How One Family Made Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Into an International Phenomenon
The Gracie family name wasn’t always synonymous with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Their success as martial artists is the result of disciplined training and hard work beginning almost 100 years ago. This story begins in 1917, when Carlos Gracie began learning a style of Judo from Mitsuyo Maeda.
Carlos went on to pass his martial arts skills on to his brothers. However, one of his smaller siblings struggled with moves requiring him to directly oppose an opponent’s strength. That man was Helio Gracie. He would go on to adapt these techniques so that smaller martial artists could take down larger opponents. This was the birth of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Carlos Gracie submitted the famous Gracie Challenge in the 1920s. In an effort to promote and develop Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, he and his brothers dared martial artists of all styles and abilities to test their mettle in the ring. The only rules were the match could only end by submission or knockout.
Many martial artists accepted the Gracie challenge. Few won. The reputation of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and the Gracies began to spread.
From a Garage to Greatness
After the birth of a second generation of Gracies, some of the family migrated to America. There, Rorion and Royce Gracie began teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu out of their garage.
From these humble beginnings a martial arts empire arose. Rorion helped host the first UFC match in 1993, in which Royce would compete. This bout was meant as a test to find the most effective martial arts style in the world. Royce was chosen to represent the family and step into the ring, where he gained the title of champion.
The members of the Gracie family are some of the best martial artists to ever live. However, this isn’t the result of raw talent or innate ability. The Gracies simply worked and trained until they possessed the leadership to build a martial arts dynasty, the discipline to work tirelessly to unlock their potential, respect for their opponents and the confidence to believe all things were possible.