P H O T O G R A P H Y
MITSUYO MAEDA KOMA
Mitsuyo Maeda was in Brazil to oversee Japanese immigration into the country. While there, he became friends with Gastao Gracie, who was instrumental in helping Japanese immigrants establish communities in Brazil.
Maeda was a World Jiu-Jitsu Champion. Maeda made a name for himself in Brazil through his fighting exploits, and opened up a Jiu-Jitsu school. Maeda did something that was not usually done by teaching Gastao Gracie's son Carlos the art of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu circa 1918.
The creator of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Carlos Gracie was the third generation descendent of an immigrant from Scotland. Born in 1901 to Gastão Gracie, a Brazilian scholar and politician, Carlos was the smallest and skinniest of five brothers but was never defeated by his younger brothers. His younger brothers were Osvaldo, Gastão, Jorge, and Helio. He was raised in a wealthy family, and he became a Maeda's student when he was 19.
Carlos only took one year of lessons from Maeda before Maeda returned to Japan. After learning traditional Jiu-Jitsu from Maeda, Carlos passed on his knowledge to his brothers. In 1925, he opened the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu academy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Carlos Gracie was small in stature as were others in the family, so they went on to refine the Jiu-Jitsu. These refinements allowed students of any size to effectively use the techniques.
Carlos Gracie followed Maeda's lead in challenging other martial arts schools through the "Gracie Challenge". He and his brothers made a name for the family by fighting in several demonstrations and street fights using Jiu-Jitsu, where anyone could come and test their skill against Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. At that time in Brazil, there was no technique for fighting besides boxing and Capoeira; only Gracie Jiu-Jitsu incorporated grappling techniques for fighting.
Carlos Gracie died in 1994 at the age of 92.
In what is considered the longest Jiu-Jitsu match in history, Helio Gracie battled former student Valdemar Santana, a powerfully built stone cutter. Helio lasted 3 hours and 45 minutes before losing the contest. This Vale Tudo (no holds barred) match was to be his last fight.
With Valdemar Santana's victory over Helio Gracie, Carlos' son Carlson entered the ring to defend the honor of his family name. At the age of 17, he took revenge for his family clan by defeating Santana, which won him the respect and title of "King" -- all this in Carlson's first professional Vale Tudo fight.
Carlson went on to fight 19 professional matches and remained undefeated. Carlson reigned as world champion for 30 years in the 1950's, 60's and 70's.
Carlson had his own approach to teaching Jiu-Jitsu, with a more aggressive style of training and a reputation of not holding back any information from his students. With Carlson's unique style of training, conditioning and techniques, the Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu academy in Copacabana went on to produce world champions in Jiu-Jitsu, Submission Wrestling and Vale Tudo/No Hold Barred. This led to Carlson Gracie becoming one of the most sought after coaches in Jiu-Jitsu history.
After Carlson Gracie retired from the ring, he embarked on promoting sports Jiu-Jitsu fighters. He is considered the father of sports Jiu-Jitsu. Carlson was able to attract corporate sponsors to support teams of Jiu-Jitsu fighters so they could train full-time in essence as professional athletes.
During the 1970's, Vale Tudo was still popular in Brazil as fights were televised. During the 1980s, Vale Tudo's popularity waned and Jiu-Jitsu fighters (lutadors) focused their efforts on sports Jiu-Jitsu competition. In 1991, the long feud between the Luta Livre style and Jiu-Jitsu style heated up and resulted in a showdown between the two styles. Luta Livre was a style designed for the ring. Some consider it a response to Jiu-Jitsu, where a group of fighters came together to pool their knowledge to improve their technique and to answer Jiu-Jitsu's successful ground game.
Carlson Gracie took up the challenge for the Jiu-Jitsu camp. He quickly assembled and personally trained a team consisting of Murilo Bustamante, Fabio Gurgel, Romero "Jacare" Cavalcanti, Wallid Ismael, and Marcelo Bhering. The showdown between Carlson's Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Luta Livre fighters was broadcast on Brazilian national TV, with a clean sweep for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. These matches can be seen on the "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Action 2" video tape.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, due to the success of Jiu-Jitsu fighters in NHB competition, has been exported around the world. Carlson's fighters have fired up the interest of Americans and especially American martial artists. Some of the best Jiu-Jitsu instructors have now made their home in the US. The Pan-American tournament was created to allow Americans to compete with Brazilians here in the US.