Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is getting an origin story film — and it’s coming to Netflix!
The streaming service has just announced that it will be making a feature about the popular and highly influential martial art called Dead or Alive. This sweeping drama promises to follow the inception and evolution of BJJ through two of its key figures: Mitsuyo Maeda and Rickson Gracie.
“The story tells an epic tale that stretches from 1800s-era Japan to present-day U.S. and Japan as it focuses on two men from vastly different worlds who developed and spread a mixed martial art that became known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,” Borys Kit from The Hollywood Reporter writes of the project.
While Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s influence on modern day fight scenes is obvious in a wide array of television and film productions, Dead or Alive will be one of the rare Hollywood films to actually tackle the martial art as a subject in of itself. It will be exciting to see what the final product of this bold and exciting undertaking will be.
Who is Mitsuyo Maeda?
Maeda was a lifelong martial artist who traveled the world honing and demonstrating his craft. Born in Japan in 1878, he trained in Sumo as a child. According to The Circle and the Octagon: Maeda’s Judo and Gracie’s Jiu- Jitsu, an essay by Thomas A. Green and Joseph R. Svinth from the anthology Martial Arts in the Modern World, it’s also possible that he took lessons in Tenshin Shinyo jujutsu during this time. In his late teens, he went to Tokyo for school and joined Kano Jigoro’s famous Judo club, the Kotokan, while he was there in an effort to continue his martial arts studies. Just five years later, Maeda had already been promoted to fourth dan, and was the champion of many Judo tournaments.
Maeda then began travelling the world, teaching, performing demonstrations, and competing in America, Belgium, Scotland, Spain, Cuba, and Mexico. Then he made his way to Central America, where his instruction would change the course of martial arts history.
When a 14-year-old Carlos Gracie saw Maeda wrestle in Brazil, he decided that he wanted to learn Judo and convinced Maeda to take him on a student. As Renzo Gracie describes it in his book, Mastering Jujitsu, Madea taught Carlos both the physical skills and philosophy of Judo. Carlos then passed these lessons onto his brothers. His youngest Hélio Gracie, went on to adapt these teachings into what we know today as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Who is Rickson Gracie?
Hélio Gracie’s third eldest son, Rickson, is a 9th degree red belt in Grace Jiu-Jitsu. He is the half-brother of pioneering UFC legend Royce Gracie and a highly successful mixed martial artist in his own right. Undefeated in both MMA and submission grappling, Rickson competed in promotions like Vale Tudo Japan, and PRIDE before retiring in the early 2000s. He was inducted into the Legends of MMA Hall of Fame in 2014. Now 60, he continues to teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
What do we know about Dead or Alive so far?
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Dead or Alive will be directed by José Padilha, the filmmaker responsible for Elite Squad and the Netflix series Narcos. It will be co-written by Peter Maguire. It will be produced by Greg Silverman
“This is a film with universal appeal with remarkable real-life characters,” Silverman said in a statement reported by the trade publication. “Rickson Gracie is one of the greatest fighters of all time and we are honored to share his story. I have been an admirer of José’s for years, and we are honored he has chosen Stampede to collaborate with on Dead or Alive, and to share it with Netflix’s global audience.”
No casting news or production dates have been announced yet. We’ll keep you updated on the latest news as it develops!