The Gracie family is one very interesting bunch of folks. And by bunch, I mean a huge bunch as there are more people in that family than some academies have members. We all know that the Gracies are “responsible” for the chaos called BJJ that we’re addicted to. They are often used as examples, hang around in academies, and some folks also bow to them. In any case, as influential as they were and still are in the world of martial arts, there is a side to them that does rear its head from time to time. It can be entertaining, dark, violent, or fun, depending on how you look at things. Let’s see a few examples.
The history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a very curious subject. As it turns out, we don’t really have the full picture, and the more you dig, the less stuff you’re actually able to find out. At least when it comes to what really happened. Folks like Robert Drysdale are trying to hunt down people that we’re there in the beginning and share the real BJJ history, which is the subject of an upcoming BJJ documentary called “Closed Guard”. Still, one mainstay in all BJJ history books is the Gracie family. They really did revolutionize martial arts forever. However, they didn’t do so just because they were good at fighting, but also because they have a wild side to them.
The Gracie Family BJJ Legacy
There’s no family that has impacted martial arts as much as the Gracie family. They are the folks responsible for the most fun martial art/sport/fighting system that was ever put together. The story of a Japanese grappling master coming to Brazil and teaching skinny little Brazilians how to fight is a movie-like one. It just so happens to be true. It is also true that the Gracie’s, mostly Carlos and Helio, later re-structured everything they learned giving BJ the birth.
However, considering that Maeda also had other students (like Luis Franca) who ended up teaching future generations similar things, it does raise the question of how much did the Gracies really modify? Maeda was not just a Judoka, but also an accomplished catch wrestler who fought NHB fights around the globe. SO, it isn’t Kodokan Judo that he taught in Brazil.
That aside, another big truth about the Gracie family is that they popularized Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as such. Nobody can dispute that. And the way they did it in is also unique. They issued a challenge to anyone and everyone that wanted to test their skills against their brand of Jiu-Jitsu. They posted the challenge in local Brazilian newspapers and did so with quite a strong language. Normally, they got a lot of responses, and most of the Gracie challenge matches that followed ended up with victories for the Gracie family.
The same model was later used by Rorion Gracie in the USA, with the establishment of the Gracie garage. It suffices to say that the Gracies were never shy to cause a commotion, speak their mind, or cause a brawl or two. Lots of those were aimed at popularizing Jiu-Jitsu, but some were really out there, and we’ll focus mostly on those here today.
A Different Side To The Gracies
Whether you peg them as good, bad, rebellious, marketing aficionados, or whatever you like, the Gracie family members (some of them) did some crazy things in their time. In fact, they’re still doing them to this very day. Controversy is always news, although in this overly politically-correct world this may not be the headlines Jiu-Jitsu really needs. In any case, it is fun to get to know the violent and mischievous side of the Gracie family. Here are some examples.
The Ralph Gracie Assault
The latest example of a Gracie family member going berserk is when Ralph Gracie assaulted Flavio Almeida t at the 2018 No-Gi Worlds. Ralph approached Flavio on the sidelines, as Almeida was coaching one of his students that was competing at the time. After a short talk, Ralph, out of nowhere, elbowed Almeida in the face and followed up with a few kicks. The entire incident was caught on video and later turned out to be over gym territory in the area of San Francisco.
Almeida ended up with several broken teeth and visible bruising on the face. Lawsuits followed, forcing Ralph Gracie to fly back to Brazil and leave his San Francisco academy indefinitely.
Renzo’s Nightclub Brawl
Renzo is one of the most fun and charismatic characters in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the Gracie family in general. He is also a wild character who once live-tweeted when a couple of thugs tried to mug him in NYC. Suffice to say, he dealt with them swiftly while appearing to really have fun.
There’s another instance of Renzo unleashed in NUC that is on a much bigger scale though. In 2014, along with Igor and Gregor Gracie, and several other grapplers, were involved in a night-club bawl with the bouncers that saw several bouncers end up heavily injured, including some broken bones. The Gracies were arrested and stood trial but got away with community service. The story went public and viral, though, as one of the Gracies’ more violent outbursts.
Ryan Gracie’s Violent tendencies
Speaking of violence and the Gracies, the late Ryan Gracie, brother of Renzo, used to fight and brawl all over the place, in night clubs, streets, and even in competition. Ryan had some high-profile fights which made him famous and a fan favorite in Brazil, However, he also had several assaults to his name, like that of the president of the Rio de Janeiro Jiu-Jitsu League over a letter, and robbing someone in their car. Wrongly diagnosed by a psychiatrist, Ryan was found dead in his cell after being arrested for the robbery.
The Roger Gracie Shooting incident
If you thought Roger Gracie was the calm kid in the Gracie family, you’re’ much mistaken. Now coo land stoic in both teaching and fighting, Roger also has a wild side that folks in Brazil got to see when he was younger. Namely, in an infamous incident when he was blue belt, Roger and three other friends shot rubber bullets and paintball guns at several transvestites, for which he was arrested. Only 19 years of age, Roger was not convicted, and later got sent to the UK to stay away from trouble.
Prison Time For The OGs
Back in 1943, Helio, Carlos, and George Gracie all ended in prions after being accused of assault on former colleague Manuel Rufino. Given that Rufino filed charges, the three Gracie family members spent 7 days in jail. They didn’t stay any longer, though, as there was insufficient evidence, according to the court.
Disrespect inside The Ring
There are several examples of Gracie family members conducting in a disrespectful way inside the ring during MMA fights. Renzo features in both of our examples today. In the first, he spat at Shungo Oyama during their match in Pride in 2002. AS a matter of fact, Renzo ended up losing the fight.
On another occasion, back in 1995, Renzo fought a Judoka named Ben Spikijers. It was only Renzo’s second professional flight, in which he managed to submit the Judoka. The controversy came after Renzo got up, and stomped on his opponent’s head after the submission. Surprisingly, he got off with just a warning from the referee and kept fighting in the tournament two more times that night.
The Death Of Rockson Gracie
Rockson Gracie was the son of the legendary Rickson Gracie who was found dead at the age of 19 in mysterious circumstances. He lived in New York with his girlfriend and suddenly disappeared with no contact. Rickson sent Renzo (who lived in NY) to look for him. After quite the search Renzo identified the body of young Rockson through police reports.
His body was found in a Providence hotel, and the cause of death was attributed to drugs. Later, his body was exhumed and given to his family. The death of Rockson also marked the end of Rickson’s fighting career.
Kron’s WSOF Brawl With Khabib’s Team
One more example of a Gracie family member brawling from recent history. Kron Gracie is known to hang out and train with the Diaz brothers, which are notorious as folks with a short fuse themselves. In 2015 at a WSOF event, Kron was involved in a brawl along with the Diaz camp when they faced off with Khabib Nurmagomedov’s camp right next to the WSOF cage. Krona was taken to the ground in the brawl and can be seen kicking upwards.
All in All
Basically, you can see why Jiu-Jitsu works if you stake a look at how the Gracies tend to conduct themselves in violent situations. They might not always look the part, but they’re certainly not ones that you’d want to meet up a dark alley. Or a well-light one, for that matter. Still, some of their transgressions are down to chance and circumstances, but others do depict a side of the Gracie family that isn’t really the “stoic martial arts masters” type.