Continuing the Gracie Barra Family Legacy
Carlos Gracie is possibly the single most important figure in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Gracie Barra schools carry on the Jiu-Jitsu legacy he began.
A Pioneer of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Carlos Gracie, born on the 14th of September 1902 in Belém do Pará, Brazil, is the most important figure in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu history, as he was the very first Gracie family member to make contact with the roots of BJJ (Japanese Jiu-Jitsu).
Carlos was small for his age but extremely energetic and with a very strong personality. Many say that if he was born in current times he would certainly have been diagnosed as hyperactive. It was this hyperactivity that made his father take him to a gentleman by the stage name of Count Koma (whose real name was Mitsuyo Esai Maeda), and was a Jiu-Jitsu/Judo representative sent to Brazil by Japan to spread Jiu-Jitsu to the world. Carlos’s father took him to Maeda with hopes that learning Jiu-Jitsu could release a bit of the extra energy he was prone to have.
Maeda was fond of Carlos Gracie and accepted the challenge of educating him in the art of Jiu-Jitsu. His lessons with Maeda lasted for 3 years with some interruptions “here and there” when Maeda needed to travel for his duties. In 1921 the Gracie Family was bankrupt and needed to move from Belem do Para to Rio de Janeiro, and that was the last time Carlos Gracie saw his master.
He started working on his own until one day a friend of Carlos’s, who he knew previously, met him in Rio. His friend had trained with Maeda for a period and knew Carlos was one of Maeda’s best students, so he invited him to train alongside him with the Special Police, a corps his friend belonged to. Inside Police walls are where Carlos started truly testing his Jiu-Jitsu skills in No Holds Barred fights performed in closed quarters.
He eventually saved enough money to begin his dream and open his own Jiu-Jitsu academy in 1925. To help him with this journey, he requested both of his brothers George and Helio join him in opening his academy. While training his students & brothers, he would also promote fights between his academy and other styles of fighting that were commonly found in Rio de Janeiro such as Capoeira, Boxing, and Wrestling in order to promote his academy. His innermost team would consist of himself and his brothers.
Carlos died at the age of 92 in the year of 1994, he had 21 children and 11 of which he awarded a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu. Amongst his sons are 3 BJJ legends in their own right, such as Carlson Gracie, Rolls Gracie and Carlos Gracie Jr (Carlinhos).
Carlos Gracie Senior
Carlos Gracie Junior
Carlos Gracie Junior, born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on January 17th, 1956, was one of the sons of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu founder Carlos Gracie (senior), was raised in his early days by his uncle Helio Gracie and trained at Helio’s academy from a young age.
Although Carlos Jr. trained at his uncle’s academy, he always followed his brother Rolls‘s views on jiu-jitsu and cross-training, often venturing with his brother, to sambo (sombo in the US) and wrestling competitions. Rolls Gracie was the main instructor at the Gracie Academy, and when he left to work with his other brother [Carlson Gracie], Carlos Jr. stayed behind to help run the main Gracie academy with his cousin Rickson Gracie. He spent two years there teaching,but eventually stopped when he was accepted as a nutrition student at a University in Rio de Janeiro. During the time Carlos Junior was enrolled in school, Rolls Gracie started teaching on his own, separating his Jiu-Jitsu class from his older brother’s class (although they still shared the same facilities). During this time, Rolls asked his brother Carlos Jr to come and help him as an assistant coach, and as the University was close to the gym Carlos accepted.
When Rolls passed away due to a hang-gliding accident, his students and Rolls’ wife asked Carlos Gracie Junior to be the main coach at the Copacabana academy. Carlos Jr. accepted and maintained his coaching position at the academy for a few years before he decided it was time to open his own gym in Barra da Tijuca. The name of his new academy, Gracie-Barra, was used to differentiate Carlos’ academy from his uncle’s.
Even though many said Gracie-Barra was a bad idea, in little over one year the students grew from 20 to 200, most were surfers and other local men who were tough and looking for a challenge. Over time, different jiu-jitsu academies started opening all over Rio de Janeiro, many formed by Carlson Gracie’s black belts. Carlos Jr. saw a need for organized competition and a credible federation, being the visionary that he is, he created CBJJ – “Confederação Brasileira de Jiu-Jitsu“ which later grew into the IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation).
The CBJJ (IBJJF) to this day is the most prestigious and best-organized federation in jiu-jitsu and its titles are still regarded as the most prestigious by the jiu-jitsu community. In between opening academies and federations, Carlos Jr. still always managed to produce some of the very best BJJ fighters and coaches the world has to offer and have the most successful BJJ team in History, the one with the most international titles all around. Carlos Gracie Junior will always be remembered as a true ambassador of the sport and martial art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and as a token of that status, he was awarded his Coral Belt in 2008, one of the greatest honors there is in the BJJ world.