(Video courtesy of YouTube/RootsofFight)
If you were to ask 100 MMA fans to define mixed martial arts in a word, their responses would differ greatly. If you asked the same census group to define the sport in a name, nearly all would give you the same answer: Gracie.
While some would likely say that Rorian and Royce — having respectively founded the Ultimate Fighting Championship and won three of its first four tournaments in decisive fashion — were the impetus behind their answer, most would likely point to Gracie jiu-jitsu originators Helio and Carlos Gracie as the reason for their response.
Carlos and Helio were innovators, who, although they didn’t invent the art of jujitsu, or it’s “successor,” judo, they did arguably revolutionize the hybrid fighting art, making it more effective than both, especially when used by smaller combatants against larger opponents.
To the brothers, their variation of the centuries old Japanese martial art form, now known universally as “Brazilian” or “Gracie” jiu-jitsu, was not just simply efficacious in competition; it was equally as useful in self-defense and street fighting scenarios — a point they have stressed since introducing it to the masses more than 80 years ago.
Decades before Rorian and Royce made history with the UFC, their father Helio represented the Gracie name and defended its honor in scores of challenge matches designed to prove that GJJ — an offshoot of Kodokan judo, which was taught to them by Japanese immigrant and judo master Mitsuyo Maeda, was more effective than any other form of martial art.
One of our new favorite MMA clothing brands, Roots of Fight, who just happen to be fans of the site, have just released a new line of shirts from their Bloodlines collection celebrating the Gracies and their contributions to grappling and MMA, and it is awesome.
Don’t believe us? Check them out for yourselves.
Inspired by the passport received by new members at the original Gracie Academy, the soft tri-blend heather green shirt is simple, yet stylish.
The Academia Gracie T-shirt
Featuring super soft, hand-drawn prints on premium cotton vintage t-shirts and sweatshirts also inspired by the Gracie Academy members’ passport these variations features a throwback “AG” insignia and the Gracie name to celebrate the roots of the Gracie JJ Academy.
The Academia Gracie Crew Neck Sweat Shirt
…and our personal favorite, which was released today:
An off-white, premium vintage tri-blend shirt commemorating the historic 1951 bout between Helio and judo master Masahiko Kimura, the T-shirt captures the spirit of what a fight T from the epic bout would have looked like back then.
ROF has graciously furnished us with one of each of the shirts above to award to one lucky winner. We’ll get to the details in a minute.
If you aren’t able to watch the video above at work, make sure you bookmark it for later. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed. Rener Gracie does a bang-up job as always breaking down the fight between his grandfather and Kimura.
Now, we know you’re not all MMA historians like the guys from Roots of Fight and CagePotato.com are, so we’ve put together a brief Gracie primer below for those of you who are unfamiliar with the story of how Helio’s game-changing bout with Kimura came about, and what it meant for the family. For the rest of you, skip to the bottom to find out how to win the fantastic shirts from our friends at Roots of Fight.
In 1932, at the age of just 18, Helio faced a Japanese professional wrestler and judoka by the name of Takashi Namiki and fought through to a draw after three 10-minute rounds. The match proved a decent litmus test of the young Brazilian’s skill after training in the discipline with his brother since he was 14. After going undefeated for 19 years, including draws and submissions of several traditional judo players from Japan, the Japanese masters began to take the Gracie’s claims that theirs was the most effective offshoot of jujitsu seriously.
In 1950, Masahiko Kimura, Japan’s best judoka of the era traveled to Brazil to lay down the gauntlet. He told the Gracies that he wouldn’t waste his time fighting Helio as his country’s second and third best would wipe the mats with the gangly 37-year-old and that they would prove as much in a few months.
Finally, on September 6, 1951, Helio Gracie and Yukio Kato, who was considered the number two judoka in Japan at the time, squared off at Maracana stadium in front of a raucous crowd. After three back and forth rounds of furious action the match was declared a draw. Kato was more aggressive in the first round and repeatedly tried to finish the fight in the frame with spectacular throws. Helio weathered the storm and took control of the second round by taking his opponent to the canvas, where he worked for submission after submission. Dominating the third round as well, under today’s rules Gracie, who had a 14-pound weight disadvantage in the bout, would have been declared the winner, however because neither man submitted or knocked the other out, the match was called a stalemate.
Confident he would take the rematch, Kato challenged Helio to another bout one month later, under the stipulation that this time the match would take place in a ring with ropes to avoid escapes.
On Saturday, October 29, 1951 Kato and Gracie fought for the second time, at Pacaembu Gymnasium in São Paulo. after a couple of spectacular throws in the opening minutes, Kato attempted to finish the fight on the ground with a choke while passing the guard. Gracie, aware of the dangerous position he was in, managed to roll out of the hold and used his flexibility to recover his guard, where he was able to apply a front choke from his back. The choke was tighter than Kato assumed and the Japanese judoka was rendered unconscious just eight minutes into the first round of the bout. Helio had won the bout and proven that Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was legit.
In an effort to regain judo’s glory, Kimura relented and challenged Helio to a bout, which went down in front of more than 200,000 of Gracie’s compatriots on October 31, 1951 at the Maracana Stadium — a massive soccer arena.
Outweighing the Brazilian by over 75 pounds, Kimura boldly boasted to the local media that if Helio could last more than three minutes, he would be declared the winner of the bout. The huge size and strength advantage proved to be too much for Helio. Although he was able to survive through the first 10-minute round using his defensive style and skill off his back, three minutes into the second round Carlos would step in to stop the match when he felt his brother would be risking major injury by refusing to tap out to a shoulder lock. He had escaped the submission several times in the bout and felt that he would once again be able to get out of it, but never got the opportunity. The lock from that point on became known in jiu-jitsu circles as the “Kimura.”
Although he had technically lost the bout due to forfeiture, Helio had proven that he could hang with arguably the best grappler in the world at the time and had “won” according to the stipulations set out by Kimura.
After the fight, Kimura, who endorsed Helio as a fourth-degree black belt in judo, publicly praised Gracie’s unique ground fighting technique and invited him to teach in his dojo in Japan — a gesture which was nearly unheard of at the time since martial arts in the country were traditionally taught strictly by Japanese grandmasters. The bout and the subsequent seal of approval from the judo legend was the watershed moment for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and although the techniques haven’t changed a lot over the years, GJJ has continued to dominate the fight game ever since.
Now that you have the back-story, if you were one of the few who didn’t already know it, here’s what you need to do to win some amazing clothing from one of the sport’s newest and most promising clothing brands so you can rep GJJ with equal parts honor and style:
Tell us in 80 characters or less what the Gracie name means to fighting — be it jiu-jitsu, MMA or otherwise. Write about whatever strikes you, from your introduction to GJJ or the first time you saw Royce dominate at UFC 1, to the grace and honor the name evokes. It doesn’t have to be Hemingway-esque as long as the message is sincere and from the heart.
Tweet your entry to @RootsofFight @GracieBrothers and @CagePotatoMMA with the hash tag #THEGRACIENAME and follow all three accounts on Twitter. One entry per person.
Contest deadline is Friday, March 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm ET. Good luck.
If you don’t think you have the writing ferocity to win the contest, or if you simply aren’t the lucky winner, all of the shirts will be available this week for order on Roots of Fight’s website or at MMAWarehouse.com.