On November 12, 1993 Hélio Gracie watches from the crowd as Royce, the youngest of his seven sons, jogs to a steel cage at the head of a long line of family members. As they pass, Hélio meets his son’s eyes, his leonine gaze steeling the young man’s courage. If Hélio, has an ounce of concern he does not show it. The old man’s aura of confidence is the fulcrum of a giant machine that, after tonight, will get much bigger. A man who leaves nothing to chance, Hélio has ensured that all the variables are set for his son to be victorious. His first match is against a boxer, the most vulnerable of all the fighters in the tournament. His older brother Rickson, who has more experience and is the better fighter, is in his corner. Some thought that Rickson should represent the Gracie family in the tournament tonight but Hélio is a man who knows the value of spectacle. His Jiu-Jitsu is founded on the principle that the weak can defeat the strong and what better way to prove this than fight against a larger, stronger opponent. He wants to prove that any man, as long as he learns the closely guarded secrets of his system, can attain invincibility. To show this to the Americans, to put the focus on the art and not the individual, it must the slight and unassuming Royce and not the fierce-looking Rickson who makes the strongest point. The referee for the match is a trusted family friend and one of Hélio’s first and greatest students, João Alberto Baretto. João is a veteran of many such cage wars and is therefore one of the few people in the world qualified to referee such a no-holds-barred match.
The fight itself should be an afterthought. If Royce makes no mistakes he will win. The Jiu-Jitsu Hélio has armed his sons with is flawless. The only way for Royce to lose is if he veers from the path; if human frailty pollutes the mathematical perfection of Hélio’s precise system of leverage, position, and form. To those unfamiliar with it, his Jiu-Jitsu is an endless maze, an imponderable series of puzzles, a bottomless pit, and by the night’s end it will be a revelation.
On a plane high above the Atlantic Ocean in the summer of 2008, the man next to me regaled me with an encyclopedic survey of mixed martial arts that spanned three thousand years and four continents. He explained how the Filipino marital art of Kino mutai had classified 36 different ways to bite your opponent. He expanded upon the genius of Jigoro Kano, who created Judo in the late 1800s and how, in essence, Judo could be reduced to momentum applied to a series of circular motions. He elaborated on how the effectiveness of Bruce Lee’s mythic six-inch lead punch was due to its speed and how the extreme utility of Jack Dempsey’s famous Shovel Punch was based on principles of deception and weight transference. He told me that Kali practitioners have the quickest reflexes of any martial artists because they trained by dodging and deflecting the lightning-fast tips of pointed weapons so that a punch or a kick was slow by comparison. He told me if I really wanted to understand mixed martial arts, I needed to go to Brazil and that’s where we were headed.
He was Master Ricardo Murgel, a highly ranked master in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as well as a Judo Black Belt. He’d coached mixed martial artists at the championship level at top events all over the world. I’d met him a few months after I began working as the editor of FIGHT! Magazine in 2007. I’d been learning as much as I could about mixed martial arts to help me in my new role. I had seen the early UFC fights in college and while I was aware that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the martial art that Murgel had been teaching for 40 years, was fundamental to the new combat sport, I didn’t know much else about it. When he told me that in order to really understand mixed martial arts, I needed to meet the people who invented it sixty years ago in South America he offered to be my guide. Considering his lifetime’s worth of expertise and connections in the combative arts I jumped at the chance.
On the long flight over he told me about his life: he’d fought the communists during the civil war in the 60s; he’d taught combat shooting to police in his home province Porte Alegre; he was once shot himself and nearly died. He had at one time been a lawyer and a prominent businessman and was one of the first to bring Jiu-Jitsu to the south of Brazil. One of the turning points of his life was when he was running a big exercise equipment import company and was on his way to considerable financial success. He began uncovering irregularities in the company books. He called his accountant into his office who, once confronted, revealed that the company was ruined. The man who Murgel had trusted as a friend had wiped him out.
“I was 15 seconds from shooting him,” said Murgel, who was usually armed. “My hand was moving towards the gun in my belt, and then, the fire alarm went off in the building! That had never happened before and has never happened since.” He shook his head. “Now, I am not a religious man but there was something acting in this which is beyond my understanding.” Seeing how close he had come to ruining his life Murgel rededicated his life to the study of martial arts.
He closed by offhandedly mentioning that the crooked accountant didn’t ultimately escape justice because his body was discovered some years later riddled with bullets, though no one was ever caught. Sensing where my thoughts were headed, he said “Oh! I did not kill him. Someone did but it wasn’t me.” He paused before adding, “I thought very seriously about it but thank God I didn’t.”
As we chatted at 30,000 feet Murgel was in the middle of another frustrating business situation. He’d recently relocated from Brazil to Atlanta on a friend’s promise to open a big Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling academy with plans for growth and franchising. The partner was supposed to provide the facility and financing and Murgel would provide the knowledge and name.
Murgel uprooted his life and moved to the U.S., but the promises never materialized. Too dignified to fail, he cobbled together a small class comprised of a fireplug of an ex-marine-turned-bodyguard to rap moguls, a high school wrestler getting ready for college tryouts, and me. Every class included a brutal conditioning session which had students slumped and gasping on the floor. 63-year-old Murgel always led by example, doing all the exercises and often more to prove a point, shouting like a drill instructor all the time.
The gap between Murgel and his students was the equivalent to an MIT Physics professor teaching long division to 4th graders, but he’d committed to making it work and I instinctively liked him. It was refreshing to meet a man who was confident enough in his own abilities to eschew the baser machinations of business and the ignoble cunning of the marketplace.
We were headed to Murgel’s hometown of Porte Alegre in Southern Brazil. He was returning to teach a seminar. When we landed two of his students, Guillermo and Paulo, met us at the airport and treated the old man like a returning patriarch, carrying our bags and driving us around.
Guillermo confided to me that there were over 150 people attending the event. He and a few other students had been putting the event together for months and it would be the biggest seminar ever held in the area.
When we got to the gymnasium, my heart sank. There were no cars, and the building was silent. It looked like no one had shown up and I gritted my teeth in dread of Murgel’s disappointment.
We came through the door and found the large room teeming with several generations of Murgel’s students as well as students from other schools, all standing silently, arranged in order of seniority and rank: the black belts lining up in front followed by the brown and purple belts on down to the blues and whites. When they caught sight of Murgel the group thundered the name of the team he founded in Porte Alegre: “Union, Union, Union!” pumping their fists in the air. It was a powerful moment, like witnessing Leonidas review his Spartans at Thermopylae. Murgel narrowed his eyes and sternly surveyed the group. Later, he was hounded for autographs and pictures, like a movie star. People even want to get their picture taken with me just because I know him.
The legend of the Gracie family goes like this: In 1917 a Japanese Judo expert named Mitsuyo Mayeada, or Count Koma, a man who claimed to be the victor in over 2000 fights and who billed himself as the toughest man in the world, was traveling through Brazil, performing demonstrations of his fighting style, which was a combination of Judo, catch wrestling and tricks he’d picked up in his many fights all over the world. While performing his fighting techniques in a circus, he befriended the owner, a prominent Brazilian businessman named Gastão Gracie who offered to help him get established in Belém. When Count Koma noticed that Gastão’s oldest son Carlos had become fascinated with his exotic exhibitions of fighting prowess he offered to teach the boy and his brothers the art of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. Carlos soaked up what the Count taught him and after four years he opened his own school to teach Jiu-Jitsu to Brazilians in the wild North Country where the Gracie’s lived.
The youngest of the Gracie brothers was thirteen-year-old Hélio, a fiery and determined boy burdened with a weak and sickly body. He was scrawny, weak, and subject to embarrassing fainting spells. His older brothers deemed Koma’s strenuous Jiu-Jitsu too dangerous for Hélio and only allowed him to observe classes. Perhaps, they calculated, his interest would fade and he would leave the fighting and training to his older, tougher brothers. Undeterred, Hélio sat in the same place watching the classes all day for two years. He took in everything he saw and came to a profound intuitive conclusion that would change his life and alter the course of martial arts.
Much of what Count Koma had taught his brothers, Hélio deduced, required speed and athleticism he knew he’d never have, but certain moves relied instead on timing and technique, and these he knew he could master with enough practice. He secretly began honing and refining these moves and the now 16-year-old Hélio created his own form of martial art.
One day when Carlos was late arriving at the school, Hélio saw his chance to unveil what he had been working on in secret. He jumped in and started teaching the class. When Carlos arrived he was surprised to find that a coup had taken place in the dojo. All his students now said they preferred Hélio as teacher. Not one to fight a rising tide, Carlos agreed and moved into a more business-oriented position within the school and taught fewer and fewer students, while Hélio became the new head instructor.
Not long after Carlos ran the following ad in a Rio newspaper:
“IF YOU WANT TO GET YOUR FACE BEATEN AND WELL SMASHED, YOUR ASS KICKED, AND YOUR ARMS BROKEN, CONTACT CARLOS GRACIE AT THIS ADDRESS . . . ”
Carlos believed that the Jiu-Jitsu being taught by the Gracie family was the most effective fighting system in the world and if people doubted the claim the best way to prove it, he reasoned, would be to let anyone who dared to come fight it out with the Gracies. Over the next 30 years, the Gracie Challenge would become world famous and, it would be weak little Hélio who would fight the highest profile matches.
Fighting in gymnasiums, dojos, or packed auditoriums Hélio would defend the Honor of his Art against men like Sato, Kimura, Zybysko, and Santana. Hélio became a sports icon and the myth of Hélio and the Gracie family grew. Both Hélio and Carlos’ sons made the family business their own, expanding and refining the art of Jiu-Jitsu with each of the two brothers descendants contending that it was their ancestor who was, in fact, the true father of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
After landing in Rio, we went to a gym right off Copacabana Avenue. The equipment was antique but pristine; the place well-used but immaculate. “This is amazing,” Murgel, said, “I trained here 40 years ago.” The Grandmaster was a tall man with dark hair, a regal bearing and soothing voice. He moved deliberately with the small, sure gestures of high culture and was in fact an accomplished professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
He and Murgel laughed and reminisced in Portuguese as we toured his historic dojo. Álvaro Barreto and his brother João were among the very first group of Gracie students. He talked about how in the early days the Gracies only taught the elite of Brazilian society—CEOs, government ministers, etc. The 2nd Gracie Academy, opened in 1951, was a highly polished operation with exclusive classes and huge industrial washers and dryers that ensured the students always had clean, pressed GIs ready for training.
“And it was as expensive as Hell!” Murgel exclaimed, mentioning that when he was a boy, he’d asked his father to attend the Gracie Academy. His father, a successful Rio Dentist, refused, explaining that the dues would be equivalent to 17% of his monthly income.
Álvaro looked back on the early days with fondness and lamented that the dissemination of Jiu-Jitsu has led to declining standards. He commented on how many of the current students who come into the gym lack the proper respect for their teachers and the art itself. “It is a failure on the part of the Grandmasters who control the sport,” he said. “They haven’t been selective enough about who gets black belts and who gets to become instructors. People are getting black belts just because they participate in a couple of MMA fights and then opening schools.”
We accompanied Álvaro to an appointment at the exclusive Marimbas Club, a beachfront club full of wealthy men with cigars and tuxedoed servants who stood quietly at attention or circulated with silver trays full of drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Clearly Álvaro, and the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters of his generation were from a very different stratum of society than most American fighters.
Grandmaster Álvaro took us to a balcony overlooking Copacabana beach. “You must understand that Jiu-Jitsu is really four things,” he began. “One: it is a philosophy that can be summed up by the statement ‘give to win’. For example if you make strength with your arms then you give a point of leverage for your opponent to use against you. If you stay loose then you deprive your opponent of that. So, by appearing to be weak you gain strength.”
“Sun Tzu,” Murgel nodded.
“Exactly,” said Grandmaster Álvaro. “Second, it is a system of teaching. It gives access to proper rules of human behavior, self-respect, honor, discipline, courage, and so on. Third, it is a therapy. If man is too aggressive, it will calm him. Is he is too weak or passive? It will make him stronger. And finally, it is a fighting system. Today in MMA people only concentrate on the last and ignore the first three.” He looks to Murgel who nods in agreement. “Jiu-Jitsu is not an end,” Álvaro continued, “It is a tool for creating a better life.”
The next day Murgel and I visited Álvaro’s older brother, the great João Alberto Baretto, the man who was referee for Royce’s UFC 1 match in 1993, but whose real legacy was as a fighter, perhaps one of the best ever.
“You cannot believe how good this man was,” Murgel says. “He fights every Monday for a year and beats every single opponent, all by knock-out or submission.” Once, Murgel tells me, at a public exhibition a Japanese fighter refused to fight Joao saying that the Japanese karate he practiced was too fatal for a sporting competition so João offered to fight him to the death right then and there. The Japanese fighter wisely declined the offer.
Grandmaster João was still an imposing figure at 72 years old, with long arms and legs, a deep chest, large head and hands the size of sirloin steaks. He broodingly ushered us into his apartment, which was appointed with excellent old-world taste. The furnishings were expensive but not ostentatious. His body language was stiff as we took our seats in his den. Murgel had mentioned that he couldn’t remember an instance of João Alberto ever receiving a journalist into his home and now he had an American reporter sitting in his antique armchair! João looked at me with a combination of calm and intensity. His brother made you feel at ease, this man made you feel his power. He began to speak in a deep stentorian voice.
“In 1950, when I was 15, I was a body builder and student at the military academy. At this time, a fighter named (Landulfo) Caribe challenged Hélio Gracie. My father was the head of the Deaf and Dumb Academy and the Gracies wanted to use the facility’s gym. My father allowed them to do this and after Hélio easily defeated Caribe, my father presented me to Hélio and his brother Carlos. When they saw me they said, ‘Wow this boy is big!’ and they invited me the next Monday to the Gracie Academy. They tested me by having me fight another boy who had more experience and I beat him.”
He said the Gracies were so impressed with his size and athleticism that they put an ad in the newspaper that said, “In three months we challenge any amateur fighter in Rio to fight our students because we are manufacturing champions at the Gracie Academy.” Reminiscing about the early days, João loosened up and Murgel repeated the term with a nostalgic smile, “Manufacturing champions at the Gracie Academy.”
“I always had a talent for fighting but I wasn’t a pit bull fighter, I was a very technical fighter. I was like a skyrocket,” he mused, clapping his hands together and slicing the air upwards for effect.
“Every Monday,” he said, referring to the Brazilian television show Heróis Do Ringue, “Jiu-Jitsu fighters were matched against fighters from other martial arts styles. The rules were very simple. You could not gouge the eyes, fish hook, or hit in the groin.” These matches were an early version of MMA, though in those days it was called Vale Tudo, meaning, “anything goes.”
“Every Monday I would fight and every Tuesday they would pay me,” again, he slapped the palm of his hand and smiled (it was during this period that he had his amazing 40-0 run.) In one of João’s last fights on television his opponent refused to give up to an arm bar, so João broke his arm. The compound fracture on live television was so shocking that it likely played a role in the cancellation of the program soon thereafter. I pointed out that for a survivor of so many fights he was surprisingly unmarked, at which point he insisted I felt his ear, now completely brittle and calcified.
He said in those days no one made enough money in the Vale Tudo matches to fight exclusively for a living. Instead the fights were meant to promote the Gracie family business, which was teaching Jiu-Jitsu at Gracie Academy. It was a successful marketing strategy: at one point they taught 600 classes a week to the best and brightest of Brazilian society. Then there was the infamous Waldemar Santana.
“Waldemar Santana was an employee of the Gracie Academy and a student. He used to take care of the restrooms,” João sneer with a patrician disdain for menial labor. “I taught him many times.” João had by now become one of the lead instructors at Gracie Academy. “He had a problem with Hélio and Hélio kicked him out for fighting without [his] permission.”
In retaliation Waldemar, a black belt, challenged Hélio. They had one of the longest fights in history at 3 hours and 40 minutes without any breaks or rounds. Finally an exhausted Hélio was beaten by Waldemar, who outweighed Hélio by 60 pounds and was 23 years his junior. At the conclusion of the match the vicious Waldemar did the unthinkable. He dishonored the Gracie family by throwing Hélio to the mat and kicking him in the face, knocking him out.
The loss had to be avenged, so the Gracies challenged Waldemar. This time he would go up against Hélio’s nephew and Carlos’ eldest son, Carlson Gracie. Waldemar and Carlson fought two matches. The first was a Jiu-Jitsu match that went to a time limit draw. João believes this was a tactic on the part of the Gracies to scope out Waldemar’s strengths and weaknesses because after the draw Carlson challenged him to a Vale Tudo match where Carlson, now familiar with his opponent, destroyed Waldemar.
The fights turned Carlson into a star and Hélio’s legacy passed on to him. He became the reigning “champion” of the Gracie family and ultimately, a legendary trainer of Vale Tudo fighters himself.
“Let me ask you something that I have always wondered about,” Murgel says. “Why did the Gracies choose Carlson to fight Waldemar?” João takes his time before he answers “Waldemar [was asked] to choose between Carlson and me and he chose Carlson.” Murgel’s eyes widen in amazement. “This is the first time in 53 years that I have ever heard this.”
João clams up for a moment, before continuing. “When I used to train with Waldemar I had an easier time of it than when Carlson trained with him.” It is unprecedented for a Grandmaster of João’s generation to even imply that he is a better Jiu-Jitsu fighter than a famous Gracie like Carlson.
There was a knock on the door. I was Grandmaster Álvaro. He’d brought his gi and the two brothers who had not been photographed together for many years agreed to pose wearing their sparkling white uniforms and the solid red belts that identify them as 9th degree Grandmasters. The only living person ranked higher is Hélio Gracie himself.
You had to be on your guard in Rio. In 2008 there were 4,631 murders in the city, compared to the 523 murders in New York City that same year). Rio had one of the highest crime rates in the world, with affluent areas and dangerous neighborhoods butting up against each other. You could go from admiring a multi-million-dollar beachfront high rise to getting jacked in five minutes if you didn’t know your way around. Then there was the traffic which, unless there’s a big soccer game on television, is chaotic, fast, and unrelenting.
Our driver Cido not only navigated Rio’s streets and safely got us around but offered to be our go-to guy for just about anything else as well. If we needed anything, whether it was an interview set up or a photo-shoot that required a location, Cido would take out his cell phone and ten minutes later it would be taken care of. Not only was he a man who got things done, he was also a ladies magnet: if there was a good-looking woman within a hundred yards, she’d find a reason to come strike up a conversation with him.
Cido’s good friend Levy was our photographer. “Don’t be surprised when you meet Levy,” Denis Martins had emailed when he referred Levy to me as the best MMA photographer in Rio. “He’s short.” At a little over 4 feet tall Levy was indeed “short” and fearless and willing to do just about anything to get the shot.
The more I got to know Levy the more I liked him. He was a rare combination of intrepidness and diligence, energetic in his work but also thoughtful and careful about it. His stature was perfect for photographing in the cramped quarters of the Rio gyms because he could dart and dodge in between the fighters on the mats, often clicking away until the last possible second before deftly sidestepping as a 200-pound man came crashing down.
His pictures always make the fighters seem large and heroic. He was an institution in the gyms and dojos of Rio and all the fighters and trainers loved him, waving and calling out to him when he walked in the door. On the street it was different: people gawked, pointed and sometimes openly snickered. None of it ever seemed to faze him. Watching him from day to day as he plodded doggedly ahead, camera around his neck, I reflected that in the taxonomy of courage, the grand gestures and famous victories of the Gracies and João Albertos of the world are classed beside the quieter tests of strength of a man like Levy.
Back at my hotel the concierge handed me a small slip of paper that reads “Snr R. Gracie – Please call back.”
“Rickson Gracie!” I concluded excitedly. Rickson was the most famous Gracie and perhaps the only one more mythic than Hélio. He was the current “champion” of the family, taking up the mantle laid down by his father Hélio and his uncle Carlson. However, unlike both, Rickson had never been defeated. His record was 11 and 0 in sanctioned MMA matches but legend had it that he’d been in over 400 street fights, Jiu-Jitsu, and Vale Tudo matches without ever tasting defeat.
In the early 90s, while his brother Royce was fighting in the UFC, Rickson was busy becoming a sports icon in Japan. He parlayed his fighting success into everything from a movie career to a successful school and private classes that cost thousands an hour. His two legendary victories over a fighter named Zulu helped resurrect Vale Tudo in Brazil after the outcry caused by João breaking his opponent’s arm on live national television.
When I met him later that day, he looked older than I expected but there was an aura of power about him. Many people doubted Rickson’s self-proclaimed 400 and 0 record but sitting across from him I thought, “It could be true.”
“In Brazil people are not inclined to accept something until you prove it,” he said. “Here people are more concerned with demonstrating power than respecting tradition and so we have always had the Gracie challenge, not to be bullies or the toughest guys in town but because, to sell our beliefs we had to be willing to confront anyone who disbelieved what we had to sell.” He lean across the table. “And what we sell, “he continues, “is effectiveness. Effectiveness in fighting.” He let the point sink in before continuing. “The challenge was made to prove the point that we are willing to confront other styles and, over the last 50 years or so, in 95 % of the cases we have been successful.”
“In the beginning, the UFC was just a platform to show the dominance of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu against other styles.” It has been many years since a Gracie has had a high profile win in the sport they helped create. I ask him if he thinks, at least as far as the UFC is concerned, that Jiu-Jitsu has become a victim of its own success because it was proved to be so effective that everybody adopted it, thereby negating its advantages. He doesn’t answer the question directly but instead mentions that the rules were changed by the owners of the UFC to make the fights more competitive and, he believes, at the expense of Jiu-Jitsu.
“Standing the fighters up, gloves, reducing the time limits, all these little aspects make style a secondary component to the individual. How fast you are, how aggressive, how explosive…it is very hard for a fight to be decided in the first 3 or 5 minutes and a major aspect of Jiu-Jitsu is defense, defense, defense and then capitalizing on a mistake your opponent makes…when my dad fought he was 130 pounds. He would survive until he caught the guy in a mistake. How can you do this if there isn’t enough time?” He brings up his brother Royce in his fight against Dan Severn at UFC 4 in 1994, “Up until the moment Severn tapped out everybody thought he was beating Royce.” Even though Royce won, that match, which took place fifteen years ago, it illustrated the problems Jiu-Jitsu fighters would have with solid wrestlers from then on, as was the case when Royce was defeated in devastating fashion by American wrestler Matt Hughes at UFC 60 in 2006. Hughes embarrassingly manhandled Royce before beating him into submission in the first round.
“I was surprised because I didn’t recognize my brother. I don’t know if it was his training or mental stress or whatever but he didn’t look like himself. He made some very basic mistakes.”
Many people saw that fight not only as a defeat for Royce but one for his family’s fighting style as well. I ask Rickson if he worries that were he ever to be defeated it would be seen as similarly discrediting the discipline.
“I am basically at the end of my fighting career,” he says. “If I am lucky and they pay me what I want then I might have one more fight or I may just retire… But every time I compete I put everything at risk and if I were to lose, it would be because I made a human mistake or maybe got too old… It would be me being defeated, not Jiu-Jitsu. Jiu-Jitsu has already been proven. Today, to a certain degree, everybody fighting in MMA is a Jiu-Jitsu fighter.”
“Boxing is a fighting art, Karate is a fighting art. Jiu-Jitsu is a guide, a philosophy, a social movement,” he says, echoing what Grandmaster Álvaro told me only a few days before. We discuss how fighting can be a powerful metaphor, something that the boxing media has been on to for years but nobody has really picked up on yet in MMA.
“Fear, anxiety, hesitation—things that weaken a fighter in a fight—are the same things that can hold people back in life. It’s an interesting idea to explore,” I extrapolate.
“Exactly,” Rickson says, “if you could translate that to people then it would affect the audience in a much more profound way.”
“Well how do you do that?” I ask.
“I don’t know exactly,” he admits. “But today MMA is growing very fast and is this huge sensational sport but what is the message?” He says that he has little interest in mixed martial arts these days, other than for a potential big payday for one last fight—“bagging the elephant,” he called it.
“I am in the business of building character not making fighters,” he said. “I pay the same attention to the shy guy getting bullied as I do to the guy who wants to be a fighter. I will make that guy more confident and help him regain his self-esteem. This is the priceless aspect of Jiu-Jitsu; this is the treasure. If someone says that I am just a great fighter, I feel like my legs have been cut off. What I want to be is a great master.”
As I say goodbye to Rickson I realize that I have been guilty of this, of thinking of him only as a great fighter. He is more of a teacher and, to some extent, a salesman. João, Álvaro, and now Rickson are all selling the idea of the complete man. They are walking billboards for what Jiu-Jitsu can create: intelligent, striking, successful individuals who were deadly in combat. The inference is quintessentially Brazilian: if Jiu-Jitsu could make you invincible in a fight it could also make you invincible in life; the victorious fighter was a metaphor for the victorious man. This insight influenced my work, and my life from then on.