If you are fan of the UFC you may have at some stage heard the announcer describe some fighters fighting style as “Lutra Livre”. Darren Till and José Aldo are two of the most well known fighters with a Lutra Livre background but there are many more.
It was first developed by Euclydes “Tatu” Hatem in the 1930’s. This was at a time when the Gracie’s brand of Jiu- Jitsu was still in it’s formative years . Lutra Livre has it’s roots in catch wrestling and was seen as an alternative martial art to BJJ which required the traditional unifrom (gi).
Today Lutra Livre has become a catch all term that people use to refer to different styles of nogi grappling.
Lutra Livre and BJJ rivalry
Euclydes “Tatu” Hatem combined judo submission locks with catch wrestling techniques into his own from of grappling. This grappling was similar to Japanese Shooto wrestling but also incorporated my of the joint locks in Judo. In particular Lutra Livre became famous for using many of the leglock attacks that were frowned upon in BJJ.
Over the years there were a number of famous showdowns between the two martial arts. In 1940 Hatem submitted George Gracie with a submission and in 1968 Euclides Perreria beat Carlson Gracie.
In the late 80’s a famous match took place on Pepe beach between Rickson Gracie and Hugo Duarte. Rickson reportedly won the match and subsequent rematch and the grainy footage was offered as proof of the superiority of BJJ to prospective students in the USA.
BJJ vs Lutra Livre: A rivalry of class
Lutra Livre was often seen as the poor relation of the better funded and more respectable Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. BJJ was associated with the lighter skinned and more affluent Gracie family whereas Lutra Livre was seen as a street fighting style that was typically practiced by Brazilians (many of whom were of African slave descent.)
BJJ was typically taught in schools where the fee’s for training were prohibitive to many. In comparison Lutra Livre was done in beaches and in gyms where there was no fee if any.
Decline of Lutra Livre & rise of BJJ
The advent of BJJ nogi grappling has been to the detriment of Lutra Livre. By the 90’s many of the top Lutra Livre players had began training in BJJ and the definition of what constituted Lutra Livre became diluted.
Many of the top BJJ players such as Roger Gracie, Jacare, and Marcelo Garcia proved they were just as comfortable without the gi and also showed an ability to wrestle. Tournaments such as the ADCC provided these grapplers with a platform to showcase there skills. The inclusion of leg locks and other non traditional rules was no problem for the BJJ grapplers who dominated these tournaments.
BJJ has since become a global martial art. The promotion of BJJ through the UFC and MMA has resulted in a massive growth in the sport. There are now established BJJ academies in every major city in the world and there is a very active professional grappling scene. In recent years the nogi aspect of the sport has seen massive growth with promotions such as EBI and Polaris putting on big shows showcasing the top athletes in the sport.
In comparison to BJJ, the development of Lutra Livre has stagnated and has struggled to take a foothold outside Brazil. The lack of notable stars in the martial art meant has also not helped the sport. In addition the fact that so many Lutra Livre practitioners also trained in BJJ means that the definition of Lutra Livre has been somewhat lost.
In many way’s Lutra Livre has been consumed by what is known today as modern day BJJ. Despite this there is still many Lutra Livre gyms in Brazil dedicated to the preservation of the martial art.