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Unbeatable Defense


In keeping with the heritage and philosophy passed down from Grandmaster Helio Gracie, I would like to share this insightful article written by my good friends Pedro and Gui Valente from the Valente Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in North Miami Beach, Florida. The article, titled “Defesa Imbativel” or “Unbeatable Defense,” was published on February 13, 2014 in O Globo, the most prominent newspaper in Brazil, and describes the philosophy used by Helio Gracie to create
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

Many Jiu-Jitsu practitioners, fighters and even instructors, while devoting great respect and admiration to Grandmaster Helio Gracie, currently believe that his technique was becoming obsolete. This occurred due to the adaptation of his Jiu-Jitsu for tournaments with specific rules that limit the time of the match, prohibit the utilization of certain risky moves, institute weight divisions, and confer points for positional dominance. Consequently, the art of defense, which is essential in a street confrontation against a heavier and stronger opponent, lost great part of its purpose. A tournament match, through the scoring of points, primarily values offense and aggressiveness, and as Grandmaster Helio always emphasized defense above all, his Jiu-Jitsu was being considered outdated.

Sun Tzu, however, taught thousands of years ago, in his book “The Art of War”, that when there is insufficient strength, defense should be prioritized and that offensive tactics should only be used in a situation of physical advantage. Grandmaster Helio, without ever having studied Chinese philosophy, applied principles of Taoism and Sun Tzu with great wisdom and precision. After extensive research on old Jiu-Jitsu and judo books, we have concluded that Helio Gracie was the first martial arts’ master in history to materialize these millenary Chinese philosophies and apply them to hand-to-hand combat through his brilliant method of self-defense. He understood very early, by fighting against much heavier and stronger opponents, that attacking, when at a physical disadvantage, represents a useless and risky effort. Offensive strategy should only be employed with the element of surprise or in a situation of superiority. In light of the fact that Helio Gracie developed his Jiu-Jitsu to empower the weak, his teachings prioritize defensive tactics, which depend on patience (through technical knowledge) and endurance (through rational nutrition and a healthy lifestyle), waiting for the opponent to make a mistake or fatigue and only then
seeking victory.

The pin rule, which is utilized both in judo and in wrestling, of Greco-roman origin, is based on the idea that when a fighter is held down by an opponent with his back on the ground, he shall either escape immediately or is finished. Helio dared to disagree with this traditional sportive concept and created an invulnerable defensive system that allows a small fighter to stay in an unfavorable position while avoiding being beaten, submitted or knocked out. He always stated that by developing the reflexes of his defense, one would only loose when making a mistake, since the defensive technique itself
is invincible.

As he got older in the last 15 years and naturally lost a good portion of the little physical strength that he possessed, he was forced to develop his Jiu-Jitsu (with which a few prvileged students had contact with) even more, and make it more efficient so that he could continue his habit of facing challenges and putting his teachings to the test. Up to when he was 94 years old, Helio would lie down on the mat and tell any fighter or Jiu-Jitsu practitioner who visited him, independent of size or weight, to pick any position they preferred, mounted or side mounted, and try to defeat him, without him attempting to escape, only defending. No one succeeded. All this was done in order to prove to his students and everybody else that his defensive method would enable any person, even the weak, to become unbeatable.