What is Vale Tudo?

The origin and progression of various martial arts and martial arts sports events are fascinating. To that end, there are many things that you can put your focus on. And one of the biggest martial arts that incorporated many different martial arts was Vale Tudo.

Vale Tudo Meaning

The two words stand for, roughly translated, “anything goes”. This means that every fighting technique that you can think of can be used in a Vale Tudo match. To that end, this already makes a Vale Tudo fight a potentially very interesting event to watch.

Origins of Value Tudo

Vale Tudo originates back in the beginning and middle of the twentieth century in Brazil. Originally, it was much closer to a show for carnivals and traveling circuses than to a real fighting event. With time, it grew in popularity and many fighters had fought under Vale Tudo rules – which, again, meant that anything goes.

After the middle of the twentieth century, these fighting events were coming up all over the media of the times. And this was bad press. After all, there was a disturbingly increasing number of reports that said that fighters came out of Vale Tudo fights with severe injuries. Concussions, spinal injuries, eye, and vital organ injuries – all of these were likely to happen due to the fact that the Vale Tudo fights were no-holds-barred. So, Vale Tudo was forced out of the mainstream and back underground.

In the nineteen-nineties, a new organization started to gain prominence in the United States of America. This was, of course, the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Due to the fact that these Ultimate Fighting events had many similarities with Vale Tudo – it enabled the events to again resurface. But this time the “anything goes” rule was left behind in history. New rules were introduced and the purpose of these rules was to prevent catastrophic injuries from occurring to the fighters. However, this became problematic at many points. There were many times when one of the opponents in the battle used an illegal technique – either willingly or unwillingly. This called for an immediate disqualification and then there were usually endless debates about the validity of this decision.

Although sports organizations came up, they were again forced back underground again due to the dangers of the sport. Some of these organizations were the International Vale Tudo Championship and the World Vale Tudo Championship. The sports events of Vale Tudo nowadays have rulesets that prevent many of the potentially catastrophic injuries from occurring. But there are non-competitive underground events being held, too. They follow the oldest rule: “there are no rules”.

BJJ and Vale Tudo

As it stands, Vale Tudo was developed parallelly with the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  These events were getting increasingly popular in Brazil just in the time when the Gracies were honing their craft. At one point, the head of the Gracie family at the time, Carlos Gracie himself, issued a challenge in all of the mainstream newspapers of Brazil. There were many provocations in this challenge. It stated something to the tune of “If you want to get your face smashed, then come to the Gracie Academy and talk to Carlos”. This means that there would be Vale Tudo events against the representatives of the Gracie family. Carlos offered a big monetary prize for the person that would get the better of the Gracies in such a fight. At some point, Helio had to release the helm at the forefront of the Gracie family.

It wasn’t at all surprising that many martial arts practitioners took the bait. Back in the day, the Gracies weren’t as popular as they were later on. So, many people got cocky and they thought that they could snatch the Gracie challenge prize. But lo and behold – the Gracies got the better of all of their opponents for the time being. This increased and cemented their popularity as being top martial arts practitioners.

Rickson Gracie Vale Tudo Legacy

Vale Tudo’s peak in popularity was arguably during Rickson’s Gracie’s reign. There were many world-class events that got the attention of the media at the time.  This is the third son of Helio Gracie and a BJJ legend in his own right. The notorious Vale Tudo battle of Rickson was against Rei Zulu, a giant and a proficient martial artist in his own right. It’s said that he fought with and beat more than 100 men prior to his fight with Rickson. Rickson had a pretty bad start in his fight against Zulu. During the first round, Zulu managed to show his strength and prowess and actually threw young Rickson out of the ring three times.

It was visible that Rickson lost his spirit at the end of the round. He was exhausted and unsure of himself. He even considered admitting defeat. Suffice it to say that Helio didn’t approve this line of thinking. Rickson’s brother, Rolls, picked up a bucket of cold water and splashed Rickson’s face in order to shake him up. It seems that this had an effect on Rickson. Soon thereafter Rickson caught Zulu with rear naked choke and choked him out, winning the fight.

There was also a rematch between the two that happened three years later, in 1983. This time Rickson was much surer of himself entering the match. He promptly got into a dominant position and proceeded to once again choke Zulu out with the rear naked choke in front of 15,000 people. This fight was very important in reinstating the Vale Tudo fights back into prominence in Brazil. To this end, Rickson Gracie’s legacy as a champion is undisputed.

Next year, in 1984, there was another Event organized in the Maracanãzinho, In which Zulu would face against  Sérgio Batarelli. Winner of the bout would fight against Rickson Gracie for the Champion Title, but Rickson didn’t fight until 1994 for the first Vale Tudo Japan.

Vale Tudo rules

As we have mentioned before, the name of Vale Tudo itself gives the only rule “anything goes”. But we didn’t fail to mention that, with time, new rules were introduced in Vale Tudo with the goal to protect the fighters from catastrophic injuries. But still, those that introduced the rules still made sure to follow the “anything goes” rule as close as possible. Nowadays, the competitors need to wear gloves when fighting. The vital parts of the body are protected – it’s not allowed to eye gouge, hit the groin area, fish hook, or kick a lying opponent in the head. However, we must again mention the fact that there are underground  events that uphold the “anything goes” rule to the strictest standards.

Vale Tudo vs MMA

As things stand in the modern Vale Tudo sports events – there are more similarities between it and MMA than differences. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any differences whatsoever. There is a huge overlap between the training methods for Vale Tudo and MMA. There is also a big focus on strength and conditioning, too. However, some techniques that are very useful for a fight are forbidden in MMA – but they are allowed in Vale Tudo.

In fact, this is the main difference between these two modes of competition. And the further down you go on the line from competitive Vale Tudo to underground Vale Tudo events – you will see that there are bigger differences from MMA in terms of the rules. So, there are many people that consider Vale Tudo to be much closer to a true fight than the events held under MMA rules. At the same time, there are many people that scoff at the brutality of the Vale Tudo events and would much rather prefer the stricter rules of MMA.

It’s a matter of personal preference for most people – and today it’s shown that MMA is much more popular in terms of worldwide popularity. A simple look at UFC’s pay-per-view statistics would easily demonstrate this. But still, Vale Tudo does live on.

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