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Helio Gracie - The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Grand Master

Helio Gracie - The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Grand Master

1. Helio Gracie’s Details

Helio Gracie’s Details
Name Helio Gracie
Pro MMA Record 1-0
Nickname Cacula / Caxinguelê
Date of Birth October 1, 1913
Died January 9, 2009
Nationality Brazilian
Born Belem do Para, Brazil
Height 5 ft 7 in
Weight 65 kg
Stance Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Catch Wrestling, Judo
Last Fight 1955
Weight Class N/A
Rank 10th Degree Red Belt
Career Disclosed Earnings N/A
Fought out of Gracie Academy
College/University N/A
Trainer/Coach Donato Pires Dos Reis, Chugo Sato, Orlando Americo da Silva
Team Gracie Jiu-Jitsu
Foundational style Cross Choke
Lineage N/A

2.     Helio Gracie’s Biography

“A real jiu-jitsu fighter does not go around beating people down. Our defense is made to neutralize aggression.”
(Helio Gracie)

Helio Gracie, born on October 1st, 1913, was the co-founder of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a Mixed Martial Art enthusiast for the traditional combat that emphasized grappling rather than striking as the primary technique. He was the youngest son of Gastao Gracie (third-generation Scotsman) and  was the only living 10th Degree Red Belt in BJJ.

3. Early life and Amateur Fighting

3.1. How did he start?

Early life and Amateur Fighting

In 1915, Mituyo Maeda, one of the world's greatest judo practitioners, traveled to Brazil and collaborated with a businessman, Gasto Gracie, the grandson of a Scottish immigrant, to create a martial arts academy. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was developed by Gracie's sons, who followed in Maeda's footsteps. The sport is centered on grappling, with victory achieved through complete control of an opponent and subduing them. Given the fact that controlling an opponent on the ground is far easier than controlling a standing opponent, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu emphasizes getting the opponent onto the ground and rendering them helpless with a variety of submission holds. It  distinguishes itself from many other martial arts by not relying primarily on kicks and punches.   

3.2. Financial and Health Issues

While growing up, Helio’s family experienced financial difficulties, leading his family to relocate from Belem do Pará to the metropolis of Rio de Janeiro in 1921. These upheavals in his early life had an impact on him and he began to suffer from chronic dizziness. His health became unstable due in large part to the fact that he had a psychologically unstable personality.

Helio, at the age of 14, moved in with his brothers in Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro, who were teaching  Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at home. Helio was restricted by his doctor to not train with them for a few years.

Helio’s health improved over time from the “Gracie Diet” which had raw foods, vegetables, and a combination of proper nutrition.

3.3. Professional Career

Helio Gracie first started his martial arts  at the age of 16, when he started training judo along with his brothers George and Carlos. A student came up for a class and Carlos was not present. Helio offered to lead the lesson, having mastered all the techniques from watching his brothers. Carlos arrived after the lesson had ended and apologized for his inconvenience. "Yes," the student said "It's no problem. I had a great time in Helio's lesson and, if it's okay with you, I'd like to continue learning from him." Helio was hired as an instructor after Carlos agreed.

Because he was younger and skinnier than his brothers, Hélio worked hard to perfect the techniques of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu so that he would not be at a disadvantage when competing against them, "I couldn't do what my brother Carlos did because his jiu-jitsu was based on strength and ability, and I lacked those attributes. I didn't have either of those. I made use of physics principles such as force and leverage to achieve my goals."

Gracie soon found that, although he was conceptually familiar with the methods, executing the moves was far more difficult for him. He began modifying Mitsuyo Maeda's version of judo, which was already based on "newaza" ground fighting techniques when he first started. Similar to judo, these techniques helped beginners who were smaller and weaker with the capacity to defend themselves and even overcome much larger and stronger opponents.

3.4. First Professional Fight

Helio further learned Judo under Argentinian Judo trainer Chugo Sato and Japanese martial artist Sumiyuki Kotani.

In 1931, at the age of 18, Helio began his professional fighting career. He fought his first fight against Antonio Portugal (Boxer).

At the age of 18, Helio started his professional career against Antonio Portugal, a boxer. Helio was victorious via submission in a short amount of time by holding an arm lock for 40 seconds.

4.   Historic Fights

4.1. Helio Gracie vs. Takashi Namiki

The same year in a jiu-jitsu exhibition, Helio fought his second match against Takashi Namiki. Since Namiki had  a 15 lb weight advantage over Helio Gracie, it was expected that Namiki would defeat Gracie. However, the match ended with a draw after a few rounds.

4.2. Helio Gracie vs. Fred Ebert

In November 1932, Helio Gracie faced a legendary freestyle wrestler, Fred Ebert. Fred had a weight advantage of 64 lbs with the match having  no limit. The fight was registered as a Vale Tudo match that lasted for almost two hours, which was finally stopped by the police as both of the fighters were not progressing.

4.3. Helio Gracie vs. Taro Miyaki

In 1934, Helio Gracie was up against another jiu-jitsu practitioner, Taro Miyaki. Taro Miyaki was a famous judoka and catch wrestler. At the time, he weighed 200 lbs and was 54 years old.

Gracie began the match in the guard position and remained there for the first 20 minutes before moving to mount. He then applied a gi choke, which Miyaki refused to submit to, causing the Japanese to fall unconscious and allowing Helio to claim victory.

4.4. Helio Gracie vs. Orlando Americo “Dudu” da Silva

In 1935, Gracie faced his former trainer Orlando Americo “Dudu” da Silva. Their encounter was scheduled as a Vale Tudo match with a 20-minute duration limit. The match started with both fighters throwing punches. Dudu had a weight advantage of 20 kgs that helped him take Helio down. Helio fought back against the guard, but Dud unleashed a brutal ground and pound attack, fracturing Gracie’s nose with a headbutt and causing him to bleed profusely. The wrestler expended all of his energy on the assault,  allowing Helio to gradually retaliate with quick punches from below. Gracie further executed two sidekicks, known in capoeira as a pisao, which led Dudu to verbally submit shortly after.

Helio Gracie fought for the next two years, promoting the Gracie academy along with his brothers.

4.5. Career Pullout

In 1937, Helio Gracie took a break and temporarily retired from competitions.

4.6. Helio Gracie’s Comeback

He returned in 1950 and challenged ultimate boxing champion Joe Louis to a Vale Tudo match. Louis  rejected the challenge and instead proposed a boxing match, which Helio Gracie declined.

4.7. Helio Gracie vs. Masahiko Kimura

Helio Gracie vs. Masahiko Kimura

A year after returning to the competition in 1951, Helio challenged a professional wrestler and  touring judoka, Masahiko Kimura. Kimura weighed a lot and didn't want to fight the older yet  smaller man. Helio had to fight against two of Kimura’s fellows first. He fought against Kado with the fight ending in a draw in Round 1. In Round 2, Helio choked Kado until he was unconscious within the first six minutes of the match. The next fellow, Yamaguchi, refused to fight at which point, Kimura agreed to fight against Helio.

In October 1951, at “The World Championship of Jiu-Jitsu” at Brazil’s Maracana Stadium, Helio and Kimura fought for 13 minutes. Kimura snapped Helio’s arm, but Helio refused to give up. Eventually, Helio threw the towel and Kimura won the match. Helio later said that he almost fell unconscious when Kimura executed a choke earlier.

4.8. Helio Gracie’s Red Belt

Helio Gracie’s Red Belt

In 1951, Helio Gracie finally earned his red belt or 6th dan in judo.

4.9. Gracie vs. Waldemar Santana

Gracie vs. Waldemar Santana

Helio Gracie faced Valdemar Santana, his former student who trained under Haroldo Brito and Carlos Renato. Santana was 16 years younger and 60 lb heavier than Helio Gracie. It was a jiu-jitsu gi match, the fight lasted around 3 hours and 40 minutes. Santana took over when he slammed Gracie to the ground and kicked him several times in the head. 

4.10. Helio Gracie vs. Valdomiro dos Santos Ferreira

Helio fought his last match in 1967 (according to a professional fight record) against Valdomiro dos Santos Ferreira and won via submission.

5.    Helio Gracie Family and Students

Helio Gracie is the father of seven sons, Rickson, Rorion, Relson, Royler, Roller, Royce, and Robin Gracie as well as two daughters, Reika and Ricci Gracie.

Helio Grace was the grandfather of many Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Black Belts including Rener, Ryron, Kron, Ralek, and Rhalan.

6.   Championships and Accomplishments

  • Man of the Year - Black Belt Magazine 1997

7.  Main Achievements

Helio Gracie, a modern-day champion, achieved international acclaim for his devotion to spreading the art and philosophy of Gracie Jiu-jitsu. He was the epitome of discipline, courage, inspiration, and determination to everyone who ever knew him.

8.  Main Achievements (Belts)

Helio Gracie is ranked #1 fighter Vale-Tudo for his outstanding career

9. Professional Record Breakdown

20 Matches 9 Wins 3 Losses 8 Draws
By Knockout 1 1 0
By Submission 8 2 0
By Decision 0 0 0
By Advantages 0 0 0
Draw 0 0 8

10. Professional Fight Record Breakdown

Year Event Opponent W/L/D Method Stage Weight Class
1932 N/A Antonio Portugal W Submission (Armbar) SPF N/A
1932 N/A Takashi Namiki D SPF N/A
1932 N/A Fred Ebert D SPF N/A
1934 N/A Władek Zbyszko D SPF N/A
1934 N/A Taro Miyake W Submission (Choke) SPF N/A
1935 N/A Orlando Americo "Dudu" da Silva W TKO (Side kick to the spleen) SPF N/A
1935 N/A Yassuiti Ono D SPF N/A
1936 N/A Takeo Yano D SPF N/A
1936 N/A Massage Oichi W Submission (Armbar) SPF N/A
1936 N/A Yassuiti Ono D SPF N/A
1937 N/A Erwin Klausner W Submission (Armbar) SPF N/A
1937 N/A Espingarda L Submission SPF N/A
1950 N/A Landulfo Caribe W Submission (Choke) SPF N/A
1950 N/A Azevedo Maia W Submission (Choke) SPF N/A
1951 N/A Yukio Kato D SPF N/A
1951 N/A Yukio Kato W Submission (Choke) SPF N/A
1951 N/A Masahiko Kimura L Technical Submission (Kimura lock) SPF N/A
1954 N/A Mestre Artur Emídio D SPF N/A
1955 N/A  Valdemar Santana L TKO (soccer kick) SPF N/A
1967 N/A Valdomiro dos Santos Ferreira W Submission (Choke)  SPF N/A

11. Video Links

Helio Gracie Documentary

Carlos Gracie and Helio Gracie training Jiu-Jitsu rare

Helio Gracie Teaching Ryron & Rener in 1988 (Never Before Seen Footage)

30 Minute Jiu-Jitsu Demonstration By BJJ Grandmaster Helio Gracie

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