The man known on the internet as Paul Harris, because no one knows how to pronounce his last name and only jiu jitsu people call him Toquinho, is one of the most feared grapplers on the planet. Usually, top-level grapplers and fighters are not scared of each other, but in the case of Toquinho, opponents know that there is a damn good chance they’ll have torn ligaments in their knees at the conclusion of the match.
To me, Palhares represents the good and the evil of a modern day warrior. The “good” comes out off the mat in the many interviews I read and watched when he is introspective, wise, humble, and respectful to the art of jiu jitsu. Here’s an example:
The “evil” of Palhares comes out in the cold ferociousness in his damage of his opponent’s feet and knees. Here’s the thing, it’s not just that his heel hooks and kneebars are always powerfully applied (and with crisp clean technique). The scary part is there appears to be something wrong with him mentally when he is doing it. It’s almost like he is a confused trance. He reminds me of Lennie from Of Mice and Men when he crushes his puppy to death by hugging it too hard. I don’t mean anything by that except that he looks insane, and that’s the scariest thing a fighter could be: insane.
I can’t quite come to terms with what I see as two sides of a great grappler. They don’t seem to be the same person, but perhaps I am too naive about the nature of fighting. Perhaps it’s more than “just” a sport, and a warrior has to be more than “just” an athlete.