Director And Black Belt Guy Ritchie Reveals His Challenges On The Mat Are Bigger Than On Set

RISING Not many people know that you’re a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – what has it taught you?

GUY RITCHIE ‘Jiu-Jitsu becomes a way of life; it influences and affects every part of what you do, right the way through to the way you make decisions and the way you view things. The progression of understanding the methods and the challenges becomes reflective on everything else, and I don’t think there are many other things in life that can offer that sort of reinforcement of the self. I have learnt so much at Roger’s place [Jiu-Jitsu trainer Roger Gracie], but whether I’m in a gym in London or any other city in the world, we would see so many different cultures and communities based purely on Jiu-Jitsu. What it teaches you is humility and respect, and most of that towards each other.’

‘Jiu-Jitsu is difficult, it’s tough, and it’s you out there – there’s no-one else who is going to help you – is that life as well? It might be’

RISING Do you find that it helps you to find your focus?

GR ‘So, does it focus me? Yes, of course, because it becomes a marker for life itself. But it also removes me from comfort situations, and that is similarly important. When you are going head-on with someone else you have to be completely on your game. As soon as you step onto that mat, you need to have everything in the right place.’

RISING Does Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu help to remove you from the world of your directing work?

GR ‘Yes. But removal into a new challenge and arguably one that’s more difficult than you would ever find on a film set. It’s difficult, it’s tough, and it’s you out there. There’s no-one else who is going to help you. Is that life as well? It might be.’

RISING It was an interesting time to make a film about legendary Britain, with King Arthur – how do you think it relates to our current times?

GR ‘A big part of this film is authority and that seems a pertinent subject across a number of different polarised sectors of society at the moment. And by that, I mean we seem to be struggling with authority more than ever before. Yet, at the same time, we have methods and tools open and available to us that mean we can challenge authority in ways we were never allowed to in the past.

‘So, while I’d say there is much more a simplicity about this interpretation of King Arthur, it nonetheless all goes down same avenue whereby we are shaping and challenging a character for dramatic effect, yet on a platform that people can relate to now and is relevant for our times. What makes it relevant for 2017 isn’t my interpretation, it’s society itself.’

RISING How as a director do you deal with doubt – what’s the process of overcoming that and coming back with belief?

GR ‘I don’t believe there is a director out there who hasn’t expressed doubt. It’s simply a need to regroup, centre, and remind yourself of the reason you thought it was worth the physical, emotional and financial investment in the first place.’

RISING Do you think the re-telling of legends has a purpose beyond entertainment?

GR ‘Well there is a real story of history going on here and it would be disrespectful to say this was being done purely for entertainment. It would also be a lie to say it was being done for history’s sake too. I think in the era we’re in it’s not a bad thing to remind ourselves of who has gone before. There’s a mode right now which enforces our living in the present. Social media has governed that something that happened even a week ago feels like ancient history – well this is proper history, and the lessons of it aren’t really that different to those we are learning, or not learning, in today’s society.’

‘I don’t over analyse – I fuck about with something, write it down, and then I make it’

RISING In terms of your creative process, where do you find your best ideas coming from?

GR ‘No idea! My creative process has never been something I can put into words. It’s very random, very scattered and can sometimes lead down dark alleyways and dead ends. What I will say is I think any director needs to immerse himself in both real life and in history to fully open up creative processes. And you must be prepared for the reality that any creative process worth its salt needs to be revised, reworked and, on occasion, thrown out the window entirely.’

RISING It’s a refreshing approach – where do you think that comes from?

GR ‘I think it all comes from the fact I never had any formal training as a filmmaker, and that's a blessing rather than a curse. It's intuitive, and if I find myself getting too academic about it, I stop myself. Ultimately, I don't over analyse, I don't overthink. I fuck about with something, write it down, and then I make the fucking thing. The more you simplify the process, the easier it is.’

WHAT NEXT? Watch Roger Gracie, the MMA legend who promoted Guy Ritchie to black belt coaching a one of his signature Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu moves…