Did Hélio Gracie invent Jiu Jitsu?

Hélio Gracie taught Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and enjoyed passing on his knowledge to his students, who regularly attended his BJJ classes and appreciated him as a teacher of this martial art. He was a trainer who placed great value on an intact teacher-student relationship. It was important to him to establish a connection with his students. He was aware that this was the only way he would be able to change a person’s life with the techniques he taught.

What are Hélio Gracie’s most important contributions to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

At the age of 19, Hélio Gracie was already practicing BJJ with an open mind, striving for new ideas. He described himself as a teacher and martial artist who was willing to learn new things. He also enjoyed a mixture of different types of self-defense. To improve his knowledge, he invited martial artists to his dojo. These included people who practiced Capoeira or Boxing.

His ability to perform kicks with his legs can be traced back to his training with martial artists who practiced Capoeira. He learned from them. However, the Capoeira style of that time is by no means the same as today’s Capoeira. Hélio Gracie was aware that although BJJ was complete as a martial art, certain elements were still missing. He was a fighter who was aware that the use of techniques influenced the martial art.

In Japan, a points system dominated the fights. A perfect throw resulted in full points. Hélio Gracie was not prepared to go along with this scoring system. He believed – and rightly so – that a fight could be won either by submission or knockout. This is why Hélio Gracie’s style of self-defense and BJJ was minimalist. But minimalist approaches are extremely difficult to achieve.

A good teacher feels his student

Good instructors sense the abilities of their students. They know what it takes to improve their knowledge of self-defense and Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Hélio Gracie focused on the so-called deep talk with his students. Superficiality was out of place in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Some martial arts aim to keep the number of techniques high. However, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not one of the proponents of this approach, as martial artists lose themselves in a sea of techniques. The aim is to put Bruce Lee’s adage into practice: It is better to practice a technique 10’000 times than to perform 10’000 techniques once.

The underestimated willingness for lifelong learning dominated Gracie Jiu Jitsu

Hélio Gracie was a fighter and a teacher. As the latter, he was always willing to improve his techniques and learn new ones. This was particularly true of self-defense techniques. As soon as a technique, in his opinion, did not sufficiently defend against an attack, he developed a suitable solution.

There were people who claimed that BJJ was merely a form of Judo until 1990. Neither Hélio Gracie nor his students agreed with this assertion, because Gracie Jiu Jitsu is about winning a fight for good.

The mount has generally proven itself in fights. It originates from Gracie Jiu Jitsu. No other martial art uses this position. Instead, there are holds, such as the Kesa-Aatame in Judo. In a direct comparison with the BJJ techniques used in ground fighting, this – as well as other holds – is less effective. The mount is therefore very attractive because it helps you to emerge victorious from a fight.

Over the years, however, the scoring system in BJJ has changed. The principle that once dominated Gracie Jiu Jitsu has also faded over time. What is this principle? Never turn your back on your opponent.

Hélio Gracie refused to accept techniques that undermined his version of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which is why he left the Jiu Jitsu Association. Even when a delegation from Japan traveled to Brazil to present him with his black belt, he refused to change his mind. The mission fell through.

Why are there different opinions about Gracie Jiu Jitsu?

Gracie Jiu Jitsu focuses on self-defense. Hélio Gracie developed a fighting system that includes strikes, takedowns, grappling and ground techniques. The focus is on an opponent who is characterized by physical superiority. The aim is to beat him using the right technique.

Hélio Gracie has not written any books, which is precisely why followers of different martial arts argue about BJJ. They cannot find a common denominator. The only document that Hélio Gracie left behind is the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Master Text. He was a philosopher with a profound strategy. His views were difficult to put into words and write down in a book. For this reason, no author has written a work on Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

As a result, some martial artists find it difficult to contribute to Gracie Jiu Jitsu because they have never met him in person. They cannot understand his point of view. Accordingly, they find it difficult to appreciate Gracie Jiu Jitsu because they do not understand it.

When it comes to the techniques of Gracie Jiu Jitsu, things look good for those who did not know Hélio Gracie. Because his techniques were neither invented nor created, instead he transformed them. He changed them so that physically weaker people could defeat a physically superior attacker.

Hélio Gracie’s system was not only minimalist in nature, but also specifically geared towards combat situations. The absence of rules – or rather, the minimal number of rules – created his unique strategy. This definitely differed from the Judo practiced by fighters at the time.

A person who had practiced a different martial art would probably not have survived a fight that followed the rules of Hélio Gracie. Nowadays, however, it is anything but easy to find an instructor who teaches the martial art of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. This is because the sport component dominates and has now gained the upper hand. Numerous people are eager to win medals. However, it is precisely these people who lack the time to learn techniques that focus on a knife attack or a bear hug. This is due to limited time availability.


Hélio Gracie did not invent Jiu Jitsu but continuously developed it so that it harmonizes with his strategies.