This question was asked to Grandmaster Hélio by Professor Pedro Valente, when he visited the Miami Jiu-jitsu Academy. He replied that originally, the Gracie Academy did not use belt colors to denote fighting ability. Different colored belts were only used to differentiate students from instructors. Black belts were avoided, because this was what Judo instructors wore. The Gracies regarded Judo as a restrictive sport, instead of a comprehensive fighting system. Back then, instructors in the Gracie Academy wore light blue belts, and head instructors wore belts that were dark blue. Head instructors had to complete a special course, taught by the Grandmaster personally.
In 1967, the Federation of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu was set up by Elcio Leal Binda. At this point, the belt system used in Judo was incorporated. Other new practices, such as weight divisions and a points system, were adopted too. Judo was enjoying big support in Brazil during this period, so Grandmaster Hélio consented to implement these changes. Some of his students persuaded him that jiu-jitsu would benefit overall, if recreational tournaments were held.
During the nineties, Grandmaster Hélio observed that his fighting system was being misinterpreted, as a result of point jiu-jitsu tournaments. Unauthorized individuals were awarding red belts to students, even though they had not achieved this grade themselves. Consequently, Grandmaster Hélio opted to wear the traditional blue belt to signify his dissatisfaction, and distinguish his values from those of the jiu-jitsu federation. Moreover, blue is one of his favorite colors.