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. Helio Gracie continued to teach into his 90’s but sadly passed away a few years ago.
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.
Rickson is a 7th Degree Black Belt Open Class Champion of the Gracie Family, whose technique is considered to be the finest expression of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in the world. His innate talent and early mastery of the sport have resulted in an impeccable undefeated record in more than 400 fights, including Jiu-Jitsu tournaments, free-style wrestling, Sambo, open weight free-style competitions, and no holds barred challenge matches. Rickson is a two time Brazilian Champion in free-style wrestling, a Gold Medal Winner of Sambo, and for almost two decades he has been the middle-heavyweight and no weight division World Jiu-Jitsu Champion. Most recently, he conquered Japan’s elite fighting in a tournament, the Japan Open Vale Tudo, winning both in 1994 and 1995. At this time, Rickson was acknowledged by the Japanese for possessing the Samurai Spirit.
Rickson Gracie founded the Rickson Gracie International Jiu-Jitsu Association
in 1996 in order to provide a thorough and complete system in which Jiu-Jitsu students, for the first time, are presented with clearly defined standards of progression relating to proper Belt Ranking and Testing. Through the Association, the traditional, technical and philosophical aspects of Jiu-Jitsu can be shared with students around the world.
Rickson presently competes in invitational tournaments and teaches on Special Tours and seminars as well as at the Rickson Gracie International Jiu-Jitsu Center in West Los Angeles. Rickson’s students credit his teachings with the achievement of great self confidence, heightened awareness, stress reduction, youthful vitality, increased physical energy, balance improvement and inner peace.
A modern day legend, Rickson Gracie has gained international acclaim for his leadership in disseminating the art and philosophy of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. He espouses strong family values and a healthy lifestyle. He is the epitome of discipline, determination and sportsmanship.