The Second Gracie Judo Invasion
By Roberto Pedreira
The date is July 27, 1988. Rorion, Rickson, Royler, Royce, Renzo, Rillion, Rolker, Relson, Rigan and assorted other members of the Gracie Army show up at a certain famous judo club in Los Angeles. As always, Rorion's faithful video recorder is rolling.
A crowd of cholos greet the approaching Gracie Representatives from down the sidewalk with what sound like hollers, hoots and jeers. Maybe they notice the camera and think they might pick up some pocket money working as extras on a Karate Kid sequel.. Or maybe they mistake the Brazilians for a rival gang and are psyching themselves up for ritual battle in defense of their "turf". No matter--the Gracie boys have their sights set on bigger fish.
Inside a tubby judo sensei is commanding the judokas to form one line. The sensei says "ready? Ok." and then starts counting as the judokas do their uchikomi in lock step, regimented, military fashion (more Japanese than the Japanese, as Hayward Nishioka (himself a previous victim of one of Rorion's judo club visits) commented). After 10, he tells them to change. They continue as before. Change again. Some are a little slow to change and the sensei claps his hands impatiently and shouts "hup, hup" like a drill sergeant in the US marines (this isn't the rhythm Brazilians (especially not Cariocas) are used to and might have contributed to the bad attitudes on display that evening..) The counting continues. Everyone does exactly ten reps of each throw and at the sensei's pace. The counting continues. Change "Three more". Counting again. "Ok, fix your gi" The sensei says, "Ok one person down". Then, "Ready, go...go". Rolling ensues. 65 seconds later the sensei claps his hands and calls the rolling to a stop. "Change! Ready, go"
The camera pans to the corner of the room, where the Gracie Army is sitting on the floor watching the uchikomi (with the exception of Renzo, who is doing the uchikomi).
The tape features three sessions of rolling, each short, but long enough for the Gracies to make their point. The first segment is Royce vs. a judo guy with a 70's style superfly "fro" and mustache. The sensei says "one up one down". The Brazilians don't seem to get what he means, but Rorion tells them in Portuguese, "em joelho", so they start from the knees. Royce easily passes Judo Guy's "guard", get reversed, or more likely, lets himself get reversed, and quickly applies a triangle choke. The sensei calls "change!" But Royce and Judo Guy keep going. Royce mounts, Judo Guy gives back, Royce chokes him out. Judo Guy tells Royce that he "cannot choke over the mouth" (the choke didn't look like it was over the mouth). They resume. Royce goes for another triangle, Guy tries to lift him, but Royce holds his leg so he can't. The sensei shouts "change!" again. Judo Guy says "let's keep going". Royce tries another triangle, but Judo Guy avoids it and tries to pass Royce's open guard. Royce goes for yet another triangle, Guy lifts him slightly off the mat and says "if I lift you off the ground it's matte". The camera pans to the corner where Royler has just armlocked someone, and then back to the Judo Guy saying "that's enough" to Royce with a rather contemptuous, or at least not very respectful tone. He doesn't bow. So much for judo etiquette.
The next segment stars Rickson. Rickson attempts haraigoshi or osotogari (the on-the- knees versions), his opponent defends, Rickson grabs his pants, attempts an inversed armlock, which seems to barely miss catching, but sweeps the guy anyway, mounts, and finishes with quick chave de braço jujigatame arm lock on him. This takes exactly 15 seconds. They resume and this time the judoka is warier. It takes Rickson 90 seconds to establish the mounted position and choke him out. The sensei shouts "change!"
Next in Rorion's view finder is his younger brother Royler, who is facing the same Judo Guy that Royce had a few minutes earlier. Judo Guy asks him "You know what matte means?", Rorion answers for Royler, and Judo Guy says "that other guy [referring to Royce] didn't...." Judo Guy starts from feet in middle guard position, which Royler easily passes. Judo Guy reverses him but gets nowhere in his attempt to establish any kind of control. Rorion mentions to someone off camera that Gracie Jiu-Jitsu "usually goes like this until someone taps". Guy continues trying to pass, Royler finally seems to decide that the moment has finally come to finish things (probably realizing by then that the judo guys don't train on the ground longer than about a minute or so). He applies a triangle, the guy lifts him off the mat, and at that instant the sensei calls "stop!" again. At this point the judo guy can be heard muttering "dumb son of a bitch" to which Rorion says defensively, "Now don't say that. You can bang em on the ground if you want. Hey, that's my brother, don't call Royler a son of a bitch." The guy complains to Rorion about the Gracie Brothers apparent ignorance of basic judo terminology.
Royce and the judo guy are shown in the middle of the mat area, standing, hands on hips, Royce with chin up, looking down on his interlocutor (South American males express their contempt with this posture).
Renzo is shown doing randori. If any of the other Gracie Representatives did randori or even uchikomi, it wasn't shown on the tape. This isn't surprising, Renzo is the Gracie member who generally seems most willing to give anything a shot, fight anyone, under any rules and this tape provides evidence of that. This is despite that fact that Renzo doesn't seem to have a great stand up judo game. He attempts legs grabs, some kind of yoko sutemi (hard to tell because it didn't come close to working), and a seoinage that fails. He then shoots a single leg, and spins to the guy's back. The guy turtles up, Renzo can't get both hooks in, the guy rolls, but Renzo stays glued to him (here Rorion says to someone "let 'em go a little bit"). Renzo is working for the choke. At this point the sensei comes over and tells him "don't put it on his face", although it didn't look like it was on his face.
The camera pans to Rickson who is starting with the original judo guy. Rickson attempts, or fakes, a right foot sweep. It doesn't work, but he brings him to the mat anyway with a sort of tomoe type foot on the hip move, turns him over, and takes side control. The sensei stands them up. Rickson takes him down again with the same move from the other leg, throws his leg over his face, mounts and immediately gets up without tapping him. The judo guy gets up and says "ok, ok...sit down. Judo....no newaza....randori" . He doesn't seem happy.
Renzo is over in the corner still doing randori as the tapes concludes.
Rorion Gracie has been called the Bill Gates of the grappling world (see "Jiu-Jitsu Comes to America", in Jiu-Jitsu in the South Zone, 1997-2008). This video suggests that he had his Don King side too. He did what he thought he had to do to make what he wanted to happen happen, although in 1988 he probably hadn't hit on the now obvious idea of promoting a style vs. style vale tudo in the USA (or if he had, he hadn't figured out how to actually implement it). When he was striving to establish Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in the United States, Rorion tended to take a liberal attitude with regard to the truth, sometimes embellishing, sometimes fabricating. Some of his own relatives accused him of outright lying, but in Brazil, reality is what you make it, and everything is open to negotiation and interpretation. Not much harm done, as no one above the age of 13 took most of it seriously anyway, other than the parts that they could empirically test for themselves (i.e., go to the academy and roll).
The Gracie Representatives did not show up at either judo club to practice judo (with the exception of Renzo). but rather, it seems, to establish that they were better on the ground than the American judo guys were. But they needed a different set of rules to make the demonstration emphatic. Which is merely to point out that jiu-jitsu doesn't work as well under all of the many constraints of sport judo rules and training practices. Rorion could have explained to the judo guys that the Brazilians wanted to roll under jiu-jitsu rules, but he didn't. The judo guys probably would have reacted the way jiu-jitsu guys would react if a judoka or wrestler came to their academy and wanted to train with judo or wrestling rules. So Rorion pretended that they were training judo, except that the Gracie Representatives (except Renzo) did only the part of the workout that they knew they were going to kick ass at and did it according to the rules that they liked. In other words, they did jiu-jitsu, not judo. Certainly, Rickson and Royler could have more or less held their own (if not more so) with the judo guys, but the tape doesn't indicate that they even tried.
Rorion is being a little deceptive it seems, in this incident. He implies that the Gracie brothers don't understand the rules or terminology of judo because they speak Portuguese in Brasil. Speaking Portuguese is not a reason to not know or follow the rules of judo, especially if you are visiting someone else's academy, dojo, or club. [And the rule about matte when you lift someone off the mat during his triangle makes sense if the sport is rooted in self defense concerns; why should he be able to continue the choke, while you are prohibited from slamming him? True, Rorion says it ok to bang the brothers on the mat, but it would have been nice if he had explained that before rather than after and had gotten the judo guys' agreement to that modification in the rules first. Slamming people on the mat (not to mention concrete) can be a very good defense against triangles and armlocks from the guard--ask Carlos Newton and Sakuraba].
The judo sensei might have wondered about Rorion's grasp of English too. It seems pretty clear from the tape and transcript that the judo guys have done their mat work and now are going to do stand up. Rorion doesn't seem to want to accept that and continues to badger and cajole in an effort to get them to let the Brazilians do their thing on the ground. I suspect the judo guys were happy to see the Brazilians leave, didn't have a great desire to take privates from them, and possibly were a bit more cautious about inviting visitors to train with them in the future.
GTR prefers jiu-jitsu rules for ground grappling, but when we train at a judo dojo, we accept judo rules. In fact we generally accept the rules of whatever academy, dojo, dojang, gym, yim, club, or camp we happen to voluntarily visit or regularly train at. We train the way they train according to their rules. But that is because we are going there to learn. Rorion and the Gracie Representatives were not going to the judo club to learn (with he exception of Renzo), but to make a demonstration.
The problem was that the judo guys didn't realize that.
Gracies Invade LA (The first judo invasion)
Articles and Interviews with the Rorion, Rickson, Royler, and Renzo on GTR:
Rorion (with Royce after Sakuraba)
Rickson (after Funaki)
Rickson (from Athra Part 1)
Rickson (from Athra Part 2)
Rickson (from Brazilian magazine Fighter)
Rickson (from Kakutogi Tsushin No. 301, May 23, 2002)
Royler (after Sakuraba)
Royler (from Brazilian magazine Tatame)
Renzo (before Sakuraba)
Renzo (after Dan Henderson)
More interviews are available here.
Other Gracie Challenges and Invasions (not the judo invasion described above) are shown on the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Action tapes, available on DVD, below:
©2002-2013, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.
Revised December 29, 2012; revised May 9, 2016.
GTR Archives 2000-2013