by Gaalen Engen on September 3, 2011Leave a comment
The ‘snowflake’ nature of our DNA makes each one of us, on a biological level, unique unto ourselves. As it is our biology that forms the complicated home about our souls, we are also unique unto ourselves in thought. Carlos Gracie Sr. was the first to receive Kano’s gift as envisioned by Meada. He took that idea of combat and passed it on to his brothers, Oswaldo, Gastao, George and Helio. All of these men took away the art according to their own precepts. Helio, in particular, illustrates this diversification. Helio was the smallest of the Gracie’s, spending most of his youth battling illness. Since he was unable to best his older brothers in contests of strength, Helio developed techniques that emphasized Jiu Jitsu’s ‘gentle’ nature and monopolized on an opponent’s brute force with natural body movement and physics. From these main branches, forty plus members of the Gracie family have entered the world of BJJ…
In very little time I found what looked to be at least four major ‘houses’ of the Gracie way. After that, there are many who claim Gracie lineage and attempt to set up shop where they will never have to prove their veracity. Arguments now crop up to challenge Gracie’s reinvention of Jiu Jitsu as flawed because there too many ‘versions’ of it. I come from a large family – there are ten of us. We all lived under one roof at one time. We loved each other and still do – deeply, but there are moments over the course of a familial career when the ones you love, you really don’t like. This is natural and expected. As a family, we have entered the world from different directions. This is also natural and expected. Why should it be odd that the Gracie family do the same?
Carlos Gracie Jr., son of Maeda’s most promising pupil, came into the world one year after Carlson avenged Helio. His placement within the progeny made him a close study of Helio, Carlson and Rolls Gracie. Carlinhos was a true believer in his father’s form and as both Helio and Carlos Sr. studied and expanded the philosophical framework that Gracie Brazilian Jiu Jitsu rests upon, Carlinhos adopted their ideals and developed a regimen that would not only hone the human form, but also sharpen the mind and fortify the spirit. He believed as Helio, that better Jiu Jitsu could create a better person. True to his belief, he lived his life accordingly. When a sporting accident took his older brother Rolls at the age of 31, Carlos, at the request of the students and Rolls wife, took over as head instructor at his brother’s school.
Carlos Jr. sought out a new home in Barra da Tijuca not long after and launched his own school, creating the brand known worldwide as Gracie Barra. Only the finest of Gracie Barra members are allowed to carry forward the Gracie Barra name after they complete their passage to black belt. Even with these exacting standards, Carlos Jr.’s dream of a school in every city is slowly becoming reality.
Gracie Barra Santa Mônica rose from the earth under the astute guidance of Professor Luiz Henrique Saldanha. This was to be the school we were to train at next. Funcional Sports wraps Gracie Barra Santa Mônica in a roomy multiple use facility.
With a large matted area and a large cordoned section for strength and stamina training, there is plenty of room for eager students to study. Professor Saldanha is not only an excellent BJJ practitioner and a fine teacher, but he is also a diplomat for the BJJ movement as he also plays the role of emissary to the community. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has come under fire recently in the land of its birth. As I applied for my visa, an embassy official from Rio told me of ronin. These ruffians, bereft of the honor and humility so highly prized by Helio and Carlos Gracie Sr., travel in pompous prides, asserting a strength they do not possess in arrogant gestures of disrespect and sometimes even violence. I reassured her that I considered my two best weapons to be my legs as they will carry me away from harm’s way. Confrontation is the last resort, it takes place in a situation where no other avenue can be explored. The right to defend your life is inviolable, the right to attack is almost non-existent. Professor Saldanha is ensuring that those enlightened concepts are not forgotten as he shows a good deal of apprehensive Brazilians how BJJ can be a key contributor to both their physical and mental well-being while providing them with expert tools of defense.
Professor Saldanha has the stature and height of an oak and the heart of a lion. He opened his school to us on multiple occasions and even came in specially one morning just to train us. If that wasn’t enough, Professor Saldanha also opened his home to us for a well-stocked classic Brazilian BBQ and football extravaganza.
Unfortunately I was fated not to attend. I had made yet another crippling reservation gaff that would have left me in Brazil a month longer than my finances could have possibly allowed. So instead of traveling with the rest of the group to Professor Saldanha’s home, I stayed behind to deal with my own incompetence. I missed my opportunity to get to know the man behind the Professor. I hope he knows that it is my loss. There is one more thing I would like to say in regards to Gracie Barra Santa Mônica. There is a lead instructor there, a black belt, that took time out and passed on his experience to me. I want him to know that if I was half the man he is, I would be twenty times the man I am now. Speaking of examples worth following, I was to meet the man who would change my life and watch those I traveled with become heroes in their own right.
Next Installment: Rickson Gracie and when men become mighty
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