from Gong Kakutougi Plus vol 13 - July 2001
Global Training Report
I talked with Orlando Cani on the phone and made an appointment for the
From the information I had,
Cani was an old man, close to the 70's. So I expected to find an old
man, plenty of knowledge but physically weak by age. I was kind of
surprised when I meet Cani at his academy. He's 65 next November, 29 but
he looks like have 50! Even more surprised when he showed some moves of
his technique. He's very agile! I was very pleased to talk with Orlando
Cani for about 2 hours. His academy is located in the heart of
Copacabana. But it's in a tall building with a good view of the
mountains and the Cristo Redentor Statue. It's a quiet place too.
Q: Where were you born?
Orlando: I born in Santa
Catarina State, south of Brazil, in 29 of November in
Q: Please tell us about the exercises, movements, and techniques
are teaching. What is it all about? And what is it good for? Is it
different from Yoga?
Did you develop it by yourself? Or do you have some masters who taught
Orlando: I'm graduated in College at "Physical
Education" and made a specialization in Yoga. When I was a teenager
I began to practice martial arts, Jiu-Jitsu, Judo and Capoeira. At 20 I
practiced Jiu-Jitsu with Helio Gracie and Judo with the Japanese judo
master Ogino, recently arrived from Japan and he didn't speak Portuguese
at that time. Ogino is very known in Brazilian Judo and he must be
around 85 years old today. I guess he's 10th Dan in Judo. I also tried
Karate for some time. After that I began to practice Olympic Gymnastic
and Swimming. I won the Rio's championship of Olympic Gymnastic and
Swimming and also I began to give classes of it. I was a military
parachutist and with 21 years old I began to practice Military
Pentathlon and I won the Pentathlon World Championship twice. I loved to
When I was 29 I discovered the Kempo martial art, originated from India
with the name Kalarypayat, that means "Battle Camp". It's an
very old art, older than 2000 years old, and it's still practiced in two
Indian monasteries, one in South and another in North of Indian. I've
been visiting these monasteries in India. They also teach a special
massage technique and I researched that technique by books and I began
to apply it in athletes. It's based in pressures. It's a sort of
Shiatsu, it makes pressures over the joints and the muscles of the
athletes, liberating the imprisoned energy accumulated during the
training sessions. I apply it before and after the training liberating
the localized accumulated tensions.
Along with Kempo, I discovered the Tai Chi. It was a "love at first
sight" with Kempo and I quit everything else to dedicated myself to
Kempo-Kalarypayat. It isn't exactly a martial art that imitates animals,
but it attempts to catch and feel the animals instincts. Since Tai Chi
has a similar approach, I made a mixture of both styles since I didn't
want the pure Kempo nor the pure Tai Chi. I also began to research the
motions of Kempo and Tai Chi, plus the Yoga I used to practice since I
was 25. I went to India to take a course and returned many times there
to take another courses and researches.
I felt very enthusiastic about my new discoveries and I felt very happy
to discover that new world. Then I found that Corporal Expression is
essential in general life. Everything we do is related with corporal
expression, if we smile now, it's a expression. Corporal Expression
isn't like people use to say for example, "now you are a tree, now
you are a rock...", Corporal Expression is spontaneous and natural
movements. The animal is always in Corporal Expression, when you work,
you are too. So it comes the Dance in my life. Not searching the Dance
in a academy, but I began to study the movements in the Dance and I
found that are many similarities between Martial Arts and Dance. Martial
Art in essence is a choreography, a dance, a expression of movement. It
can be performed to attack or defend, and to give pleasure to the
practitioner feel good physically and psychologically.
With the support of Yoga I concluded Extension and Flexibility are two
of most important principles in Martial Arts. Every foundation and basis
of Extension and Flexibility was originated from Yoga principles.
So then I began do mix
flexibility, extension, Yoga, Tai Chi, Kempo, Dance, Corporal
Expression, and I began to research the body movement. It's been 33
years ago. From that mixture I develop my system, known by many as
Orlando Cani system - Bio Gymnastic, or even Natural Gymnastic, when I
prepared a video with a part of my system. So Natural Gymnastic it's
only a small part of my system.
With the Bio Gymnastic I am able to support any type of Sport. I used to
have a few actors taking classes with me too. I adapt the classes for
each type of student. If he's a fighter I will work over his primary
need, psychomotor system, developing extension and flexibility with
speed and explosiveness. It will give the fighter Concentration and
Relax. The basis of my system is the Breathing.
The importance of a good oxygenation is very well known by the medical
physiology. The oxygen that we absorb through the breathing is the only
food of the nervous cell; the neuron does not admit any other type of
energy to carry out its functions. Consequently, a nervous system that
is well oxygenated will work in a balanced and correct way. We should
not forget the importance and the functions of the nervous system within
the man's organism. It is the way that the man has to express his will,
to receive the information that his senses send him, decipher it and act
accordingly. All what is the voluntary motor is commanded by the nervous
system. The autonomic functions of the vegetative nerves, that is to say
those that are beyond our will and we are not generally aware of them,
as the temperature of the body, the secretions, the heart movements, and
so on, are also innervated by the nervous system. Oxygen is also
necessary for the muscular activity, especially if the muscles should
work very hard.
The lack of oxygen in high
competition, for example, causes the formation of lactic acid, which
produces an intense muscular pain and the disqualification of the
competitor. The oxygen is necessary in our entire organism. It is
distributed by the blood stream to each cell of our body, and it allows
the combustion of the molecules that are in its protoplasm and that come
from the food we eat. This combustion will originate caloric energy and
logically it will produce remains (water, anhydride carbonic, urea,
etc). The blood removes the carbonic acid of the cell. Then the
important phenomenon of hematosis will take place in the alveoli of the
lungs: it is the change of the carbonic anhydride for new oxygen, so
that the cycle continues being developed. And this cycle is life, and
this is what truly contains and means the act of breathing, life, that
Before the Olympics in 1996 I took two years working with the coach of
Brazilian Women's Volleyball Team, Bernardinho, and the Brazilian team.
Before the last Olympics in Sidney, I prepared Shelda-Adriana, four
times beach volley world champion, and silver medal in Sidney. Para-Guilherme
beach volley world champions also trained with me.
Q: What kind of exercises you make with martial artists?
Orlando: I used to develop routines using the animal instincts. The
Tiger, The Monkey, The Snake, The Hawk, mainly. There's no need to use
every animal, but it's specially interesting to use feline animals,
since it's use the four paw, like man in the martial art. But we develop
the instinct, the sight for instance, and the feeling of the breathing,
natural to the animal but not for the men. The animal uses the
flexibility in a natural way. I apply the massages before the exercises
to release the accumulated energy, so the athlete is able to move in a
spontaneous manner. I try to make the athlete develop his animal
instinct thru the movements of some animal. When the fighter uses the
moves of an animal, not to imitate but to feel like an animal. That way
I intend to develop the creativeness of the fighter. When he fights, he
must move in a natural way, spontaneous and creative, so he will be able
to surprise his opponent. Concentration is a key factor in a fight.
Every time the fighter thinks what to do, he loses time and
concentration in the fight, and it diminishes the creativeness. But
further than that, the thinking process in a fight will make determined
contractions. That process can stress the fighter and produce too much
adrenaline and loss of energy. I try to balance the emotional of the
fighter, breathing correctly to balance his physical and emotional
energy, concentrating him only in the fight. I like to explain the
athletes the complete process in details, so he can understand what we
Breathing is the key, the fighter must completely dominate the use of
the diaphragm. The fighter usually when attacking, he catches his breath
but instead of, that he should expire the air of the lungs. He must
expire to get rid of the gas CO2, toxic for his cells, and avoid the
contractions and production of lactic acid. So during the fight, the
athlete wants to react but he can't since his body is dominated by the
acid lactic. In extreme the process is similar with the Tetanus, an
infectious disease characterized by tonic spasms and rigidity of
muscles, sometimes leading to respiratory paralysis and death. The body
stops to feed the brain with oxygen and the fighter forget everything he
learnt after years of training. There's a white page in his mind, he
forgets everything. I try to teach how to breath, to concentrate, to
pace himself in the fight.
Q: Alvaro Romano markets himself as the creator of the "Natural
Gymnastic", what do you want to say about it?
Orlando: Alvaro Romano was my student for 13 years. He learned the
"Natural Gymnastic" from me. When he arrived here, he didn't
know anything. He was about to quit the college course of "Physical
Education" and he was in a real bad condition. he began to practice
here Yoga and Natural Gymnastic. After 13 years working with me, he
suddenly disappeared and avoid further contact with me. I didn't know
what was going on, since we didn't discuss or anything. I had no clue
until someone told me that saw an article in a magazine, where he said
that invented the "Natural Gymnastic" method by himself. I was
completely shocked. He was like a son for me. I even recorded 2 video of
"Natural Gymnastic" with him.
Later was a big congress and I
was scheduled to give a lecture about"Natural Gymnastic". A
few hours before it I received an Official of the Justice, prohibiting
me to take the lecture using the title "Natural Gymnastic"
since the Patent was registered by Alvaro Romano. Wow, what a disgusting
notice! From now on, I use "Orlando Cani Gymnastic - Bio
Gymnastic". I was very disappointed.
Q: How did you get to know Rickson? And when?
Orlando: Rickson had good information about my work and went to my
academy to work with me. It was in 1986 up to the end of 1988. In 1989
he was already living in Los Angeles and invited me and my wife to a
dinner. We had a good time there. At this time I didn't charge money to
teach classes for athletes and one day Rickson went to USA to give a
seminar with Rorion and some Gracies to the famous American actor Chuck
Norris. Rickson brought me as a gift two beautiful real samurai swords
since I could use it in my Kempo routines. At that time I used to
perform Kempo routines using a Chinese wood sword, copy from a real
samurai sword. It was a great present. Rickson brought me the
swords and said a speech that I felt very emotional, since he said he
was very grateful to what he learned from me.
Q: How was Rickson, as a student? How was his attitude? How was his
talent in it? How fast and how deep did he learn it? What was he
interested in, mainly? How long did he learn it from you?
Orlando: Rickson Gracie was the best student I had. He was the one to
assimilate best the process. He's very serious and deeply concentrated.
He stare at me hearing, and what I say penetrates him like a glove. He
assimilates it deeply. It's very impressive. After two years of training
with me, he almost make me cry, I was deeply touched. He told me:
"Today you will be seated down and I will perform the class
by myself". I felt like he was going to fly away from the window,
how perfectly he did, specially smoothing. My work is very intense,
standing - on the ground, standing - on the ground, there's no good or
bad position, it's movement, for me movement is life, is action, it's
Q: Are the classes in group or personal?
Orlando: It can be either way, but personal classes are much more
intense and the assimilation is higher.
Q: How long does it each class take?
Orlando: One hour is the usual, but I still teach 90 minutes classes
mostly at the beginning of the work, since I spend extra time to explain
what I'm doing. I work the meditation too.
Q: Did you teach any other members of Gracie family?
Orlando: Yes, a few of then, Royler, Carlos Gracie Jr., Rigan Machado,
Jean Jacques Machado, Roger Machado, etc.
Q: Did you teach any other fighters?
There are so many that I can't remember the complete list. Marco Ruas,
Alexandre Paiva, Murilo Bustamante, Wallid Ismail, Ricardo Liborio,
Marcelo Behring, Fabio Gurgel.
Q: Are you teaching any fighters now?
Orlando: Ricardo Liborio was working with me to fight next month in
Japan, but he hurt his shoulder.
Q: What kind of techniques do fighters want to learn from you?
Orlando: Specially concentration and correctly breathing during the
fight. It's amazing and so subtle that you can defeat your opponent only
perceiving his breathing. It's because when you catch your breath it's
when you become weaker. At the moment you inspire you are fragile. The
animals are always breathing, the man is the only animal that catch his
breath, it's an unconscious process. So we must dominate the breathing
process not to lack the concentration and the energy.
The Natural Gymnastic is performed mostly on the ground, stimulating the
natural process of moving and breathing correctly. But it's just a
fraction of my work, where I make a lot of standing routines, using Tai
Chi techniques with animal moves and extreme concentration.
Q: It looks like you must have
material to write a book.
Orlando: Oh yes, I'm planning to begin to write a book very soon. It's
one of my major projects.
Q: The things you have taught Rickson, how does he use it in his fights?
In which way he shows it in the fight?
Orlando: Concentration, Breathing and Corporal Conscience. The
athlete can improve without Corporal Conscience. He improves to a higher
level because his very good performing his game. Rickson is very
concentrated in his fights, he demolish his opponent with his sight. Of
course he's human and can fail, but even when he fails, he's so
concentrated and integrated in the game that he has a immediate
capability to recover. That's quite important since you are going to
fail. When you fight a great opponent you make mistakes, and you get
some damage too. Rickson has a prompt ability to recover when he fails.
Because he's always aware from the opponent and mainly with his own
Rickson is special. I told it to him one time. He's a very special
fighter. Everything he learns he has a strong ability to assimilate and
develop it. He has a clever way to assimilate and protect anything he
likes. He protects my work.
One day Marcos Ruas went to my academy and ask me to work with him. I
had no free time and said it to him. He told me "You worked with
Rickson and his game improved a lot, he's so fast, explosive...". I
said "Rickson a one of the kind, he's special. But I will work with
you Ruas, I will teach you at my lunch time. I will help you, ever since
you will represent Brazil, that's fine, let's go." Less than 24
hours later I received a few phone calls, asking me if I was going to
train Ruas, because there was a possibility with a Rickson vs. Ruas
fight in the future. I told them I wasn't training Rickson so far, and I
am a professional. Moreover, Rickson is Rickson, he's one of the kind. I
worked with Ruas, he was prepared. But he never used what I taught in
Wallid Ismail went to my academy and ask to work with him. He was going
to fight a vale-tudo match in Japan. We began to work and during the
process, his fight schedule changed and he was going to fight with Royce
Gracie a Jiu-Jitsu match. So I had to exchange the training routine. I
prepared him for 3 months. I said to him: "Wallid, fight is the
moment. You must take the chances or you opponent take it and defeat
you". Wallid took his chance and defeated Royce.
Wallid is a very kind person. His bad boy attitude is only marketing,
personally he's very friendly and cool. But Ruas and Wallid aren't
Rickson. With Rickson you can go further. The process of Recognition,
Experiment and Development, Ruas and Wallid only recognized and
experiment the work. Rickson went further, developed and protected it. I
met Rickson after Ruas has fought and I comment with him over my
impressions. Rickson told me "Orlando, let me tell you something,
your work is a very elaborated and long process, people didn't
understand it yet and they won't. There are people that will work with
you for 10 or 15 years and they will never perceive the essence of your
work". It deeply touched me again, and I could only look him and I
said "You are right".
I developed a strong interaction with my students and we used to have a
very good personal relationship. I also try to develop a good sport
attitude, since when you play a game, you may be defeated, it's part of
the game. But the fighter can't be worried if he's going to win or lose.
Once Rickson told me "Orlando, when I step in the ring I know I can
die. I step in to win, but I know I can lose or even die". The
fighter must do what it must be done. Not worry to invent, but be
creative, spontaneous and natural like an animal.
Q: Rickson has been last month in Rio. I talked with him and he told me
that he was making a preparation to engage a movie project, playing the
role of a man with animal instincts. Was he back to work with you again?
Orlando: Yes, Rickson has been
working with me again last month, specially regarding his movie project,
developing expressions characters in the role of a man with animal
attitude, animal instincts, sight, gestures, but he's a man.
Q: You and Rickson has been a
few years apart. How do evaluate him after a long time? Do you feel he
still keeps what you taught him before?
Orlando: Yes, he kept most of
it. That time we could develop more the Sensibility. Motive and mainly
Psycho-Motive aspects. That time he was able to deeply develop the
aspect Psycho-Motive muscular neural. At the end of each class, he said
he was able to have a better understanding of the Corporal Conscience.
Since he's a very dedicated athlete in every thing he does, that time
was much more easy to work with him, his assimilation was much more
intense and fast.