Global Training Report

Dojo Jiu-Jitsu

By Roberto Pedreira


      Leka was at the counter engrossed in a ledger. She saw me and softly said, barely glancing up over the rim of her glasses and without detectable expression, “you came”. She called up to Aloisio, who climbed down from the loft that he was renovating to accommodate visiting jiu-jitsu fighters. “You came in time for the Mundial“, he said. “You will train tonight, yes?” I said maybe but maybe not. I'd just spent 42 hours on airplanes and in airports waiting for airplanes and on trains and buses getting to and from airports. "Ok, you watch tonight, train tomorrow", he decided. 

       Prof. Aloisio Silva is the founder, owner, coordinator, and head instructor of Dojo Jiu-Jitsu, located a block from Copacabana beach, on the fourth floor of a building that houses a luggage shop on the ground floor, a church on the second and the remains of a defunct body-building gym on the third. Above the third-floor landing the walls are plastered with photographs, posters, logos, medals,  trophies and advertisements for muscle building supplements—indications that an academy of jiu-jitsu is not far away.

      Aloisio taught on special occasions. He devoted a lot of his time to his star pupil, or one of them. She was Alessandra “Leka” Vieira. Leka was not Aloisio’s most outstanding student, but she was his most personal. Leka started learning jiu-jitsu from Aloisio when she was a pudgy high school girl. Now she is the first female black belt in Brazil, champion of many tournaments, and has an 8 percent body fat ratio that most men would envy. Leka is small (55 kilos) but buffed. She is soft-spoken, shy (seldom smiles), almost prim, wears glasses and looks like a librarian—one with a crew cut and bulging biceps. This is her way of saying she is serious about jiu-jitsu.  Watching her roll leaves no doubts about that. Once a couple of big tough female fighters came to Dojo to see what Leka had. They became good friends after she trounced them.

       Leka led the warm up, taking the class through a set of unusual yoga-like movements. Most of the older guys weren’t doing them, sitting leaning against the wall instead, talking or stretching out slowly. More and more people, blue, purple, brown, and black belts wandered in until the small room was packed  There were kids with white and yellow belts, and girls with white and blue belts. Some were rolling but most were leaning against the wall. After a while, Aloisio put on his quimono, lined everyone up, and began lecturing. In due course, he called a purple belt up and demonstrated a long sequence of positions and finishes.  This went on a long time. Everyone sat watching and listening, looking a bit baffled. I’d never seen a jiu-jitsu professor talk so much in a class. Probably no one else had either. I noticed people glancing at each other with puzzled expressions.

      Aloisio later explained that he was making a special “seminario” for me. He sometimes did it when visitors came.  

      Leka and Alexandre “Café” Danta were the biggest and the brightest stars at Dojo, but not the only champions. Aloisio was also a champion and Cacao, Ricardo, Tadeau, and João had won major championships. Lango, who also taught kickboxing, was a formidable vale tudo fighter. 

      Leka was the first one I saw when I came in the next afternoon. “Leka", I asked, "You are a champion and have won many titles. What must I do to win the title in the blue belt, middleweight, super-senior category of the upcoming Internacional de Masters e Seniors?"  "Train hard", she advised me. "Just train hard?" "Yes", she said.  I had been hoping for something more concrete. I also wondered if training hard the week before a major competition wasn’t injudicious. I didn't believe my technique or conditioning could improve substantially in so short a period of time, but I did think it was highly possible that I could get injured and wouldn't have enough time to recuperate. "You can get hurt every time you train", João pointed out. That was true, but the World Championship doesn't happen a week after every time you train. Café injured a rib rolling hard a week before the Mundial and had to drop out of the brown belt absoluto competition. He was still fit enough to win the super-pesado title, but being Bi-Campaeo would have been even more impressive (anyone who is Bi-Campaeo never fails to mention it in the next issue of Otatame).

      Then again, there are plenty of competitions to enter, if you live in Rio.

      I went into the dressing room to put on my quimono. Aloisio was standing there, lathered up, shaving the hair off his legs. I asked him the same question I asked Leka.

      There's not really anything you can do, he said, at least nothing that will give you an edge, because you can be sure your opponent is doing it too. And no matter what you do to prepare, your opponent might do something unexpected. So the best thing, he said, was just to train hard and do your best. If you are better than your opponent, you might win. But being better than your opponent doesn’t absolutely ensure victory. Sometimes simple bad luck but more often bad officiating separates a fighter from his or her trophy. (He urged me to write an exposé of the incompetence that allowed Alexandre Paiva to coach his wife Daniella in her match against Leka from inside the competition area, in clear violation of the rules. Daniella lost anyway).

      He thought that shaving your hair might be a good idea. I noticed that everyone who won titles had short hair. The men at least. The women all had long hair, with the exception of Leka, whose was shorter than most men's. However, Leka won a title, so maybe there's something to it.

      On the mat, I asked Aloisio’s 16-year-old blue belt son João, who was conducting the class, and purple belt Tadeau, who lived in the academy, the same question. They agreed with Leka: train hard. I suggested that, since the matches start from stand-up and we never practice stand-up, how about practicing some stand-up?  João advised me to try to throw with Mark, a 6’4", 200+ blue belt native of Holland, now a permanent resident of Rio, with a Brazilian wife and young son, and two businesses (one was a barraca, a beach bar, in Leme, that earned him a small fortune). Mark had studied judo (“a little”, he said). Throwing him turned out to be difficult, but tackling him worked pretty well, so I guess there was something learned from the experience. I also did a few rounds of “grip" fighting with Tadeau, who is small but has won championships. Grip fighting is like judo uchikomi, except even more skill-specific. Instead of getting your grip and setting the throw up—without completing it—you simply work to get a superior grip.  In cases where the combatants are about equal in size and skill, a good initial grip can make all the difference.

      Both experiences convinced me that how well I did in the championship would depend on how good my opponents were. That's a completely meaningless statement, but true nonetheless. Everything depends on how good your opponent is, how well prepared he is, and what he does during the match.

       Training was finished at 5:30. I hung around until 7:30 hoping to get Cafe's input. He may be the most experienced fighter there. A recently promoted black belt, he is known as the "fenomenon do tatame" and famous for finishing all his fights by submission (a “finalizador”). He taps the guys who never tap. As I had hoped, Cafe's advice was more concrete. First, he said, if you don't know for sure that you are better at judo than your opponent, go to the floor as soon as possible. Second, play the rules. An example of playing the rules is accumulating “advantage points” (vantagems). An advantage, Café explained, is anything that you do that forces your opponent to react defensively, for example, a sweep that doesn't reverse, but merely off-balances him, or a choke attempt that he has to break off his own offense to deal with. Attempting a move that you know won’t succeed, that is an example of playing the rules. You rack up points and make an impression on the judges or excite the fans, which influences the judges. He demonstrated on Tadeau. And also, he added, train hard.


      Ricco Rodriguez arrived a couple days later to prepare for the Mundial. Ricco is suffering from jet lag but Aloisio puts him to roll with every blue belt and every purple belt. For a guy who weighs more than 300 lbs., he's fast and agile, taps everyone. Next Aloisio puts him to roll with Café.  Café slams Ricco to the tatame and toys with him for a while before making him tap with a relogio choke. "Café’s good”, Ricco says. Ricco should know. He’s fought plenty of tough guys before, and is no slouch himself. He was absolute champion of the 1998 Abu Dhabi submission tournament, and defeated Murilo Bustamante, the 1999 Mundial champion, in the 1999 Abu Dhabi event. But he didn’t seem to be ready for Café, just a brown belt and at a mere 210 lbs., in apparent danger of being blown away by a stray gust of wind.

      Ricco had worked as a bouncer in a Korean nightclub in New York, and could even speak Korean (the two expressions he found most useful in his work were "arumdapsumnida" (beautiful) and "anyong hashimnikka" (are you well? ). He didn’t see a big future in bouncing. He had wrestled in high school. Seeing former wrestlers like Mark Coleman and Mark Kerr get rich inspired him. Ricco lives in Arizona not too far from Mark Kerr. "Mark was moving sound equipment before the UFC. Now he owns a big house”. Ricco wasn’t as good a wrestler as Coleman or Kerr. He doesn’t have all the titles they do. But he has something they don’t: a purple belt in Machado jiu-jitsu. It was at the Machado brothers’ academy in Hermosa Beach that Ricco met Aloisio, who invited him to train at Dojo when Ricco came down for the Mundial. 

      This was Ricco’s second trip to Brazil. He competed in the previous Mundial. He had flown down, fought, and flown back, basically hadn’t seen any of Rio other than several jiu-jitsu academies and the Tijuca Tenis Clube, where the event has been held since its inception in 1996. I had him beat though.  This was my third trip to Rio, and I had spent almost six months there already and I hadn’t seen anything. There are two things that everyone has to do at least once, every carioca agreed. Number one, you have to see the view from Pão de Açucar (SugarLoaf), and number two, you have to see the view from Corcovado. Ricco suggested we split a cab and go one day. It was an idea. Meanwhile, Ricco was hanging out at the academy during the afternoon, trying to cozy up to one or another of the female fighters.     

      Leka was trying to concentrate. Ricco kept asking who was the best fighter in Brazil now: was it Saulo Ribeiro, or Fabio Gurgel, or Mario Sperry? Or Ricardo Liborio? “Chato”, Leka replied. The other ladies laughed. Who’s this “Chato” guy? Never heard of him. You know him?” he asked me. “I don’t think it’s a person”, I answered. “What’s chato?” Ricco asked Leka. Leka flipped through a phrase book and came up with “barge”.  I was as stumped as Ricco by what she meant by that. I opened my pocket dictionary. It defined chato as “dull, annoying, boring”.

      “Ok, be like that” Ricco said, pretending to be insulted. “When does the evening class begin?” he asked. I said about 7:30, more or less. It depends on what you mean by "begin". It was 6. Ricco wanted to get something light to eat. We walked across the street to a suco bar and ordered two large açai juices. These are calorie-packed and very filling, for normal people. At 300 lbs., Ricco needed more nourishment. We walked back across the street to the Comida por Kilo next to the academy. Ricco piled his plate high with beef, potatoes, and pasta. The attendant weighed our plates and charged us accordingly. “I don’t normally eat meat”, Ricco said as he dug in.

      We head back to the academy. Aloisio enjoyed using Ricco, who was literally more than twice his size, to demonstrate techniques. The first was a version of tomoe-nage from a sambo type tie-up. Ricco sailed through the air, but landed lightly. He is impressively agile for a guy his size. Aloisio next demonstrated a back-flip to hand-stand, culminating in ten push-ups from this position. He asked various people to do it, his son João, and Tadeau. Leka did it (“Leka’s strong like a man”, people commented). Several guys declined. Ricco accepted the challenge and did it with ease, to everyone’s surprise and approval.

       Aloisio next demonstrated a knee on the belly variation. In this variation, you hold your opponent’s collar with one hand and his belt with the other and put both knees on his chest while pulling up. “How did it feel”, I asked Ricco after the class. “Like a little pile of bricks”, he replied.


The Man who beat Rickson, almost

      " You know that guy?" someone asked, pointing to an amiable looking guy in his late 30’s, dressed in street clothes leaning against the wall watching the training. That's the guy who almost beat Rickson. That’s Sergio Penha, Ricardo explained. Sergio was leading 18-3 until 9:40, with 20 seconds left, when Rickson, somehow, apparently accidentally put pressure on the rib that Sergio had recently injured. No excuses though: "I think Rickson is a good fighter", Sergio says, with that same stretched-out intonation on the word “good” that Rickson uses on the word “strong” when he describes strong young guys who you can catch on trees and by implication don't have a high technical level.

      Sergio doesn't teach jiu-jitsu. He's a pilot for VASP, and he'd rather be known as a good pilot than a good fighter. He still trains of course, because he loves jiu-jitsu. He isn’t sure the jiu-jitsu boom has been entirely a good thing, although it’s been good for people who teach, like his friend Aloisio. So many young guys using anabolics. One month they're skinny kids, the next they look like—uh, well, like Vitor Belfort.  It was the UFCs that did it.  If there aren't weight limits, it pays to be as big as possible. Obviously, the health implications are widely known but young guys think nothing bad will ever happen until it does. That's why they need good teachers and coaches. Unfortunately, some teachers and coaches are just as much looking for fast money.  When Sergio was coming up, people admired Rolls for his beautiful technique. Now everyone wants to be enormous and of course that has encouraged the use of anabolics. When you are tremendously strong, you don’t need such perfect technique. Technique goes out the window. This isn’t what jiu-jitsu is supposed to be about. 

      Sergio spent 15 days in Tokyo recently. He didn’t like it, but the money was good. Nobuhiko Takada, who also fought Rickson but didn’t come close to winning, paid Sergio big bucks to teach his team, which included Yamamoto and Anjo (who both lost to Rickson) and Sakuraba (who hasn’t fought Rickson yet but would like to). What did they want to learn, I wondered. Secret methods and strategies specifically for beating jiu-jitsu? No, Sergio said, just basic techniques.

      Sakuraba at least, if not the others, seems to have paid attention during Sergio’s lessons. Some say Sakuraba is the best fighter in Japan. Why then does Rickson continue to fight Takada, who everyone says could not survive with an average blue belt? For money of course! Why does anyone fight professionally? Sergio flies. Rickson fights.

      Ricardo has the tape of Sergio's epic struggle with the Rickson. He promises to bring it next time. Remind me if I forget, he tells me. I don’t get my hopes up. Things that require planning, preparation, and cooperation often don’t happen, especially in Rio, where going to the beach is a constant temptation. “Brazil is the country of the future—and always will be”, they say, almost pleased with their Mediterranean emphasis on the present rather than the future, which after all is unpredictable. Things either happen or don’t happen, depending on God’s design. “Se Deus quiser”, they sometimes also say—I’ll bring the tape tomorrow, if that is God’s will. The fact that jiu-jitsu has become this big, this organized, this fast, is testimony to the ambitiousness of Rorion Gracie, and the fact that a relatively cohesive elite has historically been running the show. If Carlos Gracie hadn’t liked having babies so much, jiu-jitsu would probably be constituted of hundreds of small groups working at cross-purposes.    

       Sergio seemed reluctant to talk about himself.  Ricardo suggested I do an interview with the man who almost beat Rickson, but Sergio nixes the idea: “Let’s talk about the Boeing 737 instead”. He doesn’t want to be seen as trying to cash in on the jiu-jitsu craze. He says the video of his match with Rickson isn’t very interesting. He mentions that he was the first teacher of Mario Sperry and Luis Limão Herridia, who is now one of Rickson’s assistants. That’s about as much as he wants to say.  

       No matter what opinions anyone has about the Gracie family, they are in a sense part of it. Either they learned from a Gracie, or their teacher did. Sergio got his black belt from Oswaldo Alves, who got his from Reyson Gracie.   



       “Reyson will come tonight. Why you don’t make interview with him?” Aloisio suggested. Aloisio read my article about his friend Sergio Malibu in Black Belt, and believes I can put whatever I want onto its pages.  The reality is otherwise. I can't even get them to spell "jiu-jitsu" correctly.

      I say ok, anyway, confident that somewhere along the line I'll probably get something published in some medium. (Here it is.)

      Reyson is thin with curly blond hair, wears glasses and looks about 50. His business card tells me that he is an 8-grau Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt and president of the Federacão de Jiu-Jitsu da Bahia. He doesn't speak much English. Aloisio gets Café to translate. We sit down on the tatame. I ask a question. Reyson talks for ten minutes. Café raps my kneecap twice with his knuckle to make sure he has my attention before he begins his interpretation and then says something like, "Reyson says 'maybe'".

      I ask simpler questions. What about the recent fight between Royce and Wallid?  "A joke”, Reyson says. Royce never won a title in the black belt division. Wallid hasn't competed with the top fighters for years. They'll never be good if they stay in the US. If they come back to Brazil and train, they might be good". Royce vs. Kerr? Reyson snorted, surprised that anyone could even consider it: "ridiculo".  Rorion? "He's thinking about himself, not the family". Reyson tells me about the beginnings of jiu-jitsu. I tell him most Americans know the story already. He's surprised, didn't realize how successfully Rorion had promulgated the family myths.

       Gazzy from Los Angeles sidles over, offering to translate. She is the best feminino blue belt in Southern California—so far, she says modestly. She came to Rio to see Leka. She learned Portuguese training with Joe Moreira. Had to because Joe refuses to learn English. Joe’s inability to learn English is legendary in Rio. The "interview" has gone on a long time.  Gazzy asks Reyson to take a picture with her. Reyson asks me if I want one too. He is in street clothes. I say no, but I'd like one "com quimonos", if he plans to come back tomorrow. He says he might. He doesn't.

       Why is Reyson pronouncing Royce, Royler, Rickson, Rorion as though they began with an [r] sound, rather than [h], even though he's speaking nothing but Portuguese?  He thinks it will be easier for me to understand, he explains.  I am surprised again by how little he appreciates the success Rorion has had in establishing Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in America and elsewhere. The only place you hear Royce or Rickson pronounced with [r] these days is in Brazil.

      There's a rack of old jiu-jitsu magazines by the stairs. Reyson picks up a copy of Otatame. There is a spread on the man who changed jiu-jitsu, Rolls Gracie. One of the last pictures taken of Rolls is a family portrait. Since Rolls died in 1982, everyone was young. Royler looked about 10. Reyson asked if I could identify him in the photo. I could and I did.  I identified everyone else too. Reyson was impressed, but it was too easy.  There was only one face that wasn’t instantly recognizable. Reyson couldn’t recall who it was either.  

The Egg

    Lango teaches kickboxing during the afternoons. He has purple belt, but is also a vale tudo fighter and looks the part, with shaved head, huge muscles everywhere but his legs, which are pencil thin, and eyes set deep in their sockets like the culminating achievement of Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s career. But he was as gentle as a puppy, off the tatame, and something of an intellectual. He had learned that an egg is strongest at the ends. If you try to squeeze it between your hands, it won’t break. No one believed Lango when he told them this in the academy one afternoon. João, Tadeau, Fabrine, and Charles took turns vainly trying to crush the egg. Café came up the stairs. Lango thought it would be funny to watch Café trying to crush the egg. Café was uninterested. “Who couldn’t break an egg?” Lango persuaded him to try, making sure he held it at the ends. Café grinned and started squeezing. Nothing happened. He kept trying. He took his bag off his shoulder, dried off his hands and got a firmer grip. The egg exploded, yolk covering Café’s shirt. Lango was rolling on the floor in stitches. Café was amused but also put out that he had to go back home for another shirt. As everyone says when Café’s name comes up, he’s a strong guy.    

      Café had already won his division in the Mundial at this point. Aloisio promoted him to black belt. His arch-nemesis Rodrigo “Comprido” Medeiros, representing Alliance, had gone black earlier. Now they would be meeting again in the black belt division. I asked Café whether he thought Rodrigo Comprido would be a tougher opponent now than before. He sneered: “I’ll beat him again more easily next time”. When I later asked Comprido the same question, he gave me the same answer.

      I had already watched Café toy with Ricco Rodriguez, and I had seen Ricco tap Cleiber Maia, who has a black belt, is even bigger than Ricco, and was also a good wrestler (a Brazilian national champion in fact). My strategy was to do nothing to make him mad. In the case of a guy who could put me in a hospital without intending to, my approach was to be as light as a feather, hoping he would use technique rather than power. To my relief, this is what Café did. At one point, he rolled into the turtle position. I suspected a trap. I put my knee over his leg to keep him from moving. As I did it, I recalled Mario Sperry warning against ever doing this, explaining that if your opponent is any good, he will reach between his own legs and grab your knee with both hands, roll and lock out your leg. When Café, being good, reached between his legs and grabbed my knee and began his roll, I tapped. I knew what was coming and didn’t know the exit and didn’t want to risk a broken knee. Café smiled. He accomplished his purpose. As meager as my skills were, he was able to derive some benefit training with me. That was a lesson for me. You can get better rolling with guys much worse than yourself if you only do what you can’t already do well. I asked Café how to escape the knee-lock. Mario Sperry didn’t teach the defense. But it’s simple. You hook your foot behind your other knee so he can’t stretch it out. Like most other defenses, you have to do it before it’s too late. That requires you to anticipate your opponent’s roll. If you do it too soon before the roll, he’ll abort the attempt and go to another technique. With your legs triangled, you won’t be able to move quickly and will end up in a bad position. Timing is the key.  

Internacional de Masters e Seniors

      The first Internacional de Masters e Seniors was coming up soon. Aloisio intended to fight and was eager to have everyone who was eligible to compete represent Dojo in the tournament. Purple belt Ricardo was up for it. He had brought home a gold medal from the last Pan-Americana (purple belt, heavyweight division) and craved more medals. Jeremiah would be competing in the featherweight black belt division. Myself and big Mark from Amsterdam were among the few others old enough to participate, and Aloisio urged us to. The “titulo” is very important, he told us. We were unsure why. For Aloisio, of course, it was important. He was the owner of an academy. Being a winner matters. Producing winners matters as much if not even more. But what did Mark and I have to gain, other than experience? I thought my chances were good—at least, that’s what everyone told me. Blue belts my age tend to have jobs and can’t afford to train enough. I had no job and trained constantly. I had been training in jiu-jitsu at that point for about three years. Mark, though he also had a blue belt,   had only been training for about four months. Mark was ambivalent about his belt. Although a huge buffed guy, a former Muay Thai fighter who had trained with Rob Kamen and Ramon Dekker, he still got tapped by white belts. “Mark doesn’t train enough”, Aloisio said. “I told him if he trained three times a week instead of two, I’d give him a blue belt”, he continued.  “That’s why I didn’t train three days a week”, Mark said.   


       Americans and other foreigners were not in short supply in Rio during the Mundial weeks, and some found their way to Dojo, a few by by chance, but most of them specifically to meet Leka. An entire team from Philadelphia USA came to meet Leka. One member took second place in the blue belt pesado division. His brother had a purple belt and was even tougher, word had it. Actually, it was the young girl blue belt on their team who most wanted to meet Leka. For some reason she kept blaming politics for the fact that the young guy with her hadn't received a purple belt despite winning two tournaments at blue. I rolled with him and I didn't think politics was the whole reason. Big Pat, the veteran among them, commented that I was better than he thought. I didn't have a chance to return the compliment (I guess) since he didn't put on his kimono. But in reality, I didn't have any preconceived ideas about how good anyone might be. You can't tell how well someone plays the guitar until they start playing. Jiu-jitsu is sort of like that.

      He did have some interesting stories to tell though. His teacher had originally been affiliated with Rorion, but eventually found the price too high in relation to what he was getting, which was basically permission to use the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu name and logo. Relson offered him affiliation for free. Relson apparently lacks his younger brother Rorion's business sense. He'll never get rich giving away affiliate status for free. But then, it doesn't cost much to live in Hawaii.   

      A kung fu man from New York also wandered in, curious to see what this jiu-jitsu thing was. Aloisio talked him into taking a private lesson with his son João, who in the course of things mounted him and told him to escape anyway he could. Of course, he couldn't. On his way out I asked him what he thought about Brazilian jiu-jitsu. "Interesting", he said, "but kung fu is better for real fighting."

Jiu-jitsu Boom

      The boom created a demand for jiu-jitsu. It also created an ample supply of well-qualified teachers. Not an over-supply, judging from my observations (which is saying something pretty impressive, given that there are academies everywhere). However, the market seems more or less saturated. There is competition between academies for new students (and to keep the old ones: it’s ok for white belts to switch schools, but once the student has rank, he is considered a creonte [traitor] to change affiliations. This may be one reason for the relatively rapid blue belt promotions). The concept of creonte was Carlson’s creation (Creonte was actually the name of a treacherous character in a soap opera).  Brazilians value loyalty, but the economic utility of the concept can’t be missed.   

      Academies don’t compete on price, which is about the same in every academy, about 80-100 reais per month (the equivalent of US$ 40-50 per month for unlimited training). The facilities are the same—a room with mats. The product is the same—Gracie jiu-jitsu. Location varies, but not much. Virtually every academy is in the South Zone, which is not a large area, and in the Copacabana and Ipanema areas, the academies are sometimes only a few steps away from each other.

      What academies do compete on are the personalities of their mestres and the winning records of their disciples. The best example is Carlson Gracie’s academy. Guys who like the casca grosa style of jiu-jitsu go to the academy were that style was honed to perfection, even though its founder is no longer involved with the school and doesn’t even live in Brazil.  

      This makes it tough on Aloisio. Gracie Humaita, Gracie Barra, and Alliance are associations of about twenty academies each and they have been in operation a long time. They have plenty of students to send to the tournaments. Any one of them who wins racks up a point for their association, and all of the branches share the glory. But Dojo Jiu-Jitsu is independent (Aloisio likes it that way). It has about 60 students, including women and children. There’s no possibility of scoring big in team competition. But having even a few champions is a good thing. Dojo has several champions, but two who stand out. One is Café, who everyone predicts will be one of the stars of the future, a guy who consistently wins impressively.  The other is Leka. Leka attracts not only young women—lots of them—but men and families and foreigners too.

      So Aloisio wanted Big Mark and me to compete for Dojo. It seemed ok to me. I was training there so it was appropriate to represent the academy and if my victory could increase Dojo’s standing in the point totals, that was fine with me. Aloisio signed me up to compete, scouting the competition and registering me in the category where I’d have the best chance of reigning supreme. He thought my chances would be better if I competed in a heavier weight category. I didn’t really like the idea of looking for the easiest opponents, since my personal purpose was experience rather than fame. After all, it didn’t mean much to me to be a world “campeão” (in the blue belt medio seniors division) if I still had to struggle with white belts back home at Gracie Japan. Whatever.

      Mark didn’t want to compete, period, but Aloisio’s encouragement was relentless. Mark didn’t show up for several days.  “Mark went to Bahia”, Mark's Brazilian wife told me. I had a feeling he wouldn’t be back in time for the competition. 

      But I was ready to. So, how did I do? Turns out the event was being held far away. Most guys in the academy didn’t know how to get there, and the few who did, said it was impossible to get “there from here”. Aloisio said, go with Ricardo, but Ricardo wasn’t going—he was com gripe (had a cold). Aloisio’s own match was on a different day. I had to figure out how to get there myself without getting ripped off by cunning taxi drivers and then after doing that, fight and win. I decided I didn’t need a title that much. Since I paid the inscription to compete, I may have lost by default. I don’t actually know. If so, it was my first defeat in any jiu-jitsu tournament.

      Maybe I’ll try again next year. Se Deus quiser.        


Post Script December 2001

Leka has left Dojo Jiu-Jitsu and now teaches in the Southern California (of all places!). In recent interviews she no longer even mentions Aloisio as one of her teachers. 

Post Script May 31, 2003

Aloisio and his son João are also now in Southern California. In fact, his new academia is at 14131 S. Crenshaw Blvd., Hawthorne CA 90250. Their e-mail address is Their web site is



Check out what Leka says in this interview: LEKA.


A Arte Suave index

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©2000, R.A. Pedreira. All rights reserved .

Revised December 2001

Revised January 1, 2003

Updated June 15, 2003

Revised April 23, 2004