The Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Timeline

Grappling University Martial Arts is proud to be affiliated with Gracie Terra Jiu Jitsu. The story of Gracie Terra is a love story. After training with the Gracie Family since a young age, Vitor Terra met and married Hanna Gracie, daughter of BJJ legend Robson Gracie and head of the largest organization of Jiu-Jitsu in Rio De Janeiro. So, who is the Gracie family and how is their history synonymous with the history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? We present you with a timeline that tracks that history up until the 21st century!

1925 Carlos Gracie establishes the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

In 1925, Carlos Gracie returned to Rio and opened the Academia Gracie de Jiu-Jitsu, after traveling, teaching classes and proving the efficiency of the art by beating opponents who were physically stronger. Carlos was a frail fifteen-year old when he began training with his father Gastao and a Japanese master by the name of Mitsuyo Maeda. His younger brother, Helio, was so small and weak that he was restricted from practicing. However, he spent most of his time observing the lessons taught by his older brothers.

1928- Helio teaches his first private lesson.

One fateful day, Carlos was late for a private lesson so Helio offered to fill in. After years of observing, he had memorized the techniques. He quickly found he was not strong enough to successfully apply the Japanese techniques against a larger opponent, so he adapted them to work using leverage, timing, and natural body movements instead of strength, speed and coordination.

1931- Helio defeats Antonio Portugal.

Anotonio Portugal was a much heavier opponent, but Helio forced him to submit in minutes. This proved that his improvements worked. So, he continued to modify the Japanese techniques until he produced a distinct style of his own, one that would enable anyone, regardless of their physical attributes, to defend themselves against a larger assailant.

1947- Helio Gracie vs. Joe Louis

Joe Louis was the world heavyweight boxing champion. In response to a Reader’s Digest article claiming that boxing was superior to jiu-jitsu, Helio publicly challenged Louis to a no-holds-barred fight, in order to prove his system’s effectiveness. The fight never took place, but the challenge put jiu-jitsu on the map and confirmed Helio’s willingess to prove its effectiveness.

1951- Helios Gracie vs. Masahiko Kimura

The best Japanese Jiu-Jitsu fighter of the day was Masahiko Kimura. This was Helio’s chance to test over 20 years of adaptations he’d made to the Japanese style on a Japanese champion. Kimura was also eighty pounds heavier than Helio and declared that if Helio lasted more than three minutes he should be declared the winner. Helio was “defeated” after thirteen minutes of grappling that only ended when his brother Carlos ended the fight to protect his brother from Kimura’s signature shoulder lock. Impressed by his technical skill, Kimura invited Helio to share his improvements with other Japanese fighters.

1955- Helios Gracie vs. Waldemar Santana

This match holds the distinction of being the longest uninterrupted no-holds barred fight in history. Despite being 16 years older, 40 pounds lighter and retired from competition, Helio accepted a challenge from former Gracie Academy student, Waldemar Santana. The fight lasted three hours and forty minutes. Carlos Gracie once again ended the fight for fear of his brother’s well-being, but more people speak about Helios’s ability to fend off the younger, stronger man’s attack for four hours than they did Santana’s victory. This led to what is considered the greatest influx of students in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy’s history.

1978 – America

Helio’s eldest son, Rorion, left Brazil for the United States in the summer of 1978. He knew that the popularization of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in the United States would open the door to worldwide exposure. With no money, he was turned away from every martial arts school in Southern California. Instead, he offered a free lesson to every person he met, taught out of his garage and built his own dedicated following.

1980- The Gracie Challenge

The Gracie Challenge was derived in response to America’s misplaced belief in the effectiveness of flashy martial arts that used high-flying kicks and brick breaking. In response, Rorion invited anyone of any size or discipline to fight him, following the example of his forebearers. Martial artists flocked to the challenge and were shocked as the gentle, yet efficient techniques of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu defeated all disciplines.

1989- The Grand Opening

Brothers Rorion, Rickson, Royce and Royler Gracie opened the first Gracie Jiu-Jitus Academy in Torrance, California.  The demand for instruction had become overwhelming as 130 students in a garage grew into the world headquarters for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

1993- The Ultimate Fighting Championship

Ask any martial artist how many discussions eventually turn to the topic of which style is superior. Rorion Gracie sought to end the debate by pitting masters against each other in a true no-holds-barred setting. In an eight-man, single elimination tournament, Royce Gracie was the smallest and most unassuming fighter in the competition. His victory shocked the world and proved the superiority of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to the world.

1994- The U.S. Army Chooses Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was selected by members of U.S. Army Special Operations units charged with finding the most effective combat system. Rorion Gracie developed an intense training course that would prepare soldiers for hand-to-hand combat in as little time possible. These techniques now serve as the foundation for the U.S. Army’s Modern Army Combatives Program and have been adopted by hundreds of military and law enforcement organizations around the world.

2008- Preserving the Concept

It is inevitable that a popular martial art become a sport. Competition is fine but not the emphasis. Emphasis on competition results in the modification of techniques without regard for the foundational principles of street applicability, energy efficiency, and natural body movements. In response, Rorion’s sons, Ryron and Rener, launched the Global Training Program to preserve the effectiveness of the art as a self-defense and to perpetuate the complete Gracie Jiu-Jitsu curriculum, in its purest form.

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