- Full Name: Hélio Gracie
- Birthday: October 1, 1913
Helio Gracie was a martial artist from Brazil. Along with Carlos Gracie, his brother, he developed the fighting style known as Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Also, he founded another martial art known as BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) with Oswaldo Fadda and Luiz França. One of Gracie’s most formidable opponents, Masahiko Kimura, claimed that Gracie was a sixth dan judo black belt.
Gracie was born in the Belém do Pará area of Brazil, in 1913. At sixteen years of age, he got the chance to instruct a group of jiu jitsu students. During this period, judo was often called jiu jitsu or Kano Jiu Jitsu. After this, Gracie started to develop his own jiu jitsu style. This form of fighting enabled weaker and smaller people to fend off (and sometimes beat) bigger opponents.
Throughout his fighting career, Gracie fought twenty times in professional contests. His record stands at ten wins, two losses and eight draws. He started fighting professionally in 1932, when he made boxer Antonio Portugal tap out in half a minute. Also in 1932, he faced Fred Ebert who was an American wrestler. This bout, which Gracie lost, took place over fourteen three minute rounds.
Gracie faced Wladek Zbyszko, a wrestler from Poland, in 1934. This contest took place over three ten minute rounds. Reportedly, Zbyszko used to be a world champion and he was nearly twice the size of Gracie. Nonetheless, Gracie held his own and the fight was declared a draw. Then, Gracie beat Taro Miyake, who was a judo practitioner and wrestler from Japan. Gracie’s victory was impressive, because Miyake was an experienced professional fighter.
In addition, Gracie fought numerous Japanese judo practitioners in submission matches. He drew with a Japanese fighter named Namiki in 1932, and beat a sumo wrestler named Massagoishi in the same year, via armlock submission. Helio Gracie fought Yasuichi Ono twice, after Ono defeated Gracie’s brother Jorge in a bout. Both Helio’s fights with Ono were declared draws. Gracie also had two fights with judo practitioner Yukio Kato. The initial fight was held in Maracanã stadium and declared a draw. The second fight was hosted in São Paulo, at the Ibirapuera Stadium. Gracie was victorious in this bout, via front choke submission. Gracie lost to renown judo practitioner Masahiko Kimura in 1951, in a jiu jitsu/judo submission bout hosted in Brazil.
Gracie Jiu Jitsu was introduced to the US by Gracie’s son Rorion. Rorion’s brother, Royce Gracie, was the first ever UFC champion. Royce received coaching from Helio at UFC 2 and UFC 1. Helio Gracie passed away in his sleep in 2009, in Rio de Janeiro. According to his relatives, Gracie died from natural causes. Undoubtedly, he has left a lasting legacy.