Ode to My Father

Written by Tom Ngo
February 5th, 2009


UFC Hall of Famer Royce Gracie is speaking out for the first time since the passing of his father, Helio Gracie, last Thursday morning in Itaipaiva, Rio de Janeiro. The Godfather of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was 95 years of age when he peacefully passed in his sleep.In a letter to the popular Brazilian website, TATAME.com, Royce expresses his appreciation for everything that his father taught him, inside and outside of fighting.

[Last Thursday] my father, Helio, at the age of 95 passed on. I am honored to be the son of such a great man! He was an inspiration to me throughout my life. As a Grandmaster of Jiu-Jitsu and the father of “Vale Tudo” he brought Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to the forefront of martial arts. He was a man of small stature but his heart was that of a giant. He proved with Gracie Jiu-Jitsu that even a small man could overcome a bigger stronger opponent by using leverage and technique. He was truly an innovator. Just look around and you can see how his success gave birth to the sport of mixed martial arts that we all enjoy today.

Many of you may think that the greatest thing my father ever gave me was Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. But I want all of you to know that I will remember him most for what he taught me off the mat. He taught me how to be a man, a husband and a father. He showed me how to be honorable, respectful and diligent. He taught me how to be a whole person.

I ask that together we celebrate the remarkable life of my father, Helio Gracie. The greatest tribute you can to pay to my father is to continue to train and share Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, remembering to never lose sight of the fact that what you do off the mat counts more than what you do on the mat. Face life’s challenges with confidence, dare to pursue your dreams and live to the fullest just as my father did.

God bless us all!


The legend’s impact on mixed martial arts is indescribable. His small stature hindered him from executing traditional Jiu Jitsu moves, however he was able to transform those maneuvers into what is known today as Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Although this genius will be sorely missed, his legend and teachings will live on forever.

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