with Orlando Saraiva
October 8, 2022
(standing) with students
Orlando Saraiva was an orphan who found jiu-jitsu inside the government
institution where he spent much of his youth. It was there he met one of
Carlson’s friends and student Master Osvaldo Paquetá.
For his part, Master Saraiva trained under Carlson as well.
After moving to São Paulo, Saraiva became alongside Otávio
de Almeida and Oswaldo Carnivalle one of the fathers of jiu-jitsu in that
state. While jiu-jitsu was little known in Rio in the 70’s and 80’s,
it was even less known in São Paulo during that same period.
Despite this anonymity, Saraiva played a crucial role in staying the
course, teaching and organizing jiu-jitsu events in the countryside and by
doing so helping supply the demand of jiu-jitsu instructors of the
post-Royce era. His efforts in developing jiu-jitsu in São Paulo
during the quieter years of jiu-jitsu help set the foundation for its
rapid worldwide growth from the mid-90’s onwards. Saraiva was born in
1951, is an 9th degree red-belt and no longer teaches
classes. The interview took place in writing via his son, Henrique, on
August 17th 2022.
you began training at the FUNABEM as a child, how did you end up there and
what was your routine like?
And how did jiu-jitsu help you get along with other young people there?
I lost my father, when I was about 2 or 3 years old and my mother when I
was 7. We used to live in the favela of Jacarézinho (Rio de
Janeiro). But when my mother died, I went to live with my sister who was
married and after a while she got divorced and had to put me in a
government program, because she was very young and had no financial
conditions to raise me and work at the same time.
I arrived at FUNABEM when I was 10 years old and knew nothing about any
martial art. One day, I was walking by the room where Paquetá
taught, and heard a noise and thought it was a fight, so I went there to
see what was going on and ended up finding it interesting and asking to
try out a class. In those days I was always getting into fights and I
thought I was good at it and would beat everyone in class... but
when I started training there under Master Paquetá, I discovered
that I didn't know anything. Jiu-jitsu taught me to be calmer and after I
began training I didn't get involved in fights anymore, Jiu-Jitsu really
changed my life.
Osvaldo Paquetá is famous in the Jiu-Jitsu world for his footage,
archives and historical videos on the edge of the mat. What about the
Paquetá that you knew personally, what was he like when you met him
had a father-son relationship with his students, he took us on trips, to
train at other academies and we had a special relationship, because I
continued his work at FUNABEM, my first job in 1972 when I left the Air
Force. Many people know him as a cameraman, but his contribution to
Jiu-Jitsu was much more important, he was one of the first teachers to
hold Jiu-Jitsu events at FUNABEM. I lived with him whenever I ran away
from the FUNABEM and spent weekends at his house, then I would come back
and he would arrange things and cool everyone down so I wouldn't be
punished by anyone. Another funny story was that FUNABEM was divided into
wings, and had a part of juvenile offenders, who were caught on the street
committing crimes and lied about their age as they did not have any papers
or documents, so they ended up there in FUNABEM with other real minors.
Paquetá liked to take us there and some big guys would arrive who
had just been arrested and he would say: “Hey
champ, I'll give you a choice, choose one of the boys here, if you win,
I'll let you go...” and they’d always chose me because I was the
smallest one but these guys would always take the biggest beatings... and
Paquetá and Waltinho Guimarães would just laugh at them.
the early 60’s, you and Rolls trained under Carlson. What were those
Those training sessions were like championships. Paquetá told us to
play hard. The
first time I trained at the Gracie Academy I was a green belt and trained
with Rolls but I didn't know who
he was. I ended up doing well against him and Carlson invited me to
go train in Copacabana under him. I trained with Carlson from
approximately 1967 to 1976 when I moved to São Paulo.
me and Rolls only really started training together as a black-belts, when
he also started training under Carlson. He was a very nice guy and at the
time he was already being prepared to be the new champion of the Gracie
family, as Carlson had already retired. But he wasn't yet the legend that
he would later become.
What I always see in interviews
nowadays is that people try to take the shine off Carlson and place it on
Rolls. But all of us from the old days know that Rolls went over to train
under Carlson after losing to Cícero Sobrinho (Barradas student)
and Carlson called him over and said: “If you spend your whole day training self-defense with Uncle Hélio,
you will never be good at jiu-jitsu!!!” And Rolls started to visit Carlson more often, and eventually he ended up
becoming a direct student of Carlson. Later they became partners and he
became a legend in his own right. But when he got there he noticed the
level of the students there: Serginho de Niterói, Carley Gracie,
Rocian Gracie, Walter Guimarães, Reyson Gracie, Artur Virgilio,
among others... there were a lot of good people on those mats training
under Carlson… it was climate of great competition and a brotherhood at
the same time.
important do you think Carlson was for the development of competitive
Just to give you an idea, all of the Gracies who weren't Hélio's
children would go train with Carlson. Years later, Hélio's guys
ended up going to train under Rolls, who picked up this competitive
approach to jiu-jitsu from Carlson. It's impossible not to associate the
history of Rolls with Carlson’s own history, but everyone tries to hide
this because many of the family members are resentful towards Carlson.
Carlson was certainly the greatest and the facts are there for those who
want to see them, both Carlinhos and Jacaré’s [Romero Cavalcanti]
students and most competition teams in jiu-jitsu history are associated
with Carlson in one way or another, even Hélio's sons learned
indirectly from Carlson's jiu-jitsu.
was it like to arrive in São Paulo at a time when Jiu-Jitsu was
only breaking new ground? Being the most experienced fighter in the region
must be good, but practicing an unknown art must also bring its problems.
How was that phase of your life helping the spread of jiu-jitsu there?
When I left the Air Force, Paquetá had me replace him at FUNABEM as
a jiu-jitsu teacher, as he had risen in position. But in 1976 I was
transferred to São Paulo, the capital, and then to Mogi Mirim in
the country-side. When I arrived in São Paulo, Carlson had referred
me to Mestre Pedro Hemetério who I trained under for a while and
then I met Mestre Otávio de Almeida who was starting to organize
events in São Paulo and we became very good friends. I taught at
his Academy and we worked hard to make Jiu-Jitsu grow in the state with
events that didn't have any support from anyone.
I remember that the first
Campeonato Paulista in 1976 was held with 34 athletes. We had no physical
structure (mats), financial (sponsorship) and no qualified people
(referees, etc.) I fought, refereed, took my students… doing all those
things in the same day even going as far as refereeing matches while in a
gi and waiting for my own match!
I remember that in 1978 or 79 I brought Carlson over for an event. I
started this exchange between São Paulo and Rio, taking my students
to fight in Rio and inviting people to come over and train with us. In
1979, Rolls brought people from the Gracie academy to fight at an event in
Novo Horizonte, which Nahum [Rabay] organized. I remember when Master Moisés
who was my student, fought against Royler Gracie in one of these events.
Many members of the Gracie family came over to compete, Rolls was there
too. In 1981 I started to do an event called “Copa do Sol” (Sun Cup)
and people from Oriente [team from Niterói in Rio] came to
participate. People from the Gracie family and even Carlinhos in an
interview mentioned these events we were organizing at a time when
Jiu-Jitsu had almost no events at all.
Only some in Minas Gerais, São Paulo and one or two in Rio.
Mestre Otavio passed away, I continued organizing them in São
Paulo’s countryside and Moisés Muradi started organizing them in
1989 in the capital. In 1994 I organized a Circuito Paulista here in São
Paulo where Royler came to fight, Saulo Ribeiro was a purple belt, Fabio
Gurgel too. And we had 600 athletes, which was a lot at the time. Then I
set up a league in 1996 and did it until 2005 or 2006, where we had
several elite athletes that emerged from these events. Many of whom became
big names in jiu-jitsu today.
I organized referee courses and many events, because my vision was always
similar to Carlson's in that the athletes had to compete a lot of events
to get their competition rhythm going, so I’d organized them and put
people to fight as much as possible. I held events until 2018 and today
due to health reasons I am retired, but my students continue to do so. Today I am very happy to see the level that Jiu-Jitsu in São Paulo
has reached, both in terms of its athletes and the organizations here.
Happy to have played a part in this growth.
makes Jiu-Jitsu so universal, to the point of conquering and changing the
lives of so many people?
I believe that the cultural factor influences its popularity a lot. The
happy and spontaneous way of Brazilians, together with the most efficient
art in the world, created this superpower that is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
today. Jiu-Jitsu has great value and with this professionalization of
events and improved teaching methodologies, I'm sure it will be the most
practiced martial art in the world soon, if it isn’t already.
is the one lesson from Master Carlson that you never forgot?
Carlson taught us to be humble and at the same time aggressive, fearless
and this I always passed on to my students, who must take this lesson for
We shook hands and the fight
started, we had to do our best, even if you lose, you had to show heart.
He argued a lot with opponents at tournaments, always fighting for his
students, but always ended up shaking hands and respecting all his
opponents at the end, regardless of results. Carlson's jiu-jitsu
was the most efficient because we trained to compete and win, gi or no-gi,
with time limits or without them, jiu-jitsu or vale-tudo and we were
always training hard and ready for competition. Not
to mention giving opportunities to people like me who didn't have the
money to pay for a gym membership. He also stimulated competition, which
today is the flagship of jiu-jitsu's growth worldwide.
row, far left) with students
are your overall thoughts on jiu-jitsu today?
I learned jiu-jitsu as a fighting style, even though the rules have been
improved a lot, it turned into a sport and became more accessible to
everyone, we can't let the fighting side die, the competition... otherwise
we'll become little more than Yoga in a gi. This
view of Jiu-Jitsu as a business, and everyone thinking only of making
money and making jiu-jitsu for everyone really changed jiu-jitsu a lot. In
some ways for the better, in others not so much.
thanks to Henrique Saraiva for providing photos and documents.
FUNABEM stood for “Fundação
Nacional do Bem-Estar do Menor” (National Foundation for the
Wellbeing of Minors) and replaced SAM (Service
for Assisting Minors)
in 1964. They were both government programs to give shelter to
homeless, abandoned and orphan children in Brazil.
Master Moisés Muradi is the current
President of the Confederação Brasileira de Jiu-Jitsu
Esportivo (CBJJE) in Brazil.
(c) 2022, Robert
Drysdale. All rights reserved.
by Robert Drysdale:
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Rise and Fall of JiuJitsu in MMA
Fallacy of Submission-Only
and Winning in Jiu-Jitsu
of Breathe, by Rickson Gracie
ADCC Blind Spot
at Jiu-Jitsu while Keeping it Real
Loyalty versus Self-Perfection
Rectification of BJJ's Rules: To Gi or Not to Gi
of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Penn for President
on the Evolution of BJJ
Taught Oscar Gracie?
Gracie is Wrong
of book by João Alberto Barreto
Promotes Five Brazilians
and Sanity in BJJ
Oswaldo Fada Jiu-Jitsu a Non-Gracie Lineage?