From JuJutsu Legends
Original Publication Date: 2008
by Dario Kobayashi
Translated from Japanese by Roberto Pedreira
Presented by Global Training
Report, April 6, 2012
Updated August 5, 2013*
Q1. Where do your people come from?
Alves:. My mother's ancestors were French, but I'm not sure about
my father's ancestors, just that they lived in Ceará for a long time.
Q2. Your father was in the army and he was transferred from Acre state to
Rio. After your father was transferred to Rio, you probably started learning
judo in a military facility of some kind?
Alves: That's right. He was an officer in the army. Like other military kids, I
was brought up to be a brave boy. So I had the elements to develop an interest in martial arts.
Q3. Who taught you judo at that time?.
Alves: Suji Inata and Kurachi Ikari. Kurachi was Japanese. Inata was a second
generation of Japanese descent 1
Q4. Do you think that Ikari was a
personal student of Count Koma?
Alves:. I think so.
Q5. Ikari trained judo in Belém with Count Koma?
Alves: No, he trained together with Count Koma in Japan. He won the Pan American
and came to Brazil, I heard. Then he trained with Count Koma in Brazil, I
think, but I don't have conclusive evidence.
Q6. I heard that you were involved with the Gracie family from a long
Alves: That's right, I lived in the same neighborhood with
Reylson Gracie (one of the sons of
Carlos Gracie), and we became friends. We trained together when we were kids, in
the Gracie Academy.2
Q7. At that time, Carlos, Helio, George, Oswaldo and everyone of that
generation were all training in the academy?
Alves: Of course. Carlos was there. It was the Carlos Sr. who was taught by Count
Koma, who taught me jiu-jitsu. I got my black belt from him in 1956. Helio was a
little older than me, but George was my generation.3
At that time everyone of the same
generation or age trained together. Reylson (Rodrigo's father), Carlos Jr.,
everyone of that generation, I taught them. I have a video of it. It is so
precious to me that I won't let it out of my sight to make it available to
Q8. At that time when your were training judo, you kept
the connection with jiu-jitsu.
Alves: For sure. I might be the first judo person to be involved
with the Gracie family.
Because I was a childhood pal of Reylson I had free access to the Jiu-Jitsu
academy. It felt natural to me.
Q9. What did you think was the difference between judo and jiu-jitsu?
Alves: To me, there was no difference. Kurachi and Inata
were strong at both tachiwaza (standing) and newaza (ground) technique. To me,
judo and jiu-jitsu were the same thing 「柔道も柔術も同じだった。」
When the judo champion Kimura Masahiko
came to Brazil, he beat Helio with jiu-jitsu (newaza) technique. That is
Q10. Back in those days, (which was more popular, judo or jiu-jitsu?
Alves: In the early 1960's jiu-jitsu was better known. But in 1965 the World Judo
Championship was held in Rio in the Maracanã gymnasium. As I recall,
Okano won the middle weight category gold medal. Sekaguchi won the third place
medal. And Inokuma won the gold medal in the absolute weight category. Yamanaka
took second place in the middle weight category. Minatoya took second in the
lightweight category. Because of that judo became more popular.
Q11. Concerning world level athletes from Rio, one year
before the 1965 World Judo Championships, in the 1964
Tokyo Olympics, judo became an official event. At that time, judo began to attract attention in Brazil, right?
Alves: Right. But Holland's Geesnik became the champion of the absolute weight
class, and shocked the Japanese related people here. Because a foreigner beat
them with their own national technique.
Q12. You were also training in judo dojos
descendents in São Paulo, so you must have really felt it right?
Alves: Yes, I practiced in the dojo of Ikari
Kurachi, which was in Liberdade5 in
Q13. Ikari Kurachi sensei was sometimes teaching in Rio
and sometimes teaching in São Paulo wasn't he?
Alves: Yes. Probably today, his younger brother Manabu is teaching there now.
Q14. One more judo related question. In 1972, Munich Olympics, a Japanese
immigrant, naturalized as a Brazilian, named Ishi Chiaki （千秋） won
the first medal, a bronze medal, At that time what was the reaction of the
judo community and Brazilians in general?
Alves: Ah, Chiaki Ishi!. Of course, there was a sensational reaction. Oh that reminds
me, I lost in a match to Chiaki in São Paulo by osoto-gari (大外刈り).
His osoto-gari was fast and powerful. It was in the 70 or 80 kilo class,
I don't remember exactly. Ishi also trained in Kurachi.'s dojo.
Q15. You won the Gama Filho University Championship. and then you received a
award to come to Japan to study judo in 1958-1960 at Kodokan and Tenri
University, isn't that right?
Alves: For sure. I practiced at Kodokan [講道館] and
Tenri University [天理大学], and also at Okano's judo training center.
Okano was my favorite judoka after I saw him in the 1965 Rio
Q16. Is that a fact? Was the training center in
Alves: I don't remember, but I do remember that it was way out in the country.
Q17. What techniques did you learn from Okano? Okano is
called a genius at both standing technique and ground technique.
Alves: Osoto-gari, seionage, ippon seionage, He was
flawless at everything. Of course, he was strong at newaza. His
hold-down pressure was incredible. It was the
first time I saw his wrapping collar choke. The instant he got his grips, the
opponent went to sleep. I learned
a lot from watching that.
Q19. Please show me that choke.
Alves: [Alves demonstrates the choke]
Q20. Ah, It's kote shibori (small hand choke). Okada sensei
showed it in his technique book Vital Judo Newaza、
Alves: At that time, it was the first time I saw that choke from the guard. I
Q21. The first time? Were there differences between the jiu-jitsu in Brazil
and the newaza of Okano or were they similar?
Alves: My jiu-jitsu, what is called modern jiu-jitsu, the base of it is what I
created myself. It came from what I learned from Kurachi, Inata, and Okano.
Q22. Hmm. When you were training with Hikari or
Inata, was there such a thing
as the "guard position"?
Alves: At that time, there was almost no concept of guard. Extreme
importance was placed on attacking and offending, you know what I mean? What I
think is that the techniques that were used 80 years by all jiu-jitsu people and
judoka were neglected and forgotten if they weren't useful in
contests. But today, here and there,
under my lead, people are starting to rediscover some of them
Q23. I see. Then, the concept of the guard was originated by Helio
Alves: It's a possibility. It was because Helio was small and light, so
the guard was a necessity, you know. But, I don't think it was only his doing
that it spread out. In reality, many jiu-jitsu guys in Brazil contributed to
the innovation of the guard game. For example, de la Riva devised his own guard,
I have an Alves style of guard too. So various people have their
guards and this is how the game develops. When I was starting out, there were
just three or four guard positions, but now there are about 30 kinds of guard. Ten
years ago I conceived some new guard techniques, and now jiu-jitsu people in
Japan are using them. That's how progress is made. It isn't limited to Helio. It
would be better to say, I think, that courageous Brazilians made them. Not only that,
but guard passing also has evolved tremendously. In the old days there were only
two ways to pass the guard. Now there are about 20 ways. The basic movement of
guard passing is the same, but everyone has their own individuality in how they
apply for it. Everyone has a way that is easiest for them to apply for.
Q24. You taught judo at Gama Filho University, didn't you? It is said that
Rolls (Gracie) trained judo there too. And it is said that you learned jiu-jitsu
from Rolls. Can you talk about training ju-jitsu with Rolls.
Alves:. Is that what you heard? It's not true. Rolls was my student and I taught
him everything. Regrettably, there was a hang glider accident and Rolls
perished. The jiu-jitsu community was in shock. Because he was wonderful human
being. It would be like if we lost Yamashita (Yasuhiro)6. Rolls was the
same kind of great person as Yamashita. If Rolls had lived, he would be about 48
today.7 Shall I talk about Rolls?
Q25. Certainly I want to hear about it.
Alves: One day, there was a problem in the jiu-jitsu community.
came to consult me about it. It seemed that one of Carlson's students was extraordinarily strong. It was said that he beat all of the
Gracies. His name was Sergio Niteroi. The whole family was asking, is there
anyone among us who can stop him? Who can beat him? Who can be built up
and trained for this job? Reylson was too thin and too small. Rolls was only 15
years old at that time.
Q26. Rolls, at that time, what belt was he?
Alves: He had a black belt. Eventually Rolls was
selected. I was worried if he could endure the hard training because he was
still so young. From the next day, I brought him to the university for
training. For the first half year, it was physical training., building up the
After that half year I started teaching him technique. After two years, I
brought him to train at Carlson's academy.8 It was the Saturday morning
class. People had heard rumors that something was going to go down,
and the academy was packed. Then Rolls and Sergio Niteroi did battle. In
minutes, Rolls finalized Sergio three times. That became a great topic and
Rolls became famous. There is lot to be learned from Rolls. He was a
legend, for sure. He also entered judo
competitions as a black belt, and he also trained boxing. He was good in the gi
and good without the gi. He was an "all-around" fighter. He had a
great personality too.
Q27. How would you compare Rolls to the top fighters of today, such as
or Marcelinho? Or even Rickson?
Alves: He would be at the top level at any time. He can't be compared to anyone
else. In my opinion, today, Roger is better then Marcelinho, Jacare beat
Roger two times, so it is difficult to say about that. Rolls learned a lot of
throwing techniques. To me, he was number one. Now to talk about Rickson,
he had a rival, Sergio Penha. But Rolls had no rivals. Who was a a good black
belt athlete? Let me think. Jacare, Amaury Bitteti, Marcelo Garcia, Paixão,
Cobrinha, Fabio Gurgel, among others.
Q28. I see. Can we talk about academies' relationships? In
the old days there was only one Gracie Academy, now it is split up into Humaita, Carlson, Barra,
and so on,
Which are you most closely connected with?
Alves: I have excellent relations with all academies. I have known Carlos Jr. and
taught him since he was a little boy. Carlson was from my own generation
and we always got along well.
Q29. But you let your students represent Barra.......
Alves: Jacaré, Bibiano, Paixão, yes, that's right. Other academies are
getting much stronger, relative to Barra. Carlos Jr. was my student, so I
cooperate with him by having my
best fighters represent his team.
Q30. Barra Gracie must be strong.
Alves: Personally I thought so. It is where the jiu-jitsu
leaders come from. It's where the federation was made. For the federation,
Gracie is necessary. Internationally, globally, everyone has been influenced by
the Gracies. So it's necessary.
Q31. In 1994, the CBJJ was created and Carlos Jr. was appointed as the
president and you were appointed as vice-president, right?
Alves: We created the CBJJ together. A lot of people got together and had
an election and I was elected. I sign a document that certifies belts and dojos.
Q32. I see. What is the particularity of the Alves style of jiu-jitsu?
Alves: What I think is that the
side-position is the key to jiu-jitsu You know?
The proof is that Kimura didn't take the mount position, he beat Helio using
Q33. For sure, Kimura didn't take a mount position when he beat Helio. But
on the other hand, the Gracies
attach a great deal of importance on that and give it 4 points. I guess that's because
in a vale tudo you can expect punches from that position, is that right?
Alves: I think that is correct. But
if Rickson disputed with
todays' best fighters, I wonder if he can keep the mount. In all probability
he will be reversed and they will recover their guard. That's why I think side
position is important. I've been studying side position. I'm still doing it.
Q34. Even Rickson can't keep the
mount! I'm rather shocked to hear that. Well, then, concerning your students, in addition to those we
already mentioned, I heard that, Paixão was a purple belt, and Bibiano and Andre Galvao
were blue belts when they were your students.
Alves: Right. Bibiano was just a boy, without even a blue belt.
Q35. Jacare was also your student at some time, but was
that the same time as Paixão?
Q36. Andre (Galvão) was student of
Karaka, who was your
student wasn't he?
Alves: Karaka felt that Galvão couldn't develop any
him so he sent him to me. Karaka trained in Rio to black belt, then opened an academy in São
Paulo, that's where Galvão started with him.
Q37. Jacare, Paixão, Bibiano are all from Manaus, aren't they? Were they
also sent to you?
Alves: Eighty percent of the jiu-jitsu people in Manaus are my students. I promoted
tournaments and transmitted the knowledge. Teachers there send their promising
students. So a lot of strong fighters emanate from there. Manaus fighters won
three times consecutively in the World Championship absolute class.
Q38. You taught many strong fighters, such as
Andre Galvão, and others. They say they do really tough training, like running early in the
morning on the sandy beach, or running while carrying another person.
Alves: That's right. Training start from 6 in the morning. Running
sprints, to develop initiation speed9 or running 30 meters, at 30% to 70% of maximum
speed, sometimes both sprinting and running. Each
timed. After that, the morning jiu-jitsu practice begins. After that, until
4:00 they take a rest. The again from 5:00 it's back to the academy for more
training until night. We keep detailed records of the athlete's physical and overall
condition, and we consider what they are missing, what they need, what
they are well-prepared in.
Q39. To be strong athlete, physical, mental, intelligent,
what is necessary?
Alves: Everything is necessary. But the most important thing is
guidance. For example, a doctor. To be a good doctor you have to go to a
good school and get an education. No matter how much you might want to be
a doctor, without education, you aren't going to be a doctor. A long time ago,
people thought that if you were born into a jiu-jitsu family, it might be
possible. Now it's different. Winning depends on how you train. So when I take
responsibility for an athlete, I try to educate them with the belief that they
can be a champion..
Q40. Do you have any young student, who
lives with the master while learning now?
Alves: Yes occasionally. I live alone with my wife, without any children. So
went bright prospects get sent to me, I take care of them like my
Q41. What do you think about the Gracie life style of marrying
many wives and having many children?
Alves:. I can't comment. That's their business. The most
important thing is that they raised their children right. They were heroes at that time, so they attracted a
lot of girls (laughs).
Q42. Carlos and Helio lived a long time. Have you ever tried
the Gracie diet?
Q43. You look healthy, and physically strong. Is there a secret
Alves:. Not at all. Just training, that's all. That's the key to
good health. Educating athletes motivates me to keep in shape. I don't stop learning.
Even now, I'm studying by watching competitions.
Q44. What do you see? Did you watch the World Judo
Championship in Rio (in 2007), Japan didn't do well, but Brazil
took three gold medals.
Alves: I watched the opening ceremony in person the first day,
and after that I watched on TV. It probably isn't that Japan is getting weaker,
but rather that other countries are getting stronger. European judo is different
from Japanese judo. But Brazilian judo is close to Japanese judo, because there are many
second generation Japanese judoka in Brazil. European judokas are good but Japan
always goes for the ippon no matter who the opponent is, and Brazil has learned that from Japan. I watched
Yamashita's matches many times, Even though European judokas are good, I like
Japanese judo. Saturday last week, I watched the judo training here in Hamamatsu,10 at the KokojudoBu (高校柔道部, the high
school judo club). As I thought, Japanese judo was wonderful, for sure. But one thing
occurred to me. Now Brazil and Europe are getting better at newaza. and I think
Japan should take newaza more seriously too. In the World Championship (2007, Rio) I
noticed the Japanese athletes made a number of mistakes in newaza. Japanese
judokas train well, so I hope they will pay more attention to newaza but keep
their Japanese style.
Q45. On the other hand, there are Japanese jiu-jitsu athletes
who don't train throwing.
Alves: It is a shame that they can't throw well. I hope it
changes so that they can throw. In the International Jiu-Jitsu Association, it
is being discussed whether to give a throwing the same points as the mount
position (4 points). So they should pay more attention to tachiwaza.. After
all, jiu-jitsu disputes start from tachiwaza. In foreign countries, more and
more jiu-jitsu guys are learning tachiwaza.10
Q46. Specifically, when will it happen
that a "clean take down"
will get 4 points?
Alves: I can't say specifically when it will happen but I think
it will be in the near future. It is inevitable. A jiu-jitsu confrontation starts
from stand-up, doesn't it? So judo (tachiwaza), also must be trained. Brazilians
are aware of that and are already starting to train tachiwaza more In the same way that judokas
should learn newaza from jiu-jitsu. Judoka and jiu-jitsu guys should learn from
each other the strengths of the other art and as a result both arts will advance
to a higher direction. Then we can be "rivals" in a mutually
(Prepared by Roberto Pedreira
unless indicated otherwise)
1. Brazilians tend to be open-minded about the spelling of
names, foreign names, and Brazilian names as well. In this interview, the names are written as Kurachi Ikari and Suji
but Alves certainly is referring to Kurachi Hikaru and Hinata Shunji.
In other interviews Alves indicated that he met Reyson when
he (Alves) was 7 years old. Since Alves was born December 10, 1938, that would
have been about 1945. at which time Reyson was 4 years old (having been born in
1941). Given how much time has
passed, it isn't surprising that Alves' memory would be imperfect about every
Correction August 3, 2013: According to Reila Gracie, Reyson was born February
28, 1942, which would have made him three years old at the time. See review of
Gracie: O Criador de uma Dinastia. chapter
August 5, 2015. The Japanese text says that Alves' friend was ヘイウソン
(Heiuson). The translator assumed
that this was Reyson. However a note indicated that Heiuson was the father of ホドリゴ
(Hodorigo), and so Alves is
referring to Reylson, not Reyson. Reylson was born August 17, 1943, so he would
have been roughly six years old at the time, making the story a little more
Alves' memory failed
him in the matter of Shunji Inata (Hinata). Hinata and Alves were both assistant
instructors at Harold Brito's judo academy in Rio and represented his team in
judo tournaments (See Choque Vol. 2 and Choque
Vol. 3 for more about Alves and Shunji Hinata.)
3. Interviewers' original note:
actually, George (born 1911) was older than Helio (born 1913).
4. Alves is saying that newaza and
arm-locks are jiu-jitsu, or to put it
in reverse, that jiu-jitsu = newaza and submissions on the ground.
5. Liberdade is the Japanese district in
6. Yamashita won gold medals in the 1979,
1981, and 1983 World Judo Championships, and also in the 1984 Olympics.
7. Interviewer notes that Rolls died in 1982 when he was 31; the
interview was published in 2008
8. If Rolls was 17-18 at the time, the year would have been
1968 or 1968, and the incident must have taken place at the # 583 Copacabana academy.
(Thanks to Hywel Teague for pointing out a discrepancy in the dates; corrected
April 6, 2012).
瞬発力 shunpatsuryoku = instant starting power)
10. Hamamatsu is a medium size city near Mount Fuji,
about two hours from Tokyo by trains, most famous as the home town of jazz
pianist Hiromi Uehara.
11. Alves is using
"judo" and "tachiwaza" synonymously (even though this is a
translation, Brazilian judo people use the word tachiwaza). In the same
way, Brazilians often use jiu-jitsu to mean simply newaza with submissions. In
this sense, jiu-jitsu and judo are not different "arts" but rather
different aspects of the same art.
advice for BJJ people to cross-train judo makes sense to you, the following
might also be of interest: JUDO Training for Improve BJJ
(c) Roberto Pedreira, 2012. All rights
History: Minor corrections made November
22, 2012, August 3, 2013, and August 23, 2014. Correction
5, 2015 (see note 2 above). Kanji added for clarification
of some place-names August 18, 2015.
For more more information about Oswaldo Alves,
see Jiu-Jitsu in the South Zone 1997-2008, chp. 18, Choque 2, and Choque
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