BJJ Co-Founder Helio Gracie, 95, Passes Away in Rio

Helio Gracie

(Rest in peace.)

Sad, sad news for students and fans of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. From IntheGuard.tv:

Legendary master Helio Gracie died at age of 95 years old this morning, January 01/29, at his home in the mountain region of Rio de Janeiro. In preliminary information, Master Helio had not been well for the past two days and likely passed with complications from a general infection, as we were informed by an acquaintance close to the family members. The burial of the man responsible for the creation of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is scheduled for 5:00 PM today in the Petropolis cemetery.

According to Tatame, the funeral may be postponed, as Helio’s sons Rickson, Royler, and Rorion were out of the country when he died. In addition to those three, Helio is survived by his wife Vera, his sons Relson, Rolker, Royce, and Robin, his daughters Rherica and Ricci, and an army of grandchildren, nephews, and nieces. According to GracieMag, Helio’s last words were “I created a flag from the sport’s dignity. I oversee the name of my family with affection and nerves of blood.” Wow.

Born October 1st, 1913, Helio and his older brother Carlos developed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu circa 1929-1930, refining the techniques of their judo instructor Otávio Mitsuyo Maeda so that smaller fighters would be able to overcome larger ones through leverage. In 1932, Helio began competing in challenge matches, in which the Gracies would take on fighters of all styles to prove that their jiu-jitsu was the most superior method of ending a fight. These “vale tudo” (everything allowed) contests were popularized in the U.S. decades later when Helio’s son Rorion co-founded the Ultimate Fighting Championship, selecting his brother Royce as the representative of their art. Today, knowledge of BJJ is generally thought of as a requirement for competing as a mixed martial artist. A moment of silence for one of the sport’s true godfathers…

Related: The Top Ten Gracies of All Time