At Home with
Carlos Gracie in 1987
January 18, 2023
The general Japanese public heard about Gracie Jiu-Jitsu well ahead of
UFC 1 and before anyone one in the United
States other than a few hard-core martial arts enthusiasts did. A story appeared in the mass
circulation Yomiuri Shimbun on February 2, 1987. This was about two
weeks after the first Gracie Judo Invasion
in Los Angeles and a year and a half before the second Gracie
Judo Invasion in 1988. It was also six years before the entertaining
but considerably misinformative Gracies in Action VHS tapes, Volume
1, and Volume 2, not to mention Pat
Jordan's legendarily fluffy Playboy article about the baddest man on the planet, Rorion
The Yomiuri article was contributed by a special
named 清本修身 (possibly
pronounced as Kiyoshimoto Shuumi) and was titled "My Nippon:
Mr. Carlos Gracie, the General Teacher of the Brazilian Jujutsu family ("私のニッポンーブラジル柔術一族の総師、カルロス・グラシエさん).
The point of the article was not explained. It didn't seem to have a
point. It was purely a general human interest space filler. Carlos was the
elder patriarch of a huge family, actually more like a mafia than a normal
family. Japanese would have been interested in
that. Elders (老人) traditionally
are respected in Japan. The
connection to Japan was there. Carlos was a direct and beloved student of Mitsuyo
Maeda, at least according to Carlos. Jiu-jitsu was the family's
thriving business and all of the male offspring of Carlos's three wives
(and unmentioned maids and girlfriends) were his successors. Immigration is a
perennial topic of interest in Japan. The article had that.
As historians have known for a long
time and psychologists since 1974, human memory is notoriously
fallible. Carlos may have been remembering things that he had talked about
so much they he believed they really happened. Or he may have been
reciting his nonsensical narrative so often that he no longer knew what
was true anymore. In the cosmic scheme of things, it doesn't matter all that much. Martial arts and exaggeration go together like red beans and
rice, chitlins and cornbread, barbeque ribs and hot sauce. You get the
”I was a naughty boy when I was young. When I saw Prof. Maeda's
judo, I was entranced. I became his apprentice for three years. He treated
me like his own son." [Based on evidence, Carlos had a few lessons
from one of Maeda's students, see here.]
"A Japanese immigration association selected a representative to
fight me in a match. I broke his arm, but he refused to give up.
Japanese people have a spirit of not liking to lose, I feel. After the
war, Japan rebounded economically, because of strong spiritual strength, I
The aforementioned association recruited other immigrants in São Paulo who
remembered some of their skills (におぼえのある日本人移民ら),
according to the author.
They were assigned the heavy responsibility of facing Carlos. He defeated
"almost" all of them. [In historical fact, Carlos had three exhibitions with Geo Omori, but
never fought any Japanese person].
Carlos rarely taught students in his own academy (in 1987) but
concentrated on his research about natural food a health cures (自然食や薬草の研究に専念している),
according to the author.
"Nature is important and the reason I think that is because of my love
for Japanese spirit and traditional Japanese culture." [Carlos had a gift
for telling people what they wanted to hear, and this may be what he
thought the author wanted to hear.]
”I have been interested
because of jiu-jitsu, but
regrettably I haven't had an opportunity to go there."
Carlos certainly must have used the word "jiu-jitsu." The
author translates "jiu-jitsu" as either "judo (柔道)
or jujutsu (柔術) because, while it is possible to write jiu-jitsu in Japanese
the result doesn't refer to a martial art.
The quality of
popular historical writing in Japan on the subject of Maeda and the
Gracies ranges from naive to highly misinformed. Astonishingly, many of
these amateur historians cited Gracie marketing materials as
"evidence." This 1987 Yomiuri article may have been the
beginning of a disturbing trend. (See Myths about
BJJ in Japan.)
Carlos' address at that time
was Rua Redentor 128, Ipanema、Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
(c) 2023, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.