GTR Archives

 

 

Mitsuyo Maeda Promotes Five Brazilians

Robert Drysdale  

November 26, 2018

On June 19, 1920 in the Northern Brazilian city of Belém do Pará, Mitsuyo Maeda promoted five of his students to the rank of primeiro galãoh.

The students were Jacyntho Ferro, Guilherme de La-Rocque, Dr. Matheus Pereira, Waldemar Lopes, and Raphael Gomes. The promotion of these five Brazilians is significant in that it is the only documented promotion ever made by Maeda. This is interesting in view of the fact that Maeda reportedly said (in 1928) that he gnever awarded a black belt to any student in Brazil.h 1

The expression used in the article was gcolação do primeiro galãoh, which translates as gpromoting to first rank or stripeh.2

The promotion occurred approximately four years after Maeda began teaching in Belém do Pará, which could lead to the interpretation that Maeda was promoting his five students to a gblack-belth rank.3 The article poses problems of both interpretation and translation of what Maeda, or the journalist, might have meant by gcolação do primeiro galão.h

The word gcolaçãoh is commonly used in the context of a promotion or award of a degree or certificate (i.e. a university level bachelorfs degree ceremony in Brazil is referred to as gcolação de grauh). One of the meanings of the word ggalãoh is a military stripe of rank typically placed on the sleeve of officers. The biggest problem of interpretation is what was meant by gprimeiroh (gfirsth in Portuguese).

In Judo, gprimeiroh can be either the first or last, contingent on it having taken place on the mu-dan (i) or yū-dan (Li) ranks (no dan or with dan respectively). The mu-dan levels are referred to as kyūCfirst kyū also being the highest rank. At the dan level, it goes in reverse with the sho-dan being the first of an ascending order that goes all the way to tenth-dan. With this in mind it remains unclear, with the evidence currently available, what was meant by gprimeiro galãoh.

There are a number of possibilities. For instance, Maeda could be copying the Kodokan grading system and this means that the gcolação do primeiro galãoh was either a kyū or a sho-dan promotion. In other words, this could be either a last rank before the sho-dan level or sho-dan itself, the first dan rank. In case of a first-kyū () level promotion, these five men would have been close to a rank that we would typically refer to today as a gblack-belth. In the case of a sho-dan (i) level promotion, this would mean these men were being promoted to a rank of gblack-belth (or more accurately, sho-dan) indicating a certain degree of mastery of fundamental judo skills.  

Additionally, Maeda, while isolated in the Amazon Jungle, could have plausibly created his own grading system and, in this case, Kodokanfs system cannot serve as a guide and the only reference we have is that the rank was significant enough to warrant mention in the press and that it was fitting considering the experience of the practitioners.

Lastly, it is possible that Maeda created some sort of hybrid ranking system that he thought to be appropriate.

The issue of Maeda having promoted Brazilians to any rank at all is relevant given that he is widely, albeit perhaps unjustly, considered to be the beginning of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsufs lineage. It was previously thought that Maeda had never promoted anyone in Brazil.4 Jose Cairus, in a 2011 article, cites a 1928 interview with Hajime Otake, a Japanese immigrant, who was allegedly told by Maeda himself that he had never promoted anyone to gblack-belth. Unfortunately, no source was provided. This was subsequently repeated in a 2006 interview conducted by a researcher named Rildo Eros de Medeiros. When contacted by this author to produce the video footage of the interview, Medeiros declined to do so.

It is unlikely, however, that this sort of conversation would ever have taken place in 1928 or any other time given the lack of significance of a "black-belt" within Kodokan judo. It is possible that an error in translation led to such a conclusion. Maeda might have used the more accurate expression "sho-dan". But without access to the original sources we cannot know that. If any of the possibilities above are correct, this rewrites not only previously held assumptions regarding Maedafs promotion of Brazilians but also bears relevance in regards to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsufs lineage.

 

Notes

1. Cairus, José. Modernization, Nationalism And The Elite: The Genesis Of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, 1905-1920. Revista Tempo e Argumento. Jul-Dec. 2011. DOI: 10.5965/2175180303022011100 http://dx.doi.org/10.5965/2175180303022011100  

2. Estado do Pará, 19-June-1920.  

3. The wearing of black belts by dan-level judoka was an unofficial Kodokan tradition adopted in or around 1886 (Pedreira, Craze 1, Chapter 5 pg. 108).  

4. Cairus, 2011. In a personal communication (November 25, 2018), Cairus clarified that his source in both cases was Rildo Eros de Medeiros, who as noted above, declined to cooperate, thereby leaving some doubts as to what Maeda actually said (if anything).

 

@

@

Edit History

@

© 2018, Robert Drysdale. All rights reserved.

@

@

@

GTR Publications

@

October 9, 2018

Craze Vol. 1: The Life and Times of Jiu-Jitsu, 1854-1904

@Kindle Edition

*

@

@

@

Choque 1, 3rd Edition 

@

*

@

Choque 3, 1961-1999

@

 *

 

@

@

@

@

Choque 2, 1950-1960 

  

@

*

@

@

@

"

Jiu-Jitsu in the South Zone, 1997-2008 (2018 rev. ed)

@

@

@

@

@

@

Digital Editions are also available

GTR Archives 1997-2018

@