“When I was a kid, I used to watch Bruce Lee
’s movies, and I liked the fight scenes. I wanted to fight just like him.”
So says Marco Ruas, one of the most successful MMA competitors in the early days of the sport.
Marco Ruas started training in the martial arts when he was a young buck of 12 growing up on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. “I studied taekwondo, boxing
and then judo
with a famous judoka
who went to the Olympics twice,” he says. “Then I trained in luta livre,
which is very famous in Brazil. It’s like jiu-jitsu,
but you never wear a gi.
You wear only shorts.”
Marco Ruas also trained in muay Thai kickboxing
when it arrived in Brazil in the mid-1970s. Additional grappling skills came from wrestling
“I took the best things from each art and created the Ruas vale tudo
style,” he says. “The best way to become a good fighter is to train in arts that give you what is good for you. That’s because there are no complete fighting arts. Thai boxing is good standing. Jujitsu and luta livre are good on the ground. I created Ruas vale tudo to give students everything they need — on the ground, standing up, wrestling — to become a complete fighter.”
Practice, Practice, Practice
If you’re thinking about following in Marco Ruas’ footsteps, hold your horses a minute: Studying a variety of arts to learn the best parts of each does not mean jumping from dojo
to dojo every three or four months.
“You should spend three or four years doing each art,” he says. That can quickly add up to decades of training and testing before you're ready to found a new self-defense system like he did.
Contrary to what his nickname “King of the Streets” may have led the public to believe about the martial artist or the martial art, Marco Ruas didn’t get in a lot of street brawls when he was a kid.
“‘King of the Streets’ is Marco’s nickname because his last name, Ruas, is very close to rua,
the Portuguese word for ‘street,’” says Pedro Rizzo, Ruas’ top student and a successful MMA fighter in his own right. “One day, people just started calling him ‘King of the Streets.’”
In Brazil, Marco Ruas was known for helping underprivileged people who want to learn the martial arts. “He let poor people train for free at his gym, which was located in the slums,” Pedro Rizzo says. “He recognized the value of getting people interested in sports.”
“Bringing people into the gym gets them off the streets,” Marco Ruas says. It’s much better than having them continue their life of delinquency or start a life of crime, he insists.
Marco Ruas now lives in Southern California, where he teaches the art he created. He’s enthusiastic about the potential of American students.
“Ruas vale tudo is a real sport that’s good for everyone," he says. "In class, you don’t have to use strength to crunch or punch your opponent. All you need is technique. American students like to compete, so that is good, too.”
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