Global Training Report
By Roberto Pedreira
Carlos and Helio had once had a large academy at 151 Rio Branco
in the Centro district. It had been closed since 1968. I thought it would be
interesting to see the neighborhood where it had once stood.
I went the next day. The building is
still there. Itfs an old office building, solidly constructed, but
architecturally undistinguished. I looked at the directory by the elevator.
Nothing was listed for the 17th floor. Unoccupied, I assumed, probably walled
off or boarded up. I took the elevator to the 16th floor to avoid attracting
attention, got off and walked up a flight. The door was sealed. I pried it
open and squeezed my way through. I walked around the corner to the left. The
glass doors were chained shut. Someone had been painting landscapes. There
were stacks of frames and piles of canvases everywhere. I walked back around
the corner over to the right side. The glass door was unlocked. I
circumspectly pushed it open. I could hear footsteps and voices. I entered.
I called out, alerting whoever was there to my presence.
A middle-aged woman approached with her head cocked quizzically,
surprised to see me. I spun out my spiel, assuming shefd be amused to
explain that Carlos and Helio's academy hadn't been there for over thirty
years. But she didnft seem taken aback at all. I noticed a sign over her
shoulder. It read Federacão de Jiu-jitsu do Estado do Rio de Janeiro.
That seemed strange. No one else had used the 17th floor since 1968?
I suddenly realized that the 17th floor, maybe the whole building, belonged to the Gracie family, some part of the family at least. Maybe I could learn something about the history and structure of jiu-jitsu after all. But Vilma Teixeira de Souza didn't speak English. She was the secreteria. She didn't know much anyway, but mentioned that the presidente of the Federacão would be in mais logo (soon). In Rio, that could mean anything from an hour to a week to never. I promised to come back another day. She gave me an information packet and accompanied me to the elevator. The door opened and out came two middle-aged guys. One was Robson Gracie, son of Carlos, 9-grau jiu-jitsu black belt, and president of the federation. He is also the father of Renzo, Ralph, and Ryan (among others). Robson greeted me warmly and invited me to his office for a chat. Earlier, Reyson Gracie, son of Carlos, told me that his brother Robson spoke English well, but he had either been exaggerating or was misinformed. Robson's companion however, Julio Cesar de Paula, had been to 152 countries, including Korea, which he didnft like, as a member of the Brazilian national futebol team and could speak six languages. English was one of them, so he translated.
What did I want to know? Robson
I wanted to know what jiu-jitsu in Rio
had been like before the boom began less than ten years ago. Robson began
telling me the standard story. Like his brother Reyson, he was surprised that
the story was already well known up north. Maybe the reason some family
members resent Rorionfs attempt to monopolize the family name is that they
donft realize how single-handedly he masterminded the dissemination of the
art into the United States. And they donft understand that things work
differently in the United States. There, anyone can call what they claim to be
offering to teach anything they want, including gGracie Jiu-jitsuh.
Anyone, not just family members, and you canft just walk into their school
and beat them up. There are laws in America—lots of laws. And America is a
big spread-out country. The purveyors of bogus jiu-jitsu (and there would be
many) wouldnft be confined to a small area like the South Zone of one
relatively small city. Rorion did the smart thing and necessary thing. Why he
doesnft let Rickson and Royler use the name is a different matter—as
everyone says, a gfamily matterh. Better not to get too involved.
I didnft want to get into this with
Robson. His feelings about Rorion and his gullible (according to Robson)
younger brother Royce are well known. Robson has a television program on
Saturday afternoons, contributes columns to Warrior magazine and the Boletim
da Federacão de Jiu-Jitsu. He isnft reticent. He doesnft beat around
the bush and doesn't mind
stepping on feet. To give one example, Robsonfs son Ryan didnft appreciate
Wallid gloating that he had beaten three Gracies (Ralph, Renzo, and most
recently, Royce), so at the 99 Mundial, Ryan snuck up on Wallid, put him in a
headlock, and punched his face a few times until other people broke it up (I
was there, a few feet away). Apparently, Wallid forget the basic headlock
defenses he should have learned when he was a white belt. I guess you need to
review the basics, even when you are a black belt who has beaten three
Gracies—especially when Ryan is around. The point is that afterward Robson was quoted as saying that Ryan was justified in attacking Wallid, because Wallid had committed
slander by saying that he had beaten three Gracies; Royce doesnft count,
because he is merely a "vendedor de camisas" (a seller of T-shirts). As if claiming to have beaten three Gracies merely
because he actually had, werenft bad enough, Wallid, had, according to Ryan,
gwinked and stuck out his tongueh at him (dando piscadas de olho e
mandando lingua) in a provocative way.
Robson clarified the situation by saying that Ryan is aggressive but
not crazy (O Ryan pode ser agresivo, mas não e maluco). In any case,
Wallid seems to have gtendencias homosexuaish, so Ryan was not
wrong to ambush him—according to Robson.
Other peoplefs opinions were that
Wallid and Ryan were just being themselves. It wasnft anything new.
Robson didn't have much good to say about Vitor Belfort either, who seemed to emblemize what is wrong with the scene Rorion created. Guys exploiting the Gracie name and mystique without really knowing the art. Guys like this are posers, Julio said, they know a little jiu-jitsu, a little boxing, but aren't really good at anything. He pointed to Vitor's recent humiliation at the hands of Kazushi Sakuraba in Pride 5. Losing to Randy Couture is one thing. Anyone can lose once, and Randy is an Olympic level wrestler. But who is this Japonês? A former pro-wrestler, isnft he? Knocking out a wrestler quick is ok, if you can do it, but neglecting your jiu-jitsu to concentrate on boxing and bodybuilding is idiocy, Julio says. Vitor is a good boy with a great potential, but misguided, they seem to be saying. Misguided by who? One can only surmise. Vitor is managed by Carlson. Carlson is a good guy, and a good coach, but brains were never his long suit, a lot of people agree. Training jiu-jitsu fighters to box with wrestlers is a perfect example of that.
A Arte Suave index
(c) 2000, R. A. Pedreira. All rights reserved.
Revised Dezembro 2001@