Carlson Gracie's History?

Like thousands of others, I was exposed to "Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu" as "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu" via the promotion of Rorion Gracie and the UFC. A majority of BJJ practitioners who I have trained with credit Helio Gracie as he largest contributor to BJJ as far as the evolution of the style from its Japanese counterpart. But there are people who point to others within the Gracie clan as the true keystones of the development of BJJ.

Carlson Gracie is a man who has been frequently mentioned as a pioneer. Some say the real originator, others dub him a close second to Helio. I have heard stories about challenge matches, the Carlson Gracie fight team, BTT, adopting Vitor, all the way up to this 23 year old kid he took to Rio to challenge fighters. Currently I train with one of Carlson's black belts, and I must say that Carlson certainly knows how to create a hell of a competitor.

Is Carlson the center of the evolution of BJJ? Is the belief that Helio is the originator of BJJ just clever marketing by Rorion? Or, is it true that Helio was the person who developed BJJ as we know it and his brothers learned from him? Alternatively, is it possible that all of the brothers worked together to create the art, and that no one brother can truly be cited as the one main epicenter?

I myself am first and foremost just happy that BJJ was developed in the first place since it has become such an important part of my life. I am not attempting to promote any mudslinging. I am just curious about the origins and history of BJJ as we know it. There are many different viewpoints out there and right now, I am interested in exploring the views and history surrounding Carlson Gracie.

Here is my understanding:

Carlos Gracie was the first to learn Jiu-Jitsu from Maeda, although no one knows what or how much he learned.

Carlos opened the first Gracie Academy and began instructing students. This progressed for a number of years until Helio proved to Carlos that he could be a competent instructor and fighter. Helio and Carlos were very close, by the way.

Helio then became the head instructor at the Gracie Academy while Carlos focused on perfecting the Gracie diet and other pursuits, and discontinued his teaching. Helio is credited with much of the technique and protocol still used today.

When Carlson became old enough (by this time Helio was in his 40's), Carlson became the family champion and the other head instructor at the Gracie Academy. Carlson then left to establish his own academy.

I believe Helio is considered the father of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by most people, because of the leverage techniques he developed, and his many challenge matches. People who use Helio's style are typically more relaxed, and play more of a leverage game based on superior technique.

Carlson is considered to be one of the top teachers of Jiu-Jitsu of all time -- just look at the students he has developed. People who use Carlson's style are typically more aggressive and use athleticism (and superior technique, of course) to beat their opponents.

This is basically all stuff I can remember from my readings. I remember a quote (barely) from Carlson (Carlos' son) that went something like this: "My father taught Jiu-jitsu to the family, but Helio was a genius in the way he modified the techniques, and his are the techniques we use." I'm paraphrasing of course. I'll have to go find the actual quote later.

thanks man. that is exactly the info i was looking for. interesting stuff.

An interview you must read is at

An excerpt:

Tatame Magazine: What's the reason for your disagreement with Helio Gracie?

Carlson Gracie:
I have nothing against him, the only problem is that he's going around telling lies, you know what I mean? He goes around saying that his sons are the biggest & best fighters in the world and that they discovered the invincibility. His students lose everything here in Brazil. OK, Royce did well in the U.S. He beat everyone there, but no one knew anything then. Here in Brazil, I've never seen Royce win ONE championship. He lost to everyone. He lost to De La Riva, who was so much smaller than him. He tapped out to Paschoal. He's a good fighter, but never won anything here. He's not this "phenomenon" that they talk about.

Tatame Magazine:

And Rorion? How is your relationship with him nowadays?

The problem with him is that he trademarked the name "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu" in the U.S. but he's not going to keep me from using "Carlson Gracie". Like I said, I want nothing to do with "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu". I am "Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu" . Nowadays, the "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu" is old. They say that strength doesn't count, but it does. Maybe it wouldn't make a difference if the opponent didn't know anything. If the opponent knows something, then the strength starts to count. Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is a combination. It's endurance, technique, etc. I'm not going to have a student of mine who's 90Kg (198Lbs) fight someone who weighs 130Kg (286Lbs) and is very good also. They're lost, they've stopped in time and space. Along with my students, I've evolved the Jiu-Jitsu even further. They call themselves the best, but they don't prove it. In the U.S., they don't enter their students into any outside competitions. Let me tell you a little story about Rorion. Every day Rorion used to come to me and ask me if I knew how to speak English, and I would say no, I didn't know how at all, and he would keep asking me and Rillion every day. Then he invited us to do a television interview with him. He was sitting in the middle, and Rillion & I were on either side. I couldn't understand a thing. All I understood him saying was "Rillion Gracie and Carlson Gracie" once in a while, and pointing at us. OK, one month goes by, and I was here in Brazil when a friend of mine called me to say: "Carlson, I saw the interview with you, Rorion and Rillion in the U.S., he only told lies." "You don't know any English, do you?" "He only said bullshit, and you were practically agreeing with him." "He would talk and turn to the sides saying that you and Rillion were there to confirm it." Then I went to my friend's house, for him to translate exactly what was said. Then I found out that Rorion said that he was a national champion for 20 years and had never lost and that he had invented the Gracie diet. He even said that my dad was just a fucking assistant of his and that it was Helio Gracie who brought Jiu-Jitsu to Brazil. Lies over lies! When I found out, I was so mad!

Carlos Gracie Sr.(Father of Carlson Gracie Sr-Brother of Helio Gracie) Was the first to learn from Kond Koma.

Carlos Gracie Sr. Start what today we train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Vale Tudo,also the Gracie Diet.

Carlos Gracie Sr for what I know and for the litle chances I have spend aroud him was in my opinium more Intelectual teacher then a fighter his mind was beyond just Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and fight his goals was to work mind and body together in conection to develop a best fighter and goes......

Helio Gracie: As he all ready mention many times He watch his brother teaching and learn from watch nothging agaist that but I think is kind of funny he never said Oh yes my brother also help me polish the techniques. Helio was the gracie back on the days to get envolve more in challenge and fights then all the other brothers- he develop his techniques great techniques,he develop his own way of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.(For the litle chances I have to be around him all I can said is he is a Real Honor,hardcore,great instructor lot Pride on his heart man.)

Carlson Gracie Sr.: In my idea and many other people with knowledge was the Man the instructor who really change Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to a more powerfull and devastating style and at the same time combining together and also the founder of great fighters today if we have a Team winning UFC-Pride-any other events behind this instructor 90% of the times if he is from brazil almost positive he was student of Carlson or student under carlson former student. also the man who save the honor of the family even the family does not give much about that,the man who made Rollis Gracie change to another level and goes the man when Jiu Jitsu vs Luta Livre Challenge first came back in the 90' who took the lidership and training........

In my opinium they are great both sides of the family to bad they could not keep with each other happens all over the world, Plus when this Gracie Jiu Jitsu name lawsuits and all other craps came to USA was very sad because in reality Gracie Jiu Jitsu is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and gracie is just the name- and today in Brazil today and in the past we have none gracies who fought and did better then gracies but in reality they dont care because is the Brazil Jiu Jitsu name they are really worry about represente good and do good.

I think Carlson Gracie Sr History is somenthing should get out on books or DVD's some day but in reality (I will speak for myself Carlson dosent care he dont care about spot lights and all this crap) he is just happpy be Carlson Gracie Sr, The Champion's Factory instructor-this same champions who will turn the back to the old man now after getting all the knowldge.


I find it interesting that BTT criticised him for the same thing he criticises GJJ about. - not evolving to keep up with the times.

That said, Carlos has made a HUGE contribution to bjj & vale tudo and deserves respect.

In terms of MMA and sport BJJ success of students, hasnt Carlson been of the best instructors ever?

" today if we have a Team winning UFC-Pride-any other events behind this instructor 90% of the times if he is from brazil almost positive he was student of Carlson or student under carlson former student"

Wow, I'm trying to think of any exceptions, among fighters who really use a lot of BJJ.

Renzo's guys. Uh... Mir, who learned under Pires... uh... Sinosic?


Gracie family tree:

There were other students that trained with Maeda besides Carlos. I remember reading that there were other academies and lineages that spurned up from this that had nothing to do with the Gracies. Also people I have known from Brazil speak like the Gracies, with the exception of Carlson, weren't really that famous and they never won Major Jiu Jitsu tournaments (Carlsons students were winning them all) The UFCs put them on the map, meanwhile there were alot more styles and people responsible for BJJ in Brazil than the Gracies. I am not trying to troll here, I am just interested in the history of Jiu Jitsu that isn't told by a Gracie. Carlos wasn't the only student of Maeda and I am interested in information on the other students and lineages. I believe Carlson was the greatest Jiu Jitsu teacher of all time and was much more important than Helio. I would never disregard Helio's contributions, but to hear it from his side of the family, it makes it sound like he invented the art, which isn't true.

Here is something interesting I read.

"Tomita left for the West Coast and Maeda stayed in New York. Maeda began teaching at Princeton University part-time after he had won some challenge matches. He also commuted to teach in New York City, but his American students did not take to the Japanese style of teaching and he often found his students did not stay long. Maeda was approached to engage in a match for prize money by the local japanese. Maeda wasn't having much success teaching judo so he accepted. This was a violation of Kodokan rules which prohibited members from engaging in matches. He accepted the wrestling/judo match with a Brooklyn, New York wrestler nicknamed "Butcherboy" that took place in the Catskills, New York. Maeda defeated the wrestler. His victory raised the pride of local Japanese in the area. This match was the beginning of his career as a professional fighter. "

He was teaching in the US before he went to Brazil, but Americans didn't take to the art. W


I'd like to elaborate on something beto said.

Rolls (who was Carlos' son from an extramerital affair, but raised by Helio as his own son) trained primarily at Carlson's academy because he thought the training was better. Eventually he opened an academy in the same building as Carlson.

Rorion is a ruthless scumbag who would sell out his own family to make a dime, and his father's legacy is in jeopardy because of this.

thanks guys. this is great.

I have all the respect in the world for all Gracie family members that had a hand in creating, developing and spreading the great art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu!

I respect everything that Carlson Gracie has done in the BJJ world (past, present and future) but I worry about his bitterness. His bitterness with Helio, Rorion, BTT etc. I'm not saying he doesn't have the right to be upset but he shouldn't let it consume him. He's like the Bret Hart of BJJ.

His section in "The Gracie Way" always intrested me the most.  Can somebody tell me what happend with his school in California?  It said that he had a great school out there and had a lot of movie stars training with him.  He even had a director wanting to make a movie of his life.  It kind of said he was focusing on Vitor's training instead of running his business.  I guess this was the same time as the BTT split.  What exactly happened and how did he end up in Chicago? 

Also, that article is from 1997.


I trained a bit at that school in california way back when (97?). It was just poorly run. That is the only way to describe it. Vitor, Sperry, Bustamante, my coach Rey, were all guys you would see in training, but the business aspect just didnt seem organized. The place was in a great location, but the paint inside was a messed up and nothing was very organized. Its too bad because if they had someone responsible handling the business it could have been HUGE.

awwwwwww $hiettt.... andre to the rescue!

Louco said " There were other students that trained with Maeda besides Carlos. I remember reading that there were other academies and lineages that spurned up from this that had nothing to do with the Gracies" I herd the same thing. Carlos was not the only Brazilian to learn jiujutsu under Maeda.