My name is Jake Whitfield and I have a problem. I proudly represent Royce and Helio Gracie Jiu-Jitsu everywhere that I go, only I don’t. My problem and my biggest struggle is nutrition. The 753 philosophy of Jiu-Jitsu is the guiding code that has been passed to me by Royce and by Grandmaster Helio’s most direct representatives: the Valente Brothers. This philosophy begins with the 7 Moral Virtues of Bushido, or the way of the warrior. It ends with the 3 Mindsets of the Warrior. Sandwiched between the two are the 5 Keys to Health. The 5 Keys to Healthy are: Rational Nutrition, Sensible Exercise, Efficient Rest, Proper Hygiene, and a Positive Attitude. I was tested on this philosophy before being awarded my black belt. I have a thorough understanding of what each and every part of it means. But I do not properly represent this philosophy. Grandmasters Carlos and Helio Gracie felt that the Gracie Diet was the ultimate form of self defense. The diet defends the body against disease in the most efficient way possible. Grandmaster Rorion Gracie has stated that the only thing more important than the physical techniques of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is the Gracie Diet.
I do not follow the Gracie Diet. I understand the diet. I’ve read Rorion’s book. GM Helio’s book includes a chapter on the diet. Royce’s SuperFit does as well. Rorion has put together an amazing resource for the diet at www.graciediet.com. And I am lucky enough to have access to several people who have followed the diet for longer than I have been alive. Last December, I had the amazing honor to spend two full days sitting with Grandmaster Pedro Valente Sr. GM Valente said many things that opened my eyes about what Jiu-Jitsu really means, but time and again he related everything back to the diet. “Son, you seem to be very stressed. Do you eat a lot of this food? That’s what I thought. The chemical in that food reacts in your body to raise your stress level. If you continue to eat that food excessively, it will lead to high blood pressure and possibly to heart problems.” I was blown away listening to this man who has dedicated over 60 years of his life to the practice of Jiu-Jitsu. I recognize the effectiveness of the diet and its importance. While I was in Miami, I ate at a restaurant that actually served a Gracie Diet approved “Jiu-Jitsu Juice” and it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted (My own attempts to recreate the juice at home have been less successful).
After that trip, I made up my mind that I was going to follow the Gracie Diet, and for a few weeks, I did a fairly good job. But then I began to slip. I was still eating lots of correctly combined meals, but I was also eating meals that didn’t combine correctly. It was astounding to note the difference in how I felt after eating a correct meal compared to an improperly combined one. Slowly but surely, less and less of my meals combined. I started to gain weight. I ate more junk. And soon I was disgusted with myself and felt horrible all the time. My weight reached 197 pounds. Then I agreed to compete in an invitational Jiu-Jitsu tournament at my old fighting weight of 170. I did not follow the Gracie diet exactly, but I followed many of the principles. I would have a fresh juice for breakfast, a healthy lunch based around fresh whole foods, then a light dinner. In just over two months, I went from 197 and easily made weight at 170. I felt fantastic, and I promised myself that I wouldn’t go back to the way I was eating before.
I’ve made that promise to myself many times before. Food is my drug. Particularly sweets. After my one and only loss in MMA, I went through a phase of eating sheet cake. I went to the store and bought birthday cakes. One or two a week, all to myself. The highest weight I have ever been was in this period: 208 pounds. When something good happens, I celebrate with food. When something bad happens, I comfort myself with food. Inevitably, I will hit a point that I just can’t take it anymore. Or something will be scheduled that requires me to make weight. Either way, I will straighten out my eating. When I’m eating right, I will feel so much better. And I will swear that I’m not going back to the way it was. But time and again I fail.
I fail because of my own personal weakness. As I ran through this post in my head, I made lots of excuses. America is obsessed with a farcical war on drugs. Our prisons are packed with individuals serving sentences for drug related crimes. But there are at least four highly addictive and completely legal drugs in America: Tobacco, Alcohol, Caffeine, and Sugar. I wanted to blame my problems on addiction. I wanted to say that it wasn’t my fault. Sugar addiction had wrapped its vice like grip around me. But that’s wrong. I don’t tolerate excuses from my students. I teach them to take responsibility for their own actions. You never blame the referee for losing a match. It’s your own fault. My problems are my own fault. When I choose to eat correctly, I do. When I have a reason not to eat poorly, I don’t. But I need to understand that an alcoholic can’t have just one beer, and I can’t have just one scoop of ice cream. I have to take responsibility for myself and I have to fix my own problems.
Nutrition has always been the weakest part of my Jiu-Jitsu. For a long time, I didn’t see nutrition as a part of Jiu-Jitsu at all. But it is. Your nutrition is more important than your triangle. Proper nutrition is the #1 survival tactic in our art. Yesterday marked two months since I weighed in at 170 for that tournament. Yesterday morning, I barely weighed in under 190 pounds. So here I go again, back down that same road. Continuing to push myself to improve. I want to be the best representative that I can be for Royce Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. I want to be worthy to have Grandmasters Helio and Carlos Gracie hanging on the wall of my school. This is my struggle. This is my life. A never ending journey through Jiu-Jitsu.
What Jiu-Jitsu taught me was how to start over again. In life or on the mat, if I take a beating today, tomorrow I’ll be eagerly swapping grips and shooting in on the legs to land in a good position.
– Marcio Feitosa
The application of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu transcends the practice of chokes, joint locks, immobilizations, throws, and strikes. A true Gracie philosophy prepares men, women, and children for life, showing them paths to a healthier life and the most effective use of physical, mental, and spiritual strength. Eating well is jiu-jitsu, taking care of your body is Jiu-Jitsu, saying no to cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs is Jiu-Jitsu, as well as keeping a close bond with relatives and friends.
– Pedro Valente