"I am the family face;
Flesh perishes, I live on,
Projecting trait and trace
Through time to times anon,
And leaping from place to place
Thomas Hardy 1840-1928
Imagine yourself on the Starship Enterprise. Suddenly you're rocked back and forth in one of those cheesy scenes where you hang on to an instrument panel. First to one side, then the other.
Captain Kirk sternly says, "Spock. Report!"
To which Spock replies, "Captain. It appears to be a worm hole. Apparently we've been thrown back in time to earth…. 1940!"
After transporting to the planet, you materialize in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Specifically, the Gracie Academy.
There you find the Gracie brothers, Carlos and Helio. Helio is teaching a private lesson while Carlos is busy going over business reports. You're able to experience first-hand how the Academy looked, felt, and conducted business.
A student walks in. He hands over his membership card and is issued a clean gi to train in. The smell of sweat is thick. The place is a whirlwind of activity!
On the wall is a poster with a picture of Helio and some unknown martial artist. It announces a challenge match that will occur in 2 weeks. Another Gracie Challenge!
This is the feeling you get when you read The Gracie Way: An Illustrated History of the World's Greatest Martial Arts Family by Kid Peligro.
"There is properly no history; only biography."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
This book is billed as an "Illustrated History." But more importantly, it's a biography of both the family and important members of the family.
Kid Peligro has been accused of being biased towards Helio and his sons' version of the Gracie family history, but in this book, I believe he balances it quite well.
The book is broken down into major chapters on these Gracie family members:
As a factual history of the family, it's rather lacking. As a tribute to the family, I think it hits the mark.
- Carlos Jr.
Let's get the negatives out of the way first.
- One of the most glaring omissions is Relson. Many feel that he's one of the best fighters and teachers of the Gracie clan, so the absence of a chapter on him is a sensitive point for many fans.
- The chapter on Rickson is a bit over-the-top. It portrays him as some sort of invincible Ares-type "god of war." I know many regard him as the epitome of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but I think this portrayal takes more away from the image of the man. Far more than adds to it.
- Although the book is dedicated to Rickson's deceased son Rockson, there is no mention of his death. For a history of the family, I found this rather curious.
- The chapter on Royce focuses on his well-publicized fights in the UFC and Pride. What's glaringly missing is the UFC Superfight with Ken Shamrock and his defeat by Wallid Ismail in a jiu-jitsu match. I had hoped to hear more about Royce's feelings on both of these events.
The best of this book is in the many photos, newspaper articles, and artifacts as well as the personal histories revealed.
The chapter on Carlos opened my eyes like a newborn. Everyone knows that he was the first to learn jiu-jitsu from Maeda and also created the Gracie diet, but I really didn't know much else about the man. Peligro brought home the personality, conviction, and intensity of this unique historical figure.
The section on Rolls was another eagerly anticipated chapter for me. Rolls has always been considered to be the best fighter of the family, bragged on by countless Gracies. But he's been this mythical, shadowy figure to most.
As Goeth wrote in Faust:
"The deed is all, the glory nothing."
Peligro succeeds in transforming the mythical character to a real, live human being. This chapter explores Rolls' youth, training, temperament, and thirst for knowledge. It shows his willingness to absorb other methods for his own personal growth as well as a view of his passion, his dedication, and his daring side.
I would like to mention, though, a recent article in Ultimate Fighter magazine where Carlson Gracie disputes some points regarding Rolls Gracie's training. He is rather unflattering (to put it mildly) about the training Rolls received from Helio.
As to the corny beginning of this review, in the early chapters, you're transported in time to the early days of the Gracie Academy. Seeing the teaching cards, the washing machine, newspaper clippings, cartoons, and the old photos of Helio and Carlos… it's almost as if you were there.
There is a real warmth and depth to Peligro's writing. You can feel the respect and admiration he has for the Gracies.
I think Royce sums it up best.
"You can't live life in fear of what might happen. You must dare to pursue your dreams and have courage to face your challenges. That is how I live my life. That is the Gracie Way!"
To order this book, simply click on this link or the picture above:
The Gracie Way: An Illustrated History of the World's Greatest Martial Arts Family