||Professor Uyenishi demonstrating traditional
Japanese Jiu-Jitsu in the early 1900’s.
Jiu-Jitsu, which means gentle art is the oldest form of
martial art. It originated in India more than 2000 years before
Christ. It was created by monks who could not use any type of weapons
to defend their lives against barbarian attacks. It spread through
China, and eventually took root and was elaborated on in Japan becoming
the first martial art style. The samurai clans in Japan adopted
Jiu-Jitsu as their own traditional style to defeat an opponent
regardless if the situation was striking, throwing or grappling.
With the passing years, they split the techniques and developed
other martial arts styles, such as judo, akido, karate, etc.
In 1914, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu champion Esai Maeda migrated
to Brazil, where he was instrumental in establishing a Japanese
immigrant community. His efforts were aided by Gastão Gracie,
a Brazilian scholar and politician of Scottish descent. As an expression
of his gratitude for Gracie’s assistance, Maeda taught the Brazilian’s
oldest son Carlos the essential secrets of the ancient martial arts
technique. Carlos taught Maeda’s techniques to his four brothers,
and in 1925 they opened the first Jiu-Jitsu academy in Brazil.
For the Gracie brothers, teaching the art was more than an occupation.
It was their passion.
One of the brothers, Helio Gracie, paid special interest to the
use of the techniques. Helio being of small frame, light in weight
(only 135 pounds), and in frail health, was 16 when he began learning
Jiu-Jitsu. Being unable to participate in classes, he would
sit and watch his older brother teach every day. One day when Carlos
was unable to make it to class, Helio was asked to instruct. Because
of his size and stature, he began to work with and adapt the basic
rules of Jiu-Jitsu. He introduced the application of leverage
to the art, making it possible for a smaller opponent to defeat
a larger one. He began experimenting, modifying and enhancing the
basic techniques to make them effective for a person regardless
of his or her stature.Thus began the development of a new and more
effective art – Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
Helio’s skills eventually enabled him to beat some of the world’s
greatest fighters. Helio’s feats include the longest fight in
recorded history – 3 hours and 45 minutes, nonstop – and the historic
match against Masahiko Kimura, who was probably the greatest fighter
Japan ever produced. Now in his 90’s, Helio Gracie still teaches
and is widely recognized as a living legend.
Helio’s quest became today’s Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, a martial
art that is continuously evolving as a result of input from practitioners
throughout the world. Much has been learned since the beginningwhen
the Gracies began developing the sport. Rickson Gracie, one of
Helio’s sons, has been the family champion for the past 20 years
and is the ultimate embodiment of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
Learn more about:
Helio Gracie’s Fighting History
Rickson Gracie’s History
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