In 1988 you were running classes at the Gracie Barra Academy, can you tell me a little about that?
Rigan: Gracie Barra was my academy before I came to the United States. I was Carlos Gracie Jr. first Black Belt and he and I were partners in Gracie Barra before I came to the United States. After coming to the U.S. I incorporated a lot of new aspects into Brazilian Jiujitsu. For example, the leg locks and foot locks from sambo wrestling; the takedowns and set ups from freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. I would bring back these ideas and teach them to all the Black Belts from Gracie Barra and other academies. There were a lot of Black Belts down there then, and they all used these new ideas to bring the jiujitsu up to a new level. It was an exiting time for me.
Who would you say were the biggest influences in your early years?
Rigan: First I would have to say Rolls Gracie. He was one of the most aggressive fighters around at that time. He taught me that the more aggressive we are, the less defensive we need to be. He emphasized the attacks in jiujitsu. He was the best instructor I ever had in terms of aggression and attack. Next I would have to say, Carlos Gracie jr. He was good at coming up with drills to develop the jiujitsu game. Carlos Gracie Sr. was very influential for me. He taught me that jiujitsu is not only a sport and an art, but a way of life. He was a very philisophical person who brought a whole other dimension of jiujitsu to me. Also my brothers, Carlos, John, Jean-Jacques, and Roger. Because we are and still remain united in our efforts to develop jiujitsu. We have taken it a long way. Between us there is no ego and this allows for more experimentation and development on the mat. This is the culture we have set amongst ourselves. It is a very special thing....LEAVE YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR...