Origins of The Gracie Diet
In 1914, a Japanese jiu-jitsu champion named Mitsuyo Maeda immigrated to Brazil. There, he met my grandfather, Gastão Gracie, a Brazilian scholar and businessman. Gastão helped Maeda settle in the new country, and in return Maeda taught jiu-jitsu to Carlos, my grandfather’s oldest son. When the family moved to Rio de Janeiro in the early 1920s, Carlos, still in his teens, decided to teach jiu-jitsu. In order to promote his school, he issued open challenges to anyone who wanted a match. Over time, Carlos introduced his brothers to jiu-jitsu and they too became totally dedicated to the art. So, in 1925, they opened the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy.
My father, Helio Gracie, was the youngest of Carlos Gracie’s brothers. When he was sixteen years old and physically rather frail, Helio began experimenting with different ways to apply the traditional Japanese techniques. By focusing on leverage, timing, and natural body movements, he found that he could increase the effectiveness of many of the techniques and make them work against much bigger and stronger opponents. Helio dissected and tested every move until he discovered how to make it work against virtually any opponent – he literally reinvented the Japanese martial art. Soon, he too was challenging all kinds of opponents to fight anytime and anywhere. Helio’s unexpected victories catapulted him to stardom; he became the first sports legend in Brazilian history and came to be known as the father of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
It was only when his brothers started demonstrating their abilities on the mat that Carlos, then in his late 20s, shifted his focus and found his true calling in life. He immersed himself in a variety of subjects related to body, mind, and spirit. His studies in philosophy, religion, and health established him as the spiritual leader of the Gracie family.
Since none of the Gracie brothers were physically gifted, they had to stay healthy in order to sustain the open challenge that had become the family hallmark. Optimal health was essential. This is what motivated Carlos to study the links between diet and physical performance. He began his research by reading a wide range of opinions from various health experts and nutritionists. Then, he narrowed his interest to food combining, which he saw as the most important aspect of nutrition. Eventually, he also studied the use of medicinal herbs.
I based this book on the diet principles that my Uncle Carlos discovered and that my family has followed for many years. I supplemented those principles with my own experience as an athlete, a parent, and a teacher. I’m certainly aware of the great number and variety of diet books on the market covering nearly every approach to eating. In fact, if someone were to publish a book suggesting that we shouldn’t change anything in our eating habits, it might be a bestseller! But, I’m confident this book is like no other.