Living Legend Master Luis ‘Limao’ Heredia, 5th Degree Gracie Black Belt

Fighting can be traced back to the earliest human existence; it is nature’s way of establishing a pecking order. It was Plato who said: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” This idea best sums up the evolution of martial arts. The spiritual aspects came from places like organized religion, and early human philosophical ideals dating back to the origins of human civilization.

The advancement of the art of fighting occurred when both concepts combined to form a superior warrior with an enlightened ethical value for human life, rules of conduct, and an appreciation for a more fulfilled existence. Various cultures around the world placed their stamp on martial arts and the result is the prismatic explosion of diversity that resulted in the world of modern hand to hand combat.

Luis Limao Heredia

There is no known single source for Martial Arts. Each form is the product of its indigenous population whose cultural predeterminations influenced modifications accordingly. Martial Arts should be viewed as a highly advanced, technically driven method of combat. It should also be noted (culturally speaking) that learning martial arts historically is synonymous with the philosophical and spiritual pursuit of higher education and harmony with nature.

An example of these cultural influences is Gracie Jiu Jitsu, a style of martial arts that originated in Brazil and was the brain child of Grand Master Helio Gracie, a Brazilian martial artist who, together with his brother Carlos Gracie, founded the martial art of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, known internationally as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). He was the father of the world-renowned fighters Rickson Gracie, Royler Gracie, Royce Gracie, Relson Gracie, and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Co-founder Rorion Gracie.

According to Gracie’s son, Rorion, was the first Gracie to bring this superior style of fighting to the United States of America, and later founded the UFC. Royce Gracie, Rorion’s younger brother, went on to become the first UFC champion in the organization’s history; Helio coached Royce from outside the cage at UFC 1 and UFC 2.

Gracie died on the morning of January 29, 2009, in his sleep in Itaipava, Rio de Janeiro of natural causes. His last words reportedly were: “I created a flag from the sport’s dignity. I oversee the name of my family with affection, steady nerves and blood.” Gracie was able to utilize the same Jiu-Jitsu techniques which he helped to develop until his death at 95 years old. Gracie taught on the mat until 10 days before his death, when he became ill

Two legends of Jiu Jitsu known around the world today charged with insuring the survival of Gracie Jiu Jitsu are Master Pedro Sauer, an 8th Degree Rickson Gracie Black Belt holder, and Master Luis ‘Limao’ Heredia, a 5th Degree Black Belt under world famous Rickson Gracie as well. Master Pedro Sauer said, “We trained together for many years at Gracie Humaita, Luis was a blue belt when he started at the academy. He is a very nice man, and a very technical fighter. He moved to the U.S. around 1989 with Rickson and lived in Rickson’s house, and helped with everything.”

Heredia, a five time Pan Am Champion, was asked by Rickson Gracie personally to help bring Gracie Jiu Jitsu to the States. Heredia said, “I always will be close to Rickson, despite living across the world from each other, we communicate often; I will forever need his guidance and his wisdom. He is a great friend, teacher, we are family.”

Heredia teaching a class at Robert Lovi Academy

Moving to the U.S. to help the spread of Jiu Jitsu would be a monumental challenge for most, not many would have accepted it. Heredia never thought twice about it though, “I was very honored and thankful and excited about the idea, it was another one of life’s blessings for me, and these moments have been countless.”

“It felt like I finally had a chance to get things moving in my life, I needed it badly. The Gracie’s were just special friends, I REALLY TRUSTED IN WHAT THEY WERE TEACHING, GRACIE JIU JITSU. From the very first day to NOW, there were countless times when JIU JITSU saved my life, either physically and or psychologically. I don’t remember ever getting sick after learning the Gracie Diet.”

Heredia once rolled with 14 competitors through one round and then rolled 15 straight competitors in another, an incredible feat. His motivation was “a mix of FEAR, RESPECT, and TRUST in JIU JITSU. Plus I was representing Brazil, the Gracie’s and JIU JITSU.” Sun Tzu once said, “The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.” I think this is an apt description of Heredia.

According to, Luis has dedicated a lifetime to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and is a very skilled teacher and competitor who has received numerous awards for his dedication to teaching and tournament accomplishments. Luis ‘Limao’ Heredia owns Maui Jiu Jitsu Academy, the premiere Brazilian Jiu Jitsu School on the island of Maui, Hawaii., “The uniqueness of Maui Jiu Jitsu is derived from the students, teachers, and location of the academy. Maui is a special island where many different people mix together.” Heredia said, “I live in the woods. I am surrounded all the time by green forests, clean air, the ocean, waves, fish, and turtles, plenty of water, fruit trees and so forth.”

For Heredia, like other masters, it all started for him in Brazil. Heredia said,” I played a lot of soccer growing up (mandatory if you are Brazilian); by 12, I got hooked on surfing, and had a lot of passion for it. I guess surfing led me to Jiu Jitsu and later to Hawaii. At the age 16, some friends from the hood took me to a Gracie Academy.”

“It was a blessing for me to grow up in Brazil. I had a great life with super fun people. I miss the food, and the sports, and all the fun I had with my many friends.”

Heredia said he respects Helio Gracie and his family, “growing up watching Rickson and Royler Gracie was very inspirational” and that learning Jiu Jitsu from the Gracie’s was like, “being able to drink water from the purest place on the planet. It was another of life’s many blessings for me.”

“Helio was a very strong minded individual; he was super kind and a very special man. I just wish I could have learned more from him. The Gracie’s were always super nice to me and I am forever grateful to them ALL.”

Master Rob Lovi of the Robert Lovi Academy in San Diego, CA, said, “The precision in Luis Heredia’s execution of the fundamentals and perfect timing puts him in the same league with the greats like Rickson and Pedro. His Judo is outstanding as well. Luis loves to compete. He’s got a ton of titles.”

“I remember my friend, Alan Hopkins, in his first black-belt competition, drawing the veteran ‘Limao’. Although Alan held his own, it certainly wasn’t the easiest introduction to that top level. And who could forget the young Luis in Rickson’s video Choke.”

Heredia said,” I Know Rob from mutual friends and from the Jiu Jitsu community, where he is very well liked and respected, it is an honor to know him.”

Prof. Robert Lovi and Prof. Luis Heredia

Heredia is a purist and doesn’t seem too concerned with fame, to him, it isn’t important, learning proper fighting technique is. “I don’t care much about that stuff, it’s just Hollywood. I think it is important to know how to defend yourself by knowing Jiu Jitsu the proper way (self-defense), it is very important to know how to defend yourself when going to the ground, because most fights end up on the floor and Jiu Jitsu is the best style for that situation.”, “If the people make Maui Jiu Jitsu unique, then it’s the location that makes it special. Hawaii is the most isolated island chain in the entire world. Maui is the second largest island in the chain, and has everything Oahu has to offer, but with less of a crowd. Perfect surf breaks, breathtaking sunsets, world-class hiking, year round fishing, and the tropical climate make Maui a destination for locals and tourists alike.”

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