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Remember Helio Gracie’s take on life and celebrate his 101st birthday

Helio and the GRACIEMAG team in 2005
Helio and the GRACIEMAG team in 2005 Photos: Gustavo Aragão and Personal Archives

Helio Gracie would be 101 years old today if he was still with us. The Grandmaster lived 95 years (96 according to his count, once he considered the time he spent in his mother’s womb) during which he influenced millions of people with the martial art he created alongside his brother Carlos Gracie Sr.

4_GB72_StampSiteIn 2005, the GRACIEMAG newsteam drove up to Helio Gracie’s property in the hills of Itaipava, in Rio de Janeiro, for an exclusive interview that was later published on GRACIEMAG #100. GM Helio was in great mood and shared his knowledge in an historic talk with our Reporters Luca Atalla, Raphael Nogueira, Rafael Werneck, Marcelo Dunlop, Rafael Quintanilha and Photographer Gustavo Aragão.

Almost ten years later, we went back to that interview and extracted 11 valuable advices the Grandmaster had given us. They are a very accurate testemony of how Helio saw life (and death) and what his legacy would be.

Alongside with the lessons, we selected 12 amazing pictures from our archives. Treasures that only GRACIEMAG has. Enjoy.

Helio in Itaipava
Helio in Itaipava

1 – Don’t be unfair and don’t fight without a reason

“One day a friend of mine came and said that a guy named Benigno was going to beat him up. To defend my friend I went up to the guy and asked if he was the one who wanted to beat up my friend, just before punching him in the face. He hit me 20 times after that and my face was real mess. In the end, I realized that I had gotten a well deserved beating. First lesson: be fair and don’t fight without a reason.”

Helio sharing his knowledge
Helio sharing his knowledge

2 – The guy who picks fights on the street does not believe in himself

When I was young, once I called out a guy on a bus, trying to pick a fight with him. He looked at me and just said: ‘Go away boy’. He treated me with such despise that I never picked a fight on the street again. The guy who picks fights on the street does not believe in himself. After you learn Jiu-Jitsu, you strengthen yourself in such a manner that you look at street brawls with the same despise that guy on the bus looked at me.”

Helio kept a scrap book about his family's accomplishments
Helio kept a scrap book about his family’s accomplishments

3 – Nature has a way to balance things

“I like to say that no one gets what they don’t deserve, be it a punishment or a gift. Did a brick fall on your head? Thank God because you owed something that was paid with the hit to your head. It’s not easy to think like that, but if you try hard you get there.”

Helio training with his grandson Ryron Gracie
Helio training with his grandson Ryron Gracie

4 – Correct yourself first before correcting others

“I always had the intention of teaching good classes, be an example, correct the defects on others, Then I started to see that I had more flaws than the people I was trying to correct. So I started to look deep into myself and correct me to correct the other.  I found out that I am the worst man that I ever met. I am a crook, a thief… Not that I have ever committed any crime, but I thought about doing it and that’s enough for me, If I think about it, I am.”

Great spirit
Great spirit

5 – Don’t fear death

“Why fear death? I need nothing, I have nothing, I want nothing. I find it silly to fear death. We should be afraid of being born. My brother Carlos Gracie Sr. used to say that man would only comeback to another life if he is not evolved. As long as you have bad thoughts, you will return to evolve. Hell is right here.”

Helio shaving Kron Gracie's head
Helio shaving Kron Gracie’s head

6  – Be active and you won’t feel alone

“Loneliness is when the person does not like himself. Loneliness is not having a mental activity. There’s no reason to be lonely. Lonelines is not having what to do, what to think about.”

Helio fighting Kato in 1951
Helio fighting Kato in 1951

7 – Express your feelings

“With old age, you get to see the difference between right and wrong. With me, there’s no middle ground, it’s yes or no. Try to do that from now on. Don’t answer any quastion with ‘maybe’, ‘I’ll see’ or ‘more or less’. You will see how hard it is.”

Cartoon by Ique
Cartoon by Ique

8 – No tough guy can resist a choke

“My favorite move always was the the “sleep”. No tough guy can resist a choke. He either goes to sleep or taps.”

One of his challenges in the 50s
One of his challenges in the 50s

9 – Correct your thoughts and your actions will be righteous

“Sometimes a guy does nothing wrong, says nothing wrong, but has a lot of ill thoughts. I’m correcting that in me. I don’t think bad anymore. Whenever a bad thought comes arround, I smack it and send it away. ”

On the corner of Royce in Japan
On the corner of Royce in Japan

10 – Never stop improving yourself

“I am 92 years old and it is hard to find a mind that works as fast as mine. I have never had so much good sense in my life.”

Helio lives on forever
Helio lives on forever

11 – Be prepared for everything

“When I started my career as a fighter, I faced a human jungle. In order to beat up animals, you have to be more of an animal than they are and that was exactly my case.”

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