Around the start of the mid-1900s, BJJ fighting, which was more formally known as “Vale Tudo” was starting to gain tremendous popularity. The first family of Vale Tudo was none other than the Gracie family. Two brothers, Helio and Carlos Gracie, originally led this movement. Together, they took on catch wrestlers and Judokas to show the world that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was a very competitive Martial Art
However, during the 1950s, being at the top of the ladder was starting to catch up to the family. Luta Livre was starting to become increasingly popular due to the fact that it was used to defeat George Gracie. A school of BJJ fighters, which were founded by a man named Luis Franca (a past student of Carlos Gracie) defeated the Gracie Academy by using various foot locks. It was this loss that ultimately declared that Jiu-Jitsu was a sport that belonged to everyone in the world- not just the Gracie family.
Despite this movement, Helio Gracie often refused to teach anyone outside of the family the more advanced techniques that he know- he would only teach them the basic self-defense fundamentals. Helio had entered a “wartime” state of mind, often viewing these challenges as a threat to his family, business, and martial art. Helio ended up breaking his rules by teaching a man named “Waldemer Santa” more advanced techniques although he was outside the Gracie Family circle
A Turning Point For The Worst
For about five years, Helio taught Santana personally. He taught him techniques that were generally only reserved for family members and very close friends. At one point, Santana started to teach classes at the academy. Unfortunately, during one particular weekend, Santana left the sink running at the academy, and this ended up flooding the mats. When Helio returned to the academy on Monday, he was enraged. Helio exchanged heated words with Santana, who was later cast out from the academy.
Santana later joined the gym of another person who was cast off by Helio. Then, to everyone’s surprise, he challenged his former mentor to a Vale Tudo fight. Even though he was forty years older than Santana, Helio accepted. The match would incorporate both grappling and strikes, and after four hours of fighting, Helio was knocked out by a kick to the face. Both men walked away with severe bruises and bloody faces. Although Vale Tudo wasn’t always pretty, it did showcase BJJ in its purest form.