Gracies in Action 2 did
not expand much on Gracies in Action 1. Rorion reiterated
that fights sometimes go to the ground, that Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is a good ground
system, and that Helio Gracie created Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, was a national hero and
living legend, invented a unique and supremely effective teaching
methodology, and was the greatest fighter in Brazil.
GIA 2 was mostly an
excuse to show video of challenge matches in Torrance and ring fights in Brazil.
One gets the impression from GIA 2 that such fights were everyday events. In fact
they were extremely rare. The fights on GIA 2 took place in 1991 (August 31) and 1992
(January 1) which
is probably why GIA 2 was produced at all. There were no other vale tudo fights
involving Gracie representatives between November 30, 1984 (shown on GIA 1),
with one known exception. That was March 17, 1989, in Belém. The
jiu-jitsu representative was named Sucuri. His opponent was the fearsome street
fighter Zulu (see Choque 3, pp. 398, 477). Zulu had almost no ring skills
to speak of but he was a strong, big, energetic, and in-shape tough guy. He
would give any martial arts stylist a realistic street test. (Regrettably, Zulu
continued fighting long after he should have stopped, tarnishing the luster of
his reputation as a monster, and thereby diminishing the mythical nature of
Rickson's victories in 1980 and 1983 (Choque 3, chp. 23). That was
not a trivial thing because Rickson's vale tudo legend was built on those two
fights. He had no others before or after Zulu, until Vale Tudo Japan 94.
As everyone knows, vale tudo means "everything
permitted." But that is a dictionary definition. What it really meant in
Brazil depended on the context, the negotiations, and the authorities.
"Vale tudo" was used in pro wrestling as well, where it meant fake
punches were permitted in addition to fake grappling. When it was used in
legitimate or quasi-legitimate fights, it usually meant open hand strikes and
limited striking were allowed. It never meant "everything." Fans have
made the mistake of thinking that what they saw in the early UFCs was what had
historically been going on in Brazil. In general, it wasn't, with a few
exceptions. This was a misconception that Rorion apparently wanted to
Rorion did add one new piece of content, the philosophical
discourse on truth (above). It seems he didn't mean historical truth. What he
meant was experiential truth, or Bruce Lee's truth, if you prefer. Bruce
Lee taught martial artists what combat athletes (boxers, wrestlers, judokas, nak-Muay
Thai), have always known, which is that you really don't know if your techniques
will work (in general), or whether you can personally execute them successfully, until
you pit yourself against a prepared, resisting opponent.
Myth 1: "He devoted his life to developing and testing his techniques against
all kinds of fighters, under the most adverse conditions, both in the ring, and
on the street."
Fact: Most of Helio Gracie's
long life was devoted to things other than fighting. In fact, he didn't do a lot
of fighting, compared to his brother George, Geo Omori, Yassuiti Ono, and
especially Takeo Yano, among others. Helio's ring record against various styles
can be summarized as follows:
Boxers = 1 (Antonio Portugal)
Pro-Wrestlers = 3
(Fred Ebert, Wladek Zybszko, Dudú)
Judoka = 5 (Takashi Namiki,
Yassuiti Ono (x 2), Takeo Yano, Yukio Kato (x 2), Masahiko Kimura)
Sumo = 1 (Massagoichi)
Questionable = 2 (Miyaki,
Luta Livre with jiu-jitsu and judo experience = 1
Fact: Helio had 15 (possibly 16) ring contests. Two were vale tudo, and one was mixed styles.
The other 13 were grappling matches. The conditions were no more adverse than
any other wrestlers experienced. The one time he fought on the street under
adverse circumstances he went to the hospital and then filed a claim against his
attackers (see Choque 3, chp. 14).
The possible 16th contest could have been with Erwin Klausner, a boxer.
However, the match (if it happened) was a jiu-jitsu match.
Myth 2: "He actually fought men double his own weight."
Fact: Helio's other opponents varied in weight, relative to Helio. Sometimes Helio
was lighter than his opponent. Sometimes he was heavier. Often they were about
the same weight.
was a lightweight boxer so his weight in 1932 was probably about 61 kg., which
would have been several kg. lighter than Helio Gracie's weight, judging by what
Helio weighed later that year. (Choque 1 chp. 12).
Helio weighed 65 kg.
for the Takeshi Namiki fight. Namiki weighed 72 kg. (Choque 1, chp.
Ebert weighed 85 kg., Helio weighed 65 kg. (Choque 1 chp. 12).
Wladek Zbyszko weighed 106. Helio weighed 65.3
kg.(Choque 1, chp. 14 ).
Miyaki weighed 64.2 kg. Helio weighed 65.2
kg. (Choque 1, chp. 14).
weighed 85 kg. Helio weighed 66 kg kg. (Choque 1, chp. 15).
Ono (first match) probably weighed about the same in 1935 as he did in 1936
(see below) and so did Helio.
Takeo Yano weighed 69.3 kg. Helio weighed 65.7 kg.
(Choque 1, chp. 16).
Massagoichi weighed 86 kg. Helio weighed 66 kg.
(Choque 1, chp. 16).
Yassuiti Ono (second match) weighed 64.6 kg. Helio weighed 68.3 kg. (Choque
1, chp. 16).
for Landulfo Caribé, Yukio Kato (1 and 2), and Kimura can only be
estimated. Pictures of Caribé in action against Helio indicate that they
were evenly matched in weight. Expert opinion at the time of the matches and
after, including those who knew Kato personally, suggest that Kato and Helio
weighed about the same, more or less 70 kg., and that Kimura had a 15 to 20
kg. edge over Helio Gracie. There was no weigh-in for the match with Waldemar
Santana in May of 1955, but Santana weighed 76.8 kg. on October 8 (Choque 2,
p. 152). It is common for middle-aged
men to put on pounds, so Helio probably didn't weigh much less than he did in
In addition to the above matches, Helio also measured forces with Naoiti Ono
in 1937 (in a "Sufficiency Test"). Naoiti weighed 55 kg. for his match
with George Gracie a few days later. Helio never weighed less than 65 kg. for any fight so he probably weighed
at least that much (Helio said in 2011 that he never weighed more than 63
kg. but he was wrong. See question # 2, here).
had personal issues with one of his brother's students, named Azevedo Maia.
Helio challenged Maia in 1942. Maia wasn't interested in fighting for free.
Their personal problems resurfaced in 1950. This time Maia, reluctantly, suited
up (the details are complicated, see Choque 2, chp. 1). It was an
impromptu match, so there wasn't a weigh-in but pictures of Maia indicate that
he was smaller than Helio.
also had a friendly sparring match in 1957 with a capoeira (capoeirista) named
Artur Emidio, who weighed 60 kg. (Emido fought Robson Gracie later that year).
Helio was not unique in that he sometimes had matches against larger
opponents. Every (legitimate) jiu-jitsu man did the same. Helio never fought an
opponent who was double his own weight.
Myth 3: "The only true test of an art's worthiness should be its effectiveness in
combat. Using this as a measuring stick, no style stands taller than Helio
Gracie's devastating jiu-jitsu."
Fact: Martial arts may be worthy
for reasons other than combat effectiveness. Style versus style fights are not the best
way to measuring combat effectiveness if the intended application for the art is
street self-defense or for that matter, anything other than a styles versus
styles ring contest.
assuming that combat in a ring is the "true" test of Helio Gracie's
jiu-jitsu, how "tall" does Helio Gracie's jiu-jitsu
stand? (using Helio himself as the measuring stick, as he himself declared
himself to be the greatest jiu-jitsu fighter in the occidental world).
against boxing: 1-0 (Antonio Portugal)
Helio's record against
1-0-2 (defeated Dudú, drew with Fred
Ebert and Wladek Zbyszko)
Helio's record against legitimate judokas: 1-1-5 (defeated
Yukio Kato (second match), lost to Masahiko Kimura, drew with Takashi Namiki,
Takeo Yano, Yassuiti Ono (2x), and Kato
Helio's record against sumo: 1-0 (Massagoichi)
against dubious judokas and jiu-jitsumen: 2-0 (Miyaki, Landulfo Caribé)
record against mixed martial arts: 0-1 (Waldemar Santana)
record was 6-2-7, or possibly 7-2-7 if the 1937 jiu-jitsu match with boxer Erwin
Klausner was reported accurately,
about which there is room to doubt. The strongest conclusion we can draw
is that Helio Gracie was unable to defeat 56% of his opponents (seven
no-decisions and two losses). That is, assuming that the objective of his
professional, public matches was to win. If however, his goal was to avoid
losing, his success rate improves to 87.5%. If Rorion had clarified that by
"combat effective" he meant "not losing a sports match" then
he might have been on firmer logical ground. But as sports writers said about
Helio's matches, the public didn't pay their money to see demonstrations of
Helio's "defense." If Royce Gracie entered the Octagon with Helio's
mind-set, trying only to avoid losing, it is doubtful that the Gracie Revolution
would have gotten very far. Royce made an impact not because he avoiding losing,
but because he submitted his opponents. In fairness to Helio, if we include his
known unofficial matches with Naoiti Ono, Azevedo Maia, and Artur Emidio, his performance
looks better statistically, but the percentage of opponents who out-weighed him
other hand, Helio pulled guard and got his ass handed to him in at least one real street
"real" as in multiple opponents, with weapons, no ring, no referee, no
the truth. We should never fear it.
For more Myths and Misconceptions, see:
& Answers about BJJ History
Misconceptions in Gracies in Action 1
Myths and Misconceptions about Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Pat Jordan's 1989 Playboy
Myths and Misconceptions in
Gracies in Action 2
Myths and Misconceptions about
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Japan
Myths about Mitsuyo Maeda (Conda
Myths and Misconceptions about
Jiu-Jitsu and BJJ
2016, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.