MMA fighting styles

The Rise of the Gracie Family and BJJ

Guest post by Evolve MMA, Asia’s premier championship brand for martial arts. It has the most number of world champions on the planet. Named as the #1 ranked martial arts organization in Asia by CNN, Yahoo! Sports, FOX Sports, Evolve MMA is top rated BJJ Gym in Singapore.

Before the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym boom in Singapore, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was already recognized worldwide as the archetype of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Responsible for the founding of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), the Gracie family is widely regarded as one of the most successful family dynasties in martial arts history. The enormous influence this clan had on the world led to the production of world champions for many decades. This lasting legacy continues to grow and inspire practitioners of all ages to take to the mat.

The Gracie success story dates back to the early 1900s when the family patriarch was planting the seed from which generations of Gracie champions would blossom.

From the rough streets of Rio de Janeiro to the bright lights of Las Vegas, the Gracie family literally fought their way to the top. After achieving insurmountable levels of success in combat sports, the Gracies and their pioneering efforts gave birth to BJJ, also known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

From Carlos Gracie, the founder of the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy – to Royce Gracie who brought the discipline to the world’s attention – we’ll examine how the family name became synonymous with dominance in the grappling and mixed martial arts. .

Origins and early development

Carlos Gracie was just a teenager when he watched his first Jiu-Jitsu demonstration. Soon after, he quickly became intrigued by the martial art and later took lessons from the famous practitioner Mitsuyo Maeda. Gracie continued to study the art of Jiu-Jitsu, eventually working her way up the ranking system.

Mitsuyo Maeda taught Jiu-Jitsu to the Gracie brothers.

In 1925, Carlos had opened the doors of his first Jiu-Jitsu academy. From there he continued to promote his style of Jiu-Jitsu and he came up with “The Gracie Challenge” – an open invitation for fighters to come and test their skills against him. The Gracie Challenge was a great piece of propaganda and would stand for decades after.

Carlos taught his style of Jiu-Jitsu to his brothers Gastão, Jorge, Oswaldo and the youngest brother, Helio. Young Helio Gracie initially struggled with some of Jiu-Jitsu’s maneuvers – given his small and nimble frame, he was forced to adapt. They say innovation is the key to success, and that couldn’t be truer in the case of Helios.

Helio Gracie in 2004
Helio Gracie trained BJJ until he was 90 years old.

Helio Gracie continued to experiment with techniques, and leverage took precedence over force in his new combat system. The changes implemented by Helio were so effective that he began teaching the modified style to others – this was essentially the birth of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Helio Gracie has challenged boxers, wrestlers and other grappling experts over the decades, firmly establishing his name in the martial arts world. Helio therefore played a key role in the development of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The brothers had many children between them, most of whom were trained from an early age. The next generation of Gracie fighters would take Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to a whole new level.

The second generation

The family continued to develop their techniques over the generations and by 1978 Rickson Gracie – Helio’s third oldest son – was establishing a reputation as one of Brazil’s finest fighters. Rickson, like his uncle Carlos, issued the now famous Gracie Challenge – offering, by open invitation, any fighter to come beat him in his gym.

Rickson has been fighting since a young age and received his black belt at just 18 years old. He came to national attention at the age of 20 when he beat the famous Brazilian brawler named Casemiro Martins. Young Rickson continued to compete at the highest level throughout his career, including fighting in Vale Tudo competitions at home and abroad.

The Rise of the Gracie Family and BJJ
The Gracie family members practiced BJJ almost as soon as they could walk.

One of the most popular combat sports of the time in Brazil was Luta Livre, and the Gracies developed a rivalry with the Luta Livre crew that lasted for decades. Both sides were vying for the top spot on the national martial arts scene, which meant competition was fierce. Challenges regularly arose from both Luta Livre and the Gracies, with most fights ending in conflict and controversy.

The ongoing rivalry ended in a riot which led to MMA being banned in Rio de Janeiro for a long time. The level of animosity between the two camps has lasted for generations, and although it has resulted in controversial results, the competition has only fueled the Gracie family towards greatness.

The Gracies were competing at the highest level and although they had fame in their native Brazil. Rorion Gracie aspired to promote BJJ globally, leaving for the United States with the ambitious goal of bringing BJJ to the world.

From roots to wealth

Royce Gracie Demonstration 07
Royce Gracie put BJJ on the map by winning UFC 1.

Rorion Gracie moved to the United States and left the Luta Livre rivalry to fight among other family members. He taught BJJ in California for years and attracted a large audience. Gracie had many students in California and gained good connections which eventually led to him co-founding the famous UFC.

The entrepreneur realized he would need to televise Gracie Jiu-Jitsu if he was going to get the world’s attention. The UFC would welcome fighters from all over the world and of all fighting styles, there would be few rules and no weight classes. This new event was relatively unique and initially caused a stir in the United States.

Rorion offered his brother Royce as the family representative, since Royce was a successful BJJ performer, but he was relatively unknown. Royce became the underdog of the competition because of his opponents’ pedigree and, well, because of his size. Now, Royce was no small man, but some of his competitors were very tall and had terrific records in their respective disciplines.

Gracie took on Art Jimmerson in the first round of the competition and quickly took the fight to the ground before pinning the boxer’s arm around his own neck, forcing the boxer to concede defeat. Royce then defeated legendary trailblazer, Ken Shamrock, before finally taking on Dutch karate expert and world savate champion, Gerard Gordeau.

The sight of Royce Gracie getting a rear naked choke on the much taller heavyweight champion Gordeau raised eyebrows around the world. The new Ultimate Fighting Championship had just been dominated by the smallest man in the competition, catapulting the Gracie family to the pinnacle of martial arts.

Royce went on to fight for the UFC title four more times with great success. He has also fought in Pride and Bellator competitions. Royce Gracie was a BJJ master and enjoyed an illustrious career, but he will always be revered for his performance at UFC 1.

Mainstream popularity

BJJ grew like wildfire and fighters who had once trained under Luta Livre eventually began to transition to the now dominant force of Mixed Martial Arts. The huge success of the UFC further propelled the growth of BJJ, which has now become an integral part of mixed martial arts training.

Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gyms have popped up all over the world. Aspiring fighters are drawn to BJJ because of its success and it has become an integral part of most MMA training. The fighting style is also one of the most effective forms of self-defense. This is due to the various locks and submissions that allow a person to submit a much more powerful attacker.

The Gracie family revolutionized Jiu-Jitsu and exported their unique style around the world. It has flourished to become one of the most dominant forces in mixed martial arts and continues to grow exponentially.

The great part is that he still has more to do.

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