On the centenary of Helio Gracie, 10 of the master’s lessons to change your BJJ and your life

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Helio Gracie (1913–2009) gets taken down in a Jiu-Jitsu and self-defense exhibition. Photo: GRACIEMAG archive

1. In all he did, from buying groceries to taking a trip, Helio Gracie prioritized technique and economy of effort. All in order to benefit from maximum efficiency and to avoid hitting walls. Copy the professor and seek to sort your life out.

2. Ever the tough fighter, Gracie born October 1st, 2013, never hit any of his children, nor his nephews or nieces, as mischievous as they might have been. He educated by morals and example – never by spanking.

3. The centennial Jiu-Jitsu teacher tried to always give healthy tips to those around him. Thus he helped build a better environment and rid friends of problems. Seek to give good advice.

4. Despite being a wildly versatile fighter (Helio was even a proficient elbow-striker), he taught that every practitioner must have at least one strong move to fall back on when things go sour. In the grandmaster’s case, it’s the one you see starting at 1:30.

5. Every day upon waking up, Helio attempted to trample his vanity. Even after so many victories, so many front pages, so many illustrious pupils, the professor, who liked wearing the blue belt, would talk about his losses, his time as a weakling, and his more human side. And always with a sense of humor.

6. If Helio Gracie saw a truly challenging opponent, he’d face him head-on. Only thus was his Jiu-Jitsu tested and forced to evolve. Think about this when you’re matched up against that tough teammate.

7. This one can be found in the special article on Helio in GRACIEMAG #199. As he watched the UFC, the professor couldn’t understand it when an athlete would jump on the fence and do a very vocal celebration. “Did he think he was gonna lose?” he’d say. Savor your wins, but keep it cool and curb your enthusiasm. Success, after all, is one long road.

8. Whenever possible, do like Helio and spend some time surrounded by nature. You’ll see how your mind, body and soul will thank you.

9. Attempt to say “yes” or “no” in life, without evasion or fear.

10. Lastly, it’s like Helio said before dying in 2009, or “changing ZIP codes,” as son Rorion puts it: before coaching a student to win tournaments, first teach them to not be caught off guard at school or on the streets. What he means can be seen below.

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