(Authors Note: Roberto Pedreira is the publisher of the unique Jiu Jitsu and MMA website called: Global Training Report. This interview is republished from its original in 2003.)
Eddie: What got you started with GTR (Global Training Report) and putting your work online?
Roberto: I wanted to learn how to make a web site. I was already writing for Black Belt magazine and some others. The magazines paid me (except for Karate Bushido in France, whose check bounced), but they also changed my content and demanded the copyrights. I wanted to control my content, retain my copyrights, and also publish the articles in a form that would remain accessible for a long time. I get paid nothing for this, but that’s ok.
Eddie: Where are you currently living?
Roberto: I currently live in Chigasaki, Japan (20 minutes south of Yokohama), about 10 months of the year. Chigasaki is famous for surfing in Japan. The rest of the year I live in Pattaya, Thailand.
Eddie: What martial arts have you studied?
Roberto: I studied boxing, muay Thai, kali, silat, judo, hapkido, savate, non-sport taekwondo. goju-ryu karate, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, free-style and Greco-Roman wrestling. I’m not an expert at any of them. I like some more than others, but with the exception of taekwondo, none was a complete waste of time, although goju-ryu came very close. Any style that involves contact and resisting oppeonents and sparring that fairly closely resembles the real thing is good, as far as I’m concerned.
Eddie: Which style do you think is best for self defense?
Roberto: None. The best style for self defense is common sense and self control. However, it is useful to back up common sense and self control with training and my personal opinion is that if you can only do one style and you have competent instruction and training facilities and partners, then the best would be muay Thai. That is for a lot of reasons, including how you are going to explain the damage you did when the cops arrive, the potential for self-injury, etc. That is assuming you can only do one. Obviously, the best way is to train striking, standing grappling, and ground together as an integrated whole. Which is what I try to do as much as possible.
Eddie: It is hard to know from your writing what your nationality is. What is your native country?
Roberto: I went to school in the USA (Berkeley, CA, and Austin, Texas) and I have an American passport.
Eddie: Is Roberto Pedreira your real name?
Roberto: It isn’t precisely the one my parents gave me, but it is just as real.
Eddie: When did you first hear about the Gracies?
Roberto: About 1992, in Seoul, Korea. A guy showed up from the states with the first Rorion and Royce instructional tapes. I knew nothing about grappling at that time but tried the uppah escape from the mount and was impressed, because the technique was simple, logical, and worked. My first chance to actually train with (more accurately, near) a Gracie was in January 1995 at Rickson’s old academy at 11054 Pico, in West LA. For about 6 months prior to that I was serving as a practice dummy for a relatively unknown (so far) but great fighter/coach named John Frankl, who was already at Rickson’s. So I learned most of the most basic escaping movements from him. At the time, I considered myself a stand up specialist. I didn’t naively think “I won’t go to the ground”, but I did think that I already knew more about ground fighting than people who didn’t specifically train for the ground, and I thought that was adequate for my needs. But at some point I decided to get more deeply into it. I didn’t really know who Rickson was at the time either, but since John was there, I decided to go there too. John by the way recently got his black belt, after “only” eight years of consistent hard core training (however, not with Rickson in LA, but with Roberto Maia in Boston) and will be opening his own academy in Chico, California in July. He also is the man who introduced Brazilian jiu-jitsu to Korea, and possibly one of the most intelligent people in the world. Anyway, between 1994 or 1995 and 1998 I trained at Rickson’s Academy for a total of about 7-8 months. Whenever I was passing through the USA, to or from Brazil, I would try to spend a few weeks or a month at Rickson’s and also at the Inosanto Academy. But most of my training has been in Japan and Brazil.
Eddie: What was it like training with Rickson?
Roberto: I didn’t train with Rickson. He was preparing for the Japan Vale Tudo 95 (I think it was) and didn’t teach much. On Tuesday and Thursday he gave advanced classes but I didn’t go to those, since I was far from advanced.
Eddie: So you didn’t get a chance to meet Rickson?
Roberto: I met him the same way everyone there met him. He was there a lot in the afternoon, just hanging around or passing the time or whatever. I didn’t have anything to ask or tell him so I didn’t try to talk to him, and as far as jiu-jitsu went, his assistants (Luis, Mauricio, Jason) could help me perfectly well. I was still at the stage of trying to understand the uupah escape so what Rickson had to teach was far beyond what I could have comprehended then (and probably now too).
Eddie: Did you detect a sort of super star aura around Rickson?
Roberto: Far from it. He just seemed like another guy there, friendly and easygoing. No one, even new white belts, made any big show of exaggerated respect. No one called him sensei or anything like that. He was just Rickson.
Eddie: Are you a Rickson fan?
Roberto: Sure, in general, but for jiu-jitsu, his game is too advanced for me to understand. I don’t try to do jiu-jitsu like him, if that’s what you mean.
Eddie: Then who does inspire you for jiu-jitsu?
Roberto: I like anyone who is versatile (guard and passing games, standing and ground games), adaptable, and attack oriented, but strategic. Also guys who have more or less normal physical attributes. Also guys who stick pretty close to the fundamentals. And guys who look for the finish. Maybe Murilo Bustamante would be the one I try to emulate most.
Eddie: Are you still teaching Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil and what school do you represent?
Roberto: I never taught jiu-jitsu in Brazil!!! Everyone I met in Brazil knew more than I did. Not until my third trip did I meet anyone that I could sweep or tap. I knew nothing to teach anyone about jiu-jitsu. Now if anyone had asked me about muay Thai, I might have had something to teach them, but no one did, and I was first and foremost there to learn from them. I trained at many academies in Rio de Janeiro (mostly, Master/Alliance, Dojo, and Corpo Quatro, and one in Sao Paulo called the Top Form Academy run by Prof. Ricardo Kowarick) but I do not represent any of them. In Chigasaki, I run a small academy, affiliated with Axis Jiu-Jitsu Japan, which officially represents Rickson in Japan. It is run by a Brazilian of Japanese’s descent named Taka Watanabe, who is the man who reintroduced jiu-jitsu to Japan.
Eddie: What is your belt level?
Roberto: Still a beginner after 8 years. Still trying the get the basics right.
Eddie: What city or cities in Japan is Jiu-Jitsu most popular or prevalent? (For example: California is the Mecca for jiu-jitsu in the U.S. and Rio)
Roberto: Jiu-jitsu is popular in Tokyo of course, and any city where there are a lot of Brazilians and a qualified instructor. There are many academies between the two biggest cities of Tokyo and Osaka. There are some good Japanese instructors, Yuki Nakai, for example, but most of them are teaching jiu-jitsu in the context of mixed martial arts. For them, jiu-jitsu is basically shooto (or shoot fighting) with a gi. Axis Jiu-jitsu is the only one I think that is teaching pure jiu-jitsu exclusively and is trying to maintain Rickson’s concept of what jiu-jitsu should be, which is not what Yuki Nakai thinks it should be.
Eddie: Who is the most egotistical fighter you have ever met?
Roberto: With only a few exceptions, all the interviews in GTR are translations done by myself or by Yoko Kondo, from Japanese and Brazilian magazines. So I hardly ever interview anyone. But I’ve talked to many fighters and teachers. None of them was egotistical, although Tra Telligman and Jason Delucia seemed unusually fixated on justifying why they lost to Vitor Belfort (Tra) and Royce Gracie (Jason).
Eddie: Out of all the martial arts you have practiced is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu the one you enjoy most?
Roberto: Probably, because of the rolling and because there’s something new to learn everyday, unlike boxing or muay Thai where the tools are few and easy to learn and the art is in perfecting the timing and other elements needed to execute in competition. Based on my limited knowledge of judo and wrestling, I think one could say that about them too. The techniques that you need to win are relatively few, and most athletes practice getting more efficient at a few high percentage techniques rather than learning more and more techniques of questionable effectiveness. I may be wrong, but that’s how it seems to me. Don’t misunderstand this to be a criticism of boxing etc. The fact that boxing etc techniques are relatively few and simple to learn is an excellent thing, especially if you have upcoming contests to keep you motivated. If you don’t have, then perfecting one or two techniques could get boring after a few years and learning a new move now and then would be stimulating. I suppose some jiu-jitsu guys get to the point where they are learning relatively fewer new moves because they know so much already, but I’m nowhere near that. That’s why I like jiu-jitsu best. That and the rolling. With or without gi, it’s all good.
Eddie: Do you practice jiu-jitsu for self-defense, sport or both?
Roberto: Originally for self-defense and to have a more rounded game, but now just because I like doing it.
Eddie: Do you still study hapkido?
Roberto: No, but I like to see if I can find set ups that will allow me to do some of the hapkido joint locking techniques. It’s a challenge but it can be done, sometimes. They work best from standing up, of course.
Eddie: What is the meaning of the word,”Yamato Damashii” I know it is a tattoo that Enson Inoue has on his back but would like more information regarding this’mind set for attitude if you can possibly expand upon it. I find this subject fascinating as I have read the works of Eiji Yoshikawa (A book of five rings) and the life of Sadaharu Oh. Each of these individuals spoke about the concept of “Body of a Rock” which I believe is related to Yamato Damashii.
Roberto: It means “Japanese spirit”, in particular the spirit of old Japan (which was called Yamato). It is more or less synonymous with “fighting spirit”, “not giving up”, “no surrender”. Japanese fans like this and when foreign fighters use such expressions it seems to please them. It was promoted by the Japanese military during World War Two to encourage the people to make more sacrifices when they were under pressure from the American Army and Navy. Thanks to “Yamato damashii” Japan would defeat the weak, self-centered sissy Americans and impose enlightened Japanese rule on all of Asia, and eventually the world. As it turned out the Japanese people did make all the sacrifice that the Japanese military asked them to, and more, but in the end it didn’t help. On the contrary, it hurt tremendously. I don’t think it helps fighters either. But the fans like it, even if the younger ones have no idea that, like most of what people now think is traditional Japanese culture, Yamato damashii was actually invented during the 30’s as a tool for controlling and exploiting the population in the service of military ambitions for conquest and empire. (Sorry about the digression!)
Eddie: Many jiu-jitsu masters have emigrated to the United States to teach (mine included) is their primary purpose because of money?
Roberto: I don’t know about primary, but it for sure can’t be a small consideration. Being unemployed in Brazil is no fun at all. But in addition, I guess they must enjoy teaching and they probably also like certain aspects of life in the USA and other countries.
Eddie: Many predict that the United States will eventually have equal jiu-jitsu skill to the Brazilians, do you espouse this idea as well?
Roberto: It makes sense to me that if enough people do anything long enough, they will get very good at it. The Japanese had a big head start in judo, and similarly the Brazilians (in Rio at least) had a big head start in jiu-jitsu. Thais are good at muay Thai, Koreans are good at taekwondo, Philippinos are good at kali. It is merely a matter of how many people are doing it and how long they’ve been doing it.
Eddie: I wanted to learn more about DeLaRiva, will you interview him more extensively in the future?
Roberto: I might the next time I go to Rio, but I don’t know when that will be or maybe the next time he comes to Japan. He’s an interesting guy, and possibly the only person in Brazil who doesn’t have enemies. He’s the only one in Rio who nobody dislikes, according to many Brazilians I talked to. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people in Rio who don’t like the Gracies, but no one doesn’t like DelaRiva. He is regarded as the quintessential technician. One of his students, former Pride HW champion Rodrigo Antonio Nogueira, said recently in Tokyo “I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but I still can not pass professor’s guard”. On the other hand, from my experiences with him, he doesn’t talk much, so an interview might not be all that revealing. Could be better to just train at his academy, if you have the chance.
Eddie: Have you ever seen live sword sparring in Japan? I understand one of the ryu’s called Katori Shinto Ryu practices using a live blade.
Roberto: Never saw it.
Eddie: In the past many Jiu-Jitsu practitioners have been criticized for not working on their take down skills. Have you seen any changes in Brazil since you have been there in reference to a great emphasis on improvement in take down skills?
Roberto: As long as you can pull guard in a jiu-jitsu contest, you can get by without great takedown skills. If you want to have better takedowns, then you have to spend time working on takedowns. Most jiu-jitsu guys prefer to spend that time on ground grappling. Obviously, the guys that are competing in events like Abu Dhabi, UFC, Pride and so on, need better takedowns and defenses and most of them are working on that, and some have become very good. They tend to be the guys whose jiu-jitsu is already at a high level. Less advanced guys have to decide where their priorities are. They may be restricted by what their instructor wants to devote class time to but the basic wrestling techniques (double leg, single leg, high crotch) are not complicated. Once you can do them, it is just a question of drilling with a live opponent. Anyone can do that after class or before. Wrestlers do this. One guy takes a shot, the other guy defends. They alternate like this maybe 20 times. Do this every day and pretty soon you will have serviceable takedowns. If you mean judo throws, then you can do what the judokas do, which is called uchikomi. One guy stands there and the other guy sets up the throw. Usually 20 times for each of about 4 or 5 of the basic throws, and then they switch. These drills are good for both offense and defense. Don’t ask me why more jiu-jitsu guys don’t do them.
Eddie: In your article “Corpo Quatro” Sylvio Behring spoke about Xadrez, which is a way of training Jiu-Jitsu like chess. Have you seen or employed this method to accelerate your learning of Jiu-Jitsu. If so has it been successful?
Roberto: Actually, I haven’t used it much. It’s hard to explain to other guys the process sometimes and most guys like rolling. But it’s a good idea and probably I’ll try to do it more in the near future. Thanks for reminding me. The best way that I have found for improving my jiu-jitsu is to concentrate on one position at a time and forget about tapping or not tapping. For example, the bottom guy works kimura variations, and omoplatas, from every possible set up and the guy in guard tries to go with the technique and find where the holes and exits and counters are, and at what point his base is lost, etc. It can be very instructive for both guys. A lot of instructors say something like “you can’t improve if you never tap”. I can’t disagree with that. I also agree with Rickson who said you should train at 50% intensity most of the time and without gi about half the time. Not only because he said it but also because I noticed improvement after I tried it. One more drill that helps is to play pass the open guard, with or without gi, with neither guy using ands, or at least not grabbing cloth.
Eddie: Your interview with Orlando Cani was fascinating. Have you ever trained personally with him or utilized any yogic techniques in your training?
Roberto: Actually the interview was conducted by Paulo Ruy Barboso. I have not met Orlando personally, and I don’t specifically use yogic techniques, unless I’m doing something that is yogic that I’m not aware of, which is very possible, because most of the people I learned jiu-jitsu from learned Ginastic Natural from Orlando Cani, or from someone who learned from him. As everyone knows, Rickson is a believer in yoga, and it hasn’t hurt him any. Leka Vieira was big time into the Cani movements too, it seemed to me.
Eddie: I have heard of jiu-jitsu exercises performed in Brazil called Kempo, perhaps my spelling is off but have you ever heard of these exercises and do you do any special exercises for flexiblity and strength other than weight lifting?
Roberto: Never heard of kempo in Brazil, other than what Orlando says in his interview, I never heard anything about it. Personally, in addition to high reps weight training, I spend a lot of time with the heavy bags. Working the bags is hard to beat. It’s not an accident that boxing gyms have heavy bags.
Eddie: In your interview entitled “Academia Shoto-kan,” you said you didn’t like the culture of the Japanese dojo very much. Can you elaborate on this statement and perhaps contrast the way Brazilian jiu-jitsu dojos are run?
Roberto: Just what I wrote. The shotokan dojo was run like any dojo anywhere. Something like a religion or military organization. You do what you’re told and everyone does it the same way. You have no idea whether any of it will work, for yourself, or for anyone. Some people like this way of training. I did it myself for about five years, and I don’t like it. A jiu-jitsu academy is more like a laboratory where you make experiments. You find out what works and what doesn’t work. I like this way. This is just one everyone can train the way they want to. There are plenty of options out there.
Eddie: I couldn’t help but laugh as I read your Mario Miglio Luta Livre academy report, especially reading that your consistent attendance was rewarded with his (Mario Miglio ) consistent absence. Did you ever find or see a Lura Livre academy and did you ever get to meet Mario Miglio?
Roberto: Never did. Problem was there were so few Luta Livre academies at the time (maybe now too), and I didn’t have the time to go out searching for them. Maybe next time.
Eddie: Who is the strongest person pound for pound you have ever grappled with?
Roberto: The best guys were not generally the strongest. Or at least, you couldn’t sense their strength because their technique was so good. I didn’t grapple with anyone in the Carlson Academy. Probably I would have felt strength there. As Carlson says, when the other guy also has technique, then strength is important, and Carlson guys tend to stress strength more than the Humaita guys, the Barra guys, the Alliance guys, and the various other guys. But DelaRiva was originally a Carlson guy, so it’s hard to generalize.
Eddie: If you could interview any living martial artist today who would it be?
Roberto: Someone, anyone, who has been around forever but whose version of jiu-jitsu history in Brazil we haven’t heard yet. Helio Vigio for example (of course he is known in Rio), or any old guys like that. The only version we have really heard has been Rorion’s and I have meet a few older guys and researchers who claim that Rorion’s version is slanted, to say the least. But I’d much rather interview Paul McCartney or Pete Townsend than any martial arts person.
Eddie: Would you ever like to write a book on martial arts? If so what would the title or subject be?
Roberto: I’m planning to do it. It’s in the works. Subject is jiu-jitsu and muay Thai from an anthropological point of view.
Eddie: Have you ever heard of a martial art called Systema? If so what is your opinion of it?
Roberto: I haven’t heard of it.
Eddie: When was the first time you met Rickson Gracie and do you still stay in contact with him?
Roberto: Met Rickson at his academy in January or February 1995. He wasn’t teaching that day but was just watching me (maybe my second or third class) get crushed by a big body builder type guy who kept putting his forearm in my throat and leaning heavy on it. Rickson saw this and, without getting up, gestured how to deal with the situation-parry the guy’s elbow across his centerline, trap his arm against my chest, and wrap my arm around his head, and take his back. This was very effective and a move I still use. After the class I worked out some variations with my friend and coach John Frankl, who I mentioned earlier. From that position you can sweep, and you can choke. It’s jiu-jitsu in action, very simple, logical, and it works. Obviously, I met Rickson many times, because I was at his academy 3-4 times a week. I also met him in Japan at Pride 2 (Royler was fighting Yuhi Sano). However I don’t know him well enough to keep any kind of personal contact. He wouldn’t even recognize me if I met him again. In fact, he didn’t recognize me at Pride 2, but part of that might have been because he was looking at me as a reporter who he hadn’t met before, rather than one of his jiu-jitsu students from LA (which I didn’t remind him of, which maybe I should have, looking back at it).
Eddie: Have you ever grappled with Rickson?
Roberto: I have not, but several friends have. One says Rickson is different from everyone else. In this sense, “Renzo, Royce, Royler and most other guys are a million times better than we are, but they are doing the same jiu-jitsu that we are doing. Rickson is doing a different jiu-jitsu, his own. Mainly his sensitivity is at a much higher level. You know what he’s going to do, and you know what to do to stop him, but you can’t stop him. And then you are tapping.” (interestingly, he mentioned that B.J. Penn had this unusual level of sensitivity too). Another asked Rickson where his jiu-jitsu came from. Rickson said (35% from his family, 65% he made up).
Eddie: What are two or three of the main differences (differences such as discipline,class curriculum, approachability etc.) between training in Japan and Brazil?
Roberto: You mean training jiu-jitsu, or training in general? Things that are considered traditional martial arts in some way in Japan tend to to be extremely formalized, structured, and even ritualized. The Japanese believe that the right way to teach beginners anything (including cooking, flower arranging, music, foreign languages, sex, anything) is to break everything down into named steps and to follow an exact sequence, and that the there is one and only one correct answer to everyquestion, that the teacher knows what that answer is and the student doesn’t know anything worth knowing yet. It isn’t always bad method in general. Everything is exactly the opposite in Brazil. However, jiu-jitsu can’t be learned like this, so jiu-jitsu in Japan is taught the same way it is taught in Brazil. The only difference is that classes begin and end on time and students bow to the instructor before and after class. At least at Axis Jiu-Jitsu. They don’t do this at the X-1 gym in Fujisawa, and I don’t know about other places. The head instructor at Axis says he thinks this way works best for his students, who are about 85% Japanese. Boxing in Japan is taught in the same step by step method, but there is no bowing in a boxing gym, so it sort of depends on whether the activity is categorized as traditional Japanese (even though the bowing part is a recent innovation in Japan), or as Western.
Eddie: When you teach does part of your curriculum entail teaching the self-defense techniques Helio Gracie taught to his sons?
Roberto: I don’t teach, I coach. I try to help everyone with whatever it is that they want to learn. I also try to emphasize the things that I am personally working on, so lately that would be no gi takedowns, and especially upper body throws. However, everything must involve a resisting opponent, as soon as the basic movement is understood.
Eddie: You mentioned meeting and working with Dan Inosanto on occasion. Have you trained in Kali, JKD and other arts and do you still practice them?
Roberto: I trained at the Inosanto Academy of Martial Arts in LA for about 10 months in 1994-1995, and for a couple more months in 1997 and 1998. I took almost all of the classes that were offered. I learned from Guru Dan himself, Chad Stahelski (kickboxing, kali), Erik Paulson (shooto, kali), Larry Hartsell (who missed almost every class, but promised to show up next time for sure, “unless something comes up”.) Fred Ginn (boxing), Damon Caro (kali). Yori Nakamura (shooto, jun fan), Ron Balicki (kali, muay Thai), Nick Saignoc (savate), and Salem Asseli (savate). I didn’t take the silat classes but learned the silat from a guy who did, the same John Frankl I mentioned earlier. I don’t train these styles as such anymore, but I have retained what is useful. I do the kali stick drills as a warm up. As Eric Knauss (Dog Brothers founder) once said, there are only about two kali techniques that work (a hard fast forehand and a hard fast backhand) and one defense for each (“many are taught, few work” Eric says). I occasionally teach these mainly because they are so simple and so effective. My interest in kali was and is purely to avoid getting hit with sticks or cut by knives and doing stick or knife patterns just doesn’t seem to be useful for that. I also try to incorporate silat moves into standing take down drills. I don’t mean they’d necessarily be the right moves to try in a vale tudo, but in other contexts, they can be more appropriate than tackling, pulling guard, smashing guy’s face with your elbow, etc.
Eddie: Did you ever hear the time that Gene Lebell tapped out Bruce Lee on one of Lee’s movie sets? Gene was there as choreographer.
Roberto: I asked Gene LeBell that question myself, and many others, when his agent offered to make an interview. However, Gene never answered any of the questions. Too bad, because there were some good questions. So I can’t tell you what happened with Bruce Lee.
Eddie: Which do you enjoy most: Writing or practicing the martial arts? Or is their specific enjoyment derived from each one?
Roberto: Without a doubt, I prefer training. I like writing, but if I didn’t train, I would write about different things (which I did before I started writing about training-I wrote about music, and about Asian politics and history).
Eddie: Do you have a chance to watch many of the Pride or Shooto fights in person?
Roberto: When I was covering the Japanese fight scene for the magazines I mentioned earlier, I saw all the Prides, Pancrases, and K-1s in person. In the case of Pride, they charged the Japanese press for the privilege of taking pictures and sitting close to ringside. Black Belt wasn’t about to cough up any money, so my seats were always far away from the ring. I got a better view by going out into the hall and watching on the monitors. The Pancrase and K-1 seats were good though. Now I prefer to watch the edited versions on video.
Eddie: Have you ever fought in vale tudo style or had a desire to do so?
Roberto: Have not. Too old to do it now, but I think I would have wanted to do it at once, for experience. But only once.
Eddie: Do you believe like many NHB fans that the NHB will eventually take over in popularity to boxing?
Roberto: I don’t think there is the slightest possibility that this will ever happen.
Eddie: Who is the most interesting person you met in Brazil?
Roberto: You can hardly meet anyone who isn’t interesting in Brazil, but the most interesting person I met, I think I can say without much hesitation, was not completely a Brazilian, but only about half Brazilian. The other half was French. He was George Mehdi. I wrote about him on GTR. I guess he isn’t as unknown as he was before, outside of Rio, in part due to that article, but still, he deserves to be known even more. For example, there are people in Rio who say that Mehdi is the one who invented Gracie Jiu-jitsu, which he did by bringing Kosen judo ground techniques back to Brazil after his five year stay in Japan, where he trained with Kimura (who defeated Helio Gracie previously). Of course, his students who included Rickson Gracie and the Behring brothers and so many other jiu-jitsu guys, developed those techniques and added other elements from wrestling and sambo to make jiu-jitsu what it has become. But Mehdi was the ingredient that allowed it to happen. That’s what some knowledgeable people think. (Of course, no one says he did it single-handedly or that he intended to do it, just that his knowledge of kosen ground techniques was a crucial catalyst in the process.)
Another most interesting Brazilian I met was Carlos Eduardo Loddo. He is a Brazilian researcher living in Canada who is writing a book about the true history of Jiu-Jitsu and Vale Tudo in Brazil. He found my Mehdi article and contacted me. He interviewed absolutely almost everyone in Brazil, over a period of the last about 25 years or more. His books should be coming out soon and maybe GTR will carry some excerpts. Just from what he has told me, I believe they will be the definitive treatments of these topics for a long time to come. It is sure to really shake up the MMA world. As a hint, the version of Brazilian jiu-jitsu history we all know is the one Rorion Gracie
wanted us to know. But it is just one version. There are many others in
Brazil, and most of them don’t agree with Rorion’s.
Eddie: Who is the most interesting person you met in Thailand? (Reader please read Mr. Pedreira’s article entitled, Hardcore Hapkido
Training in the ROK as Dr. Lim Smith is certainly one of the most interesting people in Korea but whose present whereabouts, as revealed in Pedreira’s adventurous article, is unknown.)
Roberto: I met Dr. Lim Smith in Seoul. I have never seen him in Thailand. I will be back in Thailnd in August and I will try to locate him. However, I can’t say that he was all that interesting. It just seemed that way at the time under the influence of copious quantities of OB beer. In Thailand. actually, I don’t think I met anyone that stood out as more interesting than anyone else in Thailand. Everything about Thailand is interesting, but no individual person is extraordinarily interesting. Maybe if I spoke Thai better, I’d think differently, but I don’t really think so.
Eddie: On your website you have section called ‘Reviews’ which is a where you publish your assessments on books and video tapes. Any specific books or videos that you personally recommend. In addition, have any of the individuals whom you reviewed ever contacted you to compliment or complain?
Roberto: A student of one of Bart Vale’s students complained about the tone of my Bart Vale review. He agreed that the book was “crappy” (in his own words) but thought that I was too disrespectful. I thought that maybe he was right and revised it a little. Keith Schwartz complimented GTR for reviewing his judo tapes. His tapes are very good. I refer to them often. Gene LeBell’s agent also thankedus for writing about him, and offered to arrange an interview. Unhappily, Gene hasn’t gotten around to answering the questions yet. It’s hard to say whether a book or video will be useful for someone if you don’t know their level, but for me, I found the Craig Kukuk Jiu-Jitsu from A to Z useful about two years ago, except for the two takedown tapes. More recently, I watched some tapes by Micheal Jen, by Bob Bass and Rick Williams, and by Roy Harris, and I thought they were very good. I am looking for details rather than big new techniques. After about eight years, there aren’t so many completely new techniques to learn, but there are always new details, and variations that someone is going to come up with somewhere. Michael Jen had some good details in his escapes and reversals from the knee on belly position. Rick Williams showed a good grip variation, and it wasn’t even a technique that he was teaching, he just did it, and I picked up on it, and it has worked well for me since then. And I never saw it before during eight years of training! A small detail can make a big difference. For boxing, I recommend the Kenny Weldon sets (two sets, total of 8 tapes, except for the 4th tape in set 1, which is only about how to turn pro). Also Ringside’s Mastering the Mits is good, and the Great Trainers series is excellent (except for the Archie Moore one).
For Wrestling, John Smith has three tapes, one on attacking while defending, and two on low singles that have been very helpful for me. The USAW free style and Greco Roman series were and still are useful. I also learned some nice details from Darrel Gholar’s first two tapes. I haven’t seen the new one. There are probably a lot of great tapes out there that I haven’t seen. I have seen a ton a lousy tapes, but I try to keep an open mind and often I can pick out something useful from even a crummy tape. For example, I watched about six of the Reza Nasri Greco Roman set. They were pretty useless, but he did one move that attracted my attention and I’ve had great success with it many times over the years since then. I always enjoyed Paul Vunak’s tapes and at one time learned a lot from them. Recently, a guy out of Oregon name of Matt Thornton has been spreading the gospel of realistic sparring, meaningful contact, and resisting opponent, although as he says himself, nothing that won’t be obvious to anyone who has already trained boxing, muay Thai BJJ, judo, or wrestling. If this isn’t obvious to you, then you need to watch his tapes. He seems to be mostly trying to help JKD guys overcome some of their self-defeating illusions about how and what to train. His tapes have the best music of any that I have ever seen. As for books, videos have made how-to-do technique books less than ideal for learning, but one exception is Passing the Guard, by Ed Beneville and Tim Cartmell. It’s useful. I will be posting a review on GTR in July.
Eddie: Have you ever competed before? If so in what arts, what types of tournaments did you compete in and what is your competition record?
Roberto: Only twice, the First All Japan Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championship in 1998 where I took second in my division and the Third All Japan Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championship in 2002 where I took first in my division.
Eddie: Do you still compete?
Roberto: Maybe, I will probably compete again in the Fifth All Japan Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championship in 2004 in Osaka. Actually, I hate
competing, due mainly to the fact that there are so few competitions here. It’s like you have to let six minutes represent everything you know and can do, under conditions that basically encourage stalling. I agree with Sylvio Behring.Competing is fun, if you enjoy it, but it isn’t necessary for everyone to do it, and the fact that one guy is a champion doesn’t automatically mean he is better than another guy who isn’t a champion. It just means he was more successful (or luckier), at least once, under a certain set of conditions.
Eddie: Have you ever seen any competitions that were similar to UFC or Pride before they became popular?
Roberto: Not that I can remember.
Eddie: Is the Thai Boxing Vanderlei Silva practices on the same caliber technically and the same level of brutality as it is found in Thailand?
Roberto: The events that Vanderlei fights in have different rules, so his game is adjusted accordingly. What he is doing isn’t muay Thai, in my opinion. I mean, it would be hard to win in UFC or Pride using only strict muay Thai. You have to modify it to deal with the takedowns, the possibility of ground fighting, etc. And I believe that the benefits of the Thai clinch have not really been exploited fully by anyone yet in the UFC or Pride. Vanderlie hasn’t done it yet. But people don’t seem to understand that the Thai clinch isn’t just grabbing the opponent’s neck. It is a very sophisticated game.
Eddie: Which well known fighters do you know?
Roberto: Can’t really say I know them well, but I met Nogueira, Renzo, Royler, Ryan, Murilo Bustamnete, Mario Sperry, Saulo Ribeiro, Café, Liborio, DelaRiva, Bebeo, Babalu, Ricardo Arona, Marco Ruas, Mark Kerr, Pedro Rizzo, Bas Rutten, Tra Telligman, Ricco Rodriguez, Pete Williams, Jason Delucia, Matt Serra, lots of guys in Brazil of course, some famous boxers in Thailand, like Yodsanan Nathacchai (WBA super feather champ). Maybe some others, can’t recall.
Eddie: Have you ever been in a streetfight or been assaulted?
Roberto: A few times, but less and less the more I devoted my time to training instead of being in the wrong places at the wrong times. Anyway, enough to know what it’s like and how I react under that kind of pressure. Some people freeze, some people beat cheeks, some people attack agressively, some people stay cool as a snowcone. You don’t know how you will react until you’ve had the experience. You can’t train for that. You have to experience it. Your self defense plan won’t be reliable if you don’t know what your basic animal reaction to being attacked will be.
Eddie: What did you use to stop the attacker or individual and would you us the same tactics again?
Roberto: I used either whatever I had to use, or if I had a choice, I used the least damaging thing that I thought would work under the circumstances. The first time that I can recall, I used my jab and it was effective. After getting repeatedly hit in the face,the guy decided he didn’t want to attack me as much as he thought he did at first, and split. Another time it was an open hand to the forehead follwed by a guillotine. Other times it was wrist locks. Really! Another time, it was DelaRiva sweep (sort of). I didn’t plan to do what I did, so I’m not sure what I would do again, but I’m pretty sure it would be effective. Actually, my view is that the kind of attacks that you can train for are precisely the kind that you CAN avoid, in which case you should, and the kind you CAN’T avoid are the kind you can’t train for. A combination of common sense and self-control will keep you out of 99.9% of fights. But I’m not training only to survive fights, but also to deal with smaller problems, like pickpockets, aggressive baht bus drivers, etc., and just to have a general feeling of confidence and competence.
Eddie: Do you feel martial arts has made you a better person?
Roberto: A happier, healthier person, for sure.
Eddie: Who do you think would win in a fight between a world class striker and a world class grappler?
Roberto: The question has been asked a thousand time in the context of specific guys. If Joe Louis had accepted Helio Gracie’s challenge, who would have won? If Roy Jones Jr. had accepted Ralph Gracie’s challenge, who would have won? If Mike Tyson had accepted Rorion’s challenge, who would have won? And so on. The answer in general is this: If the grappler can take the striker to the ground and keep him there, he will probably win. If he can’t, he will probably lose, and possibly get severely injured. Now if you ask, can the grappler do this?, the answer is, we’ll have to wait for the fight to happen and then we’ll find out. Until then, everyone is just speculating.
Eddie: Tell me more about Helio Vigio and his contribution to the Martial arts in Brazil?
Roberto: That’s one of the things that I wanted to research in more details but didn’t have a chance. I might still, or someone else might. Helio Vigio is old. Last time I heard he still had an academy in Rio at Rua Siquiera Campos, 43/405. His son Redley was the professor responsavel (head instructor), assisted by Fabio Ernesto de Oliveira Nobre. Helio Vigio was one of the great fighters and teachers that came out of Carlos and Helio’s academy at 151 Rio Branco, along with Algenio de Barros, Moacir Ferraz, Pedro Hemeterio, Amando Wriedt, and Joao Alberto Barreto. And others, including guys who were not even associated with the Gracies, or were associated and then went their own way, like George Mehdi. Never heard of them? Probably because Rorion decided not to mention them.
Eddie: What is your opinion of Bruce Lee and his contribution to the martial arts?
Roberto: The idea of experimenting, testing against reality, and not doing things that don’t work, both techniques and training methods, was a good one. Unfortunately, it looks like many people missed the point and think that what they should be doing is what Bruce Lee did in the movies. I never met Bruce Lee, but I’m sure that wasn’t his message.
Eddie: What is your opinion of Jeet Kune Do and do you believe as some that we should only do techniques that Bruce Lee taught his direct students an not to teach anything outside of those techniques?
Roberto: Without wanting to offend anyone, I think that only doing what Bruce Lee did or what he taught is completely contrary to his philosophy, in addition to being retarded. I think that if Gracie jiu-jitsu had entered the scene when he was alive, Bruce Lee would have been the first one to sign up for privates with the Gracie Brothers. Just as his friend and one of only three students that he authorized to teach his system, Dan Inosanto, eventually did with the Gracies’ cousins.
Eddie: Dan Inosanto is said to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the martial arts. Do you know of anyone else that you have met or know that has this same measure of knowledge?
Roberto: Guru Dan has spent his life learning martial arts. Anyone who does that will have an encyclopedic knowledge of martial arts. I’m sure that could be said of Gene LeBell, and many guys in Brazil (such as Cleiber Maia, Zoca, and Mario Sperry) said that about George Mehdi. John Frankl is a younger guy who already has an encyclopdia of knowledge in his head and body. I’m sure there are many others too. The key is not sticking to one style. You have to research and experiment and put in the time on the mat and in the ring.[/fusion_text][/fullwidth]