The Gracie family is very interesting, especially for those involved in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. There is so much controversy, secrecy, and rumors surrounding the family, which, along with the fact they are responsible for the world’s most effective grappling martial art, makes them quite a curious subject to research. Today’s focus will be on untangling their origins and trying to outline the Gracie family tree precisely.
A Family Thing Called Jiu Jitsu
The Gracies are a Brazilian family that is famous throughout the world of martial arts as the founding family of the grappling art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. They are also known for benign a very large family, with most of the members actively involved in the family trade of Jiu Jitsu in one way or another.
The entire thing started when brothers Carlson and Helio Gracie started to modify some already hybridized Judo taught to them by a Japanese master named Mitsuo Maeda. The brothers, especially Helio, were not the strongest specimens and had to try and figure out how to adopt the techniques and move so that they would work for them.
This is just one of two main aspects of how Brazilian Jiu Jitsu came to be and how it eventually turned into the family trade. The second thing is what set the Gracies apart from all the other Brazilians training under Maeda – they were willing to test their knowledge of Jiu Jitsu against anyone.
This “trial by blood” is what helped popularize Jiu Jitsu, and also gave the Gracies a very unique aura. Even though they were far from invincible, their demeanor and the fact that almost every family member was not just involved in BJJ but also good at it and willing to put their knowledge to the test made them sort of legendary.
Let’s see how exactly Jiu Jitsu has grown throughout the Gracie family tree, from the root all the way to the top branches that are still growing.
The Gracie Family Tree
Honestly, the Gracie family tree is not the easiest to track down. After months of research, we share our findings, focusing on those Gracie family members that are or have been in some way or form involved with Jiu Jitsu.
The Gracie Roots
We can trace the Gracie family back to Scotland, and a gentleman caller Geroge Gracie decided to move to Brazil. The father of Carlos and Helio Gracie, the founders of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a third-generation descendant of said George Gracie. Let’s call these the seeds of the Gracie family tree, as we are interested in the Jiu Jitsu-related part of the family’s history.
The man who initially started training with Mitsuo Maeda. He is also the marketing brains of the family and the person who is the most to “blame” for the popularization of Jiu Jitsu. Carlos started the “Gracie challenges” and eventually opened the first Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy.
Carlos had 21 children, all of whom were BJJ black belts.
Helio Gracie was the youngest son of Gastao Gracie. As a sickly boy, he was initially not allowed to train by his brother Carlos for fear of him getting hurt. So, Helio practiced in secret and eventually proved to Carlos he was strong enough to train in the Academy.
Helio is accredited with founding Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as we know it. He was the one to modify many of the moves to fit his frail frame and make them effective, as he had virtually no muscular strength.
If Carlos was the marketing and business brain of his family, Helio was the mastermind behind the technical aspects of Jiu Jitsu.
He had 9 children.
A co-founder of the first Gracie Jiu Jitsu academy with Carlos, Oswaldo is one of the less-known names of the Gracie family tree roots. He was an active competitor, fighting in no holds barred fights and, later, Vale Tudo.
Oswaldo took his grappling in a different direction, calling it Luta Livre Esportiva and focusing more on catch wrestling.
Gastão Gracie Jr.
Gastao was heavily involved as an instructor in the Academy and learned his Jiu Jitsu from his brother Carlos.
George (Jorge) Gracie
A red-haired representative of the Gracie family tree roots, he was the second youngest of the brothers and known as a troublemaker. He was competing in Vale Tudo more than any other Gracie family member.
He is also the co-creator of the Gracie Diet alongside Carlos.
The Tree Trunk of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Eldest son of Carlos Gracie and one of the most feared competitors to come out of the Gracie family. He started training when he was 5 years old and had a stellar Vale Tudo career.
Carlson fell out with his uncle Helio and was the first to move away from the Gracie academy and open a new one under his name, which is still going strong nowadays.
Second-eldest son of Carlos, he was an important instructor in the Gracie academy and a very successful Vale Tudo fighter throughout the 1950s. He is the father of legendary Gracie family members Renzo, Ralph, and Ryan Gracie.
Reyson was one of the very first red belts, successfully managing to train well into his 70s. He was the pioneer of Gracie Jiu Jitsu in the Amazonas region, which ended up producing many of the legendary BJJ competitors we know today.
He was also the son of Carlos Gracie.
Son of Carlos, Reylson is a name that often slips through the branches of the Gracie family tree. He was instrumental in spreading Jiu Jitsu into the United States and was the person responsible for introducing colored Gis to the sport.
Another huge mark Reylson left on Jiu Jitsu is the names of techniques. He is the person responsible for naming most of the moves we have these days.
Rolls was one of the most influential members of the Gracie family, dedicating his efforts to improving the techniques and concepts of Jiu Jitsu. He was known to think outside the box and helped shape Jiu Jitsu as we know it. In fact, he was one of the earliest leg lockers in the sport.
He died in a tragic paragliding accident in 1983 at the age of 31. He was also a son of Carlos.
The first Gracie family member introduced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to the US. He got the opportunity through enlisting and taught in Connecticut, Maryland, Florida, and California.
He also had a falling out with his uncle Helio, rumored to have become a full-blown fight between the two.
Carlos Gracie Jr.
Today, the name Carlos Gracie Jr. is synonymous with Gracie Barra. Named after his father, he is one of the best instructors to emerge from the Gracie family.
He is the founder of Confederação Brasileira de Jiu-Jitsu, which eventually became the IBJJF. Carlos Gracie Jr. is still the head of Gracie Barra and actively training.
A competitor for only a short period of time due to health reasons, Crolin focused solely on teaching Jiu Jitsu throughout his career. Founder of the original Gracie Barra gym alongside his brother Carlos Gracie Jr.
Youngest son of Carlos Gracie and arguably the best guard player in the family. His focus as a teacher was to the south of Brazil, in Gracie Tijuca, where he managed to train and bring up many world champions.
The eldest son of Helio Gracie, Rorion was one of the pioneers of spreading Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to the US and was the first to bring it to Hollywood. He was a technical advisor in the movie Lethal Weapon and is the culprit behind THAT Mel Gibson triangle choke on the silver screen.
He is also the founder of the famous Gracie Torrance academy and, more importantly, the co-founder of the UFC alongside Arte Davie.
The Gracie family tree representative in Hawaii, Relson, is Helio Gracie’s son and an avid surfer (which kind of explains his choice of a base for a BJJ academy). He is credited with opening the first BJJ academy on the island of Hawaii.
Arguably the most famous son of Helio Gracie, Rickson was the face of the Gracie family throughout the early days of MMA and in countless Vale Tudo matches. With an alleged record of 400-0 is one o the legends of the sport and one of the most sought-after instructors even today.
Rickson built up his reputation fighting mostly in Japan during the 1980s.
A co-founder of the famous Gracie Humaita team along with his brother Royler. He is involved with the Academy to this day.
The family’s most accomplished competitor in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, with 4 World titles. Co-head of the Gracie Humaita team.
The person that brought BJJ to the world via the first UFC events. Picked by his father to compete rather than Rickson because he was a small-framed fighter, he would go on to win the first three UFC events, eventually earning himself a place in the UFC hall of fame.
Royce’s early UFC performances are the direct reason many people today train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Dozens of Grappling Branches
Carlson Gracie Jr.
Named after his father, Carlson Gracie Sr., he is the head of the famous Carlson Gracie Academy and currently operating out of Chicago. He literally has spent his entire life on the mats.
A name that needs no introduction, Son of Robson Gracie, the man behind the ultra-successful Renzo Gracie academy in New York and dozens of affiliations worldwide. Renzo himself has a solid MMA record and is a two-time ADCC champion.
The “Pitbull” is one of the Gracie family tree branches that went towards MMA. Always more of a scrapper than just a grappler, he has had his fair share of controversies and well-documented trouble over the years. Ralph is Renzo’s younger brother.
He founded Ralph Gracie Jiu Jitsu in San Francisco.
The third member of the Gracie brothers’ pack consisting of Renzo, Ralph, and himself, Ryan was also very successful as an MMA fighter but was just as troublesome (if not more) as Ralph. He had run-ins with authorities over drugs and passed away in prison in Sao Paulo in 2007.
Rolles Gracie Jr.
The younger son of the phenom, Rolls Gracie, is also a BJJ 4th degree black belt with quite a successful MMA career (8-4). He is now retired from MMA and runs the Renzo Gracie Academy in New Jersey.
The Omoplata king, Clark Gracie, is the son of Carley Gracie. He is one of the most active and successful BJJ competitors of the Gracie family in the past 20 years.
The name Roger Gracie is legendary in BJJ circles. He had a very distinct MMA career with Strikeforce and is a 10-time world and ADCC champion. Son of Reilla Gracie (daughter of Carlos Gracie Sr.), he is the Gracie family tree branch in the United Kingdom.
Reylson Gracie’s son and a notable pride competitor during the early 2000s. Currently, he runs his own academy in Palos Verdes, California. One of his most notable grappling successes is winning gold at the very first ADCC.
Rolls Gracie’s son focused on teaching at Renzo’s academy and affiliate schools. Works as a model part-time.
Half brother of Rolles Jr and Igor Gracie. Like his brothers, Gregor was an active competitor and is now teaching at Renzo’s NYC Academy.
Rorion’s eldest son and one half of the dynamic BJJ duo, that is him and his brother Rener. He co-founded the Gracie University online learning platform and the Gracie Breakdown YouTube channel. He is also behind the very first professional BJJ event, Metamoris.
Runs the Torrance Gracie academy with his brother.
Everything that applies to Ryron applies to Rener as well, as they seem to be doing everything together.
Third son of Rorion and the person responsible for launching professional BJJ events alongside his brother Ryron. Ralek dabbled shortly with MMA and has some notable wins, like submitting Sakuraba.
An ex-US marine, Cesar Gracie is best known as a coach to many MMA stars, most notably the Diaz brothers, Jake Shields and Gilbert Melendez.
Son of Rickson, one of the best BJJ competitors ever, and an ADCC champion. Kron is currently fighting for the UFC and has had great success. He still has a lot to achieve.
Crosley Gracie is another one of the Gracie family tree that is not known too well. Son of Rosley Gracie, he trained with Reylson and Carlos Gracie, competing a lot in the early days of BJJ. He is now teaching full-time and is responsible for plenty of world champions.
Rorion’s daughter, Rose spent her entire life training Jiu Jitsu and was involved in the sport in various capacities, although not competing.
Son of Rorion Gracie and a very respected black belt within the family, although not at all known outside of it.
Rilion Gracie’s son, in charge of the Rillion academy in Miami, Florida. He had a short professional MMA career, but is now a full-time BJJ instructor.
The only female Gracie with a black belt and several notable championships (4 world titles and 3 ADCC gold medals) to her name. She is the granddaughter of Robson and an icon of BJJ.
The son of Renzo Gracie and pro-MMA fighter under the Bellator banner. So far, he has a great record with 9 submissions to his name in the welterweight division.
Royce’s son and another Bellator MMA fighter.
Daniel Gracie Simões
The cousin of Renzo, Ralph, and Ryan is not a Gracie family member by blood. However, he competed in Pride as a Gracie, so he derives at least an honorable mention in the Gracie family tree.
What we offer as the Gracie family tree here is far from the complete lineage. The tradition of having many children continues today, and not all Gracie family members were involved in Jiu Jitsu. For the time being, though, we compiled the most comprehensive BJJ Gracie family tree possible.
Ogi is a black belt that does Jiu Jitsu full time and is very passionate about anything grappling-related.
He is also the head coach of Enso Jiu Jitsu in Macedonia and an aspiring Globetrotter.