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Hélio Gracie (October 1, 1913, Belém (Brazil) – January 29, 2009) creator of Gracie jiu-jitsu was a Brazilian martial artist, considered one of the founders of the modern Brazilian jiu-jitsu along with Luiz França and Oswaldo Fadda and one of the main figures of the martial panorama of Brazil. He was the father of Rickson, Royler, Royce, Relson, Rolker, Robin and Rorion Gracie.
Hélio was one of nine brothers and sisters, including Carlos and George Gracie, martial artists who had trained under Mitsuyo Maeda and his apprentice Donato Pires in the art of judo (then called Kano jiu-jitsu). , his contact with jiu-jitsu would be at 16, after moving to live with his brothers Carlos and George. Hélio learned the art with them, and solidified his talent for him in an episode in which he replaced Carlos as a personal teacher of Mario Brandt, a Banco Brasil executive, with such success that Brandt is said to have asked Carlos to be Hélio who instructed him onwards. A year later, Hélio stepped on the ring of everything for the first time against the boxer Antonio Portugal, whom he defeated by arm wrench in a few seconds, thus initiating his career.
Seeking to test the effectiveness of his art, Helio even came to challenge Joe Louis, legendary boxing heavyweight world champion in the 1940s, but the former champion did not accept the challenge. Helio then fought throughout Brazil, in countless tournaments, competitions and fights without rules, achieving important victories that made his martial art recognized as highly effective.
In May 1955, Hélio fought against his former student Waldemar Santana, whom he had expelled from his school because of work disagreements. The Gracie was brutally defeated, but not without a fight for almost four hours in what was his last fight of the Tudo prize.
Kimura against Gracie
In July 1951, Masahiko Kimura and two of his Kodokan schoolmates, Toshio Yamaguchi (black belt sixth dan) and Yukio Kato (black belt fifth dan) were given a challenge by Hélio. He challenged them to a fight following the rules of the “Gracie Challenge”, that is, a grappling contest with no time limit and with unconsciousness or surrender as the only conditions of victory. The absence of osaekomi or ippon (system by points) made these rules put the fight against the three judokas, but they accepted the challenge.
Kato was the first to fight against Hélio, having two fights against him. The first was at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, which ended without results. The rematch would take place in Sao Paulo, in the Ibirapuera stadium, and received much more follow-up by the press, in which the Japanese threw Gracie several times, but the tatatmi was too soft and his projections could not knock out Hélio , who constantly performed ukemiwaza to avoid being damaged. Half an hour later, a tired Kato would continue trying to incapacitate Gracie, knocking him down with an osoto gari and proceeding to try to strangle him with a juji-jime; both fell from the ring and had to be repositioned inside. However, the Brazilian also applied a gi strangulation from under him, and after three or four minutes, the Japanese fell unconscious. Masahiko intervened to stop the contest, and the victory was given to Hélio, according to sources, Hélio could only have gotten his key thanks to the fall and to a bad positioning by the referee, in any case, because of this defeat the fame of the trio of judokas began to decline, and the Japanese population of Brazil spoke harshly against them, while the Brazilians celebrated and the apprentices of the Gracies walked a coffin through the city symbolizing the fall of Kato. For his part, Hélio proposed to continue with the challenge and that the next to fight was Yamaguchi, who took time to plan a fighting strategy, but his fight with Gracie would never happen, since then Kimura would ask to compete in his place. / p>
Photograph of the fight between Kimura and Gracie.
The fight was held at the Maracanã before an audience of 20,000 people, including the president of Brazil Getúlio Vargas. The expectation was such that, according to one source, Kimura had been warned by the Japanese embassy that he would not be welcome in Japan if he lost the fight.As he arrived at the stadium, Kimura was greeted with a shower of raw eggs from the Brazilians. a new mockery with a coffin, but the Japanese did not let himself be intimidated and started the fight. Hélio tried to tear him down with osoto gari and kouchi gari, but they were ineffective. Kimura, on the other hand, spectacularly projected him with o uchi gari, harai goshi, uchi mata and ippon seoi nage, but as with the fight against Kato, the canvas was too soft and again Hélio was able to avoid being knocked out, for the releases. Masahiko began to think of a strategy to finish him and took Hélio to the ground, covering him with kuzure-kami-shiho-gatame and yoko-shiho-gatame. Hélio seemed unable to breathe, but he held on for several minutes, until he tried to undo the strangulation with one arm. At that moment Kimura seized the limb and twisted it into a ude-garami. The Brazilian did not give up, so Kimura kept turning his arm until the bone broke, leaving a creaking sound in the silent stadium. As Hélio still did not surrender, Masahiko did not stop twisting his arm, fracturing it again. Then, when Kimura was about to give it one more lap, Gracie’s corner threw in the towel, and Kimura was declared the winner of the match, which had lasted 13 epic minutes. A mob of Japanese entered the ring and threw Kimura into the air in celebration, while the Gracies retreated to treat Hélio’s arm.
The result of this battle was the elevation of Kimura to Japan’s national hero and one of the most important modern martial artists. The key he used to defeat, the ude-garami, was baptized with the name of “Kimura lock” or simply “Kimura” by the Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners, in honor of the man who had defeated his maximum exponent.
This combat, however, is not without controversy. Contrary to popular belief, Kimura never claimed that if Hélio lasted more than three minutes with him he should be considered the winner of the fight, a phrase that probably was attributed to him by the Brazilian press, but he did affirm in his autobiography that he admired the will and Hélio’s courage, as well as the Gracie’s claim that Kimura had a 30kg advantage over Hélio, a posterior reference that talks about 15kg is closer to reality, while Masahiko’s biography lists the difference as only 8kg; in fact, the Brazilian was a foot taller than Masahiko. Likewise, there has been talk of choreography or some degree of cooperation on the part of Kimura to make the combat more exciting. Georges Mehdi, who witnessed the fight, states that the two contenders played poorly for the most part, and in an interview with Yoshinori Nishi in 1994 Hélio Gracie himself admitted that he had actually fallen unconscious under Kimura’s weight long before the end. of the fight, but that had been released by the Japanese to continue the battle.
According to Karl Gotch, who was a close friend of Kimura, the judoka never held the later “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu” and his practitioners in high esteem, but he did consider Hélio a remarkable martial artist.
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