Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
The history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu begins in the 1890′s with Mitsuyo Maeda (aka Conde Koma), a member of the then recently founded Kodokan in Tokyo, Japan. Maeda was one of five students from the Kodokan that Judo founder Jigoro Kano sent overseas to demonstrate and spread his art. Maeda left Japan in 1904 and visited a number of countries giving “Jiu-Jitsu” demonstrations and accepting challenges from wrestlers, boxers, Savate fighters and various other martial artists before eventually arriving in Brazil on November 14, 1914.
In 1917, a young 14 year old named Carlos Gracie was amazed by a demonstration of Maeda’s techniques at the Da Paz Theatre in Balem do Para, Brazil, and decided he wanted to learn Jiu Jitsu. Maeda accepted to teach Carlos, and he learned for a few years and eventually passed his knowledge on to his brothers. A few years later, Hélio Gracie, the youngest of the brothers moved in with his older brothers who lived and taught Jiu-Jitsu in a house in Botafogo, a neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. Following doctor’s recommendations, Hélio would spend the next few years limited to only watching his brothers teach, due to health concerns and general frailty. One day when Hélio was 16 years old, a student showed up for class when Carlos was not around. Hélio, who had memorized all the techniques from watching his brothers teach, offered to start the class. When the class was over, Carlos arrived and apologized for his delay. The student asked for Hélio to continue being his instructor, and Carlos agreed. Hélio then gradually developed his own Jiu Jitsu style as an adaptation from Maeda’s Jiu Jitsu as he was unable to do many of the techniques due to his physical weaknesses.
After a few more years of training and growing stronger and healthier due to intense physical workouts and help with his diet from his brother Carlos, Hélio began to compete in numerous fights against famous boxers and wrestlers of the time. He went on win an impressive number of bouts, both official competitions and the constant challenges he faced on the street of Rio de Janeiro. At the peak of his physical health, Hélio stood at 5′ 9” tall and weighed 145 lbs, proving his martial art’s effectiveness against larger and stronger fighters. Hélio and his family continued to develop the system throughout the 20th century, often fighting vale tudo (anything goes) matches, during which they increased their art’s focus on ground fighting and refined its techniques. Grand Master Hélio Gracie died on January 29, 2009. At the time he was 95, and he still trained every day.
Rolls Gracie, Carlos’ son that was raised by Hélio, took his uncle’s style and added techniques he had learned from Judo, Sambo, and American Collegiate wrestling. He went on to record many professional matches in a large range of different competitions, and remained undefeated throughout. He died tragically at the young age of 31, but the mark he left on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can still be seen in many places, most notably in his own students who have all gone on to become famous Jiu Jitsu practitioners, as instructors and World Champions.
A few years after Rolls’ death, one of Hélio’s sons, Rickson Gracie, became the family champion. Along with his brothers, Rickson went all over the world to compete, showing his talents in many different styles of competition. Rickson still holds an undefeated record after over 400 recorded matches. After his fighting career, he started to focus on teaching his art. He moved to the United States in the early 1990′s, and in 1993 Master Scott Thompson brought Rickson to Omaha, NE, for a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu seminar. Master Thompson spent the next eight years training with Rickson, until Rickson moved back to Brazil in 2001.
A few years later, Master Thompson began training with Fabio Santos, a red & black belt (higher rank than black belt) and world Jiu Jitsu champion under Rickson Gracie. Professor Santos had trained with Rolls Gracie, and after his tragic death he started to train with Rolls’ student and Hélio’s son, Rickson Gracie. Master Thompson has been training with Fabio Santos for several years, and all of our advanced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu students have all received their promotions directly from Professor Santos.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu today is known as more than just a system of fighting. Since its inception, its parent art of Kodokan Jiu Jitsu was separated from older systems of Japanese Jiu Jitsu by an important difference that was passed on through the Gracie Family: it is not solely a martial art; it is also a method for promoting physical fitness and building character in young people, and ultimately a way of life. This is one of our fundamental philosophies at the Agoge Martial Arts Academy.