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Grand Master Helio Gracie dies at 95

Jan 29, 14:16 EST

Helio Gracie, legendary patriarch of the Gracie family and father of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, has passed away at the age of 95, according to a report by GracieMag.com.

Gracie passed in his sleep early Thursday in Itaipaiva, Rio de Janeiro, said another report on Sherdog.com, after he had been admitted to a local hospital a few days prior for stomach problems.

Gracie was recognized worldwide for his accomplishments in the sport of jiu-jitsu, as well as crossing over into other formats, while also serving as father to legends like Royce, Rickson, and Rorion Gracie, who helped found the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

A 10th degree red belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Helio was a national hero in Brazil. His family name has carried on for generations of some of the best grapplers in the entire world, with their style defining a sport.

Last October, Gracie celebrated his 95th birthday. He will be remembered throughout time as the man who helped build this generation of fighters and grapplers that compete worldwide.

Known for many matches throughout his life, Gracie took on fighters from numerous different disciplines to help promote the jiu-jitsu legacy. One fight that attracted thousands of fans and even the president of Brazil was a match pitting Helio against Japanese judoka Masahiko Kimura.

The two warriors battled it out and in the end it was Kimura who applied a shoulder and arm lock that actually broke the arm of Helio, although he refused to tap. From that point on the hold known as the “reverse ude-garami” was forever referred to as the “Kimura,” a move still used in jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts today.

In an interview with GracieMag.com, Gracie said about his death, “I’ve already told my sons that when I die I want there to be a party. No drinking, no debauchery.”

The world has one less legend today after the passing of Grandmaster Helio Gracie.

At the age of 17, Helio (pronounced Eh'leeo) first stepped into the ring in Brazil to face a boxer named Antonio Portugal. Helio won in 30 seconds.

Helio 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 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 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 has had the opportunity to fight many great fighters including two other well known Japanese Jiu-Jitsu masters Ono and Massagoishi.

Helio holds the world record for the longest fight ever: three hours and forty minutes non-stop, with his student Valdemar Santana.

Helio 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 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.

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