GTR Archives 2000-2020










 Interview with Helio Gracie, 2002

Japanese Judo versus Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Revisited

Text and Translations by Roberto Pedreira

 When in 2002 the Japanese promoters decided to stage a fight commemorating the legendary 1951 Kimura versus Gracie match in Rio, who were they going to call? Royce Gracie of course. Royce was the Gracie point man. It was he who led the "Gracie Invasion" in 1993. [Note actually it started in 1988 and Royce was not particularly prominent, see JJSZ and these two for details: Gracie Invasion 1987; Gracie Invasion 1988]. Royce was the first UFC champion, a feat he repeated twice more. He wasn't the best Gracie, let alone Brazilian, but he was the most conspicuous: he paved the way, blazed the trail, set the standard, and demonstrated the possibilities (all master-minded by his brother Rorion, of course). Among all those kooky cosmic energy focusing Brazilian names, Royce was the one everyone knew.  The August 28, 2002 Royce vs. Yoshida match was promoted as a Jiu-Jitsu vs. Judo challenge, explicitly as a reprise of the Kimura vs. Helio Gracie match in October 23, 1951 (although in Brazil in 1951, the match was not represented as jiu-jitsu vs. judo, see Choque 2, chp. 2 for details). The 1992 Barcelona Olympic 78 kg. judo Gold medalist Hidehiko Yoshida [吉田秀彦] represented judo. 

The captions above read (top, small) "A half century ago a legendary 'Jujutsu VS Judo' fight took place". (In larger letters) Kimura Masahiko VS Erio Gureishi [Helio Gracie], What is it!?" (SRSDX 8-8-2002, p. 14)


The cover of the August 8, 2002 issue of SRSDX (below) framed the challenge like this: ”柔 (やわら〕は術か?道か?それが問題だつ!["Is Ju (yawara) a technique or a way? That is the question"]. 




Yoshida's and Royce's pre-fight comments (SRSDX 8-8-2002, p. 21)

Yoshida Hidehiko

Well, Olympic and such things, you know, there weren't lots of people watching, まあそれ、so Think there are more than that, you know. I think just coming judo and do it. Tentatively, I just did judo training as usual (柔道中心). Just without choking or submissions. 決着. I go to that point. What is my impression about Royce? He's taller and bigger than I thought. As far as ne-waza or submissions or bottom triangles, having long legs is an advantage [for Royce]. My legs are short. My trainers [僕は足が短いんで。勝負師っていうのは伝わてきましたね。プロの格闘かだなって感じました


Royce Gracie

This year is the 50th anniversary of my father's jiu-jitsu match with Kimura so Pride proposed to meet Yoshida under the same rules (that Helio and Kimura used), meaning no striking [打撃ナシ] and three 10-minutes rounds of ground grappling only [グラウンドだけ]. I think it is like 一期一会。And, as many as possible of the Gracie family were invited to the event. I think, even Rickson. Aren't VT rules good? This is Yoshida's first NHB fight so イントロ (??) so I thought this is good for a judo vs. jiu-jitsu match.

The promoter talks about the Match (p. 14):

It has been decided that the Yoshida Hidehiko versus Royce Gracie match will take place on August 28 in the "Dynamite" event. At a press conference on July 16, the producer, Ishii Kanchou  announced that ”this fight can be considered as a reprise (or rematch, reproduction, or remake, 再現) of the 1951 match  between Masahiko Kimura and Helio Gracie. The Gracie family declared that it will be a "revenge match" ["リベンジマッチ"] for the defeat a half-century ago. After all [果たして] this will be the sequel to the story of the legendary "style versus style" [他流試] Kimura vs. Helio "death match” at Maracana [Stadium, in Rio]. What the heck kind of fight was that really? I want to learn about history [by staging this match].


"Royce will win" predicts Mario Sperry

Roberto Pedreira had an unexpected opportunity to interview Mario Sperry in Tokyo on August 6, 2002.  

Roberto asked Zé Mario who he liked to win the fight, Royce Gracie or HidehikoYoshida?

 "Royce will win," Zé Mario predicted confidently. "Yoshida is a great judoka, but unlike the days when Kimura was touring Brazil, when Japanese judokas were very strong on the ground, judo players since the 1964 Olympics have lost their feel for the floor. Royce will not have a problem with Yoshida on the ground",  Zé Mario explained. But might Yoshida knock Royce out with a powerful throw? "Everything is possible, but it won't happen,"  Zé Mario said.





After the Fight

A Short Interview with 

Helio Gracie



October 10, 2002

Page 10

Translated by Roberto Pedreira

Note: The interview took place after Royce's August 28, 2002 fight with Hidehiko Yoshida. Royce lost at 7:24 of the first of two scheduled 10-minute rounds, by what was ruled a "失神" KO [失神 means loss of consciousness. As the caption above Helio's picture indicates, Royce was unable or unwilling to be present at the post-fight 会見場 [press conference]. Helio spoke in place of Royce. Royce commented later, here.


Helio: First, I want to say something. In my opinion, the fight didn't happen [自分としては『なかったものの』と思っています].

Concerning the referee in this match, I think he didn't have the authority [権限] to stop it. It is extremely regrettable that he stopped the match. I think it was really unfair [不公平]. I understand that not everyone in Japan agrees with his action [レフエリーのした行為は、日本の人たち全ての意見ではないと私は理解しています.] Because I really respect Japanese people I never thought such a thing would happen [日本人を本当に尊敬しているので、このようなこと絶対にやらないと考えています]. I'm sure everyone in Japan doesn't agree with the referee's action. I would like this contest to be declared a "no contest" [ノーコンテスト ] and for that reason I asked the promoters to declare this fight a "no contest".  I want to be clear on this point 「その点をはっきりさせてもらいたいです.] And also, I think I would like for there to be a new match [あと改めて試合をさせていただきたいと思います]. This isn't a "revenge"[リベンジ match, it will be a new match.

Question: Did you have some agreement about the referee before the match?

Helio: Concerning the rules, we clearly discussed the fact that there wouldn't be any referee stops.  Only the fighters' "seconds" would be permitted to stop the match. That was firmly stipulated in the contract [しっかり契約もおしています].

Question: Are you saying that the match could only be stopped by "throwing in a towel" [タオル投げ入り以外では試合がストップすることtがないということですか?]

Helio: Yes. That's right. The only one who can stop the match is us 「私たち].  

Question: What do you think about Yoshida's judo technique? [吉田選手の柔道の技術]

Helio: Concerning Yoshida, from before the match it was understood [by Helio or by the Gracie team, or by people in general], that he was said to be a great athlete, and it was known [by Helio, etc.] that he was a world judo champion.  So in that way [we] respected him.

Question: If the referee hadn't stopped the match, what do you think would have happened (how would the match have gone)? [展開になっていたとおもいますか?]

Helio: That's not something that I can forecast. It is a pity that it wasn't allowed to continue [because then we would know]. Personally, I wanted my son to win.





A circumflex (hat symbol) over a vowel indicates a long vowel (pronounced the length of two ordinary vowels, or, in practice, with greater stress). Vowel length is phonemic in Japanese, meaning that an otherwise identical word with a short vowel has a different meaning from one wioth a long vowel.) For example, "o" [short o, written ] has a different meaning from ô [long vowel, usually written おう]. An alternative Romanization convention is to write long vowels with a macron. 

[Ishii-kanchô is 石井館長 his name is Ishii Kazuyoshi [和義]. Kanchô means "head of an organization"].

Death match is 死闘. In a previous sentence he used the word 対決 (confrontation, showdown, face-off, challenge)

Note: Style versus style, or "style challenge match is 他流試合. By "styles" we mean ryu []. The writer considers Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to be a "ryu". Ryu refers to a teacher (and staff in some cases) and his teachings (which may be slightly different, very different, or not at all different from those of a different ryu). And since Kimura's "style" was Kodokan judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is, to this writer, a style of judo. 


***For more interviews with Helio and Royce, see:

Helio 1994

Helio 2001

Helio 2002 (talks about Yoshida fight, Pedro Valente Jr., and Royce also add their 2 cents)

Royce 2001 (talks about Sakuraba and Wanderlei Silva)

Royce 2002 (talks about K-1 and Ray Sefo)

Royce 2002 (before fight with Yoshida. Also Mario Sperry offers exclusive prediction  about the outcome of the match)



(c) 2016, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.

Updated October 14, 2019.








(c) 2016 Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.


GTR Archives 2000-2020