From JuJutsu Legends
Original Publication Date: 2008
Original Teｘｔ by Dario Kobayashi
Translated from Japanese by Roberto Pedreira
Presented by Global Training Report, April 6, 2012
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 Ceara 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 time ago.
Alves: That's right, I lived in the same neighborhood with Reyson 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 see.
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 Reyson 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 ground newaza (ground) technique. To me, judo and jiu-jitsu were the same thing. When the judo champion Kimura Masahiko came to Brazil, he beat Helio with jiu-jitsu (newaza) technique. That is the proof.4
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 Maracana gymnasium. As I recall, Isao 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 of Japanese 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 São Paulo
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 and Tenri, and also at Okano's judo training center. Okano was my favorite judoka after I saw him in the 1965 Rio World Championship.
Q16. Is that a fact? Was the training center in Ibaragi?
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 was impressed.
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 Gracie?
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. Reyson 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? Reyson 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 muscles. 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 ten 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 Jacare, or Marcelinho,? Or even Rickson?
A. 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: Jacare, 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 side-position..
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, 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 (Galvao) was student of Caraka, who was your student wasn't he?
Alves: Carako felt that Galvao couldn't develop any more with him so he sent him to me. Careko trained in Rio to black belt, then opened an academy in São Paulo, that's where Galvao started with him.
Q37. Jacare, Paixão, Bibiano are all from Manaus, aren't they? Were they also sent to you?
A.lves: 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 Jacare, Paixão, Bibianio, Andre Galvao, 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 segment is 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 own children.
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 or key)?
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.
A.lves: 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 beneficial way.11
(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 Inata, but Alves certainly is referring to Hikaru Kurachi, and Shunji Hinata, Also, it should be noted that in Japanese, the family name is written first, so the judoka's names are properly 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
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 Taegue for pointing out a discrepancy in the dates; corrected April 6, 2012).
11. Alves is using "judo" and "tachiwaza" synonymously (even thought 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.
If Alves' 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 reserved.
Minor corrections made November 22, 2012
More about Oswaldo Alves in Jiu-Jitsu in the South Zone.
Global Training Report