H I S T O R Y O F BRAZILIAN J I U - J I T S U
E N T E R M A E D A
A L I O N ' S D R E A M
|In 1904, "Judo's founder Jigoro Kano sent one of his strongest young judoka, Mitsuyo Maeda (1880-1941) with Jojiro Tomita to the White House to assist in a judo demonstration for President Teddy Roosevelt. After a formal demonstration, an American football player in the audience issued an impromptu challenge." The less adept Tomita took to the floor instead of Maeda. "Tomita failed with a throw and was pinned helplessly beneath the football player's bulk. Maeda, abashed by Tomita's poor showing and frantic to reassert the superiority of Kodokan Judo, stayed on. He persuaded some Japanese businessmen to stake him $1,000 in prize money and embarked on a long career of challenging all comers throughout North and South America. The 5'5'', 154-pound Maeda was said to have engaged in over 1,000 challenge matches, never once losing a judo-style competition and only once or twice suffering defeat as a professional wrestler. In Brazil, where he eventually settled he was feted as Conte Comte ("Count Combat") and his savage system of fighting, now called 'Gracie Jujutsu,' is employed by certain fighters in present-day 'no-holds-barred' professional matches."|
|B I O G R A P H Y
It was Maeda who brought Jiu-Jitsu to Brazil. As a member of the Kodokan, Maeda went to America with his kohai Satake, etc. as Judo ambassadors. He was said to have fought more than 100 fights and in Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America, he was respected as Count Koma (Conde Koma).
Maeda was born in Aomori Prefecture in 1878. When he was a boy, he learned Tenshin (Tenshin Shin'yo) Jiu-Jitsu. He moved to Tokyo when he was about 18 and went to Tokyo Senmon School. He began practicing Judo and a record of him entering the Kodokan is dated 1897. He was very persistant and never gave up on anything. He was naturaly talented in judo and rose through the ranks quickly to establish himself as the most promising young judoka in the Kodokan. Maeda was a small man at 164 cm, 70 kilo.
demonstration at West Point however was a failure. Tomita and Maeda performed kata, but
the Americans did not comprehend the techniques they were observing. Maeda was challenged
by a student who was a wrestling champion. Maeda accepted the challenge and the
wrestler ended up pinning Maeda which the wrestler had felt garnered him victory over
Maeda. Maeda, who was not familiar with western wrestling continued to fight until he put
his opponent in a joint lock forcing the wrestler to tap out. The students at West Point
then wanted to see Tomita fight. In their minds, since Tomita was the instructor, he must
have been better than Maeda. Tomita was in his 40's and was past his prime. He had no
choice but to accept a fight or he would of lost face. His larger American opponent rushed
and tackled him. Tomita was held helpless under the larger man and forced to give up.
incident, Tomita and Maeda separated. Tomita left for the West Coast and Maeda stayed in
New York. Maeda began teaching at Princeton University part-time after he had won some
challenge matches. He also commuted to teach in New York City, but his American students
did not take to the Japanese style of teaching and he often found his students did not
stay long. Maeda was approached to engage in a match for prize money by the local
japanese. Maeda wasn't having much success teaching judo so he accepted. This was a
violation of Kodokan rules which prohibited members from engaging in matches. He accepted
the wrestling/judo match with a Brooklyn, New York wrestler nicknamed
"Butcherboy" that took place in the Catskills, New York. Maeda defeated the
wrestler. His victory raised the pride of local Japanese in the area. This match was the
beginning of his career as a professional fighter.
Maeda travelled to Spain. It was here that Maeda took on the ring name "Conde
Koma" in 1908. Maeda was a person who appeared to be under a black cloud. He
described his situation was "komaru" which means to be in trouble. So he settled
on calling himself "Maeda Koma" by shortening "Maeda Komaru." A
spanish acquaintance suggested "Conde" which means "Count." Maeda then
referred to himself as "Conde Koma" which also later became part of his legal
When Maeda was
in London, England, (February 1907 - June 1908) he saw a newspaper article where a Russian
wrestling champion was quoted as saying that wrestling was superior to judo. He tracked
the large wrestler down and issued a challenge on the spot. The wrestler refused on the
grounds that he was misquoted and could not risk losing to a non-wrestler. Maeda was
brazen and confident enough to challenge Jack Johnson, the American heavyweight boxing
champion. Helio Gracie would also duplicate Maeda's challenge by formally issuing a
challenge to the heavyweight American champion of his own era, Joe Louis aka "The
Brown Bomber." One of Helio's son, Royce, also repeated this tradition by challenging
Mike Tyson, the heavyweight boxing champion of the world.
travel also throughout Latin America to fight. In 1915, he ended up in Brazil in a city
called Belem. He considered this place to be ideal and settled in Belem which would become
his home. He engaged in challenge matches and became famous throughout the region. He also
returned to Cuba, Mexico, and the U.S. when necessarily. Maeda was to continue his role as
a judo instructor. He taught San Paulo policemen, army college cadets, as well as ordinary
citizens. Of course, one of them was a teenage boy by the name of Carlos Gracie, who would
perhaps become his most notable student, Carlos Gracie.
rumoured to have fought over 2,000 matches in his career; many unrecorded. He traveled
throughout Latin America and Europe, taking on all comers. He became a legend in the
fighting world and his name is still well known amongst Japanese settlements in the
Americas. He only lost two matches in his fighting career. One in the
"catch-as-catch-can" world championships held in London. In this tournament,
Maeda entered in both the middleweight and heavyweight divisions. He advanced to the
semi-finals in the finals in two weight classes. In matches where judo gis were worn,
however, Maeda was undefeated.
In 1925, Maeda
began his attempts to assist the Japanese immigrating to Brazil. At the time, there were
anti-Japanese sentiments in the US, so Maeda felt Brazil with its more open policy
towards immigration was the ideal environment for Japanese settlers. The Amazon appeared
to present itself as a lush territory perfect for the Japanese settlers. Maeda worked
closely with visiting Japanese officials scouting the territory to assess its suitability
for Japanese immigration. In 1928, a Japanese company was created to help the Japanese
settle into a town in the Amazon jungle. This town was in a large tract of land set aside
by the Brazilian government for the Japanese settlers. Maeda would labor tirelessly to
assists his fellow Japanese. Unfortunately, the settlement turned out to be a failure due
to malaria and growing unprofitable crops which were not part of the Brazilian diet. The
immigrants eventually abandoned the settlement in droves for the port cities.
a very prominent member of his community. He was given executive positions in many
companies and even received a large tract of land from the government. In 193, Maeda
became a Brazilian citizen. He is said to have married the daughter of the French
consulate, but there is no record of this in a Japanese register, so they probably only
lived together. They had a daughter, but both mother and daughter died when the daughter
was 2 years old. He remarried at the age of 44 to a Scottish woman and they had a
In 1940, the
Japanese government offered to pay Maeda's way for a trip back to Japan in appreciation of
the unselfish assistance to Japanese immigrants. He refused the offer, reportedly telling
a friend that he wanted to finish building a house for his family. His wife feared that if
he went back to Japan he would never return to Brazil. Although, he showed no strong urge
to return to Japan, his supposed final words when he died a year later of kidney disease
were "I want to drink Japanese water, I want to go back to Japan."
M A E D A ' S T E C H N I Q U E S
Maeda thought of judo as the ultimate form of self-defense. To him, western arts such as boxing and wrestling were only sports with set of rules. Maeda's strategy in an anything goes fight was to set his opponent up with an elbow or low kick. He would then go for a throw and then finish his opponent off on the ground with a choke or joint lock.
Maeda traveled the world and learned from his experiences and slowly developed his own unique expression of judo. When Kimura encountered Helio Gracie, what he saw reminded him of the earlier judo methods that were rough and tumble. Prewar (prior to WWII) Judo had body locks, leg locks, unusual choking techniques that were discarded because they were not legal in contest judo, which had evolved slowly over the years.