Rickson Gracie and Peter Maguire

Mar 24, 2022

Breathe

A Life in Flow

Dey Street Books 2021

Rickson Gracie is one of the most fascinating professional athletes in the world. It is not hyperbole to call him a "living legend". A scion of a famed family of professional fighters, he was arguably the greatest Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner of his time. He went on to fight professional mixed martial arts in Japan where he retired undefeated and achieved a level of fame that is difficult to imagine. Despite being born into an elite family in Rio de Janeiro and blessed with an incredible physique and striking good looks, Rickson Gracie has seen more than his share of difficulties. In Breathe: A Life in Flow, he reflects upon his life, including his father's unorthodox parenting decisions and how he overcame the horrific loss of his first-born son. Peter Maguire, who holds a PhD in history from Columbia University and has published several books on the Nuremberg trials and the Khmer Rouge genocide, has been a Jiu Jitsu student and friend of Rickson since the early 1990s. Together they co-authored, Breathe: A Life in Flow (Dey Street, 2021).

Peter is a wonderful conversationalist and quite the storyteller. As we are both historians, surfers, and students of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and as well have both spent a fair amount of time in Cambodia and Hawai’i, I always enjoy any opportunity to chat with him. This podcast (Peter’s third appearance on the New Books Network) was no exception. We discussed the book, Rickson’s amazing life, and a range of other topics such as his interviews with survivors and perpetrators of the Khmer Rouge genocide, my brief modeling career, and the ways in which martial arts offers opportunities for personal growth.

Peter Maguire is the author of several books, including of Law and War, Facing Death in Cambodia, and Thai Stick. Maguire has taught history, law, theory of war, and the history of surfing at Columbia University, Bard College, and University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He founded the Fainting Robin Foundation which provides financial support to independent scholars, writers, and thinkers whose work falls outside the mainstream. It is a scholar-led, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that rewards genuinely independent intellectual work.

Michael G. Vann is a professor of world history at California State University, Sacramento. A specialist in imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, he is the author of The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empires, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (Oxford University Press, 2018). When he’s not reading or talking about new books with smart people, Mike can be found surfing in Santa Cruz, California.

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Michael Vann

Michael G. Vann is a professor of world history at California State University, Sacramento. A specialist in imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, he is the author of The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empires, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (Oxford University Press, 2018). When he’s not reading or talking about new books with smart people, Mike can be found surfing in Santa Cruz, California.

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