Kimura vs Gracie: Legends of the Arts
For anyone interested in the history of Judo or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, one point of history that should be examined was the historic battle of Masahiko Kimura vs Helio Gracie. These two legends of grappling fought against each other in a match in Brazil during the mid century. What occurred would help shape both styles…
Masahiko Kimura was a legendary Judoka, who was one of the best to ever train and teach the art. Kimura was the youngest Judoka ever to reach 5th degree black belt (by the age of 18). After dominating Judo competition in Japan, he traveled the world, defeating wrestlers, boxers, and fighters of all kind. In 1949, Kimura and two of his fellow Judokas, would be challenged by Helio Gracie of the famous Gracie family who created Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Helio Gracie was well known in Brazil. His family modified Kosen Judo to create what they called, Gracie Jiu Jitsu (or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu). Helio was a small man, but a fierce warrior. He took on various fighters from all different backgrounds. He would face wrestlers, boxers and Judoka’s and defeat them. Helio gained quite the reputation. When Helio heard of Kimura, he invited the Judo master to Brazil with two of his fellow Judokas to take on in a submission match.
When the Judokas arrived, Helio first challenged Kato, who was one of Kimura’s associates. Helio first had a draw against Kato, but in their second match was able to beat him with a gi choke. Yamaguchi wanted to take the next match, but Masahiko insisted that he fight Gracie next.
Masahiko’s grappling skills were very well known, and word had spread throughout the country. For the fight, twenty thousand people showed up to watch, including the president of Brazil. Brazilian fans brought coffins to the arena, telling Kimura that one of them would be for him. Rumor had it that the Japanese embassy told Kimura that if he lost, that he would never be welcomed back to Japan. There was much hype and excitement around the bout.
Finally, both competitors, Gracie and Kimura had entered the arena and went to the competition area. When the match started, Gracie tried throwing Kimura, but the experienced Judoka was not moved and was able to toss Helio around at will. When it went to the ground, Kimura went for many stranglehold techniques, but Gracie being the tough survivalist that he was, was able to escape everything that Kimura threw at him.
After the ten minute mark, Kimura was able to secure Helio with a gyaku-ude-garami. Helio being ever the tough competitor did not tap, and Kimura broke it for the first time. After the break, Helio did not give up, forcing Masahiko to break it for a second time. As Masahiko was about to break it for a third time, Gracie’s corner threw in the towel, and Masahiko Kimura was declared the winner. The Gracie family, ever respecting the Japanese martial artist, named that shoulder lock, the Kimura Lock in the BJJ system. This match furthered the rivalry between both styles, but also showed the strength of both styles as well. Both competitors, now have passed on, but their spirits live on through Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.