Hélio Gracie (October 1, 1913 – January 29, 2009) was born in Belém, Brazil. A Brazilian martial artist who, together with his brother Carlos Gracie, founded the martial art of Gracie jiu-jitsu, also known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. According to Rorion Gracie, his father Hélio is one of the first sports heroes in Brazilian history; he was named Man of the Year in 1997 by the American martial arts publication Black Belt magazine. A patriarch of the Gracie family, multiple members of his family have gone on to have successful careers in mixed martial arts and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Contrary to popular belief, he was a talented athlete, and trained and competed in rowing and swimming since his childhood. He had his first contact in martial arts at 16, when he started training judo (at that time commonly referred to as "Kano Jiu-jitsu" or simply "Jiu-Jitsu"), with his brothers Carlos and George. He also learned catch wrestling under the renowned Orlando Americo "Dudú" da Silva, who taught his brothers for a time.
When he was 16 years old, he found the opportunity to teach a judo class and this experience led him to develop their family-style, "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu". A director of the Bank of Brazil, Mario Brandt, arrived for a private class at the original Gracie Academy in Rio de Janeiro as scheduled. However the instructor, Carlos Gracie, was running late and was not present, so Hélio offered Brandit to begin the class with him. When the tardy Carlos arrived offering his apologies, Brandt assured him it was no problem, and actually requested that he be allowed to continue learning with Hélio instead.
Gracie realized, however, that even though he knew the techniques theoretically, the moves were much harder to execute. Consequently, he began adapting Mitsuyo Maeda's brand of judo, already heavily based around newaza ground fighting techniques, for his smaller physique. From these experiments, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was created.
Like its parent style of judo, these techniques allowed smaller and weaker practitioners the capability to defend themselves and even defeat much larger opponents.
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