Brazilian/Gracie Jiu-Jitsu students can be trained without injury while utilizing a maximum effort. This course teaches the value of position and the knowledge of when the submission is achieved so that there is no injury to the participants.
Team R.O.C. Jiu-Jitsu will train in Gracie self-defense and some methods from 3SD (Solo Soldier Self-Defense).
Jiu Jitsu History
Gracie/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu History
In 1904, “Judo’s founder Jigoro Kano sent one of his strongest young Judoka, Mitsuyo Maeda (1880-1941) with Jojiro Tomita to the White House to assist in a judo demonstration for President Teddy Roosevelt. After a formal demonstration, an American football player in the audience issued an impromptu challenge.” The less adept Tomita took to the floor instead of Maeda. “Tomita failed with a throw and was pinned helplessly beneath the football player’s bulk. Maeda, abashed by Tomita’s poor showing and frantic to reassert the superiority of Kodokan Judo, stayed on. He persuaded some Japanese businessmen to stake him $1,000 in prize money and embarked on a long career of challenging all comers throughout North and South America. The 5’5, 154-pound Maeda was said to have engaged in over 1,000 challenge matches, never once losing a judo-style competition and only once or twice suffering defeat as a professional wrestler. In Brazil, where he eventually settled he was feted as Conte Comte (“Count Combat”) and his savage system of fighting, now called ‘Gracie Jujutsu,’ is employed by certain fighters in present-day ‘no-holds-barred’ professional matches”.
It was Maeda who brought Jiu-Jitsu to Brazil. As a member of the Kodokan, Maeda went to America with his kohai Satake, etc. as Judo ambassadors. He was said to have fought more than 100 fights and in Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America, he was respected as Count Koma (Conde Koma).
Maeda was born in Aomori Prefecture in 1878. When he was a boy, he learned Tenshin (Tenshin Shin’yo) Jiu-Jitsu. He moved to Tokyo when he was about 18 and went to Tokyo Senmon School. He began practicing Judo and a record of him entering the Kodokan is dated 1897. He was very persistant and never gave up on anything. He was naturaly talented in judo and rose through the ranks quickly to establish himself as the most promising young judoka in the Kodokan. Maeda was a small man at 164 cm, 70 kilo.
In 1904, he travelled to the U.S. with one of his instructors, Tsunejiro Tomita. The first and only place they demonstrated judo together was at the U.S. Army academy in West Point. Contrary to what has been published, they never went to the White House to meet the President, Teddy Roosevelt. It was the Kodokan great, Yoshitsugu Yamashita who taught Roosevelt judo at the White House and later engaged in a match with a wrestler nearly twice his size at Roosevelt’s request, which took place at the U.S. Naval academy in Annapolis. Yamashita won with an arm bar and was given a teaching position at the academy.
The demonstration at West Point however was a failure. Tomita and Maeda performed kata, but the Americans did not comprehend the techniques they were observing. Maeda was challenged by a student who was a wrestling champion. Maeda accepted the challenge and the wrestler ended up pinning Maeda which the wrestler had felt garnered him victory over Maeda. Maeda, who was not familiar with western wrestling continued to fight until he put his opponent in a joint lock forcing the wrestler to tap out. The students at West Point then wanted to see Tomita fight. In their minds, since Tomita was the instructor, he must have been better than Maeda. Tomita was in his 40′s and was past his prime. He had no choice but to accept a fight or he would of lost face. His larger American opponent rushed and tackled him. Tomita was held helpless under the larger man and forced to give up.
After this incident, Tomita and Maeda separated. Tomita left for the West Coast and Maeda stayed in New York. Maeda began teaching at Princeton University part-time after he had won some challenge matches. He also commuted to teach in New York City, but his American students did not take to the Japanese style of teaching and he often found his students did not stay long. Maeda was approached to engage in a match for prize money by the local japanese. Maeda wasn’t having much success teaching judo so he accepted. This was a violation of Kodokan rules which prohibited members from engaging in matches. He accepted the wrestling/judo match with a Brooklyn, New York wrestler nicknamed “Butcherboy” that took place in the Catskills, New York. Maeda defeated the wrestler. His victory raised the pride of local Japanese in the area. This match was the beginning of his career as a professional fighter.
Eventually Maeda travelled to Spain. It was here that Maeda took on the ring name “Conde Koma” in 1908. Maeda was a person who appeared to be under a black cloud. He described his situation was “komaru” which means to be in trouble. So he settled on calling himself “Maeda Koma” by shortening “Maeda Komaru.” A spanish acquaintance suggested “Conde” which means “Count.” Maeda then referred to himself as “Conde Koma” which also later became part of his legal name.
When Maeda was in London, England, (February 1907 – June 1908) he saw a newspaper article where a Russian wrestling champion was quoted as saying that wrestling was superior to judo. He tracked the large wrestler down and issued a challenge on the spot. The wrestler refused on the grounds that he was misquoted and could not risk losing to a non-wrestler. Maeda was brazen and confident enough to challenge Jack Johnson, the American heavyweight boxing champion. Helio Gracie would also duplicate Maeda’s challenge by formally issuing a challenge to the heavyweight American champion of his own era, Joe Louis aka “The Brown Bomber.” One of Helio’s son, Royce, also repeated this tradition by challenging Mike Tyson, the heavyweight boxing champion of the world.
Maeda would travel also throughout Latin America to fight. In 1915, he ended up in Brazil in a city called Belem. He considered this place to be ideal and settled in Belem which would become his home. He engaged in challenge matches and became famous throughout the region. He also returned to Cuba, Mexico, and the U.S. when necessarily. Maeda was to continue his role as a judo instructor. He taught San Paulo policemen, army college cadets, as well as ordinary citizens. Of course, one of them was a teenage boy by the name of Carlos Gracie, who would perhaps become his most notable student, Carlos Gracie.
Maeda is rumoured to have fought over 2,000 matches in his career; many unrecorded. He traveled throughout Latin America and Europe, taking on all comers. He became a legend in the fighting world and his name is still well known amongst Japanese settlements in the Americas. He only lost two matches in his fighting career. One in the “catch-as-catch-can” world championships held in London. In this tournament, Maeda entered in both the middleweight and heavyweight divisions. He advanced to the semi-finals in the finals in two weight classes. In matches where judo gis were worn, however, Maeda was undefeated.
In 1925, Maeda began his attempts to assist the Japanese immigrating to Brazil. At the time, there were anti-Japanese sentiments in the US, so Maeda felt Brazil with its more open policy towards immigration was the ideal environment for Japanese settlers. The Amazon appeared to present itself as a lush territory perfect for the Japanese settlers. Maeda worked closely with visiting Japanese officials scouting the territory to assess its suitability for Japanese immigration. In 1928, a Japanese company was created to help the Japanese settle into a town in the Amazon jungle. This town was in a large tract of land set aside by the Brazilian government for the Japanese settlers. Maeda would labor tirelessly to assists his fellow Japanese. Unfortunately, the settlement turned out to be a failure due to malaria and growing unprofitable crops which were not part of the Brazilian diet. The immigrants eventually abandoned the settlement in droves for the port cities.
Maeda became a very prominent member of his community. He was given executive positions in many companies and even received a large tract of land from the government. In 193, Maeda became a Brazilian citizen. He is said to have married the daughter of the French consulate, but there is no record of this in a Japanese register, so they probably only lived together. They had a daughter, but both mother and daughter died when the daughter was 2 years old. He remarried at the age of 44 to a Scottish woman and they had a daughter.
In 1940, the Japanese government offered to pay Maeda’s way for a trip back to Japan in appreciation of the unselfish assistance to Japanese immigrants. He refused the offer, reportedly telling a friend that he wanted to finish building a house for his family. His wife feared that if he went back to Japan he would never return to Brazil. Although, he showed no strong urge to return to Japan, his supposed final words when he died a year later of kidney disease were “I want to drink Japanese water, I want to go back to Japan.”
Helio Gracie? By most accounts, he is the father of the jiu-jitsu craze currently sweeping the martial arts, both in the U.S. and around the world. According to his sons, and his students, he is a bonafide grandmaster in a time when all too many “grandmasters” are mere paper tigers. According to many in his native Brazil, he was, in his prime, the toughest man on the planet.
Helio Gracie is the father of the world-renowned Gracie brothers – Rorion, Relson, Rickson, Rolker Royler, Robin and Royce – who exploded onto the American martial arts scene over 20 years ago with a rib-cracking fight scene in the first Lethal Weapon movie choreographed by Rorion Gracie.
Their prowess was also demonstrated by the convincing victories of Royce Gracie in the “Ultimate Fighting Championships”, where he won more no-holds-barred matches than any other competitor in the history of the event without sustaining, or delivering, much damage in the process.
Born the youngest of five brothers October 1, 1913 in Belem, Para state in the Amazon region of Brazil, Helio did not at first evidence the mental and physical toughness that would place him in history as one of the most significant icons in martial arts.
Although the Amazon region of Brazil is that country’s version of America’s own “Wild, Wild West”, Helio himself suffered form an inexplicable weakness that resulted in severe fainting spells as a small child and caused the family physician to caution Helio’s parents and older brothers not expose young Helio to any form of exertion whatsoever, even school.
Consequently, Helio was reduced to being a spectator throughout much of his childhood, even as his father Gastao Gracie’s political acumen cultivated the relationship that resulted in the Gracie brothers being given their life’s work at the hands of an enigmatic Japanese commoner named Esai Maeda.
Maeda was a fighter, a short, powerfully built man who began his carrier in the sumo wrestling contests that proliferated at the fairs and festivals in rural Japan. Eventually he matriculated to Waseda University where he studied judo – not the current, contest-oriented judo, but an earlier form with a heavy emphasis on the “goshin-no-kata” self-defense forms.
Having mastered judo and eager to prove himself, Maeda began to travel the world taking on all comers in wrestling matches with few holds barred.
Maeda’s travels eventually took him to Brazil where, in a series of wrestling exhibitions against local challengers, he so impressed a group of wealthy Brazilians that they awarded him lands in Brazil for his victories. Maeda left Brazil briefly, but soon returned with the blessing of the Japanese government to attempt to gain approval in Brazil for Japanese settlers to immigrate to Brazil and move onto the lands that he had won.
Maeda quickly found an ally in his efforts in Gastao Gracie, the father of Helio and his four older brothers. Gastao, friend and confidant to many political leaders in Brazil, proved very helpful to Maeda and to reward Gastao, he began to tutor Carlos, the oldest of the Gracie brothers.
Having found his life’s work, Helio’s older brother, Carlos, relocated his family to Rio de Janeiro, opening the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy there in the mid-1920’s. And he followed in the path of his sensei, Esai Maeda, who was now known as “Count Koma” in Brazil because of his land holding, by demonstrating his fighting prowess in matches throughout Brazil.
During this time, Helio was relegated to the sidelines because of his poor physical condition, watching and whishing that could be part of the exciting life now being lived by Carlos and his other brothers.
All this changed for Helio, however, not long after he turned 16. As he sat in this brother’s school one afternoon he noticed that one of Carlos’ students has arrived for a private lesson and that Carlos was nowhere to be seen. Worried that his brother’s now-agitated student might be offended and leave, Helio approached the man and offered to put his through his paces.
He had been watching his brothers teach jiu-jitsu for years now and he was sure that he could do it as well as he needed to teach others. And, in fact, as the lesson ended, Carlos came bursting into the school apologizing for his tardiness. “That’s alright”, said the student. “Your brother gave me a good lesson and, if you don’t mind, I’d like him to teach me from now on.” “I later found out,” recalled Helio, “that he was the son of the President of the Bank of Brazil.” And so began an exciting career in the martial arts that has lasted 75 years and has had a major impact on the way serious martial artists view what is and what is not practical in the way of self-defense.
Helio quickly followed his brothers into the world of no-holds-barred challenge matches, called “Vale Tudo,” to demonstrate his prowess. He wasted not time in defeating all of his local champions and would-be champions in boxing, wrestling, karate and champions in every sport and art that might be in sunny Rio on vacation, and he relentlessly challenged the reigning World Heavyweight Champion in boxing, be it Joe Louis or Ezzard Charles.
Easily one of Helio’s proudest accomplishments as a fighter was his match with undefeated Japanese judo champion Masahiko Kimura. Confident that he would easily beat his much-smaller Brazilian opponent, Kimura told the press assembled for the fight that if Helio lasted longer then three minutes he should consider himself the winner of the bout. Helio lasted 13 minutes and was still fighting when his older brother and mentor, Carlos, threw in the towel, afraid that the armlock Kimura had caught his younger bother in would shatter Helio’s arm.
And toward the end of his fighting career, there was the nearly four-hour long, non-stop fight with his former student, Valdemar Santana. Although Helio eventually lost his match, his ability to make that marathon contest last so long and so well against a much younger and bigger opponent had new students lining up to learn the techniques that Helio used to such good effect against Santana, a powerfully built stone cutter.
But, it is not Helio’s prowess in the ring that has made the Gracie name a household word in the world outside Brazil, but rather the art he developed and the way that he passes that art on to others.
In judo there is a phrase, “Tokuiwaz” that describes techniques that have been personalized to suite a particular judo player that developed them. It means not only a technique that has been altered to fit the build and body of the judoka who developed it, but it is often a signature technique. Examples of this both in and out of judo would be Masahiko Kumura’s famous “Ippon seioi-nage,” Bill Wallace’s roundhouse kick, “ “Smokin’” Joe Frazier’s hook or Muhammad Ali’s famous left jab.
What Helio Gracie has developed is not necessarily a new or different martial art, but simply the most finely crafted collection of “Tokui-waza” ever assembled. This is an important point to understand; while in every case Helio’s version of the technique is better and more efficient than the original; the roots of each of Helio’s techniques will be evident to most any student of judo or jiu-jitsu. Helio did not really do anything all that different – just better.
Anyway, in understanding Helio Gracie, it’s also important to understand that he did not set out to create a new or different martial art. He simply wanted to make what he knew work better to offset the disadvantages that he brought to any fight because of his size and lack of strength.
When asked how he developed this technique or that, he always replies, “Well, I tried it this way and it seemed to work better, so I kept doing it this way…” Everything that worked well stayed in the system; everything that did not was discarded.
”I really do not remember when we started doing this technique this way or anything,” he says in interviews. “ We would just practice and if it worked, fine, if it did not we would change it a little,” he adds, denying that there was any concerted effort to develop a new art and that from his point of view the sophisticated Brazilian grappling techniques developed almost by accident.
”I just realized that the safest place for me to be in a fight was in a clinch,” he recalls,”… and because I was not very strong it would even be better to be in a clinch on the ground where I did not have to work very hard…”
While on the ground he realized that controlling an opponent with his legs took a lot less effort than trying to control his with his arms and that waiting for his opponent to make a mistake that exposed them to a choke or armbar did not wear him out as much as trying to fight for an opening for his technique.
Even the incredible efficiency of Helio’s choking techniques is not or at least should not be a great mystery to most competent martial artists. When the author showed his judo sensei Helio’s version of the choke, “jiui-jime”, the sensei said, “Well, everybody knows that if you do it that way you’ll get more leverage,” and a quick survey of the black belts in attendance proved this to be true.
”Well, why don’t you teach it that way?” the sensei was asked. “Tradition,” was his one-word response.
Helio realized right away that his departures from tradition and the tactics he has developed would benefit his own students and he wasted no time in passing them onto his students, his brothers an eventually, his children. But how he taught and continued to teach is perhaps the greatest example of Helio’s genius. He knew from the start that any student benefits the most from one-on-one instruction and that the teacher benefits as well through the constant feedback that individualized instructions gives the teacher about how well the student is absorbing the material.
Through trial and error he found the best order in which to present the techniques. “He realized that if you try to teach someone four knife defenses in one lesson, they’ll get confused,” says son, Royce, “so we teach one knife defense, one headlock escape, a couple of ground techniques in each lesson and they absorb the material better.”
Also an important part of Helio’s curriculum is his belief that, “Students are not paying to get beaten up, they are paying to learn to defend themselves.” Helio’s students, especially beginners, spend all their practice time throwing the instruction, not being thrown.
This user-friendly attitude extended far beyond the walls of the Gracie Academy and was the major component in Helio’s philosophy as a parent as well. One might expect the home of the martial arts master, especially one wanting very much to raise tough, discipline and well-trained children, to be run like a boot camp. But according to Royce Gracie, nothing could have been further from the truth.
“Papai felt that courage comes from security, from knowing that you are loved. He was always very patient with us, very kind. He did not believe in knocking his children around and when we did something wrong the punishment was usually just fixing the mess we made. In fact, the only time he ever hit us was when we broke a streetlight because since the city fixed the streetlight, there was not way he could have us do it. So he lined all of us up, all my brothers and sisters, and then he went down the line smacking us on palms of our hands with a rubber shower sandal.”
Royce recalls his father as having a great sense of fun. This sense of fun is still alive today as the author can attest. It is a healthy sense of fun that comes from the perspective of not just 88 years of life, but 88 years of living! He has lived a life about which books have been written in his native Brazil, a life which renowned photographer Bruce Weber tried to capture in his volume, O Rio de Janeiro, a life which an article ten times this length would not be long enough to cover.
He has fought all comers, no matter how big or how tough. His courage is unquestioned – an oil company once minted a medal is his honor for leaping off a cruise ship to pull a downing man out of shark-infested waters. A dedicated father and patriarch of his family, he has raised over 40 children (not all his own) to adulthood. And he has taught not only his, but his brother’s children as well, the martial art he has crafted. Presidents and paupers alive have been his students.
Masahiko Kimura, won the all-Nippon Championship before and after the war. Kimura is considered one of Judo’s great Judokas. He created “pro” judo in 1949, but failed in his activities and went to Hawaii, U.S. and became a prowrestler. He started international prowrestling at his hometown but lost to “Lidosan” at the “fight of the century.” Like Maeda, he went to Europe and the US, and found his way to Central America and went to Brazil.
In 1952, at the gym next to the largest soccer stadium in Rio, the fight began. The rules were based on using judo gi’s (No strikes). Invincible Helio was 45 years old, 63 kilos. Kimura at 93 kilos. Kimura, with his powerful physique, easily threw Helio. Kimura quickly commenced with the ground game (newaza). Kimura and Helio rolled on the ground as Kimura jockeyed for position and a submission. Helio did his best to defend against the onslaught from one of Judo’s greatest fighters. Kimura tried different submissions to force Helio’s submission. Helio refused to submit and fought to escape Kimura’s punishing attacks. Helio struggled valiantly against his larger opponent as Kimura tried different submissions. For the first 2 minutes, it was a tie, but Helio was constantly on the losing end. After 15 minutes, Helio conceded defeat. The first defeat in Helio’s life was handed to him by Kimura. The decisive arm lock technique used by Kimura was named the “Kimura Lock” and even now known to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu players, to praise Kimura’s ability. It’s been said that after the fight, Kimura invited Helio to visit the Kodokan in Japan. Helio declined. Even to this day, Helio speaks of great admiration of Kimura and appear proud to have faced one of Japan’s greatest Judokas, Masahiko Kimura.
The Jiu-Jitsu Maeda taught disappeared in Japan completely, but it flourished on the other side of the world in Brazil. The competition (fights) with the other schools Maeda had in Europe, US, and Central and South America was carried on in the name of vale tudo. A japanese martial arts journalist wrote, “Perhaps one day, G r a c i e J i u – J i t s u will come home and compete in the fighting rings in Japan.” This has come to pass as Rickson Gracie, Royler Gracie, Renzo Gracie, Jean Jacques Machado, and other Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters have fought in Japan.
In what is considered the longest jiujitsu match in history, Helio Gracie battled former student Valdemar Santana, a powerfully built stone cutter. Waldemar was a student of the family for twelve or thirteen years. He fought more than 20 times for the Gracie academy. He had a falling out with Helio Gracie, and they decided to settle their differences by fighting each other Vale-Tudo. According to Rorion Gracie, Helio’s son, Santana had betrayed his teacher, Helio and denigrated Helio publicly in a newspaper.
On May 24, 1957 at the Brazilian headquarters of the YMCA in central Rio de Janeiro, the media and the new medium of television were present to capture Helio’s fight with his student Waldemar Santana. Waldemar stayed away from Helio when the match started.
Eventually, Helio took Waldemar to the ground and ended up putting Santana in his guard. Helio took his time and occasionally unleash a barrage of strikes at Waldemar’s head hoping for Waldemar to make a mistake. One photograph shows Helio driving his elbow at Waldemar’s head from the guard. Santana played the waiting game and also threw his own punches.
As Santana sensed Helio was becoming exhausted, Santana then took the fight to Helio. He maneuvered his massive frame on top of Helio forcing Helio to bear Santana’s weight. Santana also started headbutting Helio in the cheek which forced Helio’s eye to swell shut. Helio used heel kicks to Santana’s kidneys to wear Santana down. Two hours had gone by as the two men struggled on the ground.
With Valdemar Santana’s victory over Helio Gracie, Carlson Gracie, the son of Carlos Gracie entered the ring at the young age of 17 to defend the honor of his family and the family name. He took revenge for his family clan and defeated Valdemar, which won him the respect and title of “King.” Carlson was to meet Santana in the ring six times. He won four times, and two matches were draws.
Carlson fought a total of eighteen Vale-Tudo fights. There was one time in Bahia (North Brazil) against Euclides Pereira, and the referees decided to give Pereira the victory. Carlson doesn’t think he had lost. 4 He also fought a Brazilian champion, Passarito, who trained in Judo, Luta Livre, and Boxing. Carlson fought Passarito four times. Carlson won 3 and drew once with Passarito.
Carlson’s hardest acknowledged fight was against Ivan Gomes. He described Gomes as a “monster.” This extremely tough fight had three-ten minute rounds, and would only stop if a fighter fell out of the ring. Gomes weighed in at 98 Kg (215 lbs), and Carlson was 73Kg (160 lbs). But Carlson was in really good shape, if it wasn’t for that, he stated that he would have lost. Afterwards, Gomes became Carlson’s student and became “world champion” in Carlson’s words. 6 Carlson reigned during the 1960s, and he is considered by Fabio Gurgel as one of the four champions of the Gracie clan.
“The great vale tudo jiujitsu taught by Rolls Gracie is still alive today, Rickson and his protege Royler are keeping it alive in the NHB ring. Jacare, Pedro Sauer, Sergio Penha, Crolin Gracie and others have become successful teachers, but like everyone else they seem to be training their students primarily for sport jiujitsu. Only in the last couple of years have young jiujitsu fighters turned their attention to vale tudo. Perhaps if the sport [vale tudo competition] remains popular then Jacare, Crolin Gracie, Sauer, Carlinhos and others will forget about sport jiujitsu and return to the jiujitsu they learned from Rolls in the golden age of vale tudo jiujitsu and a new generation of jiujitsu lutadors will emerge who have devoted their lives to vale tudo and they will dominate the sport just as Rickson, Bhering, Rolls and the other legends did once upon a time.”
Carlos Gracie taught his brothers, and Helio distinguished himself as the champion of the Gracie brothers through his fighting exploits. He is also acknowledged as having a big influence on the development of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. He altered techniques his brother taught him due to his small stature and relative weakness. He made them less reliant on strength and refined the techniques to maximize leverage. He said he couldn’t get out of certain positions he was taught by his brother so he had to invent techniques to allow him to escape those positions.
The male descendents of the Gracie clan are all taught the family fighting art and encouraged to represent the family in the “Gracie Challenge,” an ongoing invitation to accept challenge matches to prove their fighting art’s superiority. Two notable Gracie fighters are Helio’s sons Royce and Rickson. Royce helped to popularize Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (aka Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) in the US, Japan, and around the world through his successful fights in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Royce, a slim six foot man, entered the ring like his father before him, to challenge fighters from different fighting styles such as boxing, wrestling, shootfighting, karate, muay thai kickboxing, etc. He often fought larger opponents in a tournament setting where he fought elimination bouts. Rickson has became the acknowledged current champion of the Gracie clan. He is considered the best jiu-jitsu fighter alive, as well as one of the top NHB fighters.
Carlson Gracie has continued his family’s tradition by creating sports jiu-jitsu and a stable of NHB (no-holds barred) fighters. He is considered the father of sports jiu-jitsu. After he retired from the ring, he embarked on promoting sports jiu-jitsu. However, sports jiu-jitsu had its critic in Helio. He was an outspoken critic of sport jiujitsu, and very few of his top blackbelts competed in sport jiujitsu during the early years of the sport. Helio apparently saw his art as a form of self-defense and not sport. Judo’s founder Jigoro Kano had similar sentiments of his creation. However Carlson was able to attract corporate sponsors to support teams of jiu-jitsu fighters so they could train full-time in essence as professional athletes. The corporate sponsorship would be the impetus to persuade many of Helio’s black belts to join the sport.
During the seventies Vale Tudo was still popular in Brazil as fights were televised. During the 1980s, vale tudo waned and jiu-jitsu fighters (lutadors) focused their efforts on sports jiu-jitsu competition. In 1991, the long feud between the Luta Livre style and Jiu-Jitsu style heated up and resulted in a showdown between the two styles. Luta Livre was a style designed for the ring. Some consider it a response to jiu-jitsu. A group of fighters came together to pool their knowledge to improve their technique and to answer jiu-jitsu’s successful ground game.
However, the jiu-jitsu camp lacked the experienced vale tudo fighters to meet the Luta Livre challenge. It seemed that Helio’s criticism was right after all. Carlson Gracie took up the challenge for the jiu-jitsu camp. He quickly assembled and personally trained a team consisting of Murilo Bustamante, Fabio Gurgel (age 21) from Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti, Wallid Ismael, Marcelo Bhering, who still to this day has a reputation as being one of the toughest NHB fighters. Wallid Ismael was matched with Eugenio Tadeau, Gurgel vs. Denilson Maia, Bustamante vs. Marcello Mendes, and Behring vs. Hugo Duarte. The only fight that didnt take place was Behring vs. Duarte. Behring was shot and killed prior to the event. The showdown was shown on Brazilian national TV and it was a clean sweep for Gracie Jiu-jitsu. It is shown on the “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Action 2″ video tape.
These triumphant jiu-jitsu fighters are still competing in sports jiu-jitsu and vale tudo with the sudden world-wide interest and popularity of NHB fighting. Fabio Gurgel has his own academy and has competed in sports jiu-jitsu and also NHB. The irrepressible Wallid Ismael is fighting for the Carlson Gracie team of NHB fighters as well as competing in sports jiu-jitsu. Bustamante is also a noted sports jiu-jitsu lutador and has entered and successfully fought in the ring. He defeated Jerry Bohlander, the American shootfighter (Lion’s Den member) by knockout. Bustamante had also drew with the massive world-class American wrestler Tom Erickson in the now defunct MARS fighting championship. Gurgel fought and lost to judges’ decision to perhaps one of the most dangerous NHB fighter alive, Mark Kerr, a huge world-class American wrestler nicknamed the “specimen” for his tremendous physical development and athletic ability. Gurgel had great heart to fight in a tournament where in the finals, he had to meet Kerr who outweighed him by 70 lbs.
Another notable Gracie fighter from Carlos’ side of the family is Renzo Gracie. He truly exemplifies the Gracie ethos and has fought in the rings of the US, Brazil, and Japan. He labels himself as the “Gracie” who can also strike besides just using jiu-jitsu in the ring. He has defeated UFC champion Oleg Taktarov by knockout in the one and only MARS event. Renzo also fought the Luta Livre fighter Eugenio Tadeau.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, due to the success of Jiu-Jitsu fighters in NHB competition, has been exported around the world. Royce and Carlson fighters have fired up the interest of Americans and especially American martial artists in the US. Some of the best jiu-jitsu instructors have now made their home in the US. Helio’s sons such as Reyson, Rickson, Royce, Royler, are all teaching in the US or have an affiliate academy here. Romero Cavalcanti teaches in Atlanta, Georgia. Americans are now even going to Brazil to compete in the Mundial or annual world championship. The Pan-American tournament was created to allow Americans to compete with Brazilians here in the US.
“When I see the support from the martial arts community in the United States and the way it’s growing, I see it as a great thing — a great future for us, the Americans who learn it and the rest of the world. I wish I had 100 sons so I could [spread the art] faster.”