Carlos Gracie soon realized that Jiu-Jitsu was a method not simply for fighting, but for personal improvement. At nineteen, he moved to Rio de Janeiro with his family and began teaching and testing his skills. Carlos proved the efficiency of the art by beating tough opponents and establishing the Gracie name among Rio’s elite. In 1925, he inaugurated the Gracie Academy in Rio de Janeiro. Carlos Gracie was the mastermind behind the conception of what today is known as the Gracie Philosophy.
Helio, Carlos’ youngest brother, was physically frail and would constantly faint when doing any type of physical activity. The family doctor advised him to avoid any kind of exercise. Consequently, Helio would sit on the side of the mat watching Carlos teach classes. He did that for a couple of years.
One day, when he was 16 years old, a student showed up for class, but Carlos was not around and Helio said, “My brother is not here, but if you want, I can go through the techniques with you. I’ve been watching my brother for so long that I memorized all the moves.”
Helio went through the moves with the student. He was so excited and enthusiastic about pleasing the student that when Carlos arrived and apologized for being late the student said, “I’ve had a class with your brother and if you don’t mind from now on I’ll continue taking classes with him.”
From that day on Helio became an instructor and soon after he was teaching the vast majority of the classes while Carlos became more involved with the development of the Gracie Diet and guiding the fighting careers of his brothers.
In spite of his small frame and weight of only 140 pounds, Hélio became the mastermind behind the development of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, adapting the techniques of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu so that they depended entirely upon leverage, rather than strength and explosiveness. He was driven by a constant determination to find effective ways to deal with every possible aspect of a real fight.
Daring to break away from the traditional Japanese style, he began experimenting, modifying and perfecting simple techniques that would be effective regardless of stature.
That is how he developed this style of Jiu-Jitsu. Though Gracie Jiu-Jitsu descended from the ancient Japanese style, the differences are quite apparent. Many of the Japanese facets of the art, which depend on physical prowess and stiff motion, were tossed aside, leaving only pure technique.
Rolker, Royce, Rorion, Helio, Relson, Rickson, Royler
At the age of 17, Hélio Gracie stepped into the ring for the first time in Rio de Janeiro against a professional boxer named Antonio Portugal.
Hélio won this match via arm lock in approximately 30 seconds. This fight was the first of many victories that Hélio would have against opponents from around the world.
Under the tutelage of his brother Carlos, Helio went on to become a national hero in Brazil. Some of his astonishing feats include the longest fight in history: a three hours and forty-five minutes non-stop brawl with no rounds; and his fight against World Wrestling Champion Wladek Zybskus, who weighed 280 lbs.
Another amazing performance by Hélio was his brilliant fight against Kato, World Jiu-Jitsu lightweight champion. The fight ended in a draw and Hélio asked for a rematch. The second match, held at Ibirapuera Arena in São Paulo, was a very technical fight.
Hélio defeated Kato with a chokehold from the guard position. His victory brought glory to Brazil and international recognition to Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
Upon defeating Kato, a challenge match was set between Hélio and the world open weight champion, Masahiko Kimura, probably the best Judo fighter that Japan has ever produced.
This historical match took place in 1955 and was held at Maracanã Stadium, which at the time, sat 200,000 people. Hélio was 42 years old and weighed 140 lbs. while Kimura was 34 years old and weighed 195 lbs.
Masahiko Kimura boldly stated that if Helio could last more than 3 minutes, he should consider himself the winner. Helio fought Kimura for 15 minutes before being caught in an arm lock. Fearful of having his brother’s arm shattered, Carlos threw in the towel.
Tremendously impressed with Hélio’s technique, the Japanese masters invited Helio to come to Japan and teach. Respectfully, Helio declined.
Helio also challenged boxing greats Primo Carnera and Ezzard Charles, and world champion Joe Louis, to matches to compare styles. They all declined. Throughout his career, Hélio defeated fighters from several different styles in order to prove the superiority of Jiu-Jitsu as a martial art.
An example of courage and determination, Helio became a national hero in Brazil. After a lifetime of combat, he still teaches the art and has the same determination to live jiu-jitsu as his lifestyle. He is recognized world wide as the father of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the official hand-to-hand combat system of the United States Military and law enforcement agencies all around the world. Founded on easy and instinctive movements, this reality-based method was designed so that the practitioner can learn practical self defence in the shortest possible time.