Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling martial art which formed in the 1920s in Brazil through the friendship and collaboration of Japanese and Brazilian martial artists.
Mitsuyo Esai Maeda, the world famous Judo expert and prize fighter, first came to Brazil in 1914, where he would befriend local politician Gastão Gracie.
In return for Gracie’s efforts in assisting the Japanese colonies, Maeda offered to teach Gracie and his eldest son Carlos his style and philosophy of fighting.
Carlos learned from Meada, and then Carlos taught Hélio. Hélio Gracie, the smaller and weaker Gracie brother, let his weakness become his strength.
He modified the forms taught to his family by Maeda to fit his body-type. Prioritizing technique, leverage, patience, and intelligence, Hélio compensated for his size and managed to beat his older stronger brother Carlos consistently, epitomizing Mitsuyo Maeda’s philosophy.
Carlos and Hélio founded the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu academy in 1925. Hélio, as the most talented, dedicated, and disciplined of the brothers, became head of the family’s personal style, brand, and philosophy of jiu-jitsu.
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu would become a worldwide enterprise, with school seemingly everywhere. The Gracie Jiu-Jitsu system has a specific curriculum which emphasizes street self defense for beginners.
The collective fighting styles of the Gracie family, along with fellow Maeda students Luiz França and Oswaldo Fadda, are credited with the formation of the martial art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Hélio Gracie became famous throughout Brazil for his jiu-jitsu prowess. Throughout the 30s, 40s, and 50s he competed in challenge fights with Brazilian and Japanese jujitsu and judo experts.
His biggest match was in 1951 in Rio de Janeiro, against Masahiko Kimura, a 7th dan Judoka from the Kodokan. It was the first world jiu-jitsu championship match held outside of Japan. The match signified jiu-jitsu’s place in the New World, and Hélio’s victory over Kimura legitimized Brazilian-Jiu-Jitsu as a respected martial art.