Hélio Gracie

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Hélio Gracie
Helio Gracie in 2004.jpg
Gracie in 2004
Born (1913-10-01)October 1, 1913
Belém do Pará, Brazil
Died January 29, 2009(2009-01-29) (aged 95)
Petrópolis, Brazil
Style Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Judo
Teacher(s) Carlos Gracie
Rank 10th degree red belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu
6th degree black belt in Judo[citation needed]
Notable students Rickson Gracie, Royler Gracie, Royce Gracie, Relson Gracie, Rorion Gracie, Carlos "Caique" Elias

Hélio Gracie (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈɛlju ˈɡɾejsi]; October 1, 1913 – January 29, 2009) was a Brazilian martial artist who, together with his brother Carlos Gracie, founded the martial art of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and with Luiz França and Oswaldo Fadda the martial art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).[1] According to Rorion Gracie, his father Helio Gracie is one of the first sports heroes in Brazilian history; he was named Man of the Year in 1997 by the American martial arts publication Black Belt magazine.[2] He was the father of Rickson Gracie, Royler Gracie, Royce Gracie, Relson Gracie, and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Co-founder Rorion Gracie, among other sons and daughters. According to one of his most notable opponents, Masahiko Kimura, Gracie held the rank of 6th dan in judo.[3][4][a]

Early life[edit]

Gracie was born on October 1, 1913, in Belém do Pará, Brazil. When he was 16 years old, he found the opportunity to teach a Kodokan Judo class (at that time judo was commonly referred to as Kano Jujutsu or simply Jujutsu),[5] and this experience led him to develop Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.[6] A director of the Bank of Brazil, Mario Brandt, arrived for a private class at the original Gracie Academy in Rio de Janeiro, as scheduled. The instructor, Carlos Gracie, was running late and was not present. Helio offered to begin the class with the man. When the tardy Carlos arrived offering his apologies, the student assured him it was no problem, and actually requested that he be allowed to continue learning with Helio Gracie instead.[citation needed] Carlos agreed to this and Helio Gracie became an instructor.

Gracie realized, however, that even though he knew the techniques theoretically, the moves were much harder to execute. Consequently, he began adapting Maeda's brand of Judo, already heavily based around newaza ground fighting techniques, for his particular physical attributes.[citation needed] From these experiments, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was created.[6] Like its parent style of Judo, these techniques allowed smaller and weaker practitioners the capability to defend themselves and even defeat much larger opponents.[7][8]

Fighting career[edit]

Gracie had 20 professional fights in his career. He had 10 wins with 8 draws and two losses. He began his fighting career when he submitted professional boxer Antonio Portugal in 30 seconds in 1932. In that same year, he fought American professional wrestler Fred Ebert for fourteen 3 minute rounds. The event was claimed to have been stopped because Brazilian law did not allow any public events to continue after 2:00 AM,[citation needed] but in an interview Gracie admitted that he was stopped by the doctor due to the high fever caused by a swelling, and he had to undergo an urgent operation the next day.[9]

In 1934, Gracie fought Polish professional wrestler Wladek Zbyszko, who was billed as a former world champion, for three 10-minute rounds.[citation needed] Even though the wrestler was almost twice Gracie's weight, he could not defeat him, and the match ended in a draw. Gracie then defeated Taro Miyake, a Japanese professional wrestler and judoka (practitioner of judo) who had an extensive professional fighting record and worked for Ed "Strangler" Lewis in the United States of America.[citation needed]

Gracie also fought several Japanese judoka under submission rules. In 1932, he fought Japanese judoka Namiki. The fight ended in a draw although Hélio was already twisting his arm when the bell rang.[10][11] He defeated the Japanese heavyweight judoka and sumo wrestler Massagoishi via armlock. Gracie had two fights with Yasuichi Ono after Ono choked out Jorge Gracie (Hélio Gracie's brother) in a match.[citation needed] Both fights ended in a draw. Gracie fought judoka Yukio Kato twice.[citation needed] The first time was at Maracanã stadium and they went to a draw. Afterwards, Kato asked for a rematch. The rematch was held at Ibirapuera Stadium in São Paulo and Gracie won[12] by front choke from the guard.[13]

In May 1955, at the YMCA in Rio de Janeiro, Gracie participated in a 3-hour 42 minute fight against his former student Valdemar Santana with Santana knocking out Gracie with a soccer kick.[14] This would be the last of Helio's matches that involved striking (i.e. Vale Tudo)

Kimura vs. Gracie[edit]

Kimura versus Gracie with his winning "Kimura lock." The headline reads: "(Moral) Victory for Helio Gracie."

Gracie issued a challenge to a highly touted Judoka named Kimura.[15] An agreement was made under what would be known as the "Gracie Rules" via the Gracie Challenge that throws and pins would NOT count towards victory only submission or loss of consciousness.[15] This played against Judo rules in which Pins and throws can award someone a victory.[16]

In 1951, famous judoka Masahiko Kimura defeated Gracie in a submission judo/jiujitsu match held in Brazil.[12] During the fight Kimura threw Gracie repeatedly with Ippon Seoinage (one arm shoulder throw), Ouchi Gari (major inner reap), Uchimata (inner thigh throw), Harai Goshi (sweeping hip throw), and Osoto Gari (major outer reap). However, Helio Gracie was able to perform ukemi, as demonstrated by his earlier match with Kimura's fellow judoka Yukio Kato, was in excellent condition, benefited from the soft mat used in competition, and showed a strong will to win and refusal to lose - he was undeterred.[17] Unable to subdue Helio through throwing alone, the fight progressed into groundwork. Kimura maintained a dominance in the fight at this point by using techniques such as kuzure-kamishiho-gatame (modified upper four corner hold), kesa-gatame (scarf hold), and sankaku-jime (triangle choke). Thirteen minutes into the bout Kimura positioned himself to apply a reverse ude-garami (arm entanglement, a shoulderlock). Gracie refused to submit.

In a 1994 interview with Yoshinori Nishi, Gracie admitted that he had been rendered unconscious very early in the bout by a choke although Kimura released the choke and continued the bout.

As a tribute to Kimura's victory, the reverse ude-garami technique he used to defeat Gracie, has since been commonly referred to as the Kimura lock, or simply the Kimura, in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and, more recently, mixed martial arts circles.

Kimura describes the event as follows:

20,000 people came to see the bout including President of Brazil. Helio was 180cm [5'11"] and 81 kg [180#]. When I entered the stadium, I found a coffin. I asked what it was. I was told, "This is for Kimura. Helio brought this in." It was so funny that I almost burst into laughter. As I approached the ring, raw eggs were thrown at me. The gong rang. Helio grabbed me in both lapels, and attacked me with O-soto-gari and Kouchi-gari. But they did not move me at all. Now it's my turn. I blew him away up in the air by O-uchi-gari, Harai-goshi, Uchimata, Ippon-seoi. At about 10 minute mark, I threw him by O-soto-gari. I intended to cause a concussion. But since the mat was so soft that it did not have much impact on him. While continuing to throw him, I was thinking of a finishing method. I threw him by O-soto-gari again. As soon as Helio fell, I pinned him by Kuzure-kami-shiho-gatame. I held still for 2 or 3 minutes, and then tried to smother him by belly. Helio shook his head trying to breathe. He could not take it any longer, and tried to push up my body extending his left arm. That moment, I grabbed his left wrist with my right hand, and twisted up his arm. I applied Udegarami. I thought he would surrender immediately. But Helio would not tap the mat. I had no choice but keep on twisting the arm. The stadium became quiet. The bone of his arm was coming close to the breaking point. Finally, the sound of bone breaking echoed throughout the stadium. Helio still did not surrender. His left arm was already powerless. Under this rule, I had no choice but twist the arm again. There was plenty of time left. I twisted the left arm again. Another bone was broken. Helio still did not tap. When I tried to twist the arm once more, a white towel was thrown in. I won by TKO. My hand was raised high. Japanese Brazilians rushed into the ring and tossed me up in the air. On the other hand, Helio let his left arm hang and looked very sad withstanding the pain.[citation needed]

Later life[edit]

Gracie's son, Rorion Gracie, was the first Gracie family member to bring Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to the United States of America. Royce Gracie, Rorion's younger brother, went on to become the first UFC champion in the organization's history; Helio coached Royce from outside the cage at UFC 1 and UFC 2.[citation needed]

Gracie died on the morning of January 29, 2009, in his sleep in Itaipava, in the city of Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro.[18] The cause of death, reported by the family, was natural causes. His last words were: "I created a flag from the sport’s dignity. I oversee the name of my family with affection, steady nerves and blood." Gracie was able to utilize the same Jiu-Jitsu techniques which he helped to develop until his death. He was 95 years old, and was teaching/training on the mat until 10 days before his death, when he became ill.

Personal life[edit]

Hélio Gracie had been married to Margarida for fifty years.[19] During their marriage, Gracie became the father of three sons (Rickson, Rorion, and Relson) with Isabel 'Belinha' Soares and four sons (Royler, Rolker, Royce, Robin), two daughters (Rerika and Ricci) with Vera.[10][11] After Margarida's death, he married Vera who was 32 years his junior.[19] Gracie was grandfather to many BJJ black belts, including Ryron, Rener, Ralek, Kron, and Rhalan.

In his late years, Gracie was quoted as saying: "I never loved any woman because love is a weakness, and I don’t have weaknesses."[20]

Career highlights[edit]

  • 1932: Submitted Antonio Portugal by armlock
  • 1932: Draw with Takashi Namiki
  • 1932: Draw with Fred Ebert
  • 1934: Draw with Wladek Zbyszko
  • 1934: Submitted Taro Miyake by choke - This is doubtful. There is no record of Taro Miyake on Brazil. There was a Miyake on the Ono Brothers Troupe, whom Helio submitted.
  • 1935: Submitted Dudu by Side kick to the spleen.
  • 1935: Draw with Yassuiti Ono
  • 1936: Draw with Takeo Yano
  • 1936: Submitted Massagoichi by armlock
  • 1936: Draw with Yassuiti Ono
  • 1937: Submitted Erwin Klausner by armlock
  • 1937: Submitted Espingarda
  • 1950: Submitted Landulfo Caribe by choke
  • 1950: Submitted Azevedo Maia by choke
  • 1951: Draw with Yukio Kato
  • 1951: Submitted Yukio Kato by choke
  • 1951: Defeated by Masahiko Kimura by Kimura lock
  • 1954: Draw with Mestre Artur Emídio
  • 1955: Defeated by Valdemar Santana by TKO (fight duration 3h 42min)
  • 1967: Submitted Valdomiro dos Santos Ferreira by choke


See also[edit]



a. ^ According to Masahiko Kimura in My Judo (1985), Gracie was ranked 6th dan when he issued a challenge to Kimura.[3] According to Robert Hill in World of Martial Arts! (2008), Kodokan records show Gracie at the rank of 3rd dan, but Hill also noted that it was not unusual for Kodokan records to show a lower rank than that actually held by non-Japanese judo practitioners.[4]


  1. ^ Ericson, E., Jr. (2009): Never Give Up: Helio Gracie Baltimore City Paper (30 December 2009). Retrieved on 6 April 2010.
  2. ^ Jeffrey, Douglas (March 1999). "Helio Gracie on Brazilian Jujutsu". Black Belt. Retrieved 25 July 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Kimura, M. (1985): My Judo (Part 2) Retrieved on 6 April 2010.
  4. ^ a b Hill, R. (2008): World of Martial Arts! Retrieved on 6 April 2010. (ISBN 978-0-5570-1663-1)
  5. ^ H Irving Hancock (2009) [1905]. The Complete Kano Jiu-Jitsu - Jiudo - The Official Jiu-Jitsu Of The Japanese Government - With Additions By Hoshino And Tsutsumi And Chapters On The Serious ... Japanese Science Of The Restoration Of Life. Katsukuma Higashi. Grizzell Press. p. ix. ISBN 1-4446-5253-2. the most modern and effective school of the art, the Kano system, which is to-day the real jiu-jitsu of Japan 
  6. ^ a b "Gracie family patriarch Helio Gracie dead at 95". NBC Sports. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  7. ^ "Helio Gracie, Promoter of Jiu-Jitsu, Dies at 95". New York Times. 2009-01-30. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  8. ^ Gracie, Helio; Thomas De Soto (2006). Gracie Jiu-Jitsu: The Master Text (1st ed.). Los Angeles: Black Belt Communications. p. 284. ISBN 978-0-9759411-1-9. 
  9. ^ "Kakutou Striking Spirit". May 1, 2002. 
  10. ^ a b "Gracie Family Tree". Gracie.com. Retrieved 2009-01-30. 
  11. ^ a b Noblat, Gustavo (2009-01-30). "Hélio Gracie cumpre sua missão". Terra Networks. Retrieved 2010-12-12.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "sherdog" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  12. ^ a b Chen, J. (c. 2003): Masahiko Kimura (1917–1993): The man who defeated Helio Gracie Retrieved on 7 April 2010.
  13. ^ "Helio x Kato". YouTube.com. 
  14. ^ Grant, T.P. (January 2, 2012). "MMA Origins: Carlson Gracie Changes Jiu-Jitsu and Vale Tudo". Vox Media, Inc. Retrieved July 2, 2012. 
  15. ^ a b T.P. Grant. "Gods of War: Masahiko Kimura". Bloody Elbow. 
  16. ^ "Gurnee Judo Club-Club All Stars". gurneejudoclub.com. 
  17. ^ Jim Chen, M.D. and Theodore Chen Masahiko Kimura The Man Who Defeated Helio Gracie Retrieved on 4/24/2012
  18. ^ "Helio Gracie Dead". Sherdog.com. Retrieved 2010-12-02. 
  19. ^ a b "Helio Gracie 2001 Playboy Interview". global-training-report.com. 
  20. ^ "Vale Tudo Relics: The Life and Times of Helio Gracie". Sherdog.com. Retrieved 2015-12-18. 
  21. ^ [1] Archived December 20, 2010 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]