Maeda Promotes Five Brazilians
in the Northern Brazilian
do Pará, Mitsuyo Maeda promoted five of his students
to the rank of
Jacyntho Ferro, Guilherme de La-Rocque, Dr. Matheus Pereira, Waldemar
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 “never awarded a black belt to any student in
expression used in the article was “colação
do primeiro galão”, which translates as
“promoting to first rank or stripe”.2
promotion occurred approximately
years after Maeda began teaching in Belém do Pará, which
could lead to the interpretation that Maeda was promoting his five
students to a “black-belt” rank.3
The article poses
problems of both interpretation and translation of what Maeda, or the
journalist, might have meant by “colação
do primeiro galão.”
is commonly used in the context of a promotion or award of a degree or
certificate (i.e. a university
level bachelor’s degree ceremony in
is referred to as “colação
de grau”). One of the meanings of the word
a military stripe of rank typically placed on the sleeve of officers.
The biggest problem of interpretation is what was meant by “primeiro” (“first” in Portuguese).
Judo, “primeiro” can be
either the first or last, contingent on it having taken place on the mu-dan (無段) or yū-dan
(no dan or with dan respectively). The mu-dan
levels are referred to as kyū，first 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 “primeiro
are a number of possibilities. For instance, Maeda could
be copying the Kodokan grading system and this means that the “colação
do primeiro galão”
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
promotion, these five men would have been close
to a rank that we would typically refer to today as a “black-belt”.
In the case of a sho-dan (初段) level promotion, this would mean these men were
being promoted to a rank of “black-belt” (or more accurately, sho-dan)
indicating a certain degree of mastery of fundamental judo skills.
Maeda, while isolated in the Amazon Jungle, could have plausibly created
his own grading system and, in this case, Kodokan’s 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.
it is possible that Maeda created some sort of hybrid
ranking system that he thought to be appropriate.
issue of Maeda having promoted Brazilians to any rank
is relevant given that he is widely, albeit perhaps unjustly, considered
to be the beginning of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s lineage. It
was previously thought that Maeda had never promoted anyone in Brazil.4
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 “black-belt”.
no source was provided. This
was subsequently repeated in a 2006 interview conducted by a
Eros de Medeiros.
contacted by this author to produce the video footage of the interview,
to do so.
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 Maeda’s promotion
of Brazilians but also bears relevance in regards to Brazilian
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
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).
© 2018, Robert Drysdale.
All rights reserved.