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Gracie Family and Friends Bid Farewell to Professor Helio story and photos by Todd Hester

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Gracie Academy, Torrance, Ca – In a memorial service that marked the end of an era, family, friends and students of the late Helio Gracie gathered together to pay homage to the man who changed martial arts forever and whose influence and teachings will be felt around the world for ages to come.

The creator of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, the style of martial arts that spawned the creation of the Ultimate Fighting Championship by son Rorion Gracie and partner Art Davie in 1993, Helio Gracie was known worldwide for his tremendous accomplishments and contributions to the martial arts. The youngest and smallest of the famed Gracie brothers at just 145 lbs., Helio overcame a childhood illness and went on to create a series of leverage-based ground techniques that allowed smaller fighters to overcome larger men. He then used those same methods to become the fighting champion of Brazil for several decades, taking on all comers regardless of size, well into his 50s.

During the four-hour memorial, family members, students and friends of Professor Helio took their place on the podium and told stories and gave personal remembrances of him. Many of them were quite funny including Relson Gracie telling stories about the difficulties Helio had in raising him, and then grandson Rener remembering how Professor Helio always claimed to be the “best driver in Brazil” but then would terrify him with his mountain driving when going to Rio from his ranch. Rose Gracie, Kim Gracie, and Rorion and Relson’s sons also shared personal stories. The Machado brothers were also on hand and were represented by Roger and John.

“He was a person who could never stay still,” said eldest son Rorion. “Even when he was in his 90s and would come to the academy he wasn’t happy unless he was teaching classes or straightening up around the school. While we will all miss him, he will live forever in all of us through his teachings and through his spirit. Right before he passed away he was asked by one of my sons if there was anything in his life that he wished he had done, that he hadn’t. His answer was that he had done everything, met everybody, and accomplished all the goals he had ever wanted. How many people are able to say that? Before he passed away I did everything I could think of for him so I wouldn’t have any regrets once he was gone. I spent so much time with him, much more than a normal father and son relationship, that I feel like I know exactly what he would say to any questions. So if anyone has any questions for my father, feel free to ask me and I’m certain I can tell you what he would have said. Let’s not memorialize him with tears, but rather remember him with laughter and joy for the remarkable life he led and how lucky were all were to have known him. Today the entire world is part of the Gracie family in honoring him.”


Grandmaster Helio GracieGracie Family MembersFans and family in the audienceRorion, Relson and RoseThe Memorial

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