Komplete Martial Arts 
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BJJ History

(a brief history and lineage)

Jigoro Kano

Founder of Judo


Like most martial arts, Jiu-Jitsu roots trace back to ancient Japan where the Samurai developed the gentle art into a well-rounded self defense system. In 1914, a Japanese Jiu-Jitsu champion named Mitsuyo Maeda migrated to Brazil. There he shared his art with the Gracie Family who had themselves migrated from Scotland many years earlier.


In 1925, Carlos Gracie opened the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Brazil and the Gracie Dynasty was born. Carlos Gracie's younger brother, Helio, weighed only 135 pounds. He was so small and frail that doctors advised him not to participate in athletic activities. When young Helio began training, he found that he needed to adjust the techniques he had learned so that they would work for someone smaller or weaker than their opponent. As time went on, Helio became a national hero as he challenged and defeated many of the world's top fighters.


In the late 1970s and early 1980s, several of Helio Gracie's sons migrated to the United States and introduced Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to any who wanted to learn. At the time, Americans had quite an obsession with the flashy martial arts styles seen in Hollywood movies, each one claiming to be the most effective. Following in the steps of his father, Rorion Gracie issued the now famous Gracie Challenge: Rorion would fight any person, of any style, and any size. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu began to make its mark in America as stylists from all over the United States accepted the challenge and were defeated by the gentle, effective art.

In 1993, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu exploded onto the world scene as Rorion's 170 pound brother, Royce Gracie, entered the first Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC). At the time there were no gloves, no time limits, and almost no rules. As the smallest fighter in the event, most gave young Royce no chance of defeating his much larger and more athletic opponents. As had happened so many times before, this small Gracie fighter defeated each and every opponent by submission. Almost overnight, a world-wide demand for instruction in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu emerged.



Considered by many Brazilian Jiu Jitsu figures such as Ricardo Arona, Demian Maia, Paulo Filho and many others as the Greatest BJJ practitioner of all time, Rickson Gracie is also the son of Grand Master Helio Gracie. Through several Vale-Tudo (No Holds Barred) fights in his native Brazil and in Japan during the 1980s and 1990s decades, Rickson Gracie helped put his family trade (Gracie Jiu Jitsu/BJJ) on the map as a legitimate and well known fighting style. Rickson Gracie also became a star in the MMA community after the release of the fantastic documentary Choke.

While Rickson is a dangerous man with gloves on, he is even more dangerous without them. A known grappler, Rickson is the son of the iconic Jiu Jitsu figurehead, Helio Gracie.
Legend has it that Rickson—between his BJJ, MMA, Sambo, Vale Tudo, etc. fights—has a compiled record of 400 wins and zero losses.

Nickname: “Urso”/Bear, though this is not used, Pedro Sauer (a Rickson Gracie black belt) stated on more then one occasion that Rickson’s father, Helio Gracie, used to call him the bear when training due to his strength and overwhelming fighting style.

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In 1990, Pedro Sauer moved to California to help the Gracie family introduce Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to the United States. He had grown up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As a young man Pedro had trained in several martial arts, but when he was 15 years old, his friend Rickson Gracie invited him to train at the Gracie Academy. His first encounter with Gracie Jiu-Jitsu convinced him that it was the most effective martial art ever created. Years later, in 1985, he was awarded a black belt under Rickson and Helio Gracie. 

Shortly after moving to the United States, Pedro Sauer moved to Utah and began teaching as one of only two Gracie Jiu-Jitsu instructors that were not part of the Gracie family. Professor Sauer quickly became known for his kindness, meticulous approach, and eye for detail. His name has become synonymous with fluidity and technical precision. He is frequently mentioned on television and featured in martial arts magazines. In 2000, Pedro Sauer was voted "Best of the Best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Instructor" in a worldwide poll. He is currently an eighth degree black belt under Rickson and Helio Gracie.


Pittsburgh Pa’s. First Gracie Black Belt!

Sensei Sonny Achille has studied and practiced martial arts for over 35 years, and has been actively teaching martial arts for over 20 years.  Among his many titles and accomplishments are:

Sensei Achille is a nationally recognized teacher, coach, referee, and tournament promoter.  His teaching style is unique and extremely popular. His students are well known for their technical skills and their respectful approach to the martial arts and life in general.

Martial arts professionals and experts recognize Sensei Achille as the "martial arts teacher of teachers."  In fact, more martial arts school owners come to Steel City Martial Arts to train with Sensei Achille than to any other facility in Western Pennsylvania.  Sensei Achille is a born and bred proud Pittsburgher, with extended family throughout the area.  Steel City Martial Arts is one of the friendliest businesses in Pittsburgh

Sensei Achille has a long and storied competitive history, beginning in the mid-1970’s and continuing as recently as 2007. Sensei Achille never placed lower than 3rd place in any competition that he entered.