Taking on All Challengers
Helio led the family in challenge matches to prove the efficacy of BJJ a style derived from the traditional Japanese style. Nearly 70 years ago, Helio Gracie faced off with the top judokas from Japan, starting with Yukio Kato. On September 29, 1951, Helio Gracie faced off in a rematch against Yukio Kato, one of the top judokas in the world, and student of Masahiko Kimura, the #1 judoka in the world. Helio had become one of Brazil’s first major sports stars, after learning the traditional Japenese martial art and modifying its application for self-defense. For 20 years, Helio and his family challenged all types of opponents of varying styles to prove his prowess. Some of these challenges lasted over 3 hours. Helio fought opponents nearly twice his weight. He even once challenged boxing champion Joe Louis. These challenge matches were a predecessor to the UFC forum in which the Gracies displayed the prowess of BJJ to the world.
Although Helio sought an ultimate match with Masahiko Kimura who was much larger and preferred for Helio to fight his student first, without the weight advantage. The first match took place just 23-days before the rematch that ended in a draw in Rio de Janeiro. During the first match, Kato controlled the early exchanges while Helio controlled the latter. After three rounds, neither was satisfied with the outcome, so the rematch in Sao Paolo was offered with no time limit to ensure a winner.
Second Fight with No Time Limit
Just as in the first fight, Kato was more effective at stand up but after 30 minutes of fighting, Kato decided that newanza ground work would be the best way of finishing Helio. After a takedown, Kato attempted to pass Helio’s guard.
Helio applied a choke from defensive guard position and Kato appeared to be asleep. The choke, called gyaku juji jime, was reportedly a favorite of Helio. One hand is placed deep inside of the lapel across the neck while the other hand crosses the neck to the other side so that both hands can compress the carotide artery. Helio thought he may be faking and thus held on to the choke. Helio was declared victorious as Kato fell unconscious.
Immediately, Kimura challenged Helio to fight for the jiu-jitsu world championship.