Jiu-Jitsu: Theory and Techniques)
By Renzo Gracie
and Royler Gracie
assisted by John
Danaher and Kid Peligro
Rev. by Roberto
16, 2020 (Japan Time)
brought Renzo and Royler's book to Roberto's attention. It was published
in Japan in 2003 and is mostly old news but contains a few points of
current interest, hence this review. The original English version was published in
2001. The Japanese edition includes an introduction by Yuuki Nakai 中井祐樹,
who at that time was the head (会長)
of the Japanese
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (日本ブラジリアン柔術連盟.)
Renzo and Royler
need no introduction. John Danaher is described in the book as a graduate
of the Columbia University Philosophy Department and a student of Renzo
at the New York Academy. Kid Peligro is described as a MMA journalist and
jiu-jitsu black belt. All are obviously well-qualified to write about some
aspects of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Apparently none of them are historians or
can read the Japanese language fluently. Where did they get their
historical information? Read on if you dare.
Note that this will
not be a review of the English version. Roberto hasn't read it. For the
same reason it will not discuss the accuracy of the translation.
What was the
serendipity that brought Renzo and Royler's book to Roberto's attention?
It was the bibliography of a different book, specifically an obscure 2013
non-fiction book by Sannohe Kenji （三戸健次) titled Conde Koma Story (コンデ・コマ物語).
Mr. Sannohe (when
he wrote the book) was a retired math
teacher and middle school administrator, coincidentally in the district where Conde Koma (Mitsuyo Maeda, 前田光世) was a middle school
student. Mr. Sannohe obtained from local archives and
discussed some interesting (perhaps even paradigm shifting)
documents concerning Maeda from that period which Roberto has independently
verified (and will discuss in due course.)
The relevance to the
present review is that Mr. Sannohe cited Renzo and Royler as one of his
sources about Maeda. That leads us to wonder where Renzo and Royler
acquired their knowledge about Maeda. (No sources are cited in their
book.) It seems that the sources were martial arts magazines, Gracies in
Action, and internet forums.
One example will
suffice. It occurs on pp. 30-31.
According to Renzo
and Royler, Maeda was a vale tudo fighter with extensive experience in
"real fighting" against boxers and professional wrestlers.
Because of this he developed his own style which consisted of setting up
entries to a clinch with low kicks, followed by elbows, then a trip to
the mat from which Maeda submitted the opponents with joint locks using
his body in a connected way.
resembles the way Brazilian fighters fight nowadays, they point out.
In reality Maeda never did this.
See here for a brief summary and Craze
2 and Craze 3 (forthcoming 2021) for details with sources. This story
originated with an internet review of a 1997 book about Maeda's immigration
work in Brazil and prefaced by a review of the usual inaccurate accounts
of Maeda's ring career (see here.) The
ring career section was based
on two highly inaccurate books from 1912, which were in turn based on a
series of dubious articles written by a friend of Maeda's based on some
letters written by Maeda (in which most of the claims that can be checked
are either inaccurate or false. Roberto has checked them.) The reviewer,
Mark Gorsuch, was not a historian or even a martial arts person. The book
he reviewed did not say that Maeda set up clinches with low kicks and
elbows. Gorusch simply assumed that he must have, because Maeda supposedly
taught the Gracies and that's what Gracies did (he thought). The
misconception ended up in Reila Gracie's biography of her father Carlos
(see review here.)
and Royler assume that Maeda taught their grandfather. Because that's what
they heard. It might have been as much as four years or as few as two
years, they say.
did have students. Their names were published. Carlos Gracie's name was
not mentioned. (See here
for some details. Also available here.)
and Royler speculate about the type of training Carlos might have had with
Maeda based on their assumption that Maeda set up clinches with low kicks
and elbows and had many "real fights" of the vale tudo variety
against boxers and wrestlers. However they admit (in the Japanese version
at least) that it's only hypothetical. Basically it must have been the
same sort of vale tudo preparation that MMA and UFC fighters do now, they
doesn't want to leave the impression that Renzo and Royler's book is about
history. Most of it is not about history. It is primarily about the
requirements for the four colored belts used in the Gracie system (blue,
purple, brown, black). This
is called ブラジリアン柔術の帯と昇級制度
pp. 36-39. Techniques are divided into groups, and awarded a certain
number of points. The groups are self-defense (護身),
throws (投げ), guard passing (パスガード),
attacks and submissions (攻撃、サブミッシヨン), sweeps (スイープ),
combination attacks (コンビネーシヨン攻撃).
The number of points awarded and the specific techniques vary according to
both agrees and disagrees with Renzo and Royler's belt system (although he
wouldn't pretend to tell them how to teach or operate their academies and
franchise systems). Based on educational psychology, it makes sense that a
syllabus, curriculum, clearly stated learning objectives and evaluation
procedures can be and probably are useful things in terms of promoting
learning and enhancing student retention at the basic level (from white to
blue) but at higher levels the way it has traditionally been done
(individualized coaching with lots of mat time) is probably the best way
to prevent BJJ from becoming a typical commercialized martial art, the
type that "anyone can do," assuming it isn't already too late
for that (as Rickson Gracie fears.)
and Royler's technique are arranged by belt. The book has colored tabs
indicating which techniques are "techniques of blue belt" and so
on for each belt. The "front shoulder choke from the guard
position" for example is a black belt technique. Roberto learned this
technique from Rickson Gracie when he (Roberto) was a white belt, in one
of his first classes at the Old Pico Academy in Los Angeles. How it
happened is described in the preface to Jiu-Jitsu
in the South Zone, 1997-2008 (recently updated.) It
would serve no good purpose to
repeat it here but suffice to say that Rickson evidently didn't consider
it a technique that was beyond the capabilities of a fresh, green,
very clueless white belt. The important element is context and Rickson's teaching style, which (at that time at
least) was to teach what is needed
when it is needed to those who need it (he did it without saying a single
word, too, like a Zen master.) In general
that is an effective and efficient teaching method when and where it can reasonably
be applied. It is difficult in large-scale, mass, highly commercialized
contexts. Regrettably this is probably the future of jiu-jitsu. But people
will have belts and everyone will be happy.
Roberto suspects that John and Kid actually wrote the book and in tried and
true jiu-jitsu publishing tradition, the ostensible authors contributed
their famous names and posed for the pictures.
2. Maeda's first
name when he was a middle-school student wasn't Mitsuyo (光世), a fact that is
highly relevant to Mr. Sannohe's book and to the question of whether Maeda
was a Vale Tudo MMA "jiu-jtsu fighter." His name was 榮世
(later written as 栄世). which like
most Japanese names, can be pronounced in various ways, hence the
numerous variant alphabetic spellings of Maeda's names that can be found across time
and place. Japanese historians and journalists disagree on how his name
was pronounced (if there actually was a single pronunciation.) According to Maeda's personal friend
押川春浪 (who would have been in a
good position to know),
Maeda's first name was pronounced えいよ (Eiyo).
Others think it might have been Hideyo, or even Eise. To add to the confusion, Maeda himself at least occasionally wrote his
adult name 光榮 which can be
pronounced Mitsuei, Kōei,
among others. (All sources to be provided in Craze 3
How did Japanese writers deal with this mess?
(Actually it didn't bother them, Japanese people are used to this sort of
thing. The real name is the written name, not the spoken form.) They
weren't and still aren't sure, so they usually referred to him and
generally still do as Mr. Maeda (前田君,
前田氏 or コンデ・コマ,
Conde Koma, or more recently, if they have been influenced by the Gracie
the name most commonly used in foreign countries, Mitsuyo Maeda or in
DVD, and VHS Reviews by Roberto Pedreira (and guest reviewers).
Some classic interviews with
Renzo and Royler:
2000 talks about Sakuraba etc.
2001 talks about Dan Hendrerson and Sakuraba etc.
2001 with comments by Rickson
(c) 2020, Roberto
Pedreira. All rights reserved.
Revised December 17, 2020.