On November 5, 1932, a 17-year-old Hélio Gracie faced the American professional wrestler Fred Ebert, whom was touring South America at this time.
Ebert was reported in the Brazilian press as being, “a top wrestler who had taken 2nd place in the 95kg class of the 1928 World Wrestling Championship tournament held in New York City”.Hélio himself described Ebert as being, “a giant who weighed 216 pounds and entered the ring a full 80 pounds heavier” while Helio was just 140 pounds.
The rules of the match, as agreed to by both parties, were that it would be competed over 10-minute rounds to be decided only by “submission or unconsciousness”. Moreover, biting, ear or hair pulling, eye gouging, kicking, and punching were all forbidden; while chokes, elbows, head-butting, knees, and “any traumatism against the floor” were allowed.
The match itself played out over an hour and forty-five minutes, mostly with Ebert pinning Hélio to the ground looking to force him to quit , while the young Gracie unleashed an endless barrage of elbow, open hand and knee strikes upon his bigger foe.It end up as no contest.
Afterwards, there were several attempts to arrange a match between Ebert and Hélio’s brother, George Gracie [, but it came to naught. Soon, the American moved on to greener pastures. Hélio, for his part, hadn’t yet had his fill of wrestlers, and would soon have his eyes on a much bigger target: Wladek Zbyszko.
The 43-year-old Wladek, was in Rio along with his brother, the legendary Stanislaus Zbyszko, as part of a wrestling troupe whom they had organized to tour South America. He was no “jobber”. He had followed his brother from Poland to America in 1913, and quickly became a major force in the world of professional wrestling, even holding the heavyweight championship at least one time [EN 3]. He was skilled in Greco-Roman, catch-as-catch-can, and even, reportedly, knew some jiu jitsu.
At a well-muscled 235 pounds, he would truly be a giant in comparison to Hélio.
The David versus Goliath match took place on July 28, 1934, competed under a “no strikes” agreement. For the full three ten minute rounds, Zbyszko used his size and strength to take Hélio down and pin him, trying to squeeze the life out from him. He also went after Hélio’s neck time-and-time again, attempting various cranks or “twists”, but Hélio gamely fought him off until time expired and the match was called a draw.
The papers declared it had been a “long and boring” contest, but others saw it as a display of true grappling prowess. Wladek was quoted afterwards, as being “so impressed with Hélio’s performance that he would like to bring him back to North America”.
Hélio often credited these matches as the first mixed matches and the origins of which would one day become known as Vale Tudo
Over the next few decades, he would continue taking part in such matches against practitioners of judo, boxing, luta livre, and capoiera, and eventually he would make that pilgrimage to the United States and introduce the world to a thing called “Ultimate Fighting”
Helio Gracie was a man with no fear and his devotion to promote Jiu Jitsu was above anything. By been close to him for so long I learned not only to be brave but also to be strategic and wise on how to use my Jiu Jitsu. Master Caique