Gracie: O Criador de uma Dinastia
Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2008
by Roberto Pedreira
April 5, 2013
Chapter 6. O Jiu-Jitsu Como
After getting back to Rio, Carlos had
limited opportunities to train jiu-jitsu. He practiced with his brothers while
fooling around. He also got involved in rooster fighting [rinhas de galo]
as an outlet for his competitive and pugnacious spirit. When his father Gastão
returned, Carlos refused to work with him. Indeed, he refused to work period.
Work bored him. Gastão didn't like work that much himself, but he seemed to
understand that if you want to have a large family (or two families), you need
Carlos rubbed his father the wrong way
since his infancy. He was full of unproductive energy that he used to create
problems for other people. His childhood nightmares and sleep-walking had
decreased, but instead he began having visions that left him dazed and confused.
Carlos spent his time rooster-fighting and reading whatever fell into his hands.
He seemed to have a penchant for "occult" type of things, such as
fortune-telling, astrology, mind-reading, and the like.1
Gastão cared less about Carlos' reading
habits than his laziness. He kicked him out of the house again, claiming that
Carlos was old enough to support himself. Again without a roof over his head,
Carlos began looking for a house to rent and at the same time a job. He managed
to find one at Light, the electric company. He hated it. Too boring. He didn't
like people looking over his shoulder either.
One day he met an acquaintance from Belém
on the street of Rio. He was Donato Pires dos Reis, who through ways of his own,
was in a position to help Carlos land a gig as a "jiu-jitsu"
instructor in Belo Horizonte, where Carlos,
according to Reila, began the process of "Brazilianizing" and perfecting jiu-jitsu
and making it efficient for a weak person and for real fighting, discarding the
techniques that were not functional.2 Carlos'
specialty was the arm-lock, which Reila says he used innumerable times to defeat much
From this experience, Carlos discovered his
new profession. His family didn't approve. The Gracies enjoyed an elevated
social position and viewed the profession of wrestler and teacher of jiu-jitsu
as beneath them. Carlos didn't care, or possibly didn't have any choice. His
personal qualities and lack of formal education seemed to make him unsuitable
for anything else. The martial arts business has often appealed to young
vivid imaginations and unusually high needs to be admired for their alleged
ability to physically dominate other men (not only these types, of course). That
isn't intended as a criticism, just an observation, like saying that people who
want to be rock stars want to be looked at and admired.
Carlos parlayed his Belo Horizonte job into
a similar job in São Paulo, where a Japanese judoka3
named Geo Omori reigned as
the king of mixed martial arts. Carlos wanted to make a name for himself
so he decided to start at the top by challenging Geo Omori. Omori brushed
him off saying (correctly) that Carlos had no experience, no ring record, no
proof of "sufficiency," no evidence that he knew anything about
jiu-jitsu or any other form of fighting, and most importantly, no one had ever
heard of him. Selling tickets was the name of the game, so that was not a
Carlos really couldn't argue with any of
that. He took a different route and one that as Reila comments, he used
effectively throughout his career. Taking a lesson from the great American
promoter and flim-flam man Tex Rickard, Carlos cultivated a symbiotic
relationship with the press. The promoters needed publicity and the press need
content for their daily editions. Carlos gave them the content and the press
gave Carlos publicity and legitimacy, because reports of Carlo's fight record
and martial arts background came from Carlos himself. Quite a few people did not
believe him, including his own brothers, but that is a different story (to be
discussed in later chapters).
Carlos "met" Geo Omori in rings three
times. "Omori was the first adversary who I faced in public and the most
difficult,"4 Carlos ambiguously told Jose
Geraldo. The "fights" were exhibitions that Omori agreed
to stage as a favor to Carlos's father. George (Gracie) did not mention these
exhibitions when he later said Carlos "was never a fighter."
With the help of a rich boy named Otaviano
Souza Bueno, Carlos opened a small academy in Perdizes (which probably meant
that he found some space and taught Otaviano and his pals some moves). Strong
men began to appear at the door desiring to measure the capacity of Carlos. In
these "open door challenges" [desafios a porta fechadas] everything
was permitted except "low blows" and the contest ended when one
or the other participant either gave up or lost his senses. It was like some of
the matches on Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Action, except that there was no video
back then so we have to take Carlos' word for it.
Carlos began teaching George who despite
his youth showed an unusual aptitude for fighting and was enlisted to confront
the brutes who showed up. Helio was still too young, and Oswaldo and Gastão Jr.
despite knowing jiu-jitsu already, apparently had other things to do.
While still in São Paulo, Carlos had been keeping company with a
Hungarian girl who lived in the suburbs. As was the custom in those days, Carlos
had to escort her home after their meetings. Near her house there was usually a
group of Portuguese men who gathered passing the time, looking for something to
entertain themselves with. When Carlos and his girl would pass by, the men made
jokes which increasingly annoyed Carlos. Carlos made a plan to get even with
them. He recruited George and some of his students, borrowed a car, and drove to
where he knew he would find the men, who were obviously in need of a Gracie
attitude adjustment. No one was there, so Carlos waited hidden in a dark
corner. Eventually, two Portuguese men showed up, and then a third. From
the shadows, Carlos announced dramatically (he loved movies), " I'll kick your asses all by myself."5
Carlos emerged from the darkness, and in seconds knocked the biggest one out
cold. Seeing their friend stretched out senseless, the other two ran in
The Portuguese men filed a complain against
Carlos for assault. It seems that it was not legal in the São Paulo suburbs at
the end of the 1920's to knock people senseless for saying things that you
don't like. Carlos assumed responsibility for his act, but did not relish the
prospect of spending the night in a jail cell with common people. He asked an
influential friend to get him out. But the friend didn't have enough of the
right kind of influence, and Carlos stayed in jail overnight. The next day, with
the help of a competent lawyer, he walked into the São Paulo sunlight, free
again to pursue his jiu-jitsu dream
Chapter 7. 1925-
Academia Gracie, O Sonho Vira Realidade [the dream becomes a reality]
was not the only carioca with an interest in the occult, a fact that will be
highly relevant later in the story.
2. Reila doesn't explain what Carlos did to make
jiu-jitsu more Brazilian or more efficient, or what the non-functional
techniques that Conde Koma taught Carlos were.
Omori learned the secrets of jiu-jitsu at the Kodokwan [sic] so he was both a
jiu-jitsuka and a judoka. See Choque Vol. 1,
1856-1949 for more about Geo Omori.
foi o primeiro adversario que enfrentei em publico, e o mais dificil."
5. "Vocês não
precisam se meter, pois a turma grande não veio. Do grandão e dos outros eu me
(c) 2013, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.
Updated December 26, 2017.
Revised March 20, 2020 (minor typos corrected).