Fighter, trainer, master, director, talisman, encourager, friend. First and foremost, Luiz Alves (1956-2010) was a winner.
Against all odds, he left his hometown of Nova Russas, in the grasslands of Ceara in 1968 to become a fixture among the skyscrapers of Tokyo, the hotels of Las Vegas and the kickboxing gyms of Holland, where he first went to train in 1995. With him he took a talented young fighter named Pedro Rizzo for polish.
After arriving from Ceara, Luiz Alves started practicing judo in Rio de Janeiro, and went on to find fame in muay thai after winning titles in taekwondo. Owner of an open mind, discipline and kick respected mainly for his aim, Luiz taught class scolding his students (“You got it all wrong”), phrases he would swap for words of encouragement when he was in a fighter’s corner. Things like, “Believe! Take his head off!”
As a fighter, Alves would always believe. At a time when no one would train using pads, but shin on shin, he gained respect after knockouts like his win over the legendary Budi, a feared soccer hooligan. Alves beat Budi with a powerful kick to the abdomen, precisely where his adversary had been shot years earlier.
As a trainer, the grandmaster did not subscribe to rivalries or traditions, and in 1998 decided to teach muay thai to a Jiu-Jitsu black belt preparing for an MMA fight. The outcome? The debuting Andre Pederneiras knocked out Rumina Sato after an unforeseen kick, at Shooto Japan.
There was, however, a night when Luiz Alves could do nothing for his student. It was one of the coach from Ceara’s most enjoyable evenings. In November of 2003 in Japan, TV reporter Gloria Maria barged into the lobby of the hotel summoning everyone for breaking news to be shown on the Fantastico television program: a showdown between Wanderlei Silva and Rodrigo Minotauro, at a videogame arcade in Shinjuku. The next day, Wand would face Yoshida and Rampage, and Minotauro would fight Cro Cop.
His eyes glued to the videogame, Alves was one of those most excited. He advised Minotauro what to do, hollering throughout, but there was nothing he could do. The heavyweight was in dire straits, getting knocked out by the Chute Boxe star six times, to cackles from everyone present, especially Gloria Maria. “The Wand avatar is really strong, he only loses to Royce, who submits everyone in seconds,” said Rodrigo in resignation.
It was a sort of virtual revenge for Chute Boxe. Six years earlier in Sao Paulo, the Boxe Thai team Alves had founded in 1984 and Rudimar Fedrigo’s team had a memorable showdown. The two academies were born of the seeds left by Master Nelio Naja, one in Rio and the other in Curitiba, two teams that believed a fight, regardless of the will of those involved, would one way or another end on the ground. They differed only in their training philosophies.
“We always prized the combination of moves, while Chute Boxe would work the hands separate from the legs, etc…” said Artur Mariano, a student of Luiz’s since 10 years of age and a Jiu-Jitsu black belt, in an article in NOCAUTE magazine.
After 19 minutes of fighting, Artur Mariano overcame Wanderlei Silva by doctor’s intervention for a giant gash on the forehead, in the final of the IVC tournament.
A victim of brain hemorrhage this Friday, March 19, after a stroke suffered on January 26, Luiz Alves the winner returns to his hometown of Nova Russas for burial with his mission more than accomplished. He leaves a wife, his grown children and a legion of fans and followers.