One of the great quotes from Grandmaster Carlos Gracie, of those that the nephews and grandkids never forget, made the rounds in the 1980s. At the center of the mat or on the couch at home, the red-belt would proclaim now and then:
"The first weapon of the jiujitsu fighter, and perhaps the most powerful, is the mouth. First, to eat and have health; and, second, to speak and calm down the aggressor who has lost their temper."
Well, a recently released book may be the definitive proof that the wise master and older brother of Helio was right as rain.
The Swedish physicist and linguist Sverker Johansson, in his The Dawn of Language, endeavors to answer one of humanity's most intriguing questions. Not the question of why man speaks, but instead why chimps, with which we share 98% of our DNA, do not.
To the journalist Helio Schwartsman, who was fascinated in his review of the work, the scientist nailed it when he realized that, thanks to biological peculiarities, we humans started depending much more on our equals than other primates did. "A woman needs help to give birth, whereas the female chimp hides in the woods to do it alone," he illustrates. "That made Homo erectus develop a protolanguage, 1.8 million years ago."
From there, the need for cooperation would have been so fundamental, that the protolanguage got progressively richer and more refined, until we arrived at languages, grammar rules and even that teacher of yours with the funny accent. As Carlos Gracie already knew, ever since we lived in the jungles, there has never been a weapon so powerful—or revolutionary—as the mouth.