GTR Archives 2000-2021


Jiu-Jitsu Books 


Roberto Pedreira












Interview with 
 Orlando Cani  
By Paulo Ruy Barbosa

              from Gong Kakutougi Plus vol 13 - July 2001

Special to 

Global Training Report


I talked with Orlando Cani on the phone and made an appointment for the Interview. 

From the information I had, Cani was an old man, close to the 70's. So I expected to find an old man, plenty of knowledge but physically weak by age. I was kind of surprised when I meet Cani at his academy. He's 65 next November, 29 but he looks like have 50! Even more surprised when he showed some moves of his technique. He's very agile! I was very pleased to talk with Orlando Cani for about 2 hours. His academy is located in the heart of Copacabana. But it's in a tall building with a good view of the mountains and the Cristo Redentor Statue.  It's a quiet place too.

Q: Where were you born?

Orlando: I born in Santa Catarina State, south of Brazil, in 29 of November in

Q:  Please tell us about the exercises, movements, and techniques you
are teaching. What is it all about? And what is it good for?  Is it different from Yoga?
Did you develop it by yourself? Or do you have some masters who taught you?

Orlando:  I'm graduated in College at "Physical Education" and made a specialization in Yoga. When I was a teenager I began to practice martial arts, Jiu-Jitsu, Judo and Capoeira. At 20 I practiced Jiu-Jitsu with Helio Gracie and Judo with the Japanese judo master Ogino, recently arrived from Japan and he didn't speak Portuguese at that time. Ogino is very known in Brazilian Judo and he must be around 85 years old today. I guess he's 10th Dan in Judo. I also tried Karate for some time. After that I began to practice Olympic Gymnastic and Swimming. I won the Rio's championship of Olympic Gymnastic and Swimming and also I began to give classes of it. I was a military parachutist and with 21 years old I began to practice Military Pentathlon and I won the Pentathlon World Championship twice. I loved to practice sports.

When I was 29 I discovered the Kempo martial art, originated from India with the name Kalarypayat, that means "Battle Camp". It's an very old art, older than 2000 years old, and it's still practiced in two Indian monasteries, one in South and another in North of Indian. I've been visiting these monasteries in India. They also teach a special massage technique and I researched that technique by books and I began to apply it in athletes. It's based in pressures. It's a sort of Shiatsu, it makes pressures over the joints and the muscles of the athletes, liberating the imprisoned energy accumulated during the training sessions. I apply it before and after the training liberating the localized accumulated tensions.

Along with Kempo, I discovered the Tai Chi. It was a "love at first sight" with Kempo and I quit everything else to dedicated myself to Kempo-Kalarypayat. It isn't exactly a martial art that imitates animals, but it attempts to catch and feel the animals instincts. Since Tai Chi has a similar approach, I made a mixture of both styles since I didn't want the pure Kempo nor the pure Tai Chi. I also began to research the motions of Kempo and Tai Chi, plus the Yoga I used to practice since I was 25. I went to India to take a course and returned many times there to take another courses and researches.

I felt very enthusiastic about my new discoveries and I felt very happy to discover that new world. Then I found that Corporal Expression is essential in general life. Everything we do is related with corporal expression, if we smile now, it's a expression. Corporal Expression isn't like people use to say for example, "now you are a tree, now you are a rock...", Corporal Expression is spontaneous and natural movements. The animal is always in Corporal Expression, when you work, you are too. So it comes the Dance in my life. Not searching the Dance in a academy, but I began to study the movements in the Dance and I found that are many similarities between Martial Arts and Dance. Martial Art in essence is a choreography, a dance, a expression of movement. It can be performed to attack or defend, and to give pleasure to the practitioner feel good physically and psychologically.

With the support of Yoga I concluded Extension and Flexibility are two of most important principles in Martial Arts. Every foundation and basis of Extension and Flexibility was originated from Yoga principles. 

So then I began do mix flexibility, extension, Yoga, Tai Chi, Kempo, Dance, Corporal Expression, and I began to research the body movement. It's been 33 years ago. From that mixture I develop my system, known by many as Orlando Cani system - Bio Gymnastic, or even Natural Gymnastic, when I prepared a video with a part of my system. So Natural Gymnastic it's only a small part of my system.

With the Bio Gymnastic I am able to support any type of Sport. I used to have a few actors taking classes with me too. I adapt the classes for each type of student. If he's a fighter I will work over his primary need, psychomotor system, developing extension and flexibility with speed and explosiveness. It will give the fighter Concentration and Relax. The basis of my system is the Breathing.

The importance of a good oxygenation is very well known by the medical physiology. The oxygen that we absorb through the breathing is the only food of the nervous cell; the neuron does not admit any other type of energy to carry out its functions. Consequently, a nervous system that is well oxygenated will work in a balanced and correct way. We should not forget the importance and the functions of the nervous system within the man's organism. It is the way that the man has to express his will, to receive the information that his senses send him, decipher it and act accordingly. All what is the voluntary motor is commanded by the nervous system. The autonomic functions of the vegetative nerves, that is to say those that are beyond our will and we are not generally aware of them, as the temperature of the body, the secretions, the heart movements, and so on, are also innervated by the nervous system. Oxygen is also necessary for the muscular activity, especially if the muscles should work very hard.

The lack of oxygen in high competition, for example, causes the formation of lactic acid, which produces an intense muscular pain and the disqualification of the competitor. The oxygen is necessary in our entire organism. It is distributed by the blood stream to each cell of our body, and it allows the combustion of the molecules that are in its protoplasm and that come from the food we eat. This combustion will originate caloric energy and logically it will produce remains (water, anhydride carbonic, urea, etc). The blood removes the carbonic acid of the cell. Then the important phenomenon of hematosis will take place in the alveoli of the lungs: it is the change of the carbonic anhydride for new oxygen, so that the cycle continues being developed. And this cycle is life, and this is what truly contains and means the act of breathing, life, that is energy.

Before the Olympics in 1996 I took two years working with the coach of Brazilian Women's Volleyball Team, Bernardinho, and the Brazilian team. Before the last Olympics in Sidney, I prepared Shelda-Adriana, four times beach volley world champion, and silver medal in Sidney. Para-Guilherme beach volley world champions also trained with me.

Q: What kind of exercises you make with martial artists?

Orlando: I used to develop routines using the animal instincts. The Tiger, The Monkey, The Snake, The Hawk, mainly. There's no need to use every animal, but it's specially interesting to use feline animals, since it's use the four paw, like man in the martial art. But we develop the instinct, the sight for instance, and the feeling of the breathing, natural to the animal but not for the men. The animal uses the flexibility in a natural way. I apply the massages before the exercises to release the accumulated energy, so the athlete is able to move in a spontaneous manner. I try to make the athlete develop his animal instinct thru the movements of some animal. When the fighter uses the moves of an animal, not to imitate but to feel like an animal. That way I intend to develop the creativeness of the fighter. When he fights, he must move in a natural way, spontaneous and creative, so he will be able to surprise his opponent. Concentration is a key factor in a fight. Every time the fighter thinks what to do, he loses time and concentration in the fight, and it diminishes the creativeness. But further than that, the thinking process in a fight will make determined contractions. That process can stress the fighter and produce too much adrenaline and loss of energy. I try to balance the emotional of the fighter, breathing correctly to balance his physical and emotional energy, concentrating him only in the fight. I like to explain the athletes the complete process in details, so he can understand what we are doing.

Breathing is the key, the fighter must completely dominate the use of the diaphragm. The fighter usually when attacking, he catches his breath but instead of, that he should expire the air of the lungs. He must expire to get rid of the gas CO2, toxic for his cells, and avoid the contractions and production of lactic acid. So during the fight, the athlete wants to react but he can't since his body is dominated by the acid lactic. In extreme the process is similar with the Tetanus, an infectious disease characterized by tonic spasms and rigidity of muscles, sometimes leading to respiratory paralysis and death. The body stops to feed the brain with oxygen and the fighter forget everything he learnt after years of training. There's a white page in his mind, he forgets everything. I try to teach how to breath, to concentrate, to pace himself in the fight.

Q: Alvaro Romano markets himself as the creator of the "Natural Gymnastic", what do you want to say about it?

Orlando: Alvaro Romano was my student for 13 years. He learned the "Natural Gymnastic" from me. When he arrived here, he didn't know anything. He was about to quit the college course of "Physical Education" and he was in a real bad condition. he began to practice here Yoga and Natural Gymnastic. After 13 years working with me, he suddenly disappeared and avoid further contact with me. I didn't know what was going on, since we didn't discuss or anything. I had no clue until someone told me that saw an article in a magazine, where he said that invented the "Natural Gymnastic" method by himself. I was completely shocked. He was like a son for me. I even recorded 2 video of "Natural Gymnastic" with him.

Later was a big congress and I was scheduled to give a lecture about"Natural Gymnastic". A few hours before it I received an Official of the Justice, prohibiting me to take the lecture using the title "Natural Gymnastic" since the Patent was registered by Alvaro Romano. Wow, what a disgusting notice! From now on, I use "Orlando Cani Gymnastic - Bio Gymnastic". I was very disappointed.

Q: How did you get to know Rickson? And when?

Orlando: Rickson had good information about my work and went to my academy to work with me. It was in 1986 up to the end of 1988. In 1989 he was already living in Los Angeles and invited me and my wife to a dinner. We had a good time there. At this time I didn't charge money to teach classes for athletes and one day Rickson went to USA to give a seminar with Rorion and some Gracies to the famous American actor Chuck Norris. Rickson brought me as a gift two beautiful real samurai swords since I  could use it in my Kempo routines. At that time I used to perform Kempo routines using a Chinese wood sword, copy from a real samurai sword.  It was a great present. Rickson brought me the swords and said a speech that I felt very emotional, since he said he was very grateful to what he learned from me.

Q: How was Rickson, as a student? How was his attitude? How was his talent in it? How fast and how deep did he learn it? What was he interested in, mainly? How long did he learn it from you?

Orlando: Rickson Gracie was the best student I had. He was the one to assimilate best the process. He's very serious and deeply concentrated. He stare at me hearing, and what I say penetrates him like a glove. He assimilates it deeply. It's very impressive. After two years of training with me, he almost make me cry, I was deeply touched. He told me: "Today you will  be seated down and I will perform the class by myself". I felt like he was going to fly away from the window, how perfectly he did, specially smoothing. My work is very intense, standing - on the ground, standing - on the ground, there's no good or bad position, it's movement, for me movement is life, is action, it's energy.

Q: Are the classes in group or personal?

Orlando: It can be either way, but personal classes are much more intense and the assimilation is higher.

Q: How long does it each class take?

Orlando: One hour is the usual, but I still teach 90 minutes classes mostly at the beginning of the work, since I spend extra time to explain what I'm doing. I work the meditation too.

Q: Did you teach any other members of Gracie family?

Orlando: Yes, a few of then, Royler, Carlos Gracie Jr., Rigan Machado, Jean Jacques Machado, Roger Machado, etc.

Q: Did you teach any other fighters?

There are so many that I can't remember the complete list. Marco Ruas, Alexandre Paiva, Murilo Bustamante, Wallid Ismail, Ricardo Liborio, Marcelo Behring, Fabio Gurgel.

Q: Are you teaching any fighters now?

Orlando: Ricardo Liborio was working with me to fight next month in Japan, but he hurt his shoulder.

Q:  What kind of techniques do fighters want to learn from you?

Orlando: Specially concentration and correctly breathing during the fight. It's amazing and so subtle that you can defeat your opponent only perceiving his breathing. It's because when you catch your breath it's when you become weaker. At the moment you inspire you are fragile. The animals are always breathing, the man is the only animal that catch his breath, it's an unconscious process. So we must dominate the breathing process not to lack the concentration and the energy.

The Natural Gymnastic is performed mostly on the ground, stimulating the natural process of moving and breathing correctly. But it's just a fraction of my work, where I make a lot of standing routines, using Tai Chi techniques with animal moves and extreme concentration.

Q: It looks like you must have material to write a book.

Orlando: Oh yes, I'm planning to begin to write a book very soon. It's one of my major projects.

Q: The things you have taught Rickson, how does he use it in his fights? In which way he shows it in the fight?

Orlando:  Concentration, Breathing and Corporal Conscience. The athlete can improve without Corporal Conscience. He improves to a higher level because his very good performing his game. Rickson is very concentrated in his fights, he demolish his opponent with his sight. Of course he's human and can fail, but even when he fails, he's so concentrated and integrated in the game that he has a immediate capability to recover. That's quite important since you are going to fail. When you fight a great opponent you make mistakes, and you get some damage too. Rickson has a prompt ability to recover when he fails. Because he's always aware from the opponent and mainly with his own corporal conscience.

Rickson is special. I told it to him one time. He's a very special fighter. Everything he learns he has a strong ability to assimilate and develop it. He has a clever way to assimilate and protect anything he likes. He protects my work.

One day Marcos Ruas went to my academy and ask me to work with him. I had no free time and said it to him. He told me "You worked with Rickson and his game improved a lot, he's so fast, explosive...". I said "Rickson a one of the kind, he's special. But I will work with you Ruas, I will teach you at my lunch time. I will help you, ever since you will represent Brazil, that's fine, let's go." Less than 24 hours later I received a few phone calls, asking me if I was going to train Ruas, because there was a possibility with a Rickson vs. Ruas fight in the future. I told them I wasn't training Rickson so far, and I am a professional. Moreover, Rickson is Rickson, he's one of the kind. I worked with Ruas, he was prepared. But he never used what I taught in his fights.

Wallid Ismail went to my academy and ask to work with him. He was going to fight a vale-tudo match in Japan. We began to work and during the process, his fight schedule changed and he was going to fight with Royce Gracie a Jiu-Jitsu match. So I had to exchange the training routine. I prepared him for 3 months. I said to him: "Wallid, fight is the moment. You must take the chances or you opponent take it and defeat you". Wallid took his chance and defeated Royce.

Wallid is a very kind person. His bad boy attitude is only marketing, personally he's very friendly and cool. But Ruas and Wallid aren't Rickson. With Rickson you can go further. The process of Recognition, Experiment and Development, Ruas and Wallid only recognized and experiment the work. Rickson went further, developed and protected it. I met Rickson after Ruas has fought and I comment with him over my impressions. Rickson told me "Orlando, let me tell you something, your work is a very elaborated and long process, people didn't understand it yet and they won't. There are people that will work with you for 10 or 15 years and they will never perceive the essence of your work". It deeply touched me again, and I could only look him and I said "You are right".

I developed a strong interaction with my students and we used to have a very good personal relationship. I also try to develop a good sport attitude, since when you play a game, you may be defeated, it's part of the game. But the fighter can't be worried if he's going to win or lose.

Once Rickson told me "Orlando, when I step in the ring I know I can die. I step in to win, but I know I can lose or even die". The fighter must do what  it must be done. Not worry to invent, but be creative, spontaneous and natural like an animal.

Q: Rickson has been last month in Rio. I talked with him and he told me that he was making a preparation to engage a movie project, playing the role of a man with animal instincts. Was he back to work with you again? 

Orlando: Yes, Rickson has been working with me again last month, specially regarding his movie project, developing expressions characters in the role of a man with animal attitude, animal instincts, sight, gestures, but he's a man. 

Q: You and Rickson has been a few years apart. How do evaluate him after a long time? Do you feel he still keeps what you taught him before? 

Orlando: Yes, he kept most of it. That time we could develop more the Sensibility. Motive and mainly Psycho-Motive aspects. That time he was able to deeply develop the aspect Psycho-Motive muscular neural. At the end of each class, he said he was able to have a better understanding of the Corporal Conscience. Since he's a very dedicated athlete in every thing he does, that time was much more easy to work with him, his assimilation was much more intense and fast.