Helio Gracie

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October 1, 1913 – January 29, 2009

helio_gracieHelio Gracie was regarded as the creator of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, also known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Until his death, Gracie was the only living 10th degree master of the discipline and is widely considered as one of the first sports heroes in Brazilian history; he was named Black Belt Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1997. He was the father of the world-renowned fighters Rickson Gracie, Royler Gracie, Royce Gracie, Relson Gracie and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) founder Rorion Gracie. Gracie was also a 6th dan in judo.

When he was just 16 years old, he found the opportunity to teach a Judo class(at that time Judo was commonly referred to as Kano Jiu-Jitsu or simply Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil). This experience led him to develop Brazilian/Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. A director of the Bank of Brazil, Mario Brandt arrived for a private class at the original Gracie Academy in Rio de Janeiro as scheduled. The instructor, Carlos Gracie (Helio’s older brother), was running late and was not present. Helio offered to begin the class with the man. When the tardy Carlos arrived offering his apologies, the student assured him it was no problem, and actually requested that he be allowed to continue learning with Helio Gracie instead. Carlos agreed to this and Helio Gracie became an instructor. Helio realised that even though he knew the techniques, theoretically in fact, the moves were much harder to execute. Due to his smaller size, he realised many of the judo moves required brute strength which did not suit his small stature. Consequently, he began adapting Judo for his particular physical attributes, and through trial and error learned to maximise leverage, thus minimising the force that needed to be exerted to execute a move. From these experiments, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, formally Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, was created. Using these new techniques, smaller and weaker practitioners gained the capability to defend themselves and even defeat much larger opponents.

In 1932 when he was 19 Gracie was involved in an attack on Luta-Livre teacher Manoel Rufino dos Santos. In an interview for Playboy Magazine he regretted that act with this statement:
“It was 66 years ago that I was involved in my biggest trouble. A famous fighter in Brazil [a former luta livre champion] Manoel Rufino dos Santos, said that he was going to show the world that we Gracies were nothing. It was at the Tijuca Tennis Club of Rio that I gave my answer to him. I arrived and said “I came to answer the declaration that you made.” He throw a punch and I took him to the ground, with two fractures of his head, and a broken clavicle, and blood spurting out. But it was a foolish act that I did. Today I would never repeat such a thing.”

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Huo Yuanjia

1868 - 1910

huo_yuanjiaHuo Yuanjia was born 1868 in Xiaonan Village in Jinghai County in Tianjin, and his family's primary source of income was from farming. The Huo family had a long tradition of being practitioners of traditional Wushu. Huo Yuanjia, however, was born weak and susceptible to illness (at an early age he contracted jaundice that would recur periodically for the rest of his life) so his father discouraged him from learning traditional Wushu.

Because of his physical deficiencies, Huo En Di wanted his son to pursue scholarly interests instead of learning traditional Wushu. In his later life, Huo Yuanjia became renowned for his humility and educated judgment. However pursuing scholarly interests was a great blow to his ego which was fueled from the constant bullying by younger children during his youth. His father hired a tutor from Japan, Chen Seng Ho (Chiang Ho), who in exchange for being taught his family style of martial arts Mizongyi, taught Yuanjia the values of humility and perseverance. Refusing to accept the vocation his father had chosen for him, Huo Yuanjia hid in bushes and even dug out a small hole in the wall of the training area and secretly observed his father teaching his family's style of martial arts. Each day he quietly sat and watched, and each night he went to a tree grove and practiced secretly with his tutor. This continued for about ten years.

In 1890, a martial artist by the name of Duo came from Henan Province to visit the Huo family. His manner provoked a trial of strength with the boxers of the family. After seeing a demonstration by Yuanjia's elder brother, he was goaded into a fight. Huo Yuanjia’s brother was beaten, but to the family's surprise Yuanjia himself got up and defeated his brother's opponent. His father then officially accepted him and taught his younger son all that he knew. His name started to spread and he soon began defeating neighboring practitioners in local contests. These bouts made Huo Yuanjia famous in his village and the neighboring areas.

Huo Yuanjia began working with his father as a guardian. While escorting a group of monks, they were confronted by a leader of bandits named Zhao who gave them a letter threatening the monks with an attack from his army. Unperturbed, Yuanjia met Zhao's challenge and defeated him, injuring both of the bandit’s arms in the process; his many troops dispersed. Word of this feat spread fast further adding to his growing fame.

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Karate: The Art of 'Empty-Hand' Fighting

by Hidetaka Nishiyama and Richard C. Brown
256 pages

A systematic presentation of the 'empty-hand' art of karate. An easy-to-follow manual illustrated with over 1,000 photographs, it gives step-by-step explanations and analysis of all the basic movements and techniques of karate. It features a full description of the sport, including history, organisation, training methods and basic principles and it contains pointers of competitive karate.

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Kenshiro Abbe

15/12/1915 – 1/12/1985

Kenshiro Abbe's introduction to the martial arts began with his father, Toshizo Abbe, a kendo teacher and school master. However, with the death of his father in a flood during a kendo weekend course on the 4th September 1918, he received little kendo training.

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Postive Aikido: Henry Ellis Interview

Henry Ellis interviewed by Arthur Lockyear for Fighting Arts International - Issue 93

Where and when were you born, Henry?
I was born in Yorkshire, in May 1936 in a little coal mining village called Brampton, near Rotherham. A place where you had to fight your way to and from school each day.

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