I remember reading somewhere that, way down the line, the Kodokan offered Hélio Gracie a high dan ranking, and to absorb what had become BJJ back into the world of Judo. Hélio refused, presumably because he did not want to place himself under the authority of another organisation.

I can't seem to find a source for this story, now. Does anyone know where I might have heard this, and have any comment on its veracity?

2 Answers 2


You may be considering one aspect of the story of the match between Helio and Masahiko Kimura. Kimura identified Helio as being a 6th dan in Judo in his biography and some accounts describe it as him having accorded that rank after the match. Robert Hill, in his book, World of Martial Arts, states that Helio's official ranking was only 3rd dan, but also stated that foreign practitioners sometimes have their ranking reported as less when the organization is asked.

Other than that account, I have not found any indication that the Kodokan offered him a higher ranking, with or without the purpose of a bribe.


A 1947 newspaper report claimed Hélio had been awarded an unspecified grade by an unspecified Japanese judo academy:

The headline on page 10 of the Friday June 6, 1947 edition of A Noite proclaimed "Helio Gracie oferece 16 mil dolares para luitar com Joe Louis!! ["Helio Gracie offers 16, 000 dollars to fight Joe Louis!"]. "I will give Joe Louis 16, 000 $ to fight me" Helio promised ["Darei 16,000 dolares a Joe Louis para lutar comigo"].

He was confident that jiu-jitsu was superior to boxing ["O jiu-jitsu é superior ao box"]. Helio Gracie was qualified to act as self-appointed representative of jiu-jitsu because, according to the article, Helio was the only Brazilian with a title conferred by a Japanese academy [o unico brasileiro que possui titulo concedido por uma academia japonesa].32

32. If it was true that a Japanese academy certified Helio prior to June 1947, it was not reported before or since.

As Sean Duggan notes, there are conflicting later reports of Hélio's grade post-1947:

One day, Helio Gracie, judo 6th dan, issued a challenge to us. The rule of the bout was different from that of judo or pro wrestling. The winner was decided by submission only. No matter how cleanly a throw is executed or how long Osaekomi lasts, it does not count.

Hélio Gracie himself had already risen to the rank of 6th dan in judo by the time of his fight against Kimura in 1951. According to Masahiko Kimura in his book "My Judo". Kodokan records have Hélio Gracie recorded as a 3rd dan in judo, but it is not unusual for a foreign judoka's actual grade to be higher than that officially ranted and recorded by the Kodokan.

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