Relson Gracie tells of growing up and of Count Koma's reason for teaching. (long)


Brown Belt
Oct 28, 2004
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First of all, let me first say this.

I wrote this thread about twice already but erased it or cancelled it for many reasons. First there are many books in publication by other Gracie family members that kind of talk about how Jiu Jitsu / Judo Master Mitsuo Maeda came into contact with the Gracie family and shared his martial art with them already. Second, sometimes no matter how well my intentions are in sharing a little experience with sherdoggers, haters abound and hate on the family. Like I said many times before, if you train with one of them you probably love the Machados/Gracies, even if you don't train with them, does not automatically mean you hate them but don't really get to appreciate them as much as people who train with them do. Lastly, Relson shares his stories with me, I interpret them and share them here, which means, sometimes, in the sharing I get mixed up. But here is a story, like many others, that he told us the other night. If you get anything out of it, great, post a comment, if not, thats okay. This is a forum to share with experience and knowledge with other grapplers, thats why I post. I hope you all like it.

So after beginner class and right before intermediate/advance class starts a brown belt asks Relson, "Who was the best overall grappler, gi and no gi, of the four brothers, Rorion, Rolls, you or Rickson?" Relson says, "Rolls. Rolls, win at anything grappling, Greco-Roman, Freestyle, Sambo, Judo, and Jiu-Jitsu, he would seek them out, learned from them, change a little bit here, change a little bit there and he win at their competition using a mix of jiu jitsu and whatever style he competing at. Rolls, no contest. Rorion had some kind of problem with his right? shoulder and it would always pop out during hard contest so he had a hard time competing. I had excellent competition record and had great training partners like Fabio Santos, Pelehendra (?), Rolls, my daddy and uncles. Rickson was younger than them so he was still learning and trained with Rolls when Rolls was not studying some other grappling art somewhere." Relson said he missed calling Rickson on his birthday, November 21 and got to call him and tell him happy birthday.

So I ask Relson, "Relson, what is your favorite memory of jiu jitsu?" Now, Relson won jiu jitsu championships for 22 straight years, been all over the world, and experienced a whole lot of things. Relson says, "There was a time, when I was young adult and my father and uncle had the original academy. There was maybe, 500 students there. We trained, we played and it was fun. After each class, Rorion, Rolls, me, and sometimes even baby brother Rickson had to clean the academy, wrap up all the gis, sometimes hundreds of gis, take the gis downstairs in piles of 20 of so which created a mountain and stay near the street." Relson said his dad and uncle would come by in the trucks and they had to throw the gis into the trucks before the Brazil traffic police showed up, blew their whistles and yelled at his dad or uncle to move the truck. He would sit on the mounds of gis with his brothers and play around and wait for the dad or uncle to come around the block again and try to get more in the truck before the whistle blew again. Relson smiled and had that grin on his face as he said, ".. riding home for the weekends was the best because all the family would be at the ranch, they had ranch workers that woke up early, took care of the animals, ate and then help cooked breakfast and his dad and uncle would wash the gis, all the family stayed over the weeked, 18 bedrooms and whatever bath. The children and young adults played when the adults ate and then they trained jiu jitsu on the lawn. That was the best memory. Eating, playing, training with the family Rob."

Relson said, "It is amazing, how a small connection to Japan became so important to martial arts." One of the newer and younger white belts in the class, (not used to Relson talking like this and with no previous reading of the many publications out there) was like , "What do you mean Relson?" Relson said, before, during and after the war (WWI and II???), Brazil was a nuetral country. Some Japanese liked to live in Brazil because Brazil at that time was like Hawaii, no one cared they were Japanese and several Japanese still remain in Brazil who only know how to speak Portugese. Anyway, his granddaddy, was like a helper of sorts who met, Master Mitsuo Maeda, also known as Count Koma. Having no place to stay, Relson's grandfather took him to stay with him for a while. All the time, Relson's grandfather taught him Portugese and introduced him to lawyers, lawmakers, police and other influential people who could help him. Relson's grandfather gave him a room in the house that had a direct view of the yard and street. Relson says that his Uncle Carlos was always getting into fights. Sometimes he would win and sometimes he would lose. Day in, day out, week in, week out, month in month out, Master Maeda would watch Carlos come home bloody, bruised or red from fights or watched him get into fights with capoeria guys or street fighters. Finally, Master Maeda spoke to Relson's grandfather and told him that he was a master of the martial art called jiu jitsu in Japan and if Relson's grandfather allowed him to teach his son, he could be better prepared to fight. Relson's grandfather set up a makeshift dojo to Master Maeda's instructions to keep it secret and not out on the streets. Master Maeda gave his uncle personal one on one instructions for years until he moved out of the house. Relson says that even after Master Maeda left the house he came by to instruct his uncle. His uncle taught his brothers, including his dad and the aunties's children and the rest as they say is bjj history. Relson says, Count Koma called it jiu jitsu, so we called it jiu jistu, if he called it judo then we would have called it judo. (Brazilian Judo?) The jiu jitsu that they learned from Count Koma was refined for street fighting because they did not use the gi when fighting on the streets and then they called Gracie Jiu Jitsu, but when Rorion got the legal rights to Gracie Jiu Jitsu, it became Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to make it different from Japanese Jiu Jitsu but everyone studying bjj can trace the lineage to Master Maeda. Without Master Maeda watching his Uncle Carlos fight day and day at the house, win, lose, win, lose and take it upon himself to share his mastery of jiu jitsu we would never have that connection.

If I made some mistakes with stuff, I apologize in advance but I just wanted to share this story that I never read or heard before. Please remember a lot I summarized and if anyone is to blame for mistakes its me. Like I said before I hope you like it.
One thing I find odd.....I though Maeda only stayed with the Gracies for a short time, two to three years at most. This article makes it out like they trained under him for much longer.....but I
some things (details) but good to clarify

brazil was'nt neutral, in the beginning of the ww2 they were more inclinated to have political opinions with some similarity with the dictatoriship in the axis so after a while, the monroe doctrine won and the president decided to aid the allies sending some brazilians to fight in monte castelo, italy in winter
brazil was the only country of south americ to send troops who won, and after coming back to the country were completely forgotten by the population and the least you guys in america has respect foryour a lot of them died in poverty
BUT japanese, germans and italians came to brazil long before 1939 so it was comon to see them around in farms , later in the war, their immigration became restricted, but some of them still came like count koma
(BTW after the ww2 some japanese believed that the loss in the war was just propaganda and believed that the japanese that began to marry brazilians where traitors, some of them were actually killing those who admited that japan lost ;crazy story huh?)

And surely the gracies had contact with other japanese judokas, not only koma, there were actually documented judo/jiujitsu competitions in brazil by japanese only; and some capoeira vs jjj matches capoeira being the brazilian fighter, and jjj being a japanese
there is a musem of the japanese imigration and you will see Gi made by the locals when coming to brazil

-another thing to consider was the rolls factor, he was the one who actually studied more styles like boxing,judo and sambo to add to the bjj repertoire, that's why he was considered the best among them
you should add the story where relson got locked up literally in the acadamey for six months cause of cutting school..
2om30 said:
you should add the story where relson got locked up literally in the acadamey for six months cause of cutting school..

That is a very funny story and it always make him smile. You know how he gets when he reminices(?) about that and how mad his dad was. But another time and thread for sure.
yeah i always remember that story how he would sit by the window (i forgot how many stories the building was) on the weekends and count cars to make the time go by...:D till daddy helio opened up the academey on monday. LOL! i would lose it...that would be the only human contact he had was mon-fri to train than locked up..
Good read , jjmtguy. Thanks.
God, I really wanna read this, but I don't have any time right now. I'll save it for later :).
You guys are all welcome.

Before studying under Relson, I read several books which touched on the subject but nothing that really nailed it down. Relson says that those capoeria fighters ruled the streets in his uncle's time and were tough, tough fighters.

It really is amazing if you sit down and think about it how Master Maeda's contribution has benefited the world of grappling. Next competition I'm in I'm going to look around and wonder what he might have said looking at a NAGA or ADCC or other tournament where bjj does well.
Good read bro, thanks. Those jiujitsu veterans will talk for days once they get going.
"He uncle taught his brothers, including his dad and the aunties's children and the rest as they say is bjj history."

To hear Helio or Rorion tell it, Helio is the one who invented it after "learning" it by "watching" Carlos. Glad to see Relson give credit where it is due.
Lobo said:
Good read bro, thanks. Those jiujitsu veterans will talk for days once they get going.

You are welcome and as you can see, Fabio Santos was right there helping train Relson for competition. People don't know the old school jiu jitsu guys like Fabio and Relson got a mean bjj game and will turn it on if needed. Yeah, they are old and don't compete anymore but so what. They are awesome instructors and have more than proven themselves.

He mentioned Fabio's name twice and said he was one of 10 guys Relson used to train with that were not family but considered family. It was also news to me that Master Maeda did not have a judo or jiu jitsu academy that he taught Carlos in but the Gracie house under secret cover. And after only watching Carlos get into fights. How honorable that man truly must have been to have this knowledge and not share it with anyone, as far as I know, other than Carlos Gracie, only because he watched his friend's son get into fights. He kept his judo / jiu jitsu skills a secret and did not show himself off as a martial arts master. He only revealed his skills to help, not to brag or make money.

great post, i will try to pry some stories out of relson next week in north carolina.
Fabio still competes bro. Last match he had was a Superfight at the Black Belt Pro Am against Aloiso Silva. Took his back and choked him out. Quick-style. This was the event They haven't updated their site since but they're suppose to have more events like this.
Good read. thanks
Thanks for the read. Always good to learn more about Relson as I train at one of his affiliate schools. Looking forward to meeting him when he comes to town.
Lobo said:
Fabio still competes bro. Last match he had was a Superfight at the Black Belt Pro Am against Aloiso Silva. Took his back and choked him out. Quick-style. This was the event They haven't updated their site since but they're suppose to have more events like this.

Holy crap. Fabio is the man! I did not know he still competed and must have been a hell of a match. Anybody got video of that or know where to get it? Like I said, Fabio Santos is awesome and can turn it on when he wants.

Lobo, please tell him I said, "Congrats". I'm the big guy from Relson's school, we took pictures at Relson's with him choking me out and Luis Heredia. We also hanged for a bit at Renzo's fight with BJ. Relson says he got game and is like family.
Will do bro. Fabio's wife recorded it but I wouldn't know the first thing on how to put it on the net. I had the pics saved to my comp and was gonna show em to Fabio but my computer crashed and I lost all my shit.

They were suppose to have dvd's of the entire event but don't know what happened.