GTR Archives 2000-2023


Jiu-Jitsu Books 


Roberto Pedreira













At Home with 

Carlos Gracie in 1987



Roberto Pedreira

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 Gracie

The Yomiuri article was contributed by a special correspondent 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 point.

Carlos 1: 

"私はわんぱく少年でした。コマ先生の柔道を見て、すっかりほれこみ、三年間弟子入りした。 先生には自分の息子のようにかわいがてもらった。"

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.]

Carlos 2:


"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 think." 

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. 

Carlos 3:


"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.]

Carlos 4:


I have been interested n Japan 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 kanji (充実)  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, IpanemaRio de Janeiro, Brazil.


(c) 2023, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.



GTR Archives 2000-2023