Global Training Report
Leka was at the counter engrossed in a ledger. She saw me and
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
is now one of Rickson’s assistants. That’s about as much as he wants to
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.
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
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.
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
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."
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
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
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 email@example.com. Their web site is www.aloisiosilvabjj.com.
Check out what Leka says in this interview: LEKA.
A Arte Suave index
R.A. Pedreira. All rights reserved
Revised December 2001
Revised January 1, 2003
Updated June 15, 2003
Revised April 23, 2004