This film traces the journey of Japanese Martial Artists to Brazil, telling the stories of lesser-known characters as well as major historical events whose contributions were instrumental in the development of what would become known around the world as ‘Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Our goal throughout the film was for a complete and unbiased telling of this fascinating piece of history that has captivated the minds and hearts of so many Martial Artists around the world in recent decades.
“Closed Guard: The Origins of Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil consists of the result of hard work by a professional and passionate team of Martial Arts enthusiasts, practitioners and film-makers. The methods for the film was to combine the most recent research in regards to how Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu developed as an art with beautiful cinematography. For this, our production team counted on consulting from the leading researchers in the field of BJJ history as well as a talented team of videographers. The result is a balanced archival film that will help reshape the history of Judo, BJJ and MMA in Brazil.
From the beginning, it has always been our intention to tell this history as fairly as our sources permitted. I knew that there would be some gray area in all of this and that it would ultimately fall on me to be the judge for the myriad of conflicting accounts. For this, we had to do my own limited research, understand diverging opinions and interpretations, be mindful of my own biases, question previous interpretations all while trying to condense 100 years of complex world history, introducing new characters (which as everyone knows, can’t be done properly without giving background to that character’s relevance). Attempt to convey the deeply seeded misconceptions that had been planted in the minds of martial arts enthusiasts (myself included), and particularly in the BJJ community, so we could finally begin to correct them and explain the split from Judo. All of this in 90 minutes or less and with no experience in film-making.
Fortunately, there were many whose knowledge far exceeded mine and who were eager to help and tell this story. Even with many disagreements along the way, they were instrumental. Our team, Jay Coleman, Steve Jeter, Daniel Jeter and Fabio Takao. Roberto Pedreira with infinite patience and knowledge. Marcial Serrano for his enthusiasm and determination to bring this story to light, José Tufy Cairus for his pioneering research and consulting. Max Masuzawa for his support on the Japan trip, Elton Brasil for being Armando’s (Wriedt) right-hand man until his passing away and Brazilian researcher Elton Silva (author of “Muito antes do MMA”) for videos, pictures and consulting.
I would also like to extend my thanks to our interviewees (in order of interviews): Chris Haueter (one of the first American Black-Belts), Carlos Gracie Jr. (son of Carlos Gracie and founder of the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation, or simply “IBJJF”), Armando Restani (Red Belt under Gastão Gracie Jr.). Luis Otavio Laydner (Black-Belt, researcher and author of “With the Back on the Ground: From Early Japanese in America to MMA – How Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Developed”), Shiguero Yamasaki (Japanese immigrant, Red Belt). Mario Yamasaki (UFC referee and BJJ Black-Belt), Oswaldo Carnivalle (Red Belt under George Gracie).
Roberto Leitão (godfather of Brazilian Catch-Wrestling or Luta-Livre), Andre Pederneiras (renowed BJJ and MMA coach), João Rezende (Red-Belt under Oswaldo Fadda), Helio Fadda (Red-Belt and nephew of Oswaldo Fadda), João Alberto Barreto (Red Belt under Helio Gracie). Robson Gracie (Red-Belt, Patriarch of the Gracie Family and son to Carlos Gracie). Gotta Tsutumi (Executive Director of the Pan-Amazonian Nipo-Brazilian Association), Carlos Loddo (Brazilian researcher), Armando Wriedt (Red Relt under Helio Gracie), Kyra Gracie (BJJ Hall of Famer).
Sensei Matsubara (Kosen Judo instructor and Professor of Economics and Sociology at Tokyo University), Sensei Naoki Murata (Judo 8th Dan and curator of the Kodokan museum), Yuuhei Unno (Kosen instructor at Kyoto University and Graduate Student of the history of Kosen Judo), Takeshi Itani (Kosen instructor at Kyoto University and Graduate Student). Sensei Inoue (contemporary Fusen-Ryu teacher), Yuki Nakai (BJJ pioneer in Japan and president of the Japanese Federation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu).
Pedro Valente (Helio Gracie Black-Belt and researcher), Guilherme Valente (Helio Gracie Black-Belt and researcher), Royce Gracie (UFC Hall of Famer), Danieli Bolelli, (Martial Artist, Author and Professor), Antonio Vieira (last living student of Luis França), Darlyson Lira (member of the Sá lineage). As well as special thanks to the Kodokan, for not only helping give birth to BJJ but for their willingness to grant us an interview inside their museum. Last but not least, special thanks to Mairbek and Zaurbek Khasiev, for their belief in the need of telling the story of those whose voices were drowned by the loud speakers of relentless propaganda.