest decision I face every year is: sweet potatoes or stuffing?!
3) Thanksgiving is about family, as you create this new family, some of that involves combining and creating new family traditions. What are some of the traditions of the new Gracie-Torres family?
Rener: Eve comes from a very educated family. Her mom is an attorney, her brother is an entomologist, her father and sister are both psychologists, and Eve has a degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Southern California. So when the family of fighters gets together with the family of intellects for the holidays, it makes for some interesting conversations to say the least. If we have kids one day, I hope they fight like a Gracie but think like a Torres.
4) Rener and Eve, what are you both most grateful for?
Eve: Along with my loving family and friends, I’m most grateful to have found a vehicle through which I can impact the world around me, and to do it with the person I love most. Jiu-jitsu began as a personal journey, but once I realized how deeply it impacted my life, I became passionate about sharing it with other women. Through educational videos, live seminars, and instructor certification courses, we have reached tens of thousands of women around the world. Nothing feels better than sharing something that could save a life.
Rener: I’m most grateful for having found a woman that fell in love with jiu-jitsu and me simultaneously. There is nothing more encouraging than a wife who supports you and your passion 100%.
5) Rener, when Gracies get together for the Holidays, is jiu-jitsu involved at all?
Rener: Yes. Oftentimes, a technical debate will begin at the dinner table and end up in the garage. No-gi of course.
6) Rener, do you have any Holiday Gracie stories?
Rener: Every year, Santa Claus actually comes to our house on Christmas Eve with a huge bag of gifts for all the kids. He comes through the backyard and makes his way into the living room where he sits on a big chair and gives out the gifts to me and my nine siblings. One time when I was 8 years old, I was sitting right next to Santa on the floor, and I was so intrigued by his enormous beard that I grabbed it and gave it a little tug. Santa slapped my hand and reprimanded me, and that was the unforgettable moment when I discovered that Santa speaks Portuguese!!
7) Rener and Eve, who are you two spending Thanksgiving with this year?
Eve: This year, our entire family will be celebrating Thanksgiving at Ralek’s house. Him and his wife, Alicia, just moved so it’ll be their first Thanksgiving in the new house. We plan on bringing some delicious zucchini bakes, coconuts, and the traditional Gracie Family corn soup for everyone!
8) Rener and Eve, Black Friday, do you go, or do you avoid it like the plague?
Rener: Forget the plague, I avoid it like Ryron’s Rear Naked Choke!
Eve: Bring it on. A woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do. Just don’t cut me in line, I know jiu-jitsu!
9) Rener, do you have any tips for training during the holidays?
Rener: Keep rolling at all costs! Too often I see people get so caught up with holiday shopping and other festivities that their training schedules suffer. Training keeps us in shape, and makes us more compassionate human beings – don’t put it off until the new year! If you are forced to miss a class because the academy is closed, log on to GracieUniversity.com, or any other online academy, and add some techniques to your arsenal. No matter what, don’t stop! Anyone who has already quit jiu-jitsu, or who thinks that they are too old, should check out this video.
10) Rener, which are the big holiday fights you are looking forward to watching?
We’re training hard with Brendan Schaub, Lyoto Machida and Ronda Rousey for their upcoming fights. Brendan is fighting Travis Browne on December 6, Lyoto is fighting C.B. Dolloway on December 20, and Ronda is fighting Cat Zingano on February 28. I’m excited about several upcoming fights, but none so much as these three.