Gracie Jiu-Jitsu versus Japanese Judo Revisited
1951 and 2002
Part 1: The Gathering
Text and Translations by Roberto Pedreira
When in 2002 the Japanese
promoters decided to stage a fight commemorating the legendary 1951
Kimura versus Gracie match in Rio, who were they going to call? Royce
Gracie of course. Royce was the Gracie point man. It was he who led the
"Gracie Invasion" in 1993. Royce was the first UFC champion, a feat he repeated twice
more. He wasn't the best Gracie, let alone best Brazilian, but he was the
best known outside of Brazil. Royce paved the way, blazed the trail, set the standard, and demonstrated
the possibilities (all master-minded by his Machiavellian brother Rorion, of course).
Among all those kooky cosmic energy focusing Brazilian names, Royce was
the one everyone knew.
The August 28, 2002 Royce vs.
Yoshida match was promoted as a Jiu-Jitsu vs. Judo challenge, explicitly
as a reprise of the Kimura vs. Helio Gracie match in October 23, 1951.
The 1992 Barcelona Olympic 78 kg. judo Gold
Yoshida [吉田秀彦] represented judo.
Pride sold Judo versus Jiu-Jitsu T-Shirts to promote
Yoshida was not a
washed-up, out of shape, has-been. He failed to repeat his gold winning
performance in Atlanta (1996, 5th place in the 86 kg. class), and Sydney
(eliminated in the 3rd round of the 90 kg. class). But he was actively competing
(at least one major competition every year) and most recently took 2nd place in
the 100 kg. class in the 講道館杯日本柔道体重別試合権大会
Cup] in November 2001. In other
words, the 22 kgs. he put on since Barcelona was not blubber, but represented
his current competition weight. It was not going to be Royce vs. Remco Pardoel
Description of the Fight, written by a staffer named Hayashi [林],
ran as follows:
It has been decided that the Yoshida Hidehiko
versus Royce Gracie match will take place on August 28 in the 'Dynamite' event. At a press conference on July 16, the
producer, Ishii-kanchou 
"this fight can be
considered as a reprise [再現] of the 1951 match between Masahiko Kimura and Helio Gracie.
It will be a revenge match [リベンジマッチ]
for the Gracie's defeat a half-century ago."
After all, this will be the sequel
to the story of the legendary style versus style  Kimura vs. Helio
death match  at Maracana . What kind of fight was that
really? Let's look into history.
Above, the captions
read (top, small)
"A half century ago a legendary 'Jujutsu VS Judo' fight took
place". (In larger letters) Kimura Masahiko VS Erio Gureishi [Helio
Gracie], What is it!?" (SRSDX 8-8-2002, p. 14)
Below, the cover of
the August 8, 2002 issue of SRSDX framed the challenge like this: ”柔 （やわら〕は術か？道か？それが問題だつ！["Is
Ju (yawara) a technique or a way? That is the question"].
Below, Yoshida's and Royce's pre-fight comments (SRSDX 8-8-2002, p. 21).
There were also numerous longer interviews (see below).
Well, Olympic or
big matches, you know, I've been fighting in lots of people watching. But
there will be more people than that this time, I think. I just want to do
what I have been training in Judo so far. Well, I think I will do training
based on judo. Choking or submissions is the only way to finish him, so
the question is how to get him into the position to do it.
Q: What is your impression
Yoshida: He is taller than I thought. As far as newaza, having long
legs is an advantage for submissions or triangles. My legs are short. I
felt he is a pro fighter.
This year is the 50th anniversary of my father's
jiu-jitsu match with Kimura so I proposed to Pride the
same rules (that Helio and Kimura used), meaning no striking and ground
only with three rounds for 10 minutes. This
might be the only opportunity for it to happen. I
want to invite as many as possible of the Gracie
family to the
event, even Rickson. Vale tudo rules are good but this is Yoshida's first NHB fight so
I thought it would be better to have a judo vs. jiu-jitsu match.
(wearing his blue belt) and Royce Preparing for Yoshida's
Above: Captions read: "Helio on fire" (right, red
letters); "Royce, be on guard against throws!" (left, green
Below: Royce's Brain Trust.
From left to right are Rolker, Royler, Royce, Robin, Royce's sparring
partner "Jonasen" and his boxing coach NoNo. Helio is standing
excerpts from Gong Kautougi interview (conducted prior to, but
published after, the fight; full interview here).
Q: By the way,
I heard that you recently went to see Oscar De La Hoya who is the five
weight divisions boxing champion.
Royce: You really do know alot! [laugh]. He was a
good guy. Through the introduction of an acquaintance, I went to his
boxing camp, and compared or learned training methods with each other.
When I told him "After the fight why don't you come to my place
to learn how to choke", he said, "in that case, I'll
teach you how to punch".
Q: If it really happens, I want to go there for
interview for sure. Yoshida was surprised to see how tall you are.
Royce: Yoshida might become more surprised on August
Below: Helio and Royce
give "testimony [証言]
before the match.
interview was conducted before the fight, but for some reason, published
after the match, in the September 26, 2002 issue of SRSDX, p. 92, shown above].
Q: Mr. Helio, did you give Royce any advice about how to
win the match with Yoshida?
Helio: Royce knows all of my teachings, so there's no
special advice that I need to give him.
Q: For example, rather than technical
advice, didn't you give spiritual
fighting a judoka?
Helio: He was with me all the time since he was born and
throughout his childhood so there's no need to give him spiritual advice
at this point.
Q: How do you evaluate Yoshida's technique on the ground?
Helio: I've only seen photographs, I haven't seen him in
action in a real fight However, he won an Olympic gold medal, so I think he's probably a
Q: A little while ago, you were training directly with Royce. What advice did you give?
Helio: Nothing special.
Nothing to the extent of "do this in the fight" or "you should grab the opponent by the neck like this".
Q: Mr. Helio,
how will the fight
think a lot of things can happen, but me and
my son didn't come all this way from Brazil to lose. Royce will win for
Q: What kind of rules do you want?
Helio: The rules are not up to me.
I don't decide the
Q: Royce, in the Yoshida fight that you
are about to do, what are you concentrating your training on?
Royce: In this fight I don't know what will happen. So I'm
training everything. I'm not concentrating on
anything in particular.
Helio: In our
jiu-jitsu we act thinking by ourselves according to the development of the fight. So
we don't do any special training for each opponent. It
is important to move according to the development of the fight. [9
Q: What kind of
attack from Yoshida are you on guard against?
Q: Yoshida is training
striking techniques too. What
Royce: As I said
before, since I don't know what will happen in the fight,
so I'm not concentrating on a particular attack, but I'm training everything.
jiu-jitsu prepares us for any kind of fight. We aren't doing any special
training. We are
Q: Since nothing
has been reported about Yoshida's strong points other than judo, aren't
Helio: We aren't
nervous, of course. Judo is a sport, I think. But taking account of the
part of MMA included and the level of the opponent, it will might or
might not be a good match.
Royce: If Yoshida
has any skills other than judo, we will find out on the day of the match.
Q: Have you
(Royce) had any outdoor fights before? And have you
ever seen the National stadium?
Royce: Only once
in Brazil. I've
never seen the National Stadium,
Q: Mr. Helio, you
have lived a long time. What is the secret of your long life?
still train jiu-jitsu. I
think that's why I'm still healthy.
Q: Royce, how
would you like to win?
isn't a preferred way to win.
Any win is a good win.
Royce: I think
the same way.
Helio: A question
for Yoshida: "Are you training?"
Q: In a fight
with a judoka, what does your family think?
Helio: People who
stick only to judo, have no chance
END of Helio Gracie Interview
[When it's time to lose, you lose"]
(selected Q &
A from a long interview, pp. 4-9)
According to the
SRSDX (August 8, 2002, p. 8) profile, Yoshida was born September 3, 1969,
in Aichi-ken [愛知県].
He began training judo in his 4th year of primary school and never
stopped. Currently, he is a judo 6 dan [６
段], stands 180 cm.,
and weighs 100 kg. His blood type is O [many Japanese people erroneously
believe that blood type correlates with personality]. His
judo competition career is
summarized on p. 11,
highlighted by the 1992 Barcelona gold medal. He also won a gold medal (90
kg.) in the October 1999 Birmingham World Judo Championship.
Q: The first time you
saw Gracie or a
UFC video, what did you think?
is involved. I wondered if I could do it.
Q: Did you know
Yoshida: No, I
didn't know it. Only recently.
Q: You watched
the first UFC video, of course, didn't you?
Q: Did it have an
Yoshida: No. nothing special. But in judo, during ne-waza, use foul, using the
sleeve or the pants hem in judo chokes is foul. but it isn't foul in
jiu-jitsu. They use the
parts of dogi skillfully.
Q: But, didn't
you think, the first time you saw a video, "hey, this is judo".
It's judo, you know, isn't it.
Q: When the world
strongest kakutogi was decided under any style, sumo or karate or
boxing , anything came out. To you , at that time, was it natural that judo
strongest, or it was surprising to see that judo was really strong, which
Yoshida: I have been doing only judo.
So you thought it was natural?
it's difficult to say, because I've done only under rules, and in judo
punching and kicking are not permitted. But I felt I could use on ground
what I have done in judo.
think from the first that judo is the strongest under "no
Yoshida: No, I
don't know about that, you know. You
might get hit with a "lucky punch"[ ラッキパンチ]
or something, maybe, right?
Q: But except
eating lucky punch, judo is strong, you think so?
I don't know, I've never done it before. But I feel during training
that no-gi is different from usual.
you have a fantasy of the strongest judo? 
you start judo with that fantasy?
Q: For example,
in childhood time, there was a comic book titled "karate
baka ichidai" , about what was the strongest
kakutogi, karate or pro wrestling. What did you feel at that time?
Yoshida: No. I
didn't have that kind of interest.
Q: Ah, maybe it is nothing
interesting to people who are aiming at Olympic with judo.
Yoshida: In those
days there wasn't anything like MMA, so I didn't have any strong interest. But
now, it is becoming a popular "brand" with a lot of
attention. When I see a match, I feel "maybe I can do it
Q: You wanted to
Q: What do you
think about Gracie? When you were aiming at Olympics, on the other hand they were doing a
non-mainstream styles of judo, in other words, judo how to win in
"school vs. school" [他流試合], away from Olympics. What is called, they were pursuing only
techniques to win.
Yoshida: We don't
know much about it, so put it in the opposite way, it scares me a
because I don't know what to expect with techniques that I'm not familiar
will be a big shock to me if you, a top of judoka, are defeated by a
non-mainstream styles judo. You became the top in Olympics as a mainstream
judoka, while Royce, for example, will lose even in a high school judo
tournament with his level of judo. If he defeats you with his own
techniques, so called foul in judo, it will be a shock. 
(laughing): Well, when it's time to lose, it's time to lose ["まあ、負けたら負けた時ですよ"].
Q: For example,
when you compare with a fighter who is a kicker and a fighter who is a
wrestler, isn't Gracie somehow special? Because he's a representative of a
sub-style of judo. Don't you have a special desire to not lose?
Yoshida: For sure
you know. Their wining style is almost ground. Royce doesn't win by kicking
or punching much, you know.
Q: Have you seen
the Mr. Masahiko Kimura versus Helio Gracie match?
Yoshida: No, I
haven't seen it.
Q: This match
(Yoshida vs. Royce) is that kind of match. Isn't there some history behind
it? What do you feel about that historical background to your fight with
I don't care.
It is being said like that, but for me, it doesn't mean anything (laughs).
I can't be mentioned
in the some breath with Kimura-sensei.
Q: What do you
think about the style vs. style
that Mr. Kimura did, in his time? 
now, I think it was
Q: Is there
anyone you absolutely want to fight?
Yoshida. No. I don't want to
fight anyone (laugh).
Q: How about
is really strong. By fighting with
Royce, I will see what it's like. Then I might feel another challenge, but
I can't think of anyone at this point.
Q: Gracie established Gracie Jiu-Jitsu,
it seems. Will you make "Yoshida Judo"?
Yoshida: No, I
only learned judo.
"Royce will win", predicts
Roberto Pedreira had an unexpected opportunity to interview Mario Sperry
in Tokyo on August 6, 2002. Zé Mario was in town with the Nogueira
brothers, Murilo Bustamante, and a lot of other very big guys, for the UFO
event to be held August 8.
Roberto asked Zé
Mario who he liked for the Royce Gracie versus Yoshida Hidehiko Judo x
jiu-jitsu "revenge" match.
win," Zé Mario predicted confidently. Yoshida is a great
judoka, but unlike the days when Kimura was touring Brazil, when Japanese
judokas were very strong on the ground, judo players since the 1964
Olympics have lost their feel for the floor. Royce will not have a problem
with Yoshida on the ground, Zé Mario explained. But might
Yoshida knock Royce out with a powerful throw? "Everything is
possible, but it won't happen," Zé Mario said.
Train approaches the ring.
Train approaches the ring.
Go to Part 2: Aftermath