The martial art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has evolved into one of the most practiced martial arts in the world. A family of martial artists that can be accredited with BJJ’s rise in popularity and that is the Gracie family. They helped create BJJ and make it into what it is today, as well as MMA.
Gracie Family Origins
Judo master Mitsuyo Maeda came to Brazil to teach and spread the idea of Judo. After a demonstration at the Da Paz Theatre in Belem, Brazil, young Carlos Gracie decided to become his student. After being Maeda’s student for a few years, Carlos passed what he learned to his younger brother Helio.
According to the Gracie family’s account, Helio gradually developed his own techniques off of what his brother taught him. Helio was small and couldn’t do many of the Judo moves he was shown that involved strength. He began developing his own game, one that worked for smaller people - utilizing more leverage and involved less strength.
From that point on the Gracie family continued to develop their form of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It has been nearly 100 years since BJJ has been developed and is now practiced across the world!
A lot of BJJ's development can be accredited to the Gracie family. There’s too many Gracie’s to name, but here are the top most famous and influential Gracie family members. These 10 are the most known and have done the most for BJJ as we know it today.
Top 10 Most Influential Gracie Family Members
Carlos Gracie Sr.
Without Carlos Gracie learning under Master Maeda and sharing techniques with his brother Helio, there would be no Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Carlos Sr. was the spiritual leader of the Gracie and helped develop the Gracie Jiu Jitsu system.
Carlos's second biggest accomplishment behind helping develop Gracie Jiu Jitsu is the creating the Gracie Diet. Thanks to this diet change future Gracie family members became bigger, stronger, and faster athletes.
To this day Carlos Sr. is revered as a pioneer of the martial art helping develop what it is today. He had 21 children and 13 of which became BJJ black belts.
Helio is one of the founders of Gracie Jiu Jitsu and one of the first sports heroes of Brazil. Helio helped develop some of the principles that BJJ is based on. He developed a system that benefitted smaller opponents with techniques that required little strength and worked against bigger opponents.
He was a patriarch of the family and Jiu Jitsu would not be what it is today without him. Besides having a 3 decade long fighting career, his influence went beyond just fighting.
Helio lived to be 95 and spread the art of he helped created for nearly 80 years! Helio Gracie also had many children that would go on to be some of the best BJJ martial artists of all time!
Son of Helio Gracie and a grandmaster of BJJ, Rorion is credited for bringing Gracie Jiu Jitsu to the US. He moved to southern California in 1978 and later began teaching out of his garage in Hermosa Beach, California. Rorion would later found the first US Gracie Academy in Torrance, California in 1989.
After founding the first Gracie Academy in the US, Rorion would go on to co-found the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Without Rorion, there would not have been a UFC or BJJ taught across the world!
Carlos Gracie Jr.
Son of Carlos Sr, Carlos Jr is one of the most prominent figures in modern BJJ today. He is the founder of the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation(IBJJF) and co-founder of the Gracie Barra academy.
The IBJJF is the top governing body in BJJ that runs the most prestigious tournaments all around the world.
Gracie Barra is the world’s biggest Jiu Jitsu school affiliate with over 400 schools worldwide!
Rickson Gracie is probably one of the more famous Gracie family members. He is considered to be the best at Jiu Jitsu among the Gracie family.
Rickson is said to be undefeated at Vale Tudo fights with hundreds of unsanctioned fights under his belt. He is also listed as undefeated in all his sanctioned bouts. He is a true legend in BJJ and MMA - he's one of a kind!
Royce Gracie is a very special member of the Gracie family. Without him, modern day MMA and Jiu Jitsu would not be what it is today! He really put Jiu Jitsu on the map. Son of the late Grandmaster Helio Gracie, he was chosen to represent the Gracie clan in the very first UFC tournament.
Despite his small lanky size, he was able to beat his much larger opponents with BJJ. He was declared the first UFC champion ever, and is a UFC Hall of Famer!
Royce’s performance shared Gracie Jiu Jitsu to the world starting the first explosion of the martial arts popularity. Without Royce’s performances in the first UFC events, UFC may have not be what it is today.
Royler Gracie is one of the most successful BJJ competitors of the Gracie family. He holds 9 world titles in competitive BJJ. Three of his titles were in the ADCC championships, which is considered by most grapplers, the most prestigious title in BJJ.
Today, he lives in San Diego, California, where he teaches at his Jiu Jitsu academy.
Renzo Gracie is another one of the most known members of the Gracie family. He is a successful competitor in BJJ and MMA. What he is probably most known for is establishing one of the best BJJ schools in the world - the Renzo Gracie academy in New York.
His academy is one of the most successful BJJ schools in the world. He has helped train multiple world champions in MMA and BJJ. The most notable being Georges St Pierre, Frankie Edgar, and Matt Serra. His school is also home to the famous Danaher Death Squad.
Roger Gracie is the most successful competitor of the Gracie family holding 10 world titles in BJJ. He is highly considered as the Greatest of All Time BJJ Practitioner.
He retired in 2017 after submitting his rival Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida. He also compiled an 8-2 record in MMA
Roger now lives in London, England, where he teaches at his academy Roger Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
Rener and Ryron are the sons of Rorion Gracie and are now the heads of the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy. They’re most known for their Youtube channel Gracie Breakdown and creating Gracie University Online. These two are part of the new era of the Gracie family and are continuing to help teach Gracie Jiu Jitsu across the world.
There are certainly many more prominent members of the Gracie family, but these are the ones that have made a huge impact to the Jiu Jitsu community. What is for sure is anyone who practices BJJ owes members of this family a debt of gratitude. Without them, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu would not have spread across the world like it did and be as widely practiced as it is today.