"When the Japanese migrated to Brazil in the early 1900s [to work on coffee plantations], my great-grandfather, Gastão Gracie, welcomed the jujitsu champion of Japan, a man named Conde Koma. As a gift, Koma taught his children the sport. My grandfather, Helio, was a frail kid, so he had to modify Japanese jujitsu. He couldn't overpower his competitors; instead he focused on his positioning, and developed what was an explosive martial art of strength into one based on leverage and technique. This became Brazilian jujitsu. In the late 1980s, my uncle Rorion brought this style to the States. Now you can't train in martial arts and get into a cage and win unless you know Brazilian jujitsu—it teaches you to fight on the ground.
"I don't even remember the first time I put on a gi and trained, I was so young. My dad, Rickson Gracie, who's an MMA fighter, used to poke my stomach when I was a baby, and when I'd grab his finger, he'd pull away. He was trying to strengthen my grip even then.
"I teach two hours every day, Monday through Friday, at my academy, Kron Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Los Angeles. After the lessons, I do an hour of jujitsu sparring, then MMA training, which is more self- defense—I must be ready for any kind of punch. I like to get outside, be in nature, jump in the ocean, so I do an hour run, a two-hour bike ride, or a 40-minute swim. I warm up with 100 pull-ups and 100 dips. Two days a week, instead of cardio I have a second two-hour jujitsu session. I do less weight training than people think. In the past year, I've lifted weights maybe three times. It's all push-ups, pull-ups, jujitsu.
"I have light meals every three hours to keep my energy and metabolism high, all organic and non-GMO. For breakfast I'll have sprouted-grain toast with almond butter, honey, and coffee. Later, a turkey sandwich with vegetable juice and a ginger shot. Then I might have an acai bowl and almonds. At night I consume as many calories as I can to sustain the next day's training—pasta, brown rice, chicken—most people do it the other way around, but if I do that, I lose weight.
"I do breathing exercises nightly, messing with my diaphragm—it's a muscle, like the biceps. Lungs are bottle-shaped, thin up top and wider below, so with short breaths, only 20 or 30 percent fills. Those gasps are anxiety and fear manifested. My dad taught me breathing as a kid, but I didn't care then. As I've encountered pressure and stress, it's become part of my life. I can't not do it. It gets me to a special place with my energy and spirit. That's a huge part of my performance—the energy I put into breathing."