GTR Archives 2000-2021


Jiu-Jitsu Books 


Roberto Pedreira












Global Training Report

From Brasil, Thailand, Japan, and Korea

Est. 2000




Book Review

Carlos Gracie: O Criador de uma Dinastia

Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2008

By Reila Gracie

Reviewed by Roberto Pedreira  

Posted  April  19, 2013

 .Chapter 8. Hélio Gracie, O Caçula

Of Gastão and Cesalina's sons, Helio was the plumpest and healthiest. They called him "fatso." But between the ages of 9 and 15 he became thin, weak, and without zest and zip. He suffered from dizziness and fainting, at school. The family doctor couldn't diagnosis any specific problem but recommended that Helio avoid any kind of physical activity. As was the custom in those days, the father and the sons didn't communicate and so Helio couldn't express his opinions and complaints. The family and doctor thought that Helio's fainting spells were psycho-somatic. The family's recent move to Rio, and financial instability, and absence of the father were enough to disturb the mind of a young boy. The other kids in the family, of course, experienced the same conditions, but each one reacted in his or her own way.

Helio was different from his siblings not only emotionally but physically too. Among them, he was long and bony. He was the only student at the Colégio Diocesano de São José in Rio Comprido who was not forced to kneel while saying prayers, because it hurt his knees. Instead, he stood up erectly, feeling light-headed. George went to the same school. Helio studied there until the third year of primary school at which time he transferred to Instituto Layfayette in Tijuca, where he stayed for one year. Cesalina didn't have the money to keep Helio in a private school and so moved him into a public school. Helio was bored with school and wanted to follow in his older brothers' footsteps. He wanted school to become a distant memory. Knowing that his mom was a proud woman, he manipulated her psychologically by saying "if the neighbors see me going to school in clothes like a poor person, it will be a disgrace." The ruse was successful. Helio's formal education terminated in his fourth year of primary school.

While Carlos was in Belo Horizonte and São Paulo, Cesalina raised her daughters in the home of her mother-in-law. Helio and George stayed with Cesalina's sister (Cesalpina). who was the director of  the Instituto de Cegos Benjamin Constant [institiute for blind persons]. Briefly, they slept in the dormitory, and soon after that, in the dormitory of the rowing team at CNB (Clube Nautico de Botafogo), which was directed by Cesalpina's son, Pedro Teberge and Mario Tolentino (father-in-law). George didn't stay long because at that time Carlos decided to bring him to São Paulo to begin molding  him into a future champion.

Helio had a hard childhood. His life began, he said, when he placed himself under the care and orientation of his oldest brother  He idolized his brother and wanted to find some way to impress him and gain his respect. But Carlos wanted to form and guide a champion, and he didn't see Helio as a hot prospect, with his dizziness, fainting spells, and bad knees. He concentrated his efforts on George, who was more healthy, flexible, agile, and aggressive. Helio, realizing that jiu-jitsu was the only thing that could have a any impact on Carlos' opinion of him, began watching the lessons, trying to understand and assimilate to the utmost the logic of fighting [tentando entender e assimilar ao máximo a lógica da luta]. Since he didn't go to school, he had all the time in the world to hang around the  academy [which was actually the family's house]. He began taking classes taught by Gastão Jr., and trained with George and some other students. Gastão Jr. returned to school and Oswaldo was working with his father in São Paulo. Carlos focused his attentions on George and, little by little, Helio.  It was around this time that the legendary incident occurred by which Helio was "promoted" (as Rorion put it) into a professor by a student. The student was Mario Brandt, an employee of the Bank of Brazil. Mario arrived at the Gracie home, or academy if you like, for his lesson. Carlos was absent, but Helio, as usual, was there, and cheekily offered to teach him. When Carlos eventually  showed up, the lesson was already finished, and Mario seemed satisfied. Carlos was pleased, thinking that now he had someone to help him. 

The information above came from an interview with Carlos conducted by Jose Geraldo in 1958, so, as with a lot of the other information about Carlos Gracie, including the story of the fight with the dock worker/capoeira "Samuel," described next, this information, and derivative uses of it, such as Rorion's story of how Helio became a jiu-jitsu teacher, comes directly from Carlos Gracie himself.

Carlos Gracie x o capoeira Samuel

Reila describes a fight between Carlos and a "famous bully-boy dock-worker capoeira" named "Samuel." She offers no source for this story, and no details about when it happened, but is surprisingly detailed about how the fight unfolded and what Carlos was thinking and feeling at the time.1 Seemingly, it is Carlos's version of events. There is no evidence that this fight happened at all, let alone the way Reila describes it. Unlike his  fight with Manoel Rufino dos Santos and many exhibitions and "combates academicas" there was no report of this fight" in any newspaper. According to Reila, Carlos totally dominated the fight, and was prevented from winning only because "Samuel"  used dirty tactics (he grabbed Carlos's private parts, and bit his leg, the story goes) . 

George offered a clue when he said that Carlos had no jiu-jitsu knowledge or abilities. Carlos only had two fights [according to George]; the first was against Manoel Rufino, which Carlos lost. The other was against a person with no training at all [according to George] and Carlos was unable to defeat him. That is consistent with Reila's description of the opponent, and the outcome. 

In any case, the academy was attracting more and more students, as the upper social classes in Brazil saw jiu-jitsu as foreign and exotic (while other people preferred capoeira for exactly the opposite reasons). Carlos believed that a policy of "desafio aberto" [open challenge] was useful in proving the efficiency of jiu-jitsu. It is unknown how many challenges Carlos personally accepted, but in the ring, where the results could be most obviously and widely seen and appreciated [assuming that the objective was proving the efficiency of jiu-jitsu], Carlos preferred to have his brother or students do the fighting. He was always up for a demonstration however when he wasn't too busy visiting newspaper offices.

Around this time Carlos began forming his dietary theories. Other than Helio, his brothers ignored him, and ate what they wanted to, and mocked him when he tried to convince them to join in his nutrition "cult." Perhaps Gastão Jr. and Oswaldo were too much part of the 9 to 5 work-a-day world to go in for such esoteric things, and George probably would have resisted just on the general principle of "whatever Carlos says, do the opposite."

The chapter ends with a discussion of boxing, specifically a quotation form Carlos in 1981, in an interview in the magazine Manchete. According to Carlos " At that time, I trained boxing. I fought as a lightweight and never had any problem overcoming my opponents. In the almost 20 fights that I had, I was never hit even once." Reila concludes that "Carlos venceu o Campeonato Brasileiro de Amadores na categoria meio-medios e George foi o vice-campeão" [Carlos was Brazilian amateur middleweight champion, and George was vice-champion].

Boxing was the most widely covered sport in Rio at the time, second only (needless to say) to football (futebol), and possibly rowing and horseracing, but definitely much more than jiu-jitsu or other forms of professional wrestling. There is no mention in any Brazilian newspaper during the 1930's of either Carlos or George participating in any boxing match. Carlos himself appears to be the source. But Carlos, as chapter 9 (and later chapters) will indicate, had among his talents a gift for telling tall tales.  Taking Carlos Gracie at his word could be an exercise in faith, and as Oscar Santa Maria (next chapter) found out, a potentially expensive exercise.


Chapter 9. Oscar Santa Maria

Previous Chapters



1. Reila says that it was held at ACM and was judged by Manoel Rufino. There is no record of  a Carlos Gracie fight at ACM judged by Manoel Rufino. But if George is correct, an "encounter" of some sort did occur. 


(c) 2013, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.










GTR Archives 2000-2021