Mitsuyo Maeda was a Japanese Judoka born in a farming village once called Funazawa Village. After honing his skills at the Kodokan Judo Institute, Maeda decided to embark on a journey to spread Judo. Leaving Japan in 1905, he traveled to the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Brazil.
He took on bouts against fighters from other martial arts to prove the effectiveness of Judo. Legend has it that he was undefeated over 2,000 opponents, famously fighting while wearing his Judo Kimono and standing just over 5' 4" feet tall.
In Spain, the Spanish gave him the nickname "Conde Koma."
"Conde" refers to the noble title of "count," "Koma," refers to the Japanese word "komatta" (troubled), because of the way he troubled his opponents.
Birth of Gracie Jiu Jitsu
Maeda finally settled in Brazil in 1914, helping Japanese immigrants settle. While demonstrating Judo at a circus show, he met the Gracie family. When he opened a dojo in Belem and began teaching students, one of the students was Carlos Gracie. Carlos then passed on Maeda's teachings to his brothers Osvaldo, Gastao, Jorge, and later Helio, spawning what they would call Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
Carlos Gracie Jr, the son of Carlos Gracie, said, "Maeda sensei is undoubtedly the one who planted the seed of martial arts in Brazil."
After Maeda's passing in 1941, the Gracie family continued to adapt his teachings for generations, sending their fighters to participate in No Holds Barred events across the world and spreading Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
Sacred Ground for Men Who Live To Fight
In Belem, Brazil, Mitsuyo Maeda rests besides his wife, May. Martial Artists from all over the world still come to pay their respects to "Conde Koma." It was said that his grave collapsed once in the 1980's due heavy rains but was rebuilt by volunteers.
Karate Master and father of UFC Champion Lyoto Machida, Yoshizo Machida, washed his bones and placed them back into the grave recalling, "Each bone was thick and heavy, I could almost feel the strength and vigor of that heroic fighter from abroad."