IVAN GOMES HISTORY AND HIS JIU JITSU STYLE
Full Name: Ivan Simão da Cunha
Nickname: The name “Gomes” was Ivan’s mother’s maiden name; he adopted that name as homage to his mother. Some also called Ivan Gomes “The Samurai” after his expedition through Japan.
Takeo Yano (Pioneer of Jiu Jitsu in Brazil)
Jurandir Moura Builson Osmar Jose Maria Freire
Esai Maeda (Pioneer of Jiu Jitsu in Brazil)
Donato Pires Carlos Gracie Aloisio Loanzi
Builson Osmar Nilo Veloso Jurandir Moura
Agatangelo Braga Jose María Freire
Geo Omori (Pioneer of Jiu Jitsu en Brazil)
Builson Osmar Nilo Veloso Jurandir Moura
Agatangelo Braga Jose María Freire
600 fights in Vale Tudo (86 in Japan), 570 wins and 30 draws.
Draw against Carlson Gracie (1963)*
Defeated Waldemar Santana in Vale Tudo (1972)
Defeated Euclides Pereira in Vale Tudo (1973)
*Mentioned by the late Carlson Gracie as the toughest fight of his career.
Favorite Technique: Kata-Guruma (Fireman’s carry) and heel hook
Weight Division: N/A (open weight only at the time)
Team/Association: Jiu Jitsu Tradicional Estilo Ivan Gomes
Ivan Gomes was born in the 25th of December, 1939 in Fazenda das Lajes, a ranch close to the town of Campina Grande, state of Paraíba – Brazil. Ivan Gomes’ father was a cowboy at the ranch, and it was expected of Ivan that he followed his dad’s footsteps; however, in 1954 Gomes met a martial arts coach nicknamed “Tatá” who introduced him and his two young
brothers, Jose and Jaildo, to fighting. Coach “Tatá” taught boxing in Rio de Janeiro, prior to his arrival in the Northeast of Brazil. As he coached Ivan, “Tatá” saw great potential in the young Ivan Gomes, and added weight training, boxing and a few notions of Jiu-Jitsu to the young kids training regime (BJJ Heroes, 2016).
In 1957 Osmar Mouzinho (“Builson Osmar”, former student of Takeo Yano, Esai Maeda and George Gracie - True and forgotten champion of the "famous family") becomes the first formal Jiu-Jitsu instructor of the Gomes Brothers.
Ivan started evolving fast and he intended to test his skills in fighting, this will to fight in vale-tudo (No Holds Barred) led him to coach Jose Maria Freire “Zé Maria” in 1958 (former student of Nilo Veloso and Jourandir Moura – who were themselves students of legendary George Gracie). “Zé Maria” showed up in Paraíba to promote an event, but ended up staying for a whole year. He was very technical on the ground, and taught the Gomes Brothers the Kodokan style that he had learned (Maeda and Omori Lineages).
Later in 1959, Agatangelo Braga, who was the brother in law and had also trained under Professor Builson Osmar and Master Takeo Yano, was being the first to push Ivan Gomes’ game. Braga was more of a fighter. He was a fan of vale-tudo, being from Yano’s lineage, and saw great potential in Ivan. Braga gives Ivan his black belt in 1960. During the two year period Ivan stayed with Agatangelo, it is said that he fought over 40 times, in boxing and Jiu-Jitsu.
At the time Jiu-Jitsu’s belt system was slightly different, with no blue belts in the equation the rank went from white > yellow > orange > green > purple > brown > black, and there were no stripes on the belts. Another interesting aspect of Jiu-Jitsu culture in the 1960s was the “clear distinction between amateur black belts and professional black belts. The amateurs would train the Kodokan style (strictly grappling). Professionals would be porradeiros (brawlers), would train for the vale-tudo ring. Their first experiences in NHB were fighting matches inside their own academies, against challengers from different gyms.
The ring was indeed where the Gomes brothers thrived. In 1960 Ivan and José left Agatangelo Braga and moved to Recife, capital of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco where they rejoined Zé Maria. Zé had a big gym there with over 30 black belts, and the chance to fight higher level competitors was much improved in Pernambuco (Serrano, 2016).
During the late 1950’s and early 1960’s period Ivan Gomes signed up with a famous local Vale Tudo promotion named “Ringues Torres” which was sponsored by a shirt company named “Torres” and was televised by the local TV Company (Jornal do Comércio) every Monday. Ivan remained undefeated, becoming the biggest name of the organization. Even so, he found it hard to live solely from his fighting income, leaving Coach Zé Maria in 1961 to open his own gym, where he could maximize his hard earned reputation (That was the bane of the “Ivan Gomes Style”…). Late a new TV channel emerged with a show that would elevate the status of fighting. That broadcaster started a new fight promotion named Bolsa ao Vencedor (roughly translating to “Prize Money to the Winner”), where the top vale-tudo fighters would meet for a chance to
earn cash. The fighters had to fight a few preliminary matches to make it to the main card and earn money. Each fight was 4 rounds of 2 minutes.
The young Jose Gomes (younger brother of Ivan) wasn’t a black belt at the time, contrary to most other competitors, nevertheless he marked presence in the ring and defended the name of the family fighting twenty times from 1961-1964, ending his run there with a 18-2 record.
During one of their training sessions with his brother, José got caught by a mean guillotine and was forced to tap. Ivan, who stood by, lost his temper and yelled “how can a black belt tap to that choke? This is a disgrace!” José was sad he had let his brother down, but understood what that telling off meant… Jose had just been promoted to black belt, which was Ivan’s way, no ceremonies or celebrations.
Ivan Gomes was a true martial artist and complete fighter, being known for his striking (particularly his kicking game) but mainly for his grappling ability from the top (ground and pound). His throwing ability was also owed to his training with high caliber judokas such as Hayashi Kawamura in Recife and Massaioshi Saito in Belem do Pará, with whom he perfected his Kata-Guruma throw (Fireman’s carry).
Ivan and Jose made their names fighting Northeastern states of Brazil, away from the Gracie family buzz. This is a region with a very unique Jiu-Jitsu history, one where Takeo Yano and George Gracie were the true progenitors of this grappling style.
Master Takeo Yano, who taught George Gracie, Biuson Osmar and Agatangelo Braga, did not follow just Jigoro Kano’s Kodokan doctrine (Serrano, 2016). Instead, Yano was a Japanese Navy man and an expert in hand to hand combat. He was a student of Hajime Isogai (first 10th Degree alive from Kodokan and first Judo Master in the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai, the first official martial arts organization sanctioned by the Emperor to standardize martial arts throughout Japan and promoted the martial virtues of samurai warriors); Yano did not just focus in grappling sporting environment, because the Butoku Kai leaned towards mixing techniques with other styles…
Ivan´s record of victories brought him some recognition and soon an opportunity to fight Brazil’s number 1 fighter of the time, Carlson Gracie, emerged. Ivan Gomes was a hungry 23 year old kid and immediately accepted the fight.
The fight with Carlson Gracie occurred on the 28th of December, 1963 at the Sesc pavilion in Recife; and it ended in a draw. Many years after their encounter, Carlson Gracie would describe the bout as the toughest of his career. The fight didn’t have a point system, so either someone gave up (by tap out/TKO) or there would be a draw. Those who witnessed the fight claimed Ivan dominated the Gracie throughout the fight (BJJEE, 2014).
Ivan vs. Carlson
In 1964 Ivan traveled to Rio de Janeiro to fight Juarez Ferreira. He had been promised a rematch against Carlson Gracie, but first he had to beat Ferreira. Ivan defeated Juarez in less than 1 minute of the 1st round via takedown (Kata-Guruma), but he did not get the match he wanted; Gracie. Instead Gomes was offered a partnership with the Gracie’s and becoming part
of their team (for which he had to sign a document stating he would never fight Carlson Gracie again) (Araujo & Sousa, 2011).
On the 6th of November 1965, while the 4th world judo championship was taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Master Helio Gracie launched a challenge to the Judokas. He claimed, in one of the top sporting magazines of the time, that the Jiu-Jitsu style was superior to Judo and invited any Judoka to fight the two Jiu-Jitsu champions, Carlson Gracie and Ivan Gomes. He asked for anyone to step up, including the Dutchman powerhouse Anton Geesink (Olympic and World Judo Champion), but no one accepted the challenge.
Ivan Gomes taught the Gracie’s a great deal. Carlson and Ivan opened an academy together in 1965 (the first Carlson Gracie academy), though Carlson didn’t stick around for long, Ivan taking full control of the academy. There was a feeling it was more of a payment for Ivan agreeing not to fight Carlson.
Ivan, Carlson and Helio Gracie
Ivan remained in Rio de Janeiro up until 1967, returning to the northeast then, leaving his younger brother Jaildo in charge. Jaildo later become the first coach of the famous Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti.
Ivan Gomes was one of the most dominant Jiu-Jitsu and vale-tudo (no-holds-bared) fighters of the past century, Gomes ruled Brazil’s combat scene during the 1960’s and 1970’s decades, fighting and winning against toughest legends such as Waldemar Santana (famous for fighting his former Master Helio Gracie in 1955, in a 3 hour and 40 minute match) in 1972 and Euclides Pereira (“the Blond Devil” super star of Brazilian Vale Tudo and Luta Livre) in 1973.
Ivan Gomes vs. Euclides pereira
In 1976, Ivan fought against Willem Ruska, a Judoka from the Netherlands (the only athlete to win two gold medals in Judo in one Olympics), details about the fight are sparse, but it is known that the event result was controversial. According to Grand Master Jose Gomes, the rule was that when a submission was locked; if the athlete defending the submission touched the ring ropes, the aggressor would have to let go of the submission. Jose mentioned that Ivan locked a rear naked choke on Ruska, and it had been unclear if the Dutch Grappler had touched the ropes before going out from the submission, either way in the end, Ivan’s hand was raised (Gomes, 2016). There is still much controversy surrounding this match.
Gomes was also invited by Antonio Inoki (a Japanese professional wrestling promoter and retired wrestler, bolstered by his mixed martial arts match against boxer Muhammad Ali in 1976) to fight in Japan. It is said that Ivan Gomes came to Japan after he issued a challenge to Inoki; Inoki didn’t fight and instead tried to promote a fight between another famous wrestler, German Karl Gotch (“The God of wrestling). Gotch was a very important figure at the time, and the fact that the “German suplex” is named after Gotch is a testament to his importance in the sport at the time. The fight never happened, but Inoki did invite Ivan Gomes to come and train at his academy in Japan. Gomes accepted and moved to Japan, living there for two years (1975-1977) fighting, teaching and learning sumo and wrestling. The importance of Ivan Gomes goes beyond his victories as he is also mentioned by many (including Carlson Gracie) as the first Brazilian to be knowledgeable in heel hooks.
Ivan With Antonio Inoki
When Ivan Gomes returned to Brazil it was time to hang up the grappling shorts, having maintained his undefeated record until the time of his retirement. Even though Ivan Gomes kept his academy in Campina Grande he decided to live the life of a “vaqueiro” (cowboy), staying in his farm for the most part. His new Academy in Campina Grande was opened in 1974 on Venancio Street Neiva. He formed a legion of black belts that taught the system called Ivan Gomes Jiu-Jitsu Style until the present day. In Recife, Brazil, there is the International headquarters of the Federação Pernambucana de Jiu-Jitsu Tradicional Estilo Ivan Gomes (International Traditional Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Pernambuco – Ivan Gomes Style), an Organization presided over by his brother Great Grand Master José Gomes 10th Degree Red belt and technically directed by Ivan Gomes nephew (Grand Master 9th Degree, son of Jose Gomes).
Ivan Gomes nephew and Jose Gomes
Ivan Gomes passed away on the 2nd of March, 1990 at the age of 50 due to renal failure. Gomes’ style of Jiu-Jitsu was developed for no-holds-barred and self-defense is still taught in different regions around the world by those who came from his lineage (family and students) and keep his legacy alive.
The American Traditional Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Association is a proud member and international representative of the Ivan Gomes style.
1. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as we will expand on next articles, is a direct descendant of Judo Kodokan founded by Jigoro Kano.
2. Esai Maeda (Conde Koma), was not the only Japanese to introduce Jiu Jitsu / Judo to Brazil, there are also other linage that extend to the present day.
3. A "forgotten" figure appears in the equation ... George Gracie (possibly the first great champion of the famous family and one of the great responsible for the development of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) that for various reasons, which we will expose in an special article dedicated to him, the same “Gracie family” wanted his name forgotten and is only usually named Carlos and Helio Gracie as the great pioneer Masters ....
Author: Master Gustavo Cortes (founder and president ATBJJA disciple and official representative in USA of Grand Master Jose Gomes)
Collaborator with translations and writing Professor Jim Mahan (Chairman ATBJJA and disciple of Master Gustavo Cortés)
Carlson Gracie on His Jiu-Jitsu Being Different (2014). Retrieved from http://www.bjjee.com/interview/carlson-gracie-on-his-jiu-jitsu-being-different/ Translated by Tatiana Santos
BJJ Heroes, (2016), Ivan Gomes. Retrieved from: http://www.bjjheroes.com/bjj-fighters/ivan-gomes
Ivan Gomes History [Telephone interview with Jose Gomes]. (2015, August).
Serrano, M. (2016, June). O Livro Proibido Do Jiu Jitsu Vol. 6. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=BwxlDAAAQBAJ&pg=PA426&lpg=PA426&dq=ivan%2Bgomes
Serrano, M. (2016, June)., O Livro Proibido Jiu Jitsu Vol. 2 Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=lRBSBQAAQBAJ&pg=takeo%2Byano