Helio Gracie Day

When I think of Helio Gracie, I think of the phrase “If you do not lose, you can only win.”   After graduating high school, I tricked my father into allowing me to skip college to spend some very valuable time with my Professor, Grandfather, and friend.  Having Helio Gracie as my Grandfather was unbelievable; it actually meant that Helio Gracie was my professor for life. I was privileged to spend six months in Brazil eating fresh foods, working around the house, having discussions about life, and learning Jiu-jitsu.

In a large valley in the hills of Brazil, at the end of a long hall past all the bedrooms at my grandfather’s house, there was a small mat room where we put Jiu-jitsu to the test.  We would train about 3 days a week at home and then go to a local school to mix it up a little. It was not uncommon for my grandfather to open his house to guys we would meet at the local academies. So long as you wore a gi and were part of the Jiu-jitsu family, you were good in his books. In the six months I was there, we had about 12-15 guys come train at the house.  Few people had the opportunity to train on that mat, and those who did were able to experience the Gracie Diet lunch feast or our dinner juice.  The meals got me to 210 lbs. Lunch meals usually included fish or chicken accompanied by a starch.  Fish soufflés and chicken stroganoff were some of my favorites.  Without a doubt, he also made one of the best acai drinks in town!

Gracie Jiu-jitsu

“If you do not lose, you can only win”

Once a week we would take an hour drive to Rio to train at Gracie Humaita. This was where my uncles  taught and my grandfather would actually do a private once in a while.  We also went to Saulo’s academy a few times.  When training at any academy, I specifically remember my Professor/Grandfather instructing me to not get off my back.  I would lie down and have someone mounted or side mounted on me, and he would ask the guys to go to town.  This was a little frustrating because sometimes I had opportunities to get on top and possibly do good. Most of the time my training partner was a higher belt so that was even more reason for my ego to want to do good.  This went on for months, sometimes changing positions to the guard or back mount. Training consisted of me being in the inferior positions so often that, at times, I preferred to not train at all. My frustrations sometimes got the best of me, and only years later was I able to see what he had in mind for me.  More often than not, the student does not know what he or she needs, it is the instructor’s job to create a training environment that will help the student reach his or her highest potential.

What we were doing was preparing for worst-case scenarios.  The belief was that if you were fully prepared for worst-case scenarios, there would be no worst-case scenarios.

This brings me back to the phrase “If you do not lose, you can only win.” This phrase is the truth because to survive is to win.  It is what draws most of us to the mat, “Self Defense.” I see why my grandfather was so successful in all his years of fighting.  He would walk into the ring with no expectations of defeating his opponent; no emotion, no negativity towards his opponent, just respect and a curiosity as to what his opponent could surprise him with.  He was the ultimate example of a scientist.

I wonder if it is possible to find victory within defeat. One knows that if one does not lose, one shall win. However, can one discover both victory and defeat simultaneously? If you Keep it Playful, the answer is absolutely!!! All is mind.

Thank you Grandfather and Grandmaster for forcing me to spend time in the most inferior positions. Thank you for helping me find comfort where most find discomfort.  Thanks to my level of comfort, I am able to keep it playful on a whole different level.

Happy Birthday Grandpa!!

October 1, 1913 – Forever



About KeepItPlayful

I keep it playful for a living.
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68 Responses to Helio Gracie Day

  1. Nohan says:

    Truly a amazing insight to your journey and legacy your grandfather left for all of us. Thank you and above all Grandmaster Helio Gracie.

  2. Michelle says:

    Ryron, I didn’t want to stop reading this!! I could see what you were describing so clearly. Have you ever considered writing a book? You have the gift, truly
    Happy Birthday to your Grandfather.

  3. viniramosandthefloor says:

    So awesome, Ryron!
    Thanks for pouring out your heart 😉

    Feliz Aniversário Hélio!

  4. Marcos says:

    Adorei Ryron, fantástico. É por isso que você esta onde está.

  5. Dadi Hanoch says:

    Ryron, you and the family are so blessed to be apart of this huge peace of history! Amazing!!
    I think you should make a tradition of sharing stories about your grand father / master / legend on this day!!
    Happy birthday Helio!!

  6. Dang… what a great story and amazing legacy Helio has left for us. Thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work, Ryron. I’m very grateful for the work of your family, which makes an impact in my life.

  7. Rener says:

    Good one!!!

  8. kngbnb says:

    Awesome! I always wished I started sooner…I am honored just to be in the same atmosphere with the Grand Master a few years ago in L.A. Happy Helio Gracie Day!!! A great time to start training again! I’ll see you guys soon. I miss the mat!!!

  9. jenaro says:

    That was beautiful man. Thanks for sharing these details. It can only help us all become better on and off the mat.

  10. This was very inspiring for me Ryron. “The belief was that if you were fully prepared for worst-case scenarios there would be no worst-case scenarios.” I’m going to practice this philosophy into my jiu-jitsu game. GREAT post my friend. Thank you! 🙂

    • YO!! I am sure you have already been doing this since San jose:) peace.

      • Yes Ryron, I have. I’ve been rolling with people, and letting myself get into bad situations and working from there. It has improved my defense, and able to survive the bombardment 🙂 Thanks my friend, good luck at Metamoris. I’ll be rooting for you. #graciejiujitsu

  11. Carlos says:

    I think it´s very difficult to teach just with words what jiu jitsu are about. But GM Hélio made it happens, and you guys(Ryron and Rener) did by your father and grandfather guidance, shared to the world. I sincerly hope be very close to the family soon!

  12. AndresS says:

    Great experience for us to read you. I am going to practic in this positions much more until love them ; D


  13. Zohra says:

    Ryron – As you know, I’ve been so on again off again with training because of graduate school that I always feel like I’m starting over from square one every time I get a chance to go back to training. It’s actually quite a relief to know that you experienced a lot of frustration with training yourself. And to the point where you say that sometimes you didn’t even want to train. I’ve been there. Jiujitsu is the hardest thing I’ve had to learn in my life. But I always go back. And I love it every time. Thank you for keeping it playful and thank the grandmaster for instilling his knowledge in you and your family.

  14. David N says:

    Awesome writting!!! Keep it up

  15. Matt Regalado says:

    Wow, I see where my emotions have plagued me. Thank you for the lesson. On a side note, my wife shares Grand Master Helio’s Birthday.

  16. Dave says:

    Sensei Morihei Ueshiba claimed that, “Aikido appears at first appears to be an art to physically master an opponent but at it’s highest level it was really an art to unite all humanity into one giant family.” I believe your story exemplifies this spirit! My deepest respect to your grandfather for taking jiu jitsu to the highest level 🙂

  17. Brad R says:

    All I can say is wow! I have been going through the struggle of my life for four years (divorce, losing custody of my daughter,) and I’ve read a lot of inspirational material that has helped me keep going. But this article sunk in so deeply. I know it is about BJJ, but I also know it is about much more than that. “If you do not lose, you can only win.” This is my new motto. Thank you teacher Ryron!

  18. Salim says:

    Happy Birthday Grandmaster !

  19. Richard Walker says:

    Wow, we are half a world away in the pacific in little old New Zealand, and yet we are able to be so deeply moved & proud to follow a family, who offer so much to benefit our lives.
    Thank you all & happy Helio Gracie Day..

  20. Raul says:

    So many different lessons in that short story. Im honored and proud to be a part of your families lineage through Gracie University. Thank you!

  21. Rick Torres says:


  22. David says:

    This brought tears to my eyes as i too used to spend long time with my Grandfather. We didnt do Jiu-Jitsu but the time and memories shared are no less amazing. Great story!!

  23. Adam Kowal says:

    I never would have thought that words on the internet could help your ju-jitsu game, and it’s because I didn’t realize the importance of the right ju-jitsu “mind set”. But after only 2 blogs, I gotta say my game has gotten much better. Im blown away at how much the keep it playful philosophy & seminar has also improved my game. (I havn’t gassed out once since!!) I cant wait to adopt this “no worst case scenarios” philosophy right along side it. Please continue to share these teachings with us, because it allows us East Coasters who can’t make it to the academy to still be your students. Thanks Ryron.
    P.S. say whats up to Omar for me!

  24. hawkhardy says:

    You’ve certainly learned your lesson from the GrandMaster well. I know no one who has engaged in more grappling matches that lasted over an hour then you. I know your Grandfather was very proud of this fact and of you.

  25. Johnny Meredith says:

    Well said….and a Great match today! You won!

  26. Ryron, to me you represent the best of your grandfather legacy! I respect you so much! You’re a great guy. So proud to be one of your students. Abraco

  27. Juan Manuel says:

    Thank kindly you for sharing Ryron. I’m a blue belt at Gracie Humaita Buenos Aires, Argentina, Rolker Gracie is the technical instructor for all academies here in Buenos Aires. Sebastian Muñoz our faixa preta directly under Rolker. Every year a group from our academy goes to Rio and trains at Gracie Humailta Rio, I’m going next year 🙂 Also, I’m 6’2” and 231 lbs. I have a natural tendency to spar on top and over the past two years or so I made a deliberate decision to stay on the bottom: mounted, side control, half guard, deep half guard, whatever, but on the bottom. The result of this experiment is that I have prepared for the worst, and have been subjected to countless attempts to tap me. It wasn’t pretty at first but the results have more than paid off. Very very few people at the academy can make me tap. Totally agree with you 100%, if you don’t loose you can only win. Osss.
    PS 1. Congratulations on the way you fought with Andre Galvao. Outstanding display of courage. I hope there is more Metamoris coming!
    PS 2. I’m 40 years old, the only way I’ll be able to roll with my grandkids is keeping it playful, definitely the way I’ll be rolling from now on!

    • Congratulations on your growth! Also, make sure when you are on the bottom you do not always take the first opportunity to get out but let yourself see all the set ups your partner is using. Abraco.

      • Jose Aguirre says:

        Ryron, thank you for sharing memories of your grandfather, Grandmaster Helio Gracie, with the world. Your story inspires me to inspire my 5 year old son and 4 year old grandson to keep it R.E.A.L and keepitplayful on and off the mat. I want to be the father, grandfather, teacher, scientist, professor and friend they mention when talking about role models and being inspired. I want them to learn the survival mindset from an early age so that there are no worst case scenarios for them. When I accomplish this I will have given them the greatest gift possible – Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Keeping It Real In Brooklyn!!! Funny Story – when my son was 4 years old, he asked my wife who it was in the picture hanging in my living room/training area (Helio Gracie poster) and she says your dad’s grandfather. Now he won’t stop saying it’s my grandfather. Hey, maybe he isn’t my grandfather but I did inherit his survival mindset recently. Thanks again.

      • Starting young is the best way to go!! keep up the great work. peace

  28. graciejj2000 says:

    Very inspiring word Ryron. I’m so glad that we’re so close in age, because I can hopefully look forward to many many more years of learning from you and Rener via GU and following you guys on the rest of social media. I appreciate you instilling this philosophy into us. I enjoy the fact that I’m actually more comfortable on the bottom of the mount than on top mount. It’s kind of funny when (if any) there is anxiety about being on top mount because the comfort is on the bottom where I am more familiar with the windows of opportunity. At any rate thanks for sharing your stories of the Grand Master. Truly an enjoyable read with a great motto!

  29. graciejj2000 says:

    What a great story. I always enjoy hearing pearls like this that allow more insight into the Grand Masters thoughts. Thank you also for instilling these philosophies of surviving into those of us you teach via GU right from the beginning. I’m very thankful that we are so close in age. Hopefully this means I have many more years to learn from Rener and yourself. Keep doing what you are doing. Both you and Rener inspire people.

    ~Chad Maulolo

  30. Quentin Solomon says:

    Thank you for this view.
    I am lucky to have Vanderson Pires for a teacher, his ahua (maori for spirit) for BJJ and the respect he shows for Grandmaster Helio Gracie is evident through his teaching of self-defence and sport jiu jistu.
    Keeping it playful will be my goal in BJJ.

  31. jenaro says:

    What a story. You almost want to try and recreate that expirience in some way shape or form (without the guidance of Helio of course) for yourself to learn
    to lose that desire to want to win while some is destroying you, to then be able to really learn what defense is. Great perspective.
    Thanks for sharing.

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