Gracie: O Criador de uma Dinastia
Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2008
by Roberto Pedreira
April 19, 2013
.Chapter 8. Hélio Gracie, O
Gastão and Cesalina's sons, Helio was the plumpest and healthiest. They called
him "fatso." But between the ages of 9 and 15 he became thin, weak,
and without zest and zip. He suffered from dizziness and fainting, at school.
The family doctor couldn't diagnosis any specific problem but recommended that
Helio avoid any kind of physical activity. As was the custom in those days, the
father and the sons didn't communicate and so Helio couldn't express his opinions
and complaints. The family and doctor thought that Helio's fainting spells were
psycho-somatic. The family's recent move to Rio, and financial instability, and
absence of the father were enough to disturb the mind of a young boy. The other
kids in the family, of course, experienced the same conditions, but each one
reacted in his or her own way.
was different from his siblings not only emotionally but physically too. Among
them, he was long and bony. He was the only student at the Colégio Diocesano de
São José in Rio Comprido who was not forced to kneel while saying
prayers, because it hurt his knees. Instead, he stood up erectly, feeling
light-headed. George went to the same school. Helio studied there until the
third year of primary school at which time he transferred to Instituto
Layfayette in Tijuca, where he stayed for one year. Cesalina didn't have the
money to keep Helio in a private school and so moved him into a public school.
Helio was bored with school and wanted to follow in his older brothers'
footsteps. He wanted school to become a distant memory. Knowing that his mom was
a proud woman, he manipulated her psychologically by saying "if the
neighbors see me going to school in clothes like a poor person, it will be a
disgrace." The ruse was successful. Helio's formal education terminated in his fourth
year of primary school.
Carlos was in Belo Horizonte and São Paulo, Cesalina raised her daughters in the
home of her mother-in-law. Helio and George stayed with Cesalina's sister (Cesalpina).
who was the director of the Instituto de Cegos Benjamin Constant [institiute
for blind persons]. Briefly, they slept in the dormitory, and soon after that,
in the dormitory of the rowing team at CNB (Clube Nautico de Botafogo), which
was directed by Cesalpina's son, Pedro Teberge and Mario Tolentino
(father-in-law). George didn't stay long because at that time Carlos decided to
bring him to São Paulo to begin molding him into a future champion.
had a hard childhood. His life began, he said, when he placed himself under the care and
orientation of his oldest brother He idolized his brother and wanted to find some way to impress him and gain his
respect. But Carlos wanted to form and guide a champion, and he didn't see Helio as
a hot prospect, with his dizziness, fainting spells, and bad knees. He
concentrated his efforts on George, who was more healthy, flexible, agile, and
aggressive. Helio, realizing that jiu-jitsu was the only thing that could have a
any impact on Carlos' opinion of him, began watching the lessons, trying to
understand and assimilate to the utmost the logic of fighting [tentando entender
e assimilar ao máximo a lógica da luta]. Since he didn't go to school, he had all
the time in the world to hang around the academy [which was actually the
family's house]. He began taking classes taught by Gastão Jr., and trained with
George and some other students. Gastão Jr. returned to school and Oswaldo was
working with his father in São Paulo. Carlos focused his attentions on George
and, little by little, Helio. It was around this time that the legendary
incident occurred by which Helio was "promoted" (as Rorion put it)
into a professor by a student. The student was Mario Brandt, an employee of the Bank of Brazil. Mario arrived
at the Gracie home, or academy if you like,
for his lesson. Carlos was absent, but Helio, as usual, was there, and cheekily
offered to teach him. When Carlos eventually showed up, the lesson was
already finished, and Mario seemed satisfied. Carlos was pleased, thinking that
now he had someone to help him.
information above came from an interview with Carlos conducted by Jose Geraldo
in 1958, so, as with a lot of the other information about Carlos Gracie,
including the story of the fight with the dock worker/capoeira
"Samuel," described next, this information, and derivative uses of it,
such as Rorion's story of how Helio became a jiu-jitsu teacher, comes directly
from Carlos Gracie himself.
Gracie x o capoeira Samuel
describes a fight between Carlos and a "famous bully-boy dock-worker
capoeira" named "Samuel." She offers no source for this story,
and no details about when it happened, but is surprisingly detailed about how
the fight unfolded and what Carlos was thinking and feeling at the time.1
Seemingly, it is Carlos's version of events. There is no evidence that this
fight happened at all, let alone the way Reila describes it. Unlike his
fight with Manoel Rufino dos Santos and many exhibitions and "combates
academicas" there was no report of this fight" in any newspaper.
According to Reila, Carlos totally dominated the fight, and was prevented from
winning only because "Samuel" used dirty tactics (he grabbed
Carlos's private parts, and bit his leg, the story goes) .
offered a clue when he said that Carlos had no jiu-jitsu knowledge or abilities.
Carlos only had two fights [according to George]; the first was against Manoel
Rufino, which Carlos lost. The other was against a person with no training at
all [according to George] and Carlos was unable to defeat him. That is
consistent with Reila's description of the opponent, and the outcome.
In any case, the academy was attracting
more and more students, as the upper social classes in Brazil saw jiu-jitsu as
foreign and exotic (while other people preferred capoeira for exactly the
opposite reasons). Carlos believed that a policy of "desafio aberto"
[open challenge] was useful in proving the efficiency of jiu-jitsu. It is
unknown how many challenges Carlos personally accepted, but in the ring, where
the results could be most obviously and widely seen and appreciated [assuming that
the objective was proving the efficiency of jiu-jitsu], Carlos preferred to have
his brother or students do the fighting. He was always up for a demonstration
however when he wasn't too busy visiting newspaper offices.
Around this time Carlos began forming his
dietary theories. Other than Helio, his brothers ignored him, and ate what they
wanted to, and mocked him when he tried to convince them to join in his
nutrition "cult." Perhaps Gastão Jr. and Oswaldo were too much part
of the 9 to 5 work-a-day world to go in for such esoteric things, and George
probably would have resisted just on the general principle of "whatever
Carlos says, do the opposite."
The chapter ends with a discussion of
boxing, specifically a quotation form Carlos in 1981, in an interview in the
magazine Manchete. According to Carlos " At that time, I trained
boxing. I fought as a lightweight and never had any problem overcoming my
opponents. In the almost 20 fights that I had, I was never hit even once."
Reila concludes that "Carlos venceu o Campeonato Brasileiro de Amadores
na categoria meio-medios e George foi o vice-campeão" [Carlos was
Brazilian amateur middleweight champion, and George was vice-champion].
Boxing was the most widely covered sport in
Rio at the time, second only (needless to say) to football (futebol), and possibly rowing
and horseracing, but definitely much more than jiu-jitsu or other forms of
professional wrestling. There is no mention in any Brazilian newspaper during
the 1930's of either Carlos or George participating in any boxing match. Carlos
himself appears to be the source. But Carlos, as chapter 9 (and later chapters)
will indicate, had among his talents a gift for telling tall tales. Taking
Carlos Gracie at his word could be an exercise in faith, and as Oscar Santa
Maria (next chapter) found out, a potentially expensive exercise.
Chapter 9. Oscar Santa Maria
Reila says that it was held at ACM and was judged by Manoel Rufino. There is no record
of a Carlos Gracie fight at ACM judged by Manoel Rufino. But if George is
correct, an "encounter" of some sort did occur.
(c) 2013, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.