On Thursday morning, 29 January 2009, Grand Master Helo Gracie, the iconic founder of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (otherwise known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu), died of natural causes at the age of 95 in Rio, Brazil.
Frail and prone to fainting spells in his youth, Helio modified the traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu his family had been taught by a grateful Japanese immigrant, to focus more on leverage, positioning and technique. This would allow anyone, even the weak and small, to effectively take on much bigger, stronger opponents as the fighting style did not rely on brute force. This style would become known as BJJ.
Apart from pioneering the martial art, Helio's other many achievements include taking part in the longest continuous fight in history - at 3 hours and 45 minutes.
Helio fathered 9 children, including 7 sons who all went on to become influential BJJ instructors and fighters throughout the world.
A strong believer in discipline and self-control, Helio recently commented in an interview: “I’ve already told my sons that when I die I want there to be a party. No drinking, no debauchery.”
Learn more about Helio Gracie here.