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Interview with

HELIO GRACIE
From Playboy (Brazilian Edition) February 2001
Interviewed by Dalila Magarian
Translated by Roberto Pedreira
A candid conversation with the father of modern jiu-jitsu about heavy
punches, cowardly men, punches, and sex for procreation

Introduction
In the world of martial arts there is no doubt that Brazilian Jiu-jitsu possess his
own name of Gracie. Trying to draw a genealogical tree of his family is a big
work. Counting the number of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren,
and great nephews and nieces, who have inherited the name "Gracie", it is
estimated that the enormous clan of Helio Gracie, the sole living patriarch of
the family, today with 88 years old, reaches the mark of 150 people. "I don't
know even half of them." He himself attributes to the creation of the techniques
that revolutionized jiu-jitsu and brought his family not only a lot of money, but
also success and fame too.
Helio Gracie is the father of three champions in the world of jiu-jitsu: Rickson
and Royce, who live in the United States, and Roiler [Royler] who owns an
academy in Rio de Janeiro. Other members of the family have reputations that
are less respectable. One case was registered in the Boletins de Correncia
Policial. Ryan Gracie, for example, nephew of Helio, was in prison in February
of last year [2000]. He was accused of stabbing a seller and also a jiu-jitsu
fighter Marcus Vinicius Rosa during a lambaerobica party in Rio.
He has already by accused of generalizations by groups dedicated to the
defense of homosexual rights. They consider that the Gracie family has
aggressive attitudes and preconceptions against lesbians and gays. While
condemning violence, Helio leaves no doubt about his position. "I consider that
homosexuality is an aberration of nature." These are other "great truths" that are
presented as postulates by this friendly man. He is in the habit of writing down

his main thoughts. He keeps his reflections safe in a briefcase. He records them
when some controversial theme comes on the agenda.
He provokes impetigo in proponents of political correctness. ...."A woman is
only independent if she has a cowardly man". But it can't be thought that only
minority traditional views are the target of Helio's attack, jiu-jitsu people also
receive his jabs. Helio declared without mincing words that less intelligent
students learn the techniques of jiu-jitsu better and more quickly. "Intelligent
people think too much before executing".
PLAYBOY sent Dalila Magarian to interview Gracie. Dalila was at the small
farm in Itaipava, in Rio de Janeiro state, about 100 kilometers from the capital,
where Helio has lived in retirement for the last 8 years. She relates that " I
have had three encounters with Prof. Helio. Upon arriving at the farm, which is
located about 2 kilometers from the center of the city of Itaipava, there is a sign
saying "Nosso Vale [our valley], where I was greeted, always by six Napolitan
mastim dogs. The Professor appeared next, with a wide smile and a strong open
hand. We spent three days in animated chatting always on the veranda with a
view of an enormous green pasture occupied by a few head of cattle. The total
area, about 320,000 square meters, is a personal city for him and his 56 years
old wife, Vera. She made a legitimate cold cheese food which delighted me on
the second visit.
During the interview, Professor Helio surprised me not only with his good
disposition, but also with his speed of thought, demonstrated himself to be a
man little given to changing his ideas. Various times it became evident that he
was displeased and disgusted with where jiu-jitsu is heading in Brazil. All of
the documents for legal residence in the United States are in order but still can't
leave his country to live with with his sons who are in the United States
because there is no one to buy his nice piece of land which is valued at 5
million reais. With opinions that are not always popular with respect to sex and
other small things, he demonstrates that he is not afraid to say what he thinks.
He says that "sex is only valid for making children".
***.
1
PLAYBOY: Have you beaten up a lot of people?
HELIO: I had a bad temper in my adolescence. [laugh], But I was also foolish.
At times I would challenge someone who wasn't anyone to me there. On one

occasion I was convinced that a citizen was looking at me strangely at the ball.
I approached him closely and asked if he was a fag. From that moment he
looked at me as if he saw me for the first time and I perceived that he was a
clown. Another time, I took a terrible thrashing from a guy who had 1,80
meters in height. I wasn't prepared. These two occasions taught me a lesson. I
discovered that being brave and being a thug are different. I teach this in my
classes.
2
PLAYBOY: What is the difference between the jiu-jitsu you teach and the
traditional jiu-jitsu?
HELIO: I adapted the jiu-jitsu to my characteristics. I was weak and awkward,
light [with 1,75 meters of height, and never passing more than 63 kilos (138.6
lbs.)]. I could not manage to do what my brother [Carlos] did, because his jiujitsu depended on strength and ability. I had neither the one nor the other of
those. Then I made that which is known today. I perfected the flawed technique
of my brother on behalf of weaker people, using the principles of physics, like
force and the leverage. You, for example, can not lift a car with the strength of
your two arms, but with a jack you can lift a car. That's what I did. I discovered
techniques of leverage that optimize the force. These modifications made a
form of jiu-jitsu that is superior to the jiu-jitsu that existed before that, and
today the jiu-jitsu that the entire world knows is my jiu-jitsu.
3
PLAYBOY: Then, to fight in jiu-jitsu it isn't necessary to be strong?
HELIO: No, you are right. If you understand my method of jiu-jitsu, you can
give a thrashing to any man over there [laughs]. It isn't a matter of ability or
strength, but of knowing how to use correct leverage in a technique. With one
finger, I have the capacity, even at my age, of putting a man on the floor. You
for example [he rises and puts me to be in front of him. Then he makes it that I
have two hands around his neck. Two seconds later, I fall prey to an armylock.] {laughs]. It is a kind of mouse trap. A mouse trap doesn't chase the
mouse. But when the mouse puts his claws in the cheese, the trap closes. Every
form of aggression has a defense. It is the type of aggression that defines what
is the proper type of defensive technique.
4

PLAYBOY: What are the most common types of aggression?


HELIO: There aren't ten different types of aggression. It can be a punch, a kick,
a head butt, a stick, a knife.....In jiu-jitsu there are 100 types of defense for
these aggressions. For each type of attack, there are 3 or 4 types of defense.
Even me, who never weighed more than 63 kilos, have put on the floor men
who weighed 120 kilos [264 lbs.]. And this is what my son Royce demonstrated
in his fights in the Ultimate Fight [UFC}.
5
PLAYBOY: The Ultimate Fighting is one of the inventions of the Gracie
Family?
HELIO: Absolutely. The Ultimate Fight was invented by my son Rorion.
Everyone in the world who practices a martial art says that it is his and is the
best. So to know what is really the most effective, my son decided to create the
Ultimate. My other son, Royce, defeated all challengers. He is the undefeated
champion [this interview was published February 2001].This impressed the
Americans so that today everyone in the world knows our jiu-jitsu, even the
Japanese, who invented fighting [laughs]. My family still has a strong tradition
of jiu-jitsu.
6
PLAYBOY: By the way, what is the origin of the Gracie Family?
HELIO: My great grandfather, James Gracie, was Scottish. He had a
misunderstanding with the government there and moved to Brazil. .His son, my
grandfather Pedro, was a banker in Rio de Janeiro and had 18 children,
including my father. Almost all of them were diplomats. My father Gasto,
spoke five languages was going to begin a job as a diplomat in Central
America, but before he left for Belm do Par, he fell in love with my mother,
Cesalina and so he stayed where he was [and established himself as an importer
of dynamite]. They had five sons [Carlos, Oswaldo, Gasto Jr., Jorge, and
HELIO] and three daughters [Mary, Helena, and Ilka]. After the death of my
grandfather they left Belm and came to Rio.
7
PLAYBOY: Diplomacy and passion, it seems something from the movies. But
where did jiu-jitsu enter the scene?

HELIO: My brother Carlos [died in 1995 at age of 94 years], learned fighting


with a Japanese teacher in Belem named Mitsuyo Maeda, also known as Conde
Koma, a former champion of jiu-jitsu [and a commercial attach from his
country to Brazil]. He was a friend of my father and knew of his concerns about
his older sons' involvements in street fighting. Maeda taught techniques to
Carlos and began giving lessons to his friend at the Bank of Brazil. He finished
doing this as a profession.
8
PLAYBOY: You were also a student of Maeda?
HELIO: No I was the youngest brother. I wasn't old enough yet. I also didn't
take lessons from Carlos even though I considered him my second father. I was
a student at the Colegio Diocesano of Rio, and suffered from dizziness and
fainting. So that no one would know about that I managed to convince my
mother to take me out of school. It was the third year of primary school.. For
close to 14 years I passed the entire day overhearing my brother giving lessons
to others. After one and a half years, I seemed like a parrot and could repeat
everything that he had explained to his students.. One day Carlos was absent
from the academia and I taught the classes in his place. Then I resolved to
adapt jiu-jitsu in my own way.
9
PLAYBOY]: Another part of the Gracie Family attributes the success of jiujitsu to your brother Carlos. Were the two lines of fighting different?
HELIO: Lines can not be drawn. It is liking comparing an airplane of SantosDumont to a supersonic of today. Who today would want to fly in an airplane
of Santos-Dumont? Or who would want to ride in a Ford made in 1930? What I
mean is that I didn't invent jiu-jitsu. But I took a piece of junk like a SantosDumont airplane. You're not going to fly from here to that corner in that. There
is no jiu-jitsu that invented; I just improved it..

10
PLAYBOY: How came about your debut in the ring?

HELIO: I was 17 years old a fought with a Brazilian boxing champion, Antnio
Portugal. I beat him in 30 seconds. The boxer threw a punch, I blocked, took
him to the ground, mounted, and applied an army-lock.
11
PLAYBOY: What other fights do you have to your credit?
HELIO: One of them was against a Japanese, I. Ono, from an academy in So
Paulo. I was 37 at that time. The challenge was for 20 minute rounds. When
the first round was finished, I couldn't see anything, I practically was fainted.
My brother gave me ammonia to smell. In the 2nd and 3rd rounds, I
recuperated. The Japanese ending up in a bad position and I kept him there.
But he was lucky because the gong sounded and I let him go. He spent the rest
of the rounds running away from me in the ring. There was no winner and no
time regulation but the fight made me famous.
12
PLAYBOY: You fought with the Japanese champion Yukio Kato in 1951 in a
fight that is still popular. How was that?
HELIO: A Japanese newspaper [Asahi Shimbun] sponsored three Japanese
champions to come to Brazil. One of them was Kato, who challenged me. The
first fight happened at Maracan and didn't have a winner after three rounds.
The next time it was in Pacaeembu [in S o Paulo] and I won in the second
round. After him came Masahiko Kimura who weighed 98 kilos [215.6 lbs.]
and was undefeated in 50 years. The President of the Republic Eurico Gaspar
Dutra watched the fight. Kimura said that if he didn't beat me within 3 minutes,
the title would be mine. I fought him for 15 minutes.
13
PLAYBOY] And took the title?
HELIO: I didn't win because my brother [Carlos] threw in the towel for me
when he saw that I had fallen victim to an army-lock. Kimura tried to leave the
ring. A judge asked me and I confirmed, because I knew my brother had thrown
in the towel and it would have been dishonest to deny it. But I didn't consider
that [Kimura] had really beaten me [no me considerei verdadeiramente
vencido].

14
PLAYBOY: If you fought with the boxer Acelino da Silva o Pop, would it be
an easy fight?
HELIO: Pop is a colossus and I admire and respect him. But for a good jiujitsu fighter there aren't any adversaries practicing other fighting styles. He
[Pop] would fall in 2 minutes. In a fight against jiu-jitsu, it is robbery. He
would be finished quickly, because I, withstanding his punches, would have my
hour. The resources of jiu-jitsu are many.
15
PLAYBOY: Have you been hurt in a fight.?
HELIO: Never. In compensation, I fell down off the roof of my house while
making some repairs and broke 4 ribs. [laughs]. And I fractured my leg when I
had a bicycle accident. [laugh]. My first official fight in Rio was in 1934 when
I was 20 years old. It was a vale tudo with punches and kicks. My adversary
weighed 100 kilos [220 lbs.]. But I won [laughs].
16
PLAYBOY: What is the difference between jiu-jitsu and vale tudo?
HELIO: Jiu-jitsu has rules with regard to weight, belts, and time limits. A vale
tudo is a brawl, where you can do what you want. But it's apples and oranges.
Jiu-jitsu is personal efficiency to protest the weaker, which anyone can do. It is
the force of leverage against brute force.
17
PLAYBOY: And in a street fight, you were never hurt?
HELIO: No [laugh]. One day my brother Carlos was at the window of the
academy and threw a piece of bread at a seller of chickens. It was a prank, but
he got annoyed and Carlos sent me down to deal with the guy. I applied a
choke and he stayed on the sidewalk unconscious. When he regained
consciousness he didn't remember anything that had happened. When a person
faints due to insufficient blood to the brain a collateral effect is a type of
amnesia. The person remains out of it for a while [fica um tempo meio bobo].

18
PLAYBOY: Do you have any more memories about street fights?
HELIO: I didn't have many because I was a fighter in the ring, not a street
fighter. But one other time a taxi driver blocked my way in the street by the
entrance to the door. . Or maybe I blocked his way. Anyway, the discussion was
finished.. We got out of the cars and I left him sleeping on the sidewalk, with a
strangle technique. I got in my car and left.
19
PLAYBOY] You had only little fights like this?
HELIO: I had one other in Petropolis [the highland region of Rio de Janeiro]. I
was driving (or directing) a servio de operrios in a building (construction
site?) and a truck driver got out of the cab of his vehicle wanting to fight after
some abuse and insolence. I also put him to sleep.
20
PLAYBOY: You never had fear of killing someone with a choke?
HELIO: No. I know the exact point where to stop. Before dying the subject will
faint. He will die only if you keep the pressure on his throat after than point.
Chokes are my specialty. For this I was famous in Japan. Due to my weak
physical constitution I had to nail my opponent quickly. When your throat is
grabbed no one is brave. Everyone sleeps very fast [laughs].
21
PLAYBOY: When is it valid to use jiu-jitsu techniques?
HELIO: It is when after trying to have a civilized conversation, the other
person starts to get aggressive. You don't have to strike the first blow. If you
know it doesn't happen, you have another chance to avoid a confrontation.
Now, if he's already become violent, you don't have a choice. It is self-defense
so you will be supported by the law.
22
PLAYBOY: Was this what led to your being placed under arrest?

HELIO: 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 Tenis Clube 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.
23
PLAYBOY: And what happened?
HELIO: Criminal proceedings were started and I was sentenced to 2 and a half
years in detention. An appeal was made to the Supreme Court [Supremo
Tribunal]. My lawyer was Romero Neto. The sentence was upheld, and the
court said "today it was with Manoel Rufino dos Santos. Tomorrow it will be
us".
24
PLAYBOY: How long did you stay in jail?
HELIO: I never was in jail. Two hours after the supreme court confirmed my
sentence, Getlio [the President of Brazil [Getlio Vargas] pardoned me. One
of our students, Rosalina Coelho Lisboa, whose brother was an ambassador,
was very close to Getlio and intervened, saying that it was unjust for such a
youngster to be going to jail because of a street fight. He was a good person
and pardoned me. The Supreme Court was demoralized [laughs]. After that I
met Getlio several times. And I taught his son, Maneco.
25
Playboy: Your great nephew Ryan has also had problems with the law, when he
beat up a man and stabbed someone in a Rio nightclub in February of last year,
isn't that right?
HELIO: Considering everything it is lamentable. No one is ignorant of the fact
that currently the Gracie family is divided into two parts. The first arises from
Carlos Gracie, my brother, a man of great qualities, bravery, tolerance, and
unshakeable morality. His only mistake was to have 21 children with five
different women, producing an enormous clan of more than 150 people, today

without a leader who can counsel, control, and orient. I don't understand that. In
a family with many people, there are people of every type. The second part of
the family is my part. with nine children, who ended up sending Brazilian jiujitsu to the world. Now, to sell more copies (of magazines and newspapers),
anything that happens to anyone with a famous last name gains distinction in
the media. The editors are not concerned with whether or not they are going to
be implicating innocent people who happen to have the same last name.
26
PLAYBOY: That isn't the question. The case was news because it really was
news. Ryan was accused of attempted murder and was arrested and put in jail.
HELIO: My children have never been mixed up in activities outside the law.
More than that, I don't know how to respond.
27
PLAYBOY: Are you the type that doesn't make abuse in the house?
HELIO: I'm the type of person who "doesn't let even a shrimp through the net".
If someone says something that I disagree with, or that I don't like or that isn't
true, I call them on it.
[Prof. Helio use the expression "no deixe passar camaro pela malha" which
means to pay the attention to even the small things.]
28
PLAYBOY: Give an example.
HELIO: My wife, has several times that I don't remember more. Someone said
something about me that was in error, I request proof. Today you have so many
people talking bullshit about the Gracie family without knowing anything that
it is difficult to correct all lies.
29
PLAYBOY: Going to a more agreeable subject, is jiu-jitsu favorable to sex?
HELIO: I can say that I've never had sex with a woman without the purpose of
reproduction. I also taught that to my sons and various grand-sons. Never were
fags When I was younger I could have had a big succession of women, I was

considered a national celebrity, and all young girls were interested in me. I
would give them a little kiss, a hug, go around with them but I wouldn't go too
far. I always had will power.. When they wanted to get more heavy, I would
quickly ask them if they wanted to have my children, because for me that was
all I wanted were children. That stopped them right away [laughs].
30
PLAYBOY: Where do you get the force of will to resist?
HELIO: It came from my convictions and my respect for nature. I dominated
the impulse for pleasure by a question of morality. I learned this from my
brother Carlos, who was a spiritualist.
31
PLAYBOY: Do you think sex is bad?
HELIO: I have nothing but approval for sex and love between two people who
want to do it.. But sex for the sake of sex is an unnecessary expenditure of
energy. The worst things is to have sex without fulfilling nature's purpose. In
other words, sex is the instrument of procreation. I had a sister who was a nun
[Mary, 85 years old] who lived in the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, in So
Paulo. That infuriated me. I would have preferred that she had been a bum. To
complete her mission on earth as a women. What does it serve to be a virgin? A
women with breasts, ovaries, who was born normally, should have children.
Not to do it goes against nature.
32
PLAYBOY: How many times have you had sex in your life?
HELIO: [Pauses]. Look, I was a world champion who did it only a little. In my
estimation, I could have had sex with all of the women in Brazil. But I never
had relations with more than 10 women. And I only did it with women who
accepted the idea of having children.
33
PLAYBOY: So, according to your account, if you have nine sons, you did it a
little more than nine times.

HELIO: It wasn't like that either. There were times when I did it all night long,
because God didn't cooperate. So I did it as many times as I wanted until [she]
became pregnant, or when she requested it. I proved best my abstinence by the
number of women I had sex with. There were ten women in total in my life.
That was my merit. I had 30 girlfriends, but I didn't give a kiss here a kiss
there.
34
PLAYBOY: So to check, then did you depend on condoms?
HELIO: [Emphatically]. My God! I never used condoms. There is no women in
the world with whom I would ever use condoms. Not even if she was the last
women on earth. I would rather die without doing it. My kids also don't use
them and I have 28 grandkids.
35
PLAYBOY: I mean, are you and your sons immune to AIDS?
HELIO: [Indignantly]. This business of AIDS is for those who are involved in
depravity and filth. None of my kids pretend to be Don Juans {Exasperated].
Those who fear AIDS are those who have sex with anyone. And those know
have sex with just anyone, are in my opinion, nothing more than dogs.
36
PLAYBOY: Have you ever been unable to get it up? [O senhor ja broxou
alguma vez?]
HELIO: No, that has never happened.
37
PLAYBOY: It is forbidden to have sex before a fight?
HELIO: Even a great champion can't maintain his performance after a night of
sex. Any champion suffers the effects of sex.. It represents a great expenditure
of energy. If sex serves to make a human being, how much energy must be
involved in that. It isn't forbidden to have sex after a fight, but it can't be said to
be recommended. It is a question of good sense.
38

PLAYBOY: How many wives did you have you had?


HELIO: Two. I lived with my first wife, Margarida, for 50 years. She had three
sons [Rorion, Relson, and Rickson]. When she died, I married my second wife
Vera {who is 32 years younger than Helio]. She gave me six more children. I
am not a man who leaves women.
39
PLAYBOY: Why do all of your children's name begin with the letter "R"?
(Rorion, 50; Relson, 48, Rickson, 42, Rolker, 36, Royler, 35, Royce, 34,
Rherika, 32; Robin, 29; Ricci, 23).
HELIO: Because "R" is a strong letter. It is the most powerful letter. Which
would you think is stronger, "Orion" or "Rorion"? "Rorion" of course, I think
the same as my brother Carlos. His children have names that begin with "R",
"C", and "K".
40
PLAYBOY: Which of your sons is the best fighter?
HELIO: Technically they are all the same. Today Rickson is introduced as the
leader of the family because he is the strongest, and weighs almost 90 kilos
[198 lbs.}. Rorion was also strong, but doesn't fight now but instead
administers the academy and career of his brother [Royce]. In the family
everyone is a champion.
41
PLAYBOY: None of your sons entered professions?
HELIO: Rorion is also a lawyer and a good administrator. But all the rest
finished school and immediately devoted themselves to jiu-jitsu.
42
PLAYBOY: Rorion is writing a book in your honor. What do you desire to
transmit with your history?
HELIO: The truth about jiu-jitsu. I have a grand niece, Reylla, who is writing a
book about my brother Carlos. I think that it is very strange, because she was
born when he was already almost 65 years old. She is going to end up writing a

book without fundamentals. listening to people who also don't know the facts.
The only one who is still living is me.. I believe that my book will be more
truthful. My book will try to do that.43
PLAYBOY: Do you intend to read her book?
HELIO: I intend to, in order to read the nonsense that she puts in it.
44
PLAYBOY: This seems a little like envy (jealousy).
HELIO: It isn't like that. The truth is that Carlos didn't put on his quimono to
give classes to his children. The one who taught them was me. Reyla is writing
a book about a man who she didn't know. It is very vague to write a book by
interviewing people who didn't know my brother. Each one talks, wants, thinks,
but no one supplies anything. She wants to use the Gracie name, but she doesn't
know anything about jiu-jitsu.

45
PLAYBOY: Rorion registered a patent for the name Gracie for your jiu-jitsu in
the United States. Is that still valid?
HELIO: He registered a patent for the name Gracie as a method of teaching
years before, to avoid that Americans would trick other people by using our
name. This patent is in force for a long time but can't be renewed. The
American government denied renewal in consideration that today jiu-jitsu is a
new martial art. I agree, because this that is a recognition of my technique. I
received a certificate from the U.S. government acknowledging me as the
creator of the jiu-jitsu that is practiced there.
46
PLAYBOY] Today, for self defense is it better to go armed, or to learn jiu-jitsu?
HELIO: A revolver is a two-edged sword. If a robber finds your weapon he can
take it and use it against you. But the robber can't see your jiu-jitsu and you run
no risk of being disarmed. Never use weapons.

[Prof. Helio uses the expression "uma arma de dois gumes".]


47
PLAYBOY: How would you defend against an assault?
HELIO: It depends. If it's just one guy, from a reasonable distance, I'd take his
revolver with one technique. But if it's several armed assailants, I'd hand over
everything that I had on me at the time, because I'm not stupid. In these cases, it
is foolish to resist, because you are going to die. A thief is afraid, who doesn't
believe in himself, he only has his revolver. Any reaction and he shots you right
then and there. The danger of a Brazilian robber is his fear. In my case, if I
wanted to assault someone, I wouldn't need a revolver. It would be enough to
grab the victim's neck and take everything right away.
48
PLAYBOY: After jiu-jitsu, what sport is most effective for self-defense?
HELIO: Boxing. It has only one defect. It takes a long time to be able to knock
out an adversary {to develop the skills]. You have to hit him first. But a good
boxer, in a fight, is excellent. Now, to be a boxer you have to train a lot. In jiujitsu, 40 classes with me are sufficient, two times a week, to subconsciously
assimilate everything..
49
PLAYBOY: What kind of student is the most work to train?
HELIO: Without any question, intelligent students [are most difficult].
50
PLAYBOY: Why?
HELIO: Because the intelligent student tends to get lost if thought before
executing the technique. With this preoccupation, he ends up lost in thought
and can't function. I want to give the student good reflexes. The method that
the crafty person wants to know is that which hinders his reflexes. When he
thinks that he understands, he is going to want to do it the way he thinks it is
supposed to be, not the way that I taught. I mean, he will do everything wrong.

A baby, a young girl, an idiot are going to learn more quickly than an intelligent
person. A baby will just do it, not ask questions.
51
PLAYBOY: The, to be a good jiu-jitsu fighter, you need to be stupid?
HELIO: It isn't that! [Angry]. Learning jiu-jitsu is something for the
subconscious, not for the consciousness. I don't teach so that the student can
know jiu-jitsu, I teach so that he can execute jiu-jitsu. There is a difference. If I
teach something to an intelligent person, she will learn quickly because she
puts it in memory. But the good student can execute his jiu-jitsu without
thinking.. If he stops to look for what I knows in his memory, he is lost. It
doesn't deal with decorative movements, but rather with exact reflexes when an
aggression occurs. And aggression always occurs by surprise.
52
PLAYBOY: How do you resolve this kind of impasse. I mean, how do you
teach an intelligent student?
HELIO: I show them in practice that the power of their intelligence won't serve
them for nothing. I put them quickly on the ground to let them know that the
best way is to execute without stopping to think.
53
PLAYBOY: And being human, by nature, he likes to fight?
HELIO: Men are born to be warriors. They fight while studying, working,
supporting their family. But women were not born to fight. Nowadays, women
women fight in life because they don't have a men to take care of her. It is for a
woman to take care of the house. A man was born to fight in life, a a women
was born to take care of her warrior.
54
PLAYBOY: What do you think about feminine independence?
HELIO: Wait a minute [Helio gets up a comes back with a briefcase from
which he takes out a manuscript and begins to read]: "For me it is easy to
diagnose the men who prefer independent women: pimps [cafetes],

effeminate, lazy men and individuals with weak and cowardly personalities, are
the ones who want to be taken care of by women rather than taking care of
women. Nature did not create men and women by mistake, but for each one to
do his or her part. The man takes care of the woman and the woman takes care
of the children, who will be the men of tomorrow [returns the paper to the
briefcase]. The problem with men's values nowadays is that women, poor
things, have no other option than to try to be independent.
Note: If you read this translation of the Playboy
interview with Helio Gracie anywhere other
than Global Training Report, it means it was
ripped off from Global Training Report in
criminal violation of all applicable copyright
laws.
55
PLAYBOY: Isn't that extreme machoism?
HELIO: I don't consider it machoism. I am a man. Machoism is a fashion. A
man who isn't macho isn't a man, in the same way a women who isn't feminine
isn't a women. Machoism, as far as I'm concerned, is simply what it is to be a
man.
56
PLAYBOY: And what about women who can do more?
HELIO: I'm not in favor of it. A women should take care of her man. Now,
when I look at a nude woman, I analyze everything together, to see if she is
well put together and in good health. I am not thinking about sex, no. And to
appreciate the natural beauty. [pause]. The jiu-jitsu magazines lately are putting
naked women in together with sports. I don't approve. That is nothing to look at
in a fight. No girlfriend of mine would ever pose nude. Only if I was a coward.
[Helio picks up a jiu-jitsu magazine and open to a foldout of Feitceira,] Her
boyfriend must have been a coward.
57
PLAYBOY: Her boyfriend was Vitor Belfort.

HELIO: Sad. He is a beginner in jiu-jitsu. He only knows about fighting with


rules. One time I had a talk with him on the telephone.
58
PLAYBOY: Why?
HELIO: He talked bad about my son Royce. I called him and asked him if he
was disposed to test himself against my son. He replied that he only fought for
money and that is not my style. His response did not please me. He
demonstrated that he didn't have the conviction of what he could do. He fights
well, but he isn't an efficient fighter. He was thinking like that until he had a
sufficient number of fights.
59
PLAYBOY: Who were some famous people who passed through your
academy?
HELIO: Mario Andreazza, ex Minister of Transport in the gestao of President
Medici, also former President of Brazil Joo Baptista Fiqueiredo when he
worked in the National Information Service [SNI] which served the military
dictatorship, and Roberto Marinho........
60
PLAYBOY: They were good fighters?
HELIO: More or less [smiles condescendingly]. These men were always very
busy, without time to train. They were also very anxious.
61
PLAYBOY: Which of them was your best student?
HELIO: Roberto Marinho was a reporter at that time and was not truly
dedicated to jiu-jitsu. He did it because it was a fashion, due to a projection. .At
that time in Brazil we didn't have many important sports like we have now. At
that time the press spent an entire month talking exclusively about jiu-jitsu and
Roberto wanted to be in the middle of it.
62

PLAYBOY: And Figueiredo? How did he do?


HELIO: He was brought in by Mario Andreazza, also because of the projection.
He was full of enthusiasm when he began learning jiu-jitsu and then he brought
in all of the officials of the SNI, including Figueiredo. He was a very strong
man, but very tense. He took 40 classes regularly and he left reasonably good.
But I didn't know him outside of the academy. I never had social contact with
him. At times he would say, "Helio I'm going to send for you to come to a party
at my house". But he never did. I think he forgot about it. He was very busy.
63
PLAYBOY: Your family became rich from jiu-jitsu?
HELIO: We weren't rich. My children worked hard, here and there, without a
rest. We live well but we don't have a lot of money. The expenses of the
academies were also great. If we made 200,000, half of that went to taxes. My
small farm (with 320,000 square meters located in Itaipava in the hill country
of Rio) was bought at a time when land was cheap. I paid 400 reis.. Today it is
very expensive but no one has the money to buy. Therefore, we weren't then
and still aren't rich.
64
PLAYBOY: Despite the fame and success, you declared that you would like
for your sons to quit fighting. Why?
HELIO: In my youth I was filled with enthusiasm about with my discoveries
and began to fight to prove that they were good. I wanted every Brazilian to
know about jiu-jitsu. Today, it isn't necessary to fight for idealism. I have
nothing more to prove about the validity of my techniques. So I advised my
sons to stop fighting. They are the ones who will decide. If they want to
continue to fight in order to make money, that's fine with me. Today even jiujitsu has become commercial.
65
PLAYBOY: You have referred to academies that are preparing thugs who
always walk around with pit bulls at their side.
HELIO: These academies should not be open. It is the government's fault, who
doesn't examine the real conditions of the schools. Today you can open an

academy of jiu-jitsu without any problem, and many times the owner doesn't
even have a diploma.
66
PLAYBOY: These people help to associate jiu-jitsu with violence?
HELIO: Absolutely. A real jiu-jitsu fighter does not go around beating people
down. Our defense is made to neutralize aggression. This is a type of counteradvertising that uses the name of our jiu-jitsu. Any nonsense that is done
nowadays will soon be given the name of the Gracie family.
67
PLAYBOY: Do you like to watch the films of Jean-Claude Van Damme?
HELIO: It's pitiful.. He's only an artist, not a fighter. But in a movie, a fight is
beautiful. In movies, fights are all choreographed, there is nothing to see with
jiu-jitsu. My sons have already taught actors like Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal,
and Mel Gibson. I like to watch. I don't have to think, the story is always the
same. When watching the "bang-bang" movies, the young hero always beats
the bad guys.
68
PLAYBOY: What is the secret of your long life and good health?
HELIO: I always say I am old but not used up.. I am 88, but I wouldn't trade
places with a man of 50. I never had bad habits like smoking, drinking, or
snacking between meals My palette is also educated. I eat fish, cold cheese,
fruits, and legumes, I only have bread once a day. I don't mix cereals and I don't
get fat from sugar. I learned that from my brother and I haven't had a cold for
15 years. I never had sex more than was necessary for reproduction. Nature is
not stupid. If you break the rules you will pay interest and penalties. When the
age is advanced it comes the time to calculate the debts. Those who lacked will
power will be with the donkeys in water [burros n'agua].

End of Interview with HELIO GRACIE

From Brazil PLAYBOY February 2001, presented in this English translation by


GTR, January 1, 2005, corrected edition April 5, 2012 (Minor formatting
revisions April 9, 2014, and May 26, 2015).
Nishi Yoshinori came across the "Warrior" Helio Gracie!
Nishi Yoshinori participated in a seminar held one day before
the Ultimate in Charlotte. What drew an attention there was
Helio Gracie who was teaching Nishi with care. On September,
15, four days later since then, Nishi visited Gracie Jiu-Jitsu
Academy owned by Rorion in Los Angeles. Helio, who
postponed his return to Brazil in expectation of his visit, was
waiting for him there. Nishi took a private lesson on the advice
of Rorion. When the one-hour training was finished, Helio came
to Nishi saying "there is something I want to show you." What
was put in front of Nishi were rare pictures of his legendary
fight with Kimura Masahiko, the master.
*
Nishi: What valuable pictures they are! I don't think even the
wife of Kimura has pictures like these. Well, what kind of rule
was this fight done under? Was it the vale tudo rule?
Helio: No, it was the jiu-jitsu rule.
Nishi: Then, you didn't exchange blows with Kimura, did you?
Helio: That's right. We could do anything except kicks and
punches. There were no points and no time limits. But when I
challenged Kimura and we met together for the first time, he
seemed to be very surprised when he saw how small I was
(laugh). So I was told to fight with a man named Kato at first.
Nishi: Then, did you fight with a Japanese Judo-ka before the
fight with Kimura?
Helio: Yes, I did. He was 20 kg. [44 lbs.] heavier than me and
was strongly built. But I was able to win by good luck [in the
original Portuguese Helio probably said "graas a Deus" which
in no way implies that only luck was involved].

Rorion: My father finished Kato with a choke less than six


minutes. So Kimura accepted my father's challenge. But the
people around strongly objected to it. It seemed that especially
uncle Carlos didn't want him to do it.
Nishi: Did the people around think that Kimura was more than
a match for you from the beginning?
Helio: Not only the people around, but also I myself thought
that nobody in the world could defeat Kimura. (laugh)
Especially my brother Carlos was worried that I would never
give up under any condition. He thought I would get seriously
injured. So he gave me permission to fight with Kimura on the
condition that I would "give-up" without fail. Regret? I didn't
regret it at all either before or after the fight. For me who
aimed at jiu-jitsu at that time, fear was surpassed by desire to
know what on earth such a strong man like Kimura would do in
the fight--he might open the door to an unknown world for me.
I heard that you are the same type of person too.
Nishi: Yes, I am. (bitter smile)
Helio seemed to know that Nishi had fought with
Rickson [Mr. Nishi, representing Jacket Jiu-Jitsu, faced Rickson
in Vale Tudo Japan Open 95 and was defeated by mata leo
rear naked hadaka jime [] choke in 2:58 seconds of the
first round], and he has been fighting in kickboxing and karate
events as well. It could be felt here and there in Helio's words
that Helio was sympathizing with Nishi's action.

What is jiu-jitsu introduced by Maeda Mitsuyo?


Nishi: I would like to ask you something technical before the
story about Kimura. What kind of style of jiu-jitsu was it you
learned?
Helio: I remember vaguely that my brother Carlos was learning
it from Konde Koma (Maeda Mitsuyo) around 1914. Anyway I
was just four years old at that time. To tell the truth, I don't
remember well the technique directly taught by Koma. Carlos
opened the dojo in Rio when he was 25 years old, and I was
watching the techniques that he had learned from Konde
Koma. But I kept thinking about what a small and weak man
like me should do to win, and developing the theory to control
an opponent by technique.
Rorion: It seems my father didn't teach it to anybody in the
beginning. But one day he had to teach the training in place of
uncle Carlos who was late for the class. My father was only 16
years old yet, but the improvements my father made in the
techniques to control an opponent with a minimum power was
persuasive enough to satisfy the students. Since it doesn't
require power, it makes it possible for you to fight for 20 or 30

minutes. After that, it seems that uncle Carlos left the teaching
to my father.
Nishi: That has become the base of Gracie jiu-jitsu of the day,
hasn't it? Was a style Mr. Carlos learned from Maeda Mitsuyo
centering on "kata"?
Helio: There weren't so many techniques. Most techniques
were something mainly based on power. But Konde Koma was
always fighting in real fights, so a lot of tricks to win in a real
fight were incorporated in his teaching.
Nishi: Striking was also included, wasn't it?
Helio: No, it wasn't included.
*
Maeda Mitsuyo known by the name of Konde Koma was a
judoka who got out of Japan to spread Kodokan Judo to the
world in Meiji period, and performed an open fight with a
different style in each country. (However, Kodokan removed his
name from the register in the later years.) But why did he call
it jiu-jitsu, not judo in Brazil? Nishi has secretly thought that jiujitsu introduced to Brazil might be something like a variant
form of judo.
*
Nishi: Did Mr. Maeda call it jiu-jitsu, not judo from the
beginning?
Helio: I heard that Konde Koma called it jiu-jitsu. We didn't even
know the word of judo itself until it came into Brazil. At that
time (the time when jiu-jitsu was brought by Konde Koma),
there were many Japanese immigrants and local people had a
friendly relationship with them. I heard that they often helped
Japanese people in many ways. So I think he taught us their
traditional jiu-jitsu in return for it.
Nishi: When judo came into Brazil, didn't you think it was
similar to jiu-jitsu?

Rorion: I have a strong impression about judo that judo is a


sport where the objective is to throw the opponent to the
ground using power. But I think maybe the original art is jiujitsu. When Japan lost in the World War II and America was
occupying Japan, they taught the Americans judo, but not jiujitsu. In that sense, we were lucky to have been able to come in
contact directly with jiu-jitsu first, rather than judo.
Helio: (nodding to what Rorion said) They didn't teach the
Americans the mind of the samurai.
Nishi: (being confused with a small voice) It doesn't seem that
judo itself was completely introduced to you........... I wonder if
Maeda Mitsuyo introduced something he made up and called
jiu-jitsu, or if it had originality as a result of the improvements
made by Mr. Helio. It draws my interest very much.
*******************
Helio performed his first open fight against a different
style at the early age of 16
Nishi: Then, when is the start of vale tudo?
Helio: It was not something like vale tudo, but the first fight
between different styles was in 1932 when I fought with an
American wrestling fighter named Fred Ebert when I was 17
years old. He described himself as a world-class strong fighter.
It seems that Fred Ebert was a fighter who took second place
in the 95kg class in the world wrestling championship held in
New York in l928. This coincides with the story of Helio who
described him as a giant with 98kg, but it turns out to have
been nearly 40kg difference in weight between them. Helio's
weight was about 60kg.
Nishi: How about the result?
Helio: (with a frown) The fight started at 12:00 at midnight, and
fought until 2:00 in the morning. But we were told to stop the
fight by the police.

Rorion: The fight lasted 2 hours and 10 minutes. To tell the


truth, he was stopped to fight by the doctor then due to the
high fever caused by a swelling. Anyway he had to undergo an
urgent operation next day of the fight.
Nishi: It sounds...... (breaking off in his speech) .....reckless.......
Helio: I didn't want to be said that I avoided the fight under the
pretext of the doctor-stop. That's all. However, I regret that we
couldn't get the result.
Nishi: What if Mr. Ebert is in good health and challenged you to
do the sequel to the fight now?
Helio: I will do it, of course! (laugh) But he might need some
handicap because he was pretty older than me.
*****************
For Helio, who has such a "never say die" attitude toward a
fight as mentioned above, I wonder what came to his mind
when he threw in the towel in the fight of Royce [vs. Sakuraba
in Pride Grand Prix 2000], his son, with his own hand. I wanted
to ask him about it. But maybe there was something wrong in
the way I started to question saying "I am sorry for the result of
Royce, but....", they stuck to the answer made by Rorion, who
was voluntarily working as an interpreter, that "No matter how
nice a car you drive, it sometimes happens to you to get out of
the course due to a puncture. Neither Shamrock nor Royce lost
to anybody this time." (Helio speaks only Portuguese, so the
interview was done in such a way that at first Nishi's words
were conveyed to Rorion in English, and then Rorion conveyed
it to Helio in Portuguese) However, I felt like that I saw Helio's
deep attachment to fights in difference in words between
Helio, who used simple and clear words, and Rorion, who used
a metaphor.
*
Vale Tudo was a title of a popular TV program

Nishi: Mr. Helio, did you have a favorite technique other than
jiu-jitsu?
Helio: Does it mean a technique in striking? I was good at side
kicks. I did it in my own way, but kick the body of the opponent
using the heel. Don't ask me to demonstrate it here now!
(laugh)
Nishi: No! (laugh) You said it was your own way, but did you
study it watching the move of karate?
Helio: Karate? No. Judo came to Brazil around 19501960 and
Karate was later than that, maybe around 1970. So I had no
chance to study it. Besides when I saw karate for the first
time, I didn't think it was effective for self-defense or kakuto
art.
Nishi: Well then, do you think kakutogi based on striking are
not effective for all?
Helio: Generally they are not, are they? I think you know about
it much better than I do.
Rorion: In a fight like the Ultimate, all you have to do about
striking is to kill the distance. If you do it, then you can control
the fight.
Nishi: They are at a disadvantage under the rule of the
Ultimate for sure, but I can't agree with you who say positively
that they are not effective from the view point of self-defense
and kakuto arts either. (bitter smile) Then, when did you start
fighting with striking?
Helio: I don't remember clearly, but jiu-jitsu was considered
something oriental in Brazil and there was some guy saying
that he could defeat me in a street fight. So I accepted the
fight with him including punches and kicks.
Nishi: Unbelievable! (laugh) He must have sorely regretted his
words after the contest.! [kuchiwa wazawai no moto] Was that
the beginning of vale tudo?

Helio: Maybe so. I'm the one who started vale tudo. But we
didn't call it "vale tudo". It was a TV producer who decided to
call it that.
Nishi: A TV producer?
Helio: That's right. I held style vs. style tournaments to spread
jiu-jitsu. The producer found them interesting and decided to
telecast them. The title of that program was "Vale Tudo". Later
the form was changed to one-match fight between a winner of
the jiu-jitsu tournament (it was held under the original jiu-jitsu
rule and striking was prohibited) and a challenger invited from
a different style. This program started around 1960 and
became very popular. It used to be aired every week at one
time.
Nishi: It is a model of the Ultimate........ Anyway, I'm surprised
to see that it was the title of the TV program, and vale tudo
was performed every week! What an amazing country Brazil is!
Helio: Many people were scared of punches. But since they
watched the fights on TV, they started to understand that
punches were good, but they could be nullified by using
different techniques, and a small man like me could fight.
Nishi: I was doing judo and was afraid of getting punched.
That's why I started learning striking and still now I am
studying. Mr. Helio, did you have any fear of getting punched?
Helio: If I get punched, I feel happy and more guts. But I feel
pain too. (laugh) So I developed the way of fighting to avoid to
get punched.
Nishi: And at first you keep the position not to get punched,
then give the opponent punches whenever you want to.
Helio: That's right (laugh).
Nishi: How about a throw? Throwing is not effective either?
Helio: No, it can be very effective at times. Anyway, a fearful
throw by Kimura remains vividly in mind. It was very

impressive to see that Kimura made the opponent KOed with


one throw. When it was decided that I would fight with Kimura,
I was careful about his throw.
Nishi: Could you tell me more details about the fight with the
master Kimura?
Helio: Sure! (happily)
Humiliation at Maracana .......
Secret story about the hard fight with Kimura Masahiko
Helio: In the beginning I carefully tried to find a breakthrough,
but I was in his control as soon as we stood close to each other.
I had no time to even hold or grapple him. What I barely could
do was to avoid his perfect throw in such a way that I relaxed
the strength of all my body and moved my position a little bit
at the moment when Kimura tried to throw me and as a result
Kimura lost his balance. I was taken into the ground, and I got
choked at first. It was difficult to breathe.. I felt it working
enough so I was wondering if I should tap as I promised
Carlos......
Nishi: ?
Helio: Well, this is what I've never told anybody before......... It
seems I went unconscious while I was thinking about what to
do [give up or not].
Naturally all the staff let alone Nishi were surprised to hear that at this
moment, but what was more impressive than that was the shocked expression
[] on Rorion's face.
Helio: If Kimura had continued to choke me, I would have died
for sure. But since I didn't give up, Kimura let go of the choke
and went into the next technique. Being released from the
choke and the pain from the next technique revived me and I
continued to fight. Kimura went to his grave without ever
knowing the fact that I was finished. If possible, I wish I could
have talked about the fight with him and let him know about
it.

Nishi: I will tell his wife without fail.


Helio: Thank you. But then, Kimura was strong....... strong and
a gentleman. He spoke in my ear in Japanese ""
[good, good] while catching me with arm-lock. I don't
understand Japanese at all, but strangely I was encouraged by
his voice. It gave me power. (laugh) I was anxious about it, so I
asked him later. He said, "I was admiring your heart."
Nishi: Kimura also talked about the fight with Mr. Helio in his
book, and says that you had a strong heart.
Helio: Same to him. I think I got the authentic samurai spirit
from him. I might have been Japanese in a previous life.
Nishi: By the way, what shall I do with my plan? I was prepared
to do a challenge match here aiming at defeating a Gracie, but
I touched the heart of the master Kimura in the talk with Mr.
Helio. Now I've had one more teacher, Mr. Helio. Indeed, I must
have been Brazilian in a previous life.
Helio: (being very happy to hear what Nishi said) Thank you. If
you continue to train, you will be the champion in a jiu-jitsu
tournament in Brazil for sure. Age? No problem. I am 82 years
old now, but martial arts are what you search for at the risk of
your whole life.