“High Times Interview: Eddie Bravo”

High Times, November 2007. Copyright Scott Ross.


   When he started taking jiu-jitsu lessons in 1994, inspired by Brazilian jiu-jitsu icon Royce Gracie’s dominance in the early years of the Ultimate Fighting Championships, Bravo was a guitar player just looking for a way to stay in shape so that he wouldn’t be a “fat rock star” when his band made it big. 


   The band broke up, but Bravo’s jiu-jitsu blew up. He started smoking marijuana, which he readily credits with helping him develop his radical style of jiu-jitsu in his second book, Mastering the Rubber Guard, which offers step-by-step instructions on Bravo’s favorite jiu-jitsu techniques – as well as a lengthy endorsement of marijuana use.


   His style of jiu-jitsu is considered revolutionary and/or heretical, depending on whom you talk to. He is notorious for his dismissive attitude towards the gi, the traditional uniform worn by practitioners of most martial arts of Asian origin, as an “an ancient superhero outfit” that teaches students nothing more than bad habits.


   Bravo proved the merit of his ideas at the 2003 Abu Dhabi World Submission Wrestling Championships, the pinnacle event of submission grappling, submitting the legendary Royler Gracie – an archetype of the system Bravo was rejecting –  in a win that shocked the world.  That victory legitimized Bravo’s theories, launching the 5-foot-8, 160-pound California-native into the upper echelons of the martial-arts world.


   Today, Bravo is a commentator for the UFC, with plans on competing only one more time before retiring from the tournament circuit for good. He continues to spread his brand of jiu-jitsu at Tenth Planet, his own Hollywood-based school, and with seminars across the globe. His third book will be released this summer. His techniques are constantly gaining in popularity, especially with notable MMA (mixed martial arts) fighters such as Dean Lister and Japan’s Shinya Aoki demonstrating their effectiveness with wins at the highest levels of competition. 


   Bravo unabashedly recommends marijuana, saying that it will not only improve your jiu-jitsu game, but also your life. His openness in regards to pot has been criticized by some:  Isn’t Bravo aware that he’s a respected figure within jiu-jitsu, that there are people who look up to him? That’s he’s a role model?


Yes, as a matter of fact he is. That’s kind of the point.



How does jiu-jitsu with a gi differ from jiu-jitsu without a gi?

With gi jiu-jitsu you use yanking and pulling to set everything up. You grab the collar and you yank and pull – it’s like a big tug of war.


When you’re going no-gi, there’s no yanking and pulling, there’s clinching and squeezing. It’s a different way to work your body. It takes a while to get down.


People frequently describe your style of jiu-jitsu as “unorthodox.” What’s so different about your style?


If you concentrate just on no-gi jiu-jitsu the game totally changes. The rubber guard, the twister set-ups, the half-guard stuff; even my mount is different. If you’re working both gi and no-gi, you’re not going to have enough time to develop a pure no-gi style.


   The only reason I started focusing on no-gi was that if I ever lost my job I might need to fight to make some money. At the time I was deejaying in a strip club, writing music, and training jiu-jitsu. And if I was going to fight I wanted my jiu-jitsu to be as MMA-ready as possible. I wouldn’t have enough time to catch up on my kickboxing and my wrestling if I were revamping my jiu-jitsu.


   Luckily I didn’t have to do MMA. Basically, tapping out Royler Gracie made it so I didn’t have to do MMA. It allowed me to just teach jiu-jitsu and concentrate on my music. If I had to go into MMA, it would have been a big blow to my music because training for MMA is like training for the Olympics.


In Mastering the Rubber Guard, you thank marijuana for helping you develop your own style of jiu-jitsu. How did marijuana help you develop your game? 


My first four years of jiu-jitsu were weed free. As soon as I started smoking weed I saw a difference. The way I look at it is that when you smoke pot your brain is supercharged. All of your emotions are supercharged. Food tastes better, music sounds way better, and jokes are funnier. Your touch is more sensitive and sex is better. Everything is heightened. So your brain is alive. That’s a lot of power. Now you are dealing with a supercharged brain.


   Once I started smoking weed, I began breaking down why jiu-jitsu wasn’t working as effectively as it was in the beginning of MMA. Back then, if you knew any kind of jiu-jitsu or were any kind of black belt, you were probably going to win. But then it started to become harder and harder for jiu-jitsu guys to win with submissions in MMA, and I decided to figure out why. 


And what was your conclusion?

In the beginning if you didn’t know jiu-jitsu, then you didn’t know anything about fighting on the ground, so all the gi habits, the yanking and the pulling, didn’t matter because their opponents were so green on the ground that it didn’t even matter how they controlled them because they could just grab them and choke them or take their arm. But as the UFC progressed everyone started learning the basics of jiu-jitsu and how to defend it, which isn’t really that hard.


   So now the only way to get guys is to really master the no-gi setups with the clinch. No one was doing that, they were still practicing with the gi, and then when they had a MMA fight they would take the gi off and either they didn’t know how to clinch and squeeze or they weren’t good enough at it because they weren’t spending enough time learning that.


   Basically, I broke everything down in my head and I started a new training system. No one had ever broken down the no-gi game the way I had, and I don’t think I could have done it without the weed.


What’s more controversial, your ideas about the gi or marijuana?  

They are about the same level of controversy really.

How has the public reacted towards your stance on marijuana?

A lot of people are turned off by my marijuana talk, but even more people have thanked me for opening their eyes. All I really do is lead them to Jack Herer’s book. Half my introduction is excerpted from The Emperor Wears No Clothes.


How do respond to the negative criticisms of your marijuana advocacy?

Any negative criticism is based on bullshit and not knowing the facts, so I just ignore that shit.


What about the concerns that your pot advocacy is inappropriate because of your stature within jiu-jitsu, a sport that children compete in?

I believe it’s best if you don’t smoke weed until you are a grown man with a good grip on who you are. Weed is whatever you want it be so you need to make sure you are in the right frame of mind. When you are kid, you aren’t in the right frame of mind – you don’t know shit.


You didn’t start training stoned until 2003, five years after you began smoking weed. Why was that?

I was afraid of training jiu-jitsu stoned because I was usually the smallest guy in the gym. I thought the weed would make me relax while I trained. I would walk into the gym and drink a Red Bull because at that point I thought I needed to be extra wiry and aggressive and alert.


   I thought I couldn’t roll stoned. I thought it would be impossible. At first I didn’t think I could do anything stoned.  I didn’t think I could drive stoned. I didn’t think I could anything stoned except stay at home at night and order food and watch TV and write down these crazy ideas I was coming up with. 


   Then I met one of the top American jiu-jitsu players and I had a talk with him at the World Championships in Brazil, and he told me that he trains jiu-jitsu stoned all the time and it makes him flow better. He said he felt like a ninja when rolled stoned, but I didn’t believe him.


   Eventually, I did start rolling stoned when I opened up my own school. My classes are at 8:30 p.m. Up until then I had only been a day trainer; I had never waked and baked so it was really easy for me to avoid mixing my weed and my training. I would only smoke weed at night, and I trained during the day. Since day one of teaching I’ve taught every night class totally baked. That guy was right, you do flow better stoned.



You waited until your second book to talk about the positive impact marijuana has made on your life. Why is that?


I’ve always been open about my life but I wasn’t able to talk about weed in my first book because it was published by McGraw-Hill, a major label. I decided that for my second book, I wanted complete control and McGraw-Hill didn’t want to give it me. I turned down two offers because I wanted full control and they told me to fuck off so I went with a smaller publisher who was willing to give me what I wanted. Once I had full control, I decided for sure I was going to tell my weed story.



You were 28 when you started smoking weed. Why the late start?

My whole life I was against it. I was an anti-weed activist. I thought pot made you stupid. I had friends who smoked pot and I was sure it was the pot that made them stupid. I didn’t realize that they were already stupid.


Why do you think that you’ve become a hemp advocate?

I think it’s because I started smoking weed late in life. When you start smoking later in life, your personality is set. People have you figured out, you have your self all figured out, or at least you think you do – and then you smoke weed? You appreciate the weed way more than a guy who has been smoking weed since he was twelve.


   Look at Jack Herer. There is no bigger activist than him. He’s the godfather and he started smoking later in life. He hated it; he thought it was for losers. He started smoking at 35, which is older than I was. And look at him, he’s written the bible on hemp. Same thing with Joe Rogan; I got Joe to start smoking weed when he was 32 or 33 and he’s a tremendous activist now. I think a lot of hemp activists started smoking later in life. 


You also write that marijuana has made a positive impact on your music. What do you mean by that?

Weed reveals your soul. Music is all about being real. I’m not saying that if you smoke weed you’re going to write great music, it doesn’t work that way. It’s just going to make you open up more, it’s going to put you in touch with who you are and help you express it.


   There was a big difference in my music after I started smoking weed. People started putting my music on repeat and I was never complimented like that before I started smoking.



You also talk about the spiritual aspects of weed in your book. Do you find any conflict between your spirituality and the violent nature of MMA?


Most fighters aren’t fighting to hurt their opponent or because they hate their opponent.  They are fighting to prove something to themselves, or to make money, or for the glory and the fame. It’s not based on anger. It’s based on self-improvement.


   People want to challenge themselves and getting into a cage and fighting someone is a scary thing. One on one, no team, it’s just you and your opponent. It has nothing to do with anger and being pissed off; it’s all about glory and finding yourself.


You had a reputation as stoner within the MMA community even before your book. How did that start?


To tell you the truth, I don’t know how that started. Somewhere on the Internet I must have talked about it. I would always just send people to Jack Herer’s Web site. Don’t argue with me, check this out and argue those facts.


   I was so amazed that I had to tell everybody. I would be lying if I didn’t tell people. People think I’m crazy, why? It’s just a plant.


Earlier this year, the Nevada State Athletic Commission declared Nick Diaz’s submission victory over Pride’s Lightweight Champion Takara Gomi a no-contest because Diaz tested positive for Delta-9-THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. The commission held the position that marijuana gave Diaz a competitive edge. Does that surprise you?


It doesn’t shock me but it’s ridiculous. But to take away that beautiful win is wrong. If they are saying that he won because it gave him extra energy or allowed him to deal with the pain better as he fought, that’s crazy.


Have you ever competed stoned?

I haven’t competed stoned. I’m nervous before I compete and I think that the weed would make me more nervous. I train stoned all of the time, but I haven’t gotten to the point where I can compete stoned.


   I haven’t competed in four years, and I’ll probably compete one more time and I doubt I’ll do it stoned. I’ll be too nervous. That’s my weakness. That doesn’t have anything to do with pot.


   When I compete again it will probably be a big deal. There will be a lot of pressure. If I was confident and competing without any nerves, which is rare – most fighters have nerves, then weed would take me through the roof.


Do you think that marijuana should be banned from sports?   

I don’t believe it should be banned, but it is a performance enhancer. You train your body to react without thinking, whenever you do that whatever sport that is, you just flow better stoned.

When you’ve already mastered an art and then you’re stoned where you enter this zone where you’re not even thinking and everything just happens – nothing tops that.


Yet in our society there seems to be the perception that marijuana use is almost the opposite of athleticism.


Ricky Williams, he was an open stoner all through college and he was one of the baddest running backs around. C’mon, has weed affected his athletic performance? Those two, you can get anymore athletic than them.


Your third book, Mastering the Twister, will be released this summer. Are you going to talk about marijuana in the introduction to that book as well?


This time I’m going deeper. I’m going to talk about my DMT experiences. DMT is the spirit molecule. It’s a chemical that’s in many plants, but is also produced by the pineal gland in your brain. The Amazonian Indians have been drinking this chemical for thousands of years, they call it Ayahuasca. It takes them to the spirit world every night. They’re not in the jungle because they’re lost and can’t find their way out; they’re in there dancing with the spirits of the universe.


– by Scott Ross


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