Helio Gracie-Grandfather of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu & MMA-Dead at 95
Helio Gracie--the creator of Brazilian jiu-jitsu--has died at the age of 95. Gracie was widely credited for having created a variation of traditional jiu-jitsu that evolved into modern mixed martial arts. Members of the Gracie clan went on to create Ultimate Fighting Championship, which helped spur the modern boom in mixed martial arts.
Gracie died in his sleep at a hospital in Itaipaiva, Rio de Janeiro, after he had been admitted due to a stomach ailment.
Helio Gracie learned traditional jiu-jitsu from his brother Carlos. After struggling with the ancient Japanes art because of his his small stature, Helio created new techniques that used leverage and physics to compensate for his small size. Those variations gave birth to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, also known as Gracie jiu-jitsu.
Helio competed in several legendary fights that helped draw attention to the sport. Gracie prided himself in taking on all comers--wrestlers, boxers, and martial artists--to prove the superiority of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Helio famously once challenged heavyweight champion Joe Louis to a fight.
His most famous match, however, was one of his few losses. In 1951, Gracie fought Masahiko Kimura in a furious 15-minute match. Kimura applied an arm lock that broke Gracie's arm. Helio refused to give up. The match wasn't stopped until his brother Carlos Gracie threw in the towel. To this day, the arm lock used to defeat Gracie is referred to as a Kimura.
In another memorable match, Gracie fought acolyte Valdemar Santana for nearly four hours and won after Santana quit due to exhaustion.
Helio Gracie trained his sons in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and many went on to become world class fighters. His son, Rorion Gracie, helped create the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993, in part, to demonstrate the effectiveness of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It certainly worked, at least for a while. Royce Gracie won the first two UFC tournaments in 1993 and 1994.
Although mixed martial arts and the UFC have evolved, Gracie jiu-jitsu techniques are still a huge part of the sport.
Funeral arrangements are underway. If this quote from Gracie Magazine is any indication, it should be a lively affair.
Why fear death? I don’t need anything, I don’t have anything, I don’t want anything. I think it’s silly for somebody to be scared of dying. One should be afraid of being born. I have already told my children when I die I want a party, with no alcohol, no hell raising [general laughter]. But I want a party with music, food.