Helio Gracie Stories - Personal Contact

I am saddened at the passing of Helio. I thought we could all pay tribute to him by exchanging stories of our personal encounters with the man.

Mine happened a long time ago - gosh, maybe 14 years ago at the Torrance Academy. I stopped by to watch a class of my brothers and noticed that Helio was watching the free sparring sessions. This was back around the time of UFC2, so the word was not really out yet; nevertheless, I knew exactly who was wearing the red belt.

When I went to the changing area/rest room, a Brazilian blue belt I had been chatting with was with Helio. "Do you know who this is?" He asked me. I assured him that I did, and shook the grandmaster's hand and told him what a pleasure it is to meet him. After a brief exchange of formalities, the blue belt interpreted "Do you have any questions?"

"I sure do", I said. I told him that it seemed all my boxing training had been marginalized by the reality of grappling. Bear in mind, UFC's were being won at that time by Royce, and striking seemed totally inferior. Everyone I spoke with and read was poo-poo'ing striking... except Helio.

"Helio said to not forget your striking. It is very, very important. Build a foundation of grappling and apply your striking on that foundation. You will be way ahead of the game if you do."

I still remember that advice, because that is exactly how MMA has evolved... and the only person who recognized it back then was the old master, Helio Gracie.

Rest in peace, Helio. What an impact you've made.


 You were lucky to have meet a true legend!

I have no personal stories to tell unfortunately but my old instructor (Leonardo Xavier) once told me a short story from a Gracie seminar that Helio was at.

Basically, there was a technique being taught where one man was sitting on the mat and the other was standing above, the man above was supposed to free his sleeve from the man below and perform the move.

Well one student was having a particularly hard time at releasing himself. And he asked Master Helio, "Master, how can I release my arm when my opponent has such a strong grip as this??"

And Helio walked over and traded positions with the kid. He tugged his arm back to reveal that the man on bottom had a strong grip and it could not be easily released.

So he turns to the kid and says "Efficient movements are the key to jiu jitsu, but sometimes you just have to be a man." And Helio kicked/pushed the mans chest away with his foot as he pulled his sleeve out. Then he went quietly back to watching. If that is not classic Helio, I do not know what is...

Sure. That's all I can keenly remember. Aside from just the information provided, his gracious attitude was also such a pleasure to be around. He was intense and full of energy - just like a very knowledgeable one of us, frankly.

Also, he had that battle-tested warrior look - his hands, his face - yet in spite of that, he had an ebullient, youthful spirit. He LOVED this game. He was as interested in our conversation as I was, which was disarmingly amazing. In fact, I felt a bit guilty for taking so much of his time because, after we spoke, lots of people had amassed around us, waiting to ask their own questions.

We shook hands and I told him what an inspiration he was to me. I was solely into boxing at the time, and completely turned my game around before meeting him, reconsidering again my game after him.

ttt for more stories

I got the chance to meet him on the Gracie cruise. He demonstrated a standing guard pass on me and he was unbelievably technical. He was tight and precise, everything was perfect. It was amazing. I had no wiggle room.

He was also very happy, laughing and smiling all the time, but what impressed me more was that he was even more passionate about the art. You could feel that this was SO important to him. He was INSISTENT that EVERYONE learned it THE CORRECT WAY. He really cared about everyone there.

One guy walked on the mat and had some huge earings in both ears. Helio noticed it and said something or other to the grandsons. The young guy asked what Helio said, and he told him that he had better take them out or helio will rip them out while choking him. Helio was showing the basic collar choke. The young guy, asked Rener "is that what he really said?" Rener confirmed it! Needless to say, the guy ran off the mat and took them out! LOL.

You could see the passion in him.

I can't wait for the stories of Helio's lifelong pimpitude.

ttt... great stories, guys! JacT, that sounds exactly like the Helio I met!


No stories from me, but there are more out there so TTT

Great thread!!!

blue namer


For JeffW... and more stories.

 That is such a touching picture ^

Not much of a story really, during the first Gracie Association tournament I took a tour of the Torrance Academy, and met Rorion on his office. I was introduced to Helio also, who simply nodded.

Later during the tournament, Royce approached one of my teammates after he finished competing. He said to my teammate "my daddy said to put two more stripes on your belt."

Imagine that, how many Americans can say that they were promoted by Helio Gracie himself!

I was at the Gracie Academy a looong time ago and Ryron (a purple at the time) stuck around and was answering some questions we had about the standing guard pass. Helio was there and off to the side watching Ryron answer our questions and us trying to do what he told us. After a while of watching us screw up the same technique over and over again, Helio stood up, barked something in Portugese and headed toward the edge of the mat. He kicked off his slippers, pushed me down and stood up in my guard. Ryron immediately went from teacher to students and joined the few of us gathered on the mats and listened and interpreted as Helio gave us a mini private lesson on passing the guard. I learned what "posture" really meant when Helio stood up in my guard.

Like everyone said, the biggest thing I noticed was his passion for HIS art. I can't speak a word of Portugese, but listening to him teach I didn't need to. He made you feel what he was saying as he deomonstrated the moves. We were in his son's academy, wearing his name on our gi, and he was going to make sure we learned how to pass the guard before we left there that night.

We were in his son's academy, wearing his name on our gi, and he was going to make sure we learned how to pass the guard before we left there that night.

no shit huh...lucky bastard!

Helio is immortal...I may actually buy the helio shirt now that it is finally sinking in that I will never have the honor of meeting the legend.

these stories are awesome. The closest I have come to meeting Helio is meeting his son Royler. What a fantastic family.