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Global Training Report

From Brasil, Thailand, Japan, and Korea

Est. 2000




Book Review

Carlos Gracie: O Criador de uma Dinastia

Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2008

By Reila Gracie

Reviewed by Roberto Pedreira  

Posted  June 21, 2013


Chapter 17

 Estadinho: Vaguarda dos Ringues

 1937 was a year of big changes in Brazil. Getulio Vargas declared the creation of the "New State." He closed the Camara and the Senado [two parts of the national legislature]  and cancelled the elections that had been on course for the next year. He said that it was necessary to protect the country from communism.  He reestablished the death penalty and censored the media. The people continued with their daily lives apathetically. Vargas' government created the National Department of Sports and Physical Education. The purpose was to regulate and control amateur sports across the country. The ambitious plan involved building parks, swimming pools, and stadiums. In addition to the goal of "whitening" the population, the government also wanted to create an impression that Brazilians were healthy and athletic [as Reila pointed out in the previous chapter, the "upper layers" of Brazilian society wanted to be Europeans, in the sense that North Americans are "Europeans." ]

The Flamengo Yacht Club continued its policy of promoting sports and physical education. It promoted a program of fights, between athletes from the Club and from the Gracie Academy. The Federation of Pugilism promoted the First Tournament of Jiu-Jitsu and Luta Livre. Carlos had time to prepare some of his students for this event.  It was held in three steps. The first was at the Flamengo Yacht Club, the second at Stadium Brazil, and the third at the Gracie Academy. By this time, Carlos had dismantled his rooster fighting ring, after seeing a champion rooster, completely beaten up and battered, abandoned by his owner, because he had lost his fight with another rooster. When Carlos asked him if he really intended to turn his back on his rooster athlete, the man said, "he is useless to me, just an expense."  Carlos was deeply touched by this and realized that he didn't feel like being involved in rooster fighting anymore. After that, he never again stepped into a rooster fighting ring.

Carlson, at just 5 years of age, participated in the Tournament, and won all of his matches without any difficulties. Four other Gracie representatives also won in the first phase of the Tournament.

Carlos met Manoel Rufino again. Rufino, it will be recalled, defeated Carlos in the ring, and then ridiculed him mercilessly in the press. Carlos got even by ambushing Rufino late one evening, with the help of his brothers and a "steel box" , an act for which they were convicted and sentenced to prison terms, but pardoned by Vargas. This time their encounter was less violent. They were basically forced  to take a four-month course in order to get a diploma, attesting to their teaching abilities, which would allow them to officially teach luta livre and jiu-jitsu. Futebol coaches had to take the same course.

Reila describes some of the fights that took place in 1937. Y. Ono fought Helio and emerged with a  "draw." He then choked George out. George wanted a re-match, but Ono told him to fight his little brother N. Ono, first, to redeem himself. Reila says that Ono was infatuated with his "draw" with Helio (and victory over George) and felt that he was the "owner of the situation." This is a bit misleading. "Draw" is the usual translation for the original word, "empate." Today when we hear "draw" we think that the match was "even." Both fighters were  equally effective on attack and defense. That isn't what it meant in 1937. Jiu-jitsu matches were decided by give-up or loss of senses (consciousness) [desistencia ou perda dos sentidos]. Neither Helio nor Ono gave up or lost their senses. But the match was far from equal. Ono  dominated Helio from start to finish, throwing him 32 times. Helio had abundant opportunities to use his ground skills because he was on the ground most of the time, because Ono put him there almost every time he laid hands on the "jiu-jitsu" representative. Actually, Ono was a jiu-jitsu representative too, but a Kodokan trained one, which explains why he owned Helio on stand-up. That is to be expected probably, but Helio failed to threaten Ono on the ground as well, apart from one arm-lock attempt that went nowhere.  Throws are not effective for "real fighting?" Ono threw George, who was injured in the fall, as a result of which he couldn't defend himself adequately and succumbed to Ono's choke. Ono actually was the "owner of the situation." George swallowed his pride and accepted the fight with "little Ono" [he really was little] as a condition for a rematch with Y. Ono.

Little Ono performed a "Sufficiency Test" at the Gracie Academy. These were matches required by the authorities to ensure that the fighters actually had some skills, in other words a form of truth in advertising [although they could be tampered with just as fights could be.] Ono fought (in a jiu-jitsu match) Gracie Academy representative Antonio Marques. Little Ono defeated the Gracie representative with an arm-lock, thereby demonstrating that the public would not be disappointed when he faced George Gracie. Before wrapping up the event, the Federation of Pugilism announced that Helio Gracie would be considered the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion because no one signed up to fight him and that the only one who had the right to challenge him was his brother George. For those who are curious, that is how Helio became the Jiu-Jitsu champion of Brazil. Y. Ono was conveniently forgotten. 

George was thrown less often by Little Ono than Y. Ono threw Helio, but unlike Helio, George managed to win, by arm-lock. He enjoyed an 11 kilos weight advantage.  He had earned his re-match with Y. Ono and would have his chance to "re-establish the invincibility" of the Gracies [ignoring the illogicality of re-establishing invincibility after already having been vanquished]. George had another match with Little Ono that year. He won, but by an unpopular judge's decision [as before, Ono dominated on stand-up, and George couldn't finish him despite his weight advantage.] 

Carlos was essentially out of the picture. He managed Helio and tried to get fights for some of his students or luta livre people and tough guys who came to his academy thinking that Carlos could get them fights, but he was basically at the mercy of professionals who knew what they were doing and had the resources to do it. So Carlos occupied his time with his "business affairs" with Oscar Santa Maria [or if one wanted to be a little cynical, in mediating between the higher spiritual entity Egidio Lasjovino and Santa Maria's bank account], and in his studies of the occult and theories about nutrition. He also continued his process of "Brazilianizing" jiu-jitsu, disconnecting it with the rules of Kodokan judo [which seemed to mean doing everything possible to not have to compete on stand-up with the Kodokan trained jiu-jitsu people.]

Helio stopped fighting in 1937.1 George continued but most of his fights were luta livre or pro-wrestling [often there was no difference.] If he had a jiu-jitsu match, more often than not the opponent was a pro-wrestler. The same was true for the Ono brothers. Fans liked pro-wrestling [whether it was called luta livre, or catch as catch can, or luta livre americana, or whatever] for the simple reason that it was more entertaining. Jiu-jitsu could be and usually was too defensive and too boring, especially if the more entertaining techniques [the big throws] were discouraged. So everyone more or less gravitated to pro-wrestling, or quit. Helio didn't want to be a pro-wrestler [or couldn't be, or Carlos wouldn't let him2] but George didn't mind at all. Neither did Oswaldo. Nor did the Japanese jiu-jitsu fighters [the Ono Brothers, TakeoYano, Géo Omori, and others].  Jiu-jitsu for amateurs was becoming a very different thing from professional jiu-jitsu, which did still happen, but always as part of a pro-wrestling or luta livre or boxing show or nights of mixed fights3.]



Chapter 18. A Morte de Carmem






1. Helio made a comeback in 1950. 

2. Reila says that when Helio retired in 1937, he told a journalist that he wanted to be a businessman, but she can't confirm this. 

3. "Mixed" could mean either that the program included fights of different styles {for example two luta livre fights, one jiu-jitsu fight, and three boxing matches] or fights between different styles. 


(c), 2013, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.



















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