At the age of 17, Helio Gracie (pronounced Eh’leeo) first stepped into the ring in Brazil to face a boxer named Antonio Portugal. Helio won in 30 seconds.
Helio Gracie was the first Jiu-Jitsu master in the western world to fight a Japanese Jiu-Jitsu master: Namiki in 1932. This was the first time he wore a gi during a fight. The fight ended in a draw, giving Helio his first credit as a Jiu-Jitsu master in Japan.
Another amazing performance of Helio Gracie was his brilliant fight against Kato, world Jiu-Jitsu vice-champion, at Maracana Stadium which seats 120,000 people. The fight ended in a draw and Helio asked for a rematch. The second match, held in Ibirapuera Stadium in Sao Paulo, was a very technical fight. Helio defeated Kato with a choke hold. His victory brought glory to Brazil and international recognition to Helio.
Upon defeating Kato, a challenge match was set between Helio Gracie and the world Japanese champion, Masahiko Kimura, probably the best fighter that Japan has ever produced. This historical match took place in 1951 and was held in the Maracana Stadium. At this time, Helio was 42 years old and weighed 63kg, and his opponent Kimura was 10 years younger than Helio and weighed 100kg. The 40kg lighter Helio lost after his brother Carlos threw in the towel.
Throughout his life Helio Gracie has had the opportunity to fight many great fighters including two other well known Japanese Jiu-Jitsu masters Ono and Massagoishi.
Helio Gracie holds the world record for the longest fight ever: three hours and forty minutes non-stop, with his student Valdemar Santana.
Helio Gracie also challenged boxing greats Primo Carnera and Ezzard Charles, as well as world champion Joe Louis to matches to compare styles.p They all declined.
An example of courage and determination, Helio Gracie became a national hero in Brazil. After a lifetime of Jiu-Jitsu, today at 89, he still teaches the art and has the same determination to live Jiu-Jitsu as his lifestyle. He is recognized as the creator of what is today known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
HELIO GRACIE PASSES AWAY AT 95
October 1, 1913 – January 28, 2009
SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) — Helio Gracie, one of the main creators of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that gained worldwide popularity, has died. He was 95. Gracie died Thursday morning, January 28, 2009 and was buried in the afternoon near his home in the mountain resort town of Petropolis near Rio de Janeiro, according to a short statement posted on the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy Web site. The Agencia Estado news service said he died of pneumonia. Gracie introduced a series of adaptations to traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu that emphasized leverage and position as a way to compensate for size differences among opponents. More than 40 sons and grandsons of Gracie and his brother Carlos helped popularize the mixed martial art around the world. One of Gracie’s sons, Rorion, was a founder of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a hugely popular martial-arts combat sport in the United States, where it is seen as a more exciting alternative to boxing and wrestling. Gracie is survived by his wife, Vera and their nine children, Rorion, Relson, Rickson, Rolker, Royler, Royce, Rherica, Robin and Ric. Grandmaster we will miss you!