Gracie: O Criador de uma Dinastia
Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2008.
by Roberto Pedreira
April 26, 2013
never heard of Oscar Santa Maria, but you wouldn't be training jiu-jitsu or
reading this now if if weren't for him, and if it weren't for the fact that,
despite being a well-educated man with responsible and well-paying appointed
positions in government and finance, he was also extremely gullible. Between
1929 and about 1963, Carlos played on Oscar's naive belief in the supernatural
to fund his various "projects" which included impregnating as many
young women as possible. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that.
But perhaps Carlos pushed the envelope a bit too far when he started having
babies in 1956 with Oscar's then girlfriend Lair (who eventually became Reila's
mom.) Apparently he also used Oscar's money to fund the project. A friend
is a treasure,1 as the Portuguese proverb goes, but most friends would draw the
line a lot sooner than Oscar Santa Maria did.
Reila mentioned in earlier chapters, Carlos had been subject to strange visions
and unusual dreams since childhood. Oscar was a member of the Rosacrucian
Society. He introduced Carlos, who had an interest in such things. The director
of the Society sensed that Carlos was gifted with strong powers as a medium [fortes poderes mediunicos], that he was permanently guided by a
iluminado and that he would be (or already was) in direct communication with
this "higher power." Oscar was very much impressed with that news, and
the course of the next several decades was set. Oscar wasn't the first, and
won't be the last person to be duped by people who are willing to
tell them what they want to believe, or are able to convince them that they are in danger
and then offer a solution (see this), but 34 years is a long time. Nevertheless,
Oscar, with his education and position in the Bank of Brasil and government
positions (and the insider information and access that they provided), invited
Carlos to join him in his various business activities, which were extensive and
profitable. Carlos, as his lawyer spelled out in 1963, was a simple
ignorant man, without education or culture. Nevertheless, his direct line
to God made him a valuable partner to Oscar Santa Maria.
may not be the right word. Oscar believed that an all-knowing, all-powerful
"entity" accompanied and guided him, and that Carlos with his strong
powers as a medium, provided access to the entity. Oscar was not content only to
receive instructions from the entity via Carlos. He wanted to know what
color the entity was, how tall it was, and what its name was. Carlos discovered
the entity's name by concentrating on each letter of the alphabet and if it
vibrated, it he concluded that it was a letter in the entity's name, which turned out to be "Egidio
Lasjovino." Carlos also discovered that Egidio Lasjovino had a nationality.
He (or she or it), was Peruvian.
and his good friend Jayme Ferreira decided to produce a tournament pitting jiu-jitsu against people who would
"represent" capoeiragem. The objective was to demonstrate the
"efficiency" of "jiu-jitsu." Oscar provided the
Capoeiragem and jiu-jitsu representatives, respectively, were Coronel, facing
George Gracie, Mané, facing Oswaldo Gracie, and Ozeas, facing Benedicto Peres
(who was filling in for the injured Helio Gracie). Carlos wanted to demonstrate
the efficiency of jiu-jitsu for real fighting, but he also wanted jiu-jitsu to
look good. Rules prohibited striking on the ground. Matches would be three 5-minute rounds. Carlos wanted the capoeiras
to wear kimonos, but they refused; he finally agreed that they could wear
shirts. Capoeiragem supporters claimed that the rules unfairly limited
the capoeiras. Coronel broke the rules when he punched George on the ground, and
lost by desclassificação.
So much for realism.
luta livre instructor and all-around sportsman Manoel Rufino dos Santos was
among the people who were not impressed with the quality of the Gracie's opponents and
said so in no uncertain terms. The capoeiragem representatives were students of
Jayme Ferreria, whose claim to fame was that he had been a champion of luta
romana (pro-wrestling) in 1910 (thereby making him pretty old when he fought
George in 1931). The capoeiragem community did not regard Jayme Ferreira as a
legitimate practitioner or teacher of the luta nacional (as capoeirgam
was generally called). His students might well have been tough guys, but it is
questionable that they were genuine capoeiras (it was never quite clear what a
genuine capoeira actually was, but among the candidates, the students of
Sinhozinho were widely viewed as the most skilled and most representative of the
art). In one sense that is fine. Jiu-jitsu was supposed to be about weak men and
women defeating strong men. Using technique to beat tough, aggressive, big men
is not a trivial thing. But over-generalizing this to claim that jiu-jitsu
is better than capoeiragem was certain to arouse hostility (and was obviously weak
It would be like putting a gi on
kid who had read some kung fu magazines, calling him the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu
representative and then ax-kicking his head and declaring it a victory for
taekwondo over Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Capoeiragem (and luta livre) people
complained loudly about this tactic.
it was good marketing.
Chapter 10. Carlos Gracie x Manoel Rufino
1. "Um bom amigo é um tesouro."
Another proverb might have also applied: "Dois amigos de uma bolsa, um
canta, outro chora" [when two friends share the same wallet, one sings,
the other cries.]
(c), 2013, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.