By far the biggest BJJ affiliation on the planet is the Gracie Barra Jiu Jitsu team. They have the most schools in the world, as well as the most students. Not only does Gracie Barra have the most schools and students, but also counts among its ranks some of the best BJJ athletes out there.
We’ll detail how Carlos Gracie Jr. built his empire and made Gracie Barra the world’s biggest Jiu Jitsu affiliation. Here is what you need to know about the Gracie Barra Jiu Jitsu team.
The history of Gracie Barra
Carlos Gracie Jr
The story of Gracie Barra starts with Carlos “Carlinhos” Gracie Jr, who is one of Carlos Gracie’s 21 children. From an early age, Carlinhos was on the mat with his brothers and sisters, learning the family trade.
He was mentored by his older brother Rolls Gracie, who Carlos Jr looked up to and took after. Carlos always train under Rolls’ tutelage and adopted his views and philosophies on Jiu Jitsu.
The two would often cross train with sambo and wrestling schools to expand their grappling skills.
Carlos Gracie Jr becomes an instructor
In the mid 1970s, Rolls Gracie stepped down as head of the Gracie Academy to work with his brother Carlson. This is when Carlos Jr stepped in as one of the instructors of the school alongside his cousin Rickson.
He spent a few years teaching at Gracie HQ before turning his attention to academics. During his studies, Rolls started running his own classes and asked Carlos to help him teach classes.
Since the Jiu Jitsu school was near the university, it was easy for Carlos to teach and go to school simultaneously. At this time, Carlos was a brown belt, but would soon be promoted to black belt in 1977.
Rolls asked his uncle Helio Gracie to do the honors and promote Carlos Jr to black belt.
Caros Gracie Jr takes over Roll’s school
In 1982, Rolls Gracie tragically passed away after a hand gliding accident. The Gracie family was devastated by the loss of the then-leader of the family.
Rolls’ wife and other members of the family came to Carlos Jr and asked him to take over Rolls’ school. Carlinhos accepted the position and continued to run his brother’s academy in Copacabana.
Carlos Gracie Jr starts Gracie Barra
A few years after taking over as head instructor of Roll’s Jiu Jitsu academy Carlos Jr decide to start his own academy and relocate to Barra da Tijuca. Barra was a suburb of Rio de Janeiro that at the time was small and hard to reach from the center of the city.
Many friends and family thought that this was a bad decision to move to Barra, but Carlos stuck to his plans. He moved to Barra da Tijuca in 1986 and opened his own BJJ academy.
People began referring to the academy as ““os Gracies da barra”.(the Gracies of Barra) Carlinos liked the name and the idea of differentiating himself from the Gracie Academy. He took a shortened version of this nickname and came up with the name for his academy: Gracie Barra.
Carlos would have no idea just how big Gracie Barra would become.
Gracie Barra starts to grow
Carlinhos received help from numerous family and friends when he started his academy. Everyone from Rilion Gracie, Crolin Gracie, and Jose Leao Teixeira (Ze Beleza) contributed in the gym’s early years.
It was actually an ingenious move by Carlos Jr to locate Gracie Barra in Barra da Tijuca. The suburb went through enormous growth in the coming years and so did Gracie Barra.
Carlinhos started gaining more students every year and many started to have success in Jiu Jitsu competitions. This would lead to Gracie Barra becoming a legitimate Jiu Jitsu affiliation.
During the mid 1980s and 1990s, Gracie Barra schools began opening all over Brazil.
Gracie Barra becomes the world’s biggest Jiu Jitsu affiliation
Through Carlos Jr’s work creating the Confederacao Brasileira de Jiu Jitsu and later the IBJJF, Jiu Jitsu expanded immensely. One of the biggest beneficiaries of this growth was Carlinhos’ Gracie Barra affiliation.
During the late 2000s and early 2010s, Gracie Barra grew astronomically. There are now over eight hundred Gracie Barra schools on six continents..
Gracie Barra’s top competitors
We could probably do a whole write up on all of the champions that Gracie Barra has produced. But to keep it short, here is a small list of some of Gracie Barra’s top competitors.
Rômulo is a five time IBJJF World Champion, one time No-Gi World Champion, and 2013 ADCC Champion. For the last decade he has been considered one of the best athletes that Gracie Barra has produced. Barral now mainly coaches out of his Gracie Barra affiliate school Gracie Barra Northridge located in the San Fernando Valley.
Braulio & Victor Estima
Bráulio & Victor Estima are two Gracie Barra members that have had every sort of success possible in BJJ. Between the two of them, the Estima have won multiple world titles and ADCC championships. They now run their own Gracie Barra affiliate school in the UK.
Felipe “Preguiça” Pena is considered one of the best heavyweight competitors of the modern era. Preguiça has one multiple world title under the Gracie Barra banner. Felipe has largely retired from competition (although he recently competed in a superfight with the BJJ Stars fight promotion) and runs his own school FP Team in Minas Gerais, Brazil.
Orlando Sanchez is a former ADCC champ and IBJJF world champion. Sanches claims that Jiu Jitsu saved his life and proudly represents Gracie Barra. He currently runs his in Gracie Barra school in the Los Angeles area
FAQs about Gracie Barra
When was Gracie Barra founded?
The original Gracie Barra school was founded in 1986.
Who is the founder of Gracie Barra?
The founder of Gracie Barra is Carlos “Carlinhos” Gracie Jr.
What does Gracie Barra mean?
People would originally call Carlos’ school “os Gracies da barra” which translates to the Gracies of Barra. This was because the school was located in the Barra region of Rio de Janeiro. To differentiate his school from the Gracie Academies, Carlinhos named his school Gracie Barra.
Where is Gracie Barra headquartered?
Gracie Barra is headquartered in two locations. The US HQ is located in Irvine, California and the Brazilian HQ is located in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
How many Gracie Barra schools are there?
There are currently eight hundred Gracie Barra schools on six continents.
Gracie Barra today
Out of all of the Jiu Jitsu affiliations in the world, no other has grown like Gracie Barra. In thirty six years since being founded, Carlinhos’ small Barra school has become the world’s biggest BJJ affiliation.
There are now over eight hundred Gracie Barra schools on six continents. Carlos Jr could not have imagined just how his Jiu Jitsu school would grow.
As Brazilian Jiu Jitsu continues to grow, Gracie Barra will be in the forefront leading the growth of our martial art.