Mitsuyo Maeda (1878-1941)
A Japanese Jiu-Jitsu champion and representative of Kano migrated to Brazil in 1914. Maeda was instrumental in establishing a Japanese immigrant community in Brazil which was aided by Gastao Gracie, a Brazilian scholar and politician of Scottish descent. .
As an expression of his gratitude for Gracie's assistance, Maeda taught the Brazilian's oldest son Carlos the essential secrets of his style of Jiu-Jitsu which had been modified due to challenge matches he had taken part with wrestlers and boxers during his travels in the United States. Carlos taught Maeda's techniques to his four brothers, and in 1925 they opened the first Jiu-Jitsu academy in Brazil.
Carlos Gracie (1902-1994), the oldest Gracie brother learned from Maeda for approximately 2-4 years. This left the Gracie family to learn among themselves refining their technique through challenge matches and no rules fighting, a trend which particularly the younger brother Helio took up enthusiastically.
Helio Gracie (1913 - 2009)
Along with his brother Carlos are widely recognized as the founders of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Helio is the father of world renowned Jiu-Jitsu fighters Rickson, Royce, Royler, Relson and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) founder Rorion Gracie.
Another notable family member who fought representing Jiu-Jitsu and dedicated himself to spreading the art is son of Carlos, Carlson Gracie (1935-2006), who produced one of the most successful Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) teams. His students include Murilo Bustamante, Mario Sperry, Walid Ismail, Ricardo Liborio, Vitor Belfort, and the brothers Renzo, Ryan and Ralph Gracie. Also helping to spread the art were the Gracie's cousins - the Machado brothers.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu became prominent in the early 1990's due to the "no rules" fighting event called the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) which saw the son of Helio Gracie, Royce, defeating all opponents convincingly using the techniques of Jiu-Jitsu. This opened the door for the family's art to spread into the United States and also created great interest eastward where Rickson Gracie would take part in fighting events against the best Japanese fighters of the day, first in 'Vale Tudo' in Japan, then PRIDE FC, rekindling the memories of his father's great matches against Japanese Judokas, particularly against the legendary Masahiko Kimura (1917-1993) in 1955.
Today BJJ is a popular martial sport that includes many Gi and No Gi/ Submission Grappling tournaments around the world, including the annual championships: Worlds (Mundials), Pan American, European and Asian Championship. BJJ is an effective self defence system for many situations and is essential training for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) athletes.