Modern competitive mixed martial arts can be seen through the story of Vale Tudo. It is a story of innovation, determination, perseverance, and a loyal fan base. The whole thing is topped off with a healthy dose of controversy.
“Vale Tudo” translates to “anything goes”. It is an accurate way to describe this martial art that is not subject to any rules or forbidden. The attraction of Vale Tudo is that it incorporates just about any fighting style you can think of. Watching a Vale Tudo bout is exhilarating, and you never know what a fighter has up his sleeve. This explains why its popularity continues despite its decades-old reputation as a dangerous sport.
In the 1990s, the UFC rose to prominence in the global martial arts scene. The nature of UFC fights has propelled mixed martial arts to the fore in popular culture. Being a mixed martial art by nature, Vale Tudo rode this wave of popularity out of the shadows of the underground scene. Here is the story of Vale Tudo, from the beginning to its significance in the present.
Rules and techniques of Vale Tudo
There is no limit to what a creative fighter with a martial art that doesn’t follow the rules like Vale Tudo can do. You can wrestle your opponent on the ground, or you can use an accurate pass to perform a takedown. If you can use the Jiu-Jitsu throw to your advantage, use it. Add every method of punching, kicking, and submission to your arsenal, and you have an unlimited source of materials to craft your own fighting style by hand. With the advancement of martial arts, Vale Tudo offers some of the most practical self-defense lessons.
It’s worth noting that Vale Tudo lacks both rules and time limits. This fighting style has earned him a reputation based on real and imagined flaws. From time to time, fighters may sustain serious injuries, which can lead to predictable bad press. The lack of a time limit also increased the chances of serious injury when stubborn fighters refused to go out.
We explore how Vale Tudo’s reputation impacts her standing in the martial arts world and trace her influence on modern MMA.
The Brazilian origins of Vale Tudo
The martial arts mecca in Brazil is similar to that of Japan. It is the home of world-famous fighting styles such as Capoeira and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Vale Tudo has evolved alongside these martial arts and borrowed from them to become the truest form of mixed martial arts.
The early 20th century saw Brazilian martial artists build on fighting styles such as karate and judo. Pioneers like the Gracie family will work on wrestling. And surrender. And boxing techniques in their fights. It didn’t stop there.
Fighters from different disciplines will compete against each other to test and compare their skills. This was a natural progression for a country passionate about martial arts. It turns out that these fights will create a huge and loyal fan base. They will also attract fighters from every discipline. The fact that these battles allowed every technique at the fighters’ disposal gave rise to the term “Vale Tudo” or “anything goes”.
The mixed martial arts take off
A gym or martial arts studio for every discipline was available in the 1920s. The owners of these establishments noticed the popularity of circus fights in Vale Tudo and saw an opportunity to earn money. In the end, this was a wise financial decision. Here’s how it got started:
The Gracie brothers developed a fighting style that allows fighters with a smaller frame to stick to their own style against a larger opponent. They were excited to test their innovative techniques against martial artists from other disciplines. The brothers released “The Gracie Challenge,” a provocative ad series that asks fighters to test their skills against what we now know as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
This challenge was the birth of Vale Tudo matches and tournaments. Fighters from different martial arts disciplines will line up to match their skills against members of Gracie’s studio. The Gracie brothers offered a cash prize to any fighter who won a fight against a Gracie fighter. These fights have become very popular among martial artists and fans alike. Vale Tudo’s fights also pushed BJJ and the Gracie family into the spotlight.
Reputation, underground fights, and mainstream acceptance
You would think that the fighting style that propelled the Gracie brothers to fame would become famous in its own right. not like that.
It started with the “brand”, specifically the name and reputation of the fighting style. “Vale Tudo” comes from the circus circuit in Brazil. In the early 1900s, circus side shows in Brazil included fights where people from different martial arts disciplines matched their skills.
The name of this new fighting style has remained in the circus arena and among sports fans. It remained a niche term until a disastrous appearance on television in 1960. In front of an audience of millions, a Vale Tudo fighter struck his opponent’s arm with an arm lock.
This appearance caused great damage to the reputation of the sport, leading it to go underground. It didn’t help that many of Vale Tudo’s spells were actual street battles that resulted from competing in the real world. The ’70s and ’80s were active years in Vale Tudo underground battles, even as BJJ continued to enjoy a growing prestige.
Vale Tudo and the UFC
The early 1990s saw the emergence of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), an organization founded by Rorion Gracie when he immigrated to the United States. Fighters from every discipline and from different parts of the world have been trained to participate in the UFC.
The UFC was able to bring the spirit of Vale Tudo into the mainstream by creating what is now known as the Standard Rules of MMA.
The UFC bouts have many more safety measures than Vale Tudo, Brazilian sports organizers have noted. They added some rules to improve the safety of fighters, but the prevailing success remained elusive. Vale Tudo is still a niche sport, with solid underground tracking favoring the pure, rule-free version. The MMA circuit is the safer version that is very popular today.
There is a straight line from Vale Tudo to MMA
The DNA of MMA comes from pitting fighters of different disciplines against each other. The practice is easy to trace back to the streets, underground venues, and circus side shows of 20th century Brazil.
It’s safe to say that Vale Tudo’s jagged edges add to the magic that makes MMA bouts as exciting as they are.
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