Donato Pires dos Reis was from Belem and was an early student at Maeda’s academy. It is not known exactly when he started his Jiu-Jitsu training, but Pires was confirmed as a student of Jacyntho Ferro (Maeda’s assistant instructor) in an article in June 1921.
It appears that Pires spent a significant amount of time in Belem during the 1920’s training Jiu-Jitsu at Maeda’s academy and boxing at Joao Scherrer’s “Escola de Pugilismo”. In addition to training and performing Jiu-Jitsu exhibitions, he also had multiple amateur boxing bouts.
Pires may have even been accomplished enough in Jiu-Jitsu to earn a certification from Maeda himself. This is something that Pires claimed several times in later interviews and it was not challenged by his peers. However, we have no official confirmation of Pires receiving a degree or rank from Maeda directly.
In 1928, Pires was awarded a two year contract to teach the state police in Minas Gerais. Shortly before starting his teaching assignment, he ran into Carlos Gracie in Rio de Janeiro. Pires asked Carlos to join him in Minas Gerais as his assistant instructor.
In 1930, Pires moved to Rio and opened a Jiu-Jitsu academy. While it was not the first Jiu-Jitsu academy in Rio (that would have been Mario Aleixo’s), it was the first Rio academy led by a legitimate student of a legitimate Japanese master. It was also the academy that would shortly become the Academia Gracie.
Pires’ Jiu-Jitsu academy opened in September 1930 at Rua Marques de Abrantes, 106 in Rio de Janeiro. The assistant instructors at the academy were Carlos and George Gracie. The exact relationship between the three is unknown, but from available articles, it appears that:
1. Pires and Carlos were both students of Jacyntho Ferro who was under Maeda.
2. Pires was considered more senior than Carlos and perhaps had been awarded a rank or certificate from Maeda.
3. Pires may have also taught Carlos for some period of time in Belem, Minas Gerais and/or Rio.
4. Pires and Carlos worked together previously in Minas Gerais from 1928 to 1930.
5. Pires taught George and would continue in a superior/subordinate relationship with him for quite some time.
The article announcing the opening of the academy appeared in the Sep 8, 1930 edition O Globo newspaper. The academy was listed as the Carioca Academy for the Cultivation of Scientific Sport (Carioca is name of a resident of Rio de Janeiro). The article went on to say:
“Donato Pires dos Reis (director) and Mrs. Carlos and George Gracie (instructors) showcased a martial art demonstration before a select audience. Jiu-jitsu is an efficient self-defense system that employs only our natural resources to protect us from criminals that threaten our society. The audience learned why muscular individuals must be more cautious in the future. Law abiding citizens will be able to protect themselves without risking their freedom due to physical inferiority. Jiu-jitsu made the Japanese small men into giant tamers. Thus, teaching jiu-jitsu is a patriotic deed and the opening of the new gym constitutes great news for our youth searching for sports in which intelligence is more important than muscular strength. Those with frail bodies may hear the call throughout Brazil.”
While the academy opened under the direction and ownership of Pires, he would shortly leave the academy he founded. It is not known why he left only three months after opening his school. Pires was a tax collector and had to travel frequently across Brazil for work. He also would teach self-defense programs to law enforcement in other states. Perhaps his travel schedule left little time to run the academy? Maybe had a falling out with the Gracie brothers?
Regardless, Carlos and George took over as head instructors at the school in December 1930 and the academy began being advertised in the newspapers as “Academia Gracie” in Oct 1932.
While Pires left his Rio school in the winter of 1930, he did not disappear entirely from the Jiu-Jitsu world. He would continue to commentate on fights and serve as a fight official in various capacities. In 1939 he would open another academy. This one in São Paulo was called the "Studio Scientifico de Defesa Pessoal". Pires’ assistant instructor as his Sao Paulo academy? George Gracie.
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Carlos Gracie, Donato Pires dos Reis and George Gracie at the opening of their academy (Rio 1930).
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