If you are a fan or practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you have probably heard of the Gracie family. They are the pioneers and innovators of this martial art that has revolutionized the world of combat sports. But do you know how the Gracie family tree started and how it has grown over the years? Do you know who are the most influential and famous members of this family and what they have achieved in BJJ and mixed martial arts? Do you know how you can trace your own lineage to the Gracie family tree and why it is important to know your roots? In this article, we will answer these questions and more as we explore the history and legacy of the Gracie family tree.
The First Generation Of The Gracie Family Tree
The Gracie family story begins with George Gracie, who emigrated from Scotland to Brazil in 1801 for adventure and fortune. He had no idea that his descendants would one day form the largest family of athletes in history.
Gastao Gracie’s life was both intriguing and contentious. He partnered with the American Circus in Belém, Brazil, where his entrepreneurial drive flourished. The circus featured a variety of acts, including martial arts performances by Mitsuyo Maeda. Carlos, Gastao’s son, developed a keen interest in Jiu-Jitsu while watching these fights.
Carlos Gracie Sr
Gastão Gracie arranged for Carlos to study classical Japanese Jiu-Jitsu with the former Japanese champion, Mitsuyo Maeda.
Carlos was fascinated by this martial art and learned it quickly. He also taught it to his brothers, especially his younger brother Hélio Gracie, who was too frail and weak to practice other sports.
Helio adapted the already adjusted judo techniques to suit his smaller and weaker physique, creating a style focused on leverage, ground fighting, and submissions. He pioneered Vale Tudo (no-holds-barred) fighting and challenged many opponents of different martial arts backgrounds.
He was also the father and master of many famous BJJ fighters, such as Rickson, Royce, and Rorion Gracie. He was part of the roots of the Gracie family tree, being responsible for the technical advancements of BJJ in its earliest days.
Gastão Gracie Jr
Gastão Jr. was a man with strong spiritual beliefs who believed he could read people’s auras and heal people with hypnosis. He was one of the least competitive among the Gracie brothers, which made him a favorite instructor by many of the students.
Oswaldo was one of the founding members of the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in 1925 with Carlos. He also helped develop Luta Livre Esportiva and other forms of Brazilian grappling and catch wrestling. He became a close combat instructor for the police department until retirement.
Jorge was the second youngest son, born in 1911, and had a reputation for being a hothead and for getting into trouble. He was nicknamed ‘Gato Ruvio’ which meant ‘Red Cat’. A name that was chosen because of his tenacity when fighting and because of his hair. Jorge was the most competitive Gracie family member, regularly competing in Vale Tudo competitions. He had the best unbeaten record in the family’s history at the time.
The Second Generation Of The Gracie Family Tree
The second generation of the Gracie family tree consists of 21 children from Carlos Gracie Sr. and 9 children from Hélio Gracie. They all learned BJJ from their fathers and uncles and continued to spread and develop their martial art around Brazil and beyond. Most of them also competed in Vale Tudo matches or MMA events to prove the effectiveness of BJJ over other styles of fighting. Many also founded their own schools or associations to teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to their students.
Some of the most prominent members of this generation are:
Carlson Gracie Sr
He was Carlos’ eldest son and one of his best students. He had an aggressive and offensive style that made him dominant in Vale Tudo matches. Carlson Gracie Sr. won over 30 fights without losing or drawing. He also influenced many champions such as Murilo Bustamante, Vitor Belfort, Ricardo Liborio, and Mario Sperry.
He was Carlos’ second son and one of his most loyal followers. He had a defensive and counter-attacking style that made him successful in different weight classes. Robson Gracie won multiple world titles in BJJ and became one of the most respected instructors in the sport. He also taught many students who became champions themselves, such as Renzo Gracie, Ralph Gracie, and Roger Gracie.
Rolls was Carlos’ third son and one of his most innovative and eclectic students. He had a style that incorporated elements from wrestling, sambo, judo, karate, and capoeira. He was considered one of the best grapplers ever and a pioneer of modern BJJ. Rolls, unfortunately, died in a hang gliding accident in 1982 at the age of 31.
The fourth son of Carlos Gracie and one of his most technical and precise students. He had a style that focused on leverage and timing rather than strength and speed. He was the first Gracie to introduce BJJ to the United States in 1972. He also taught many students who became influential in BJJ or MMA, such as Steve Maxwell, Bob Bass, and Chuck Norris.
Carlos Gracie Jr
He was Carlos’ fifth son and one of his most modern and progressive students. He had a style that emphasized competition rules and sports aspects of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu rather than self-defense or street fighting. He founded the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) and the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship, the most prestigious and recognized organization and event in BJJ.
Carlos Gracie Jr. also founded the Gracie Barra school and team, one of the largest and most successful in BJJ history.
Hélio’s eldest son and one of his most traditional and conservative students. He had a style that preserved the original teachings of his father Hélio rather than adapting to new trends or techniques. He co-created the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 1993 with Art Davie to showcase the superiority of BJJ over other martial arts.
Rorion also promoted BJJ in Hollywood by teaching many celebrities such as Mel Gibson, Ed O’Neill, and Jim Carrey. The Gracie Diet, the famous system of nutrition the family used was popularized by Rorion.
The most street-oriented and self-defense student of Helio, also his second son. He had a style that adapted to real-life scenarios rather than sports situations. He was successful in teaching BJJ to law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, DEA, and SWAT.
Relson Gracie also taught many students who became proficient in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or MMA, such as Pedro Sauer, Phil Migliarese, and Roy Dean.
He was Hélio’s third son and one of his most holistic and balanced students. He had a style that integrated the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of BJJ rather than focusing on one dimension.
Rickson Gracie, to this day, is widely regarded as the best fighter in the Gracie family and one of the best fighters in MMA history. He had an undefeated record of over 400 fights in BJJ, Vale Tudo, MMA, sambo, wrestling, and judo. He also inspired many fighters and fans with his charisma and philosophy.
Hélio’s fourth son and one of his most dynamic and versatile students. He had a style that showcased his speed and flexibility rather than his power or size. He was a four-time world champion in BJJ and one of the most decorated competitors in the sport.
Royler also competed in MMA and fought against legends such as Kazushi Sakuraba, Genki Sudo, and Eddie Bravo.
The sixth son of Helio Gracie and one of his most effective students. He had a style that proved the superiority of BJJ over other martial arts with minimal effort or technique. Royce was the Gracie family representative in the first UFCs, launching MMA as we know it in the process.
He was a three-time UFC champion and one of the most influential fighters in MMA history. He defeated opponents who were much bigger or stronger than him with his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills and helped popularized BJJ around the world with his performances in the UFC.
The Third Generation Of The Gracie Family Tree
The third generation of the Gracie family tree consists of the grandchildren of Carlos Gracie Sr. and Hélio Gracie. They all learned BJJ from their fathers, uncles, or cousins and continued to innovate and spread their martial art around the world.
Some of the most notable members of this generation are:
Carlson Gracie Jr
Carlson Sr.’s son. He has a style that follows his father’s aggressive and offensive approach to fighting. He is a successful coach who has trained many top fighters such as Andre Pederneiras, Ricardo Arona, Murilo Bustamante, and Vitor Belfort. He also runs his own school and team in Chicago, Illinois.
Robson’s son and one of his best students. He has a style that combines his father’s defensive and counter-attacking style with his uncle Carlson’s aggressive and offensive style.
Renzo was a successful fighter who has competed in MMA promotions such as Pride, UFC, One Championship, and K-1. He is also a successful teacher who has taught many famous students such as Matt Serra, Georges St-Pierre, John Danaher, and Tom DeBlass.
Renzo runs the world-famous Renzo Gracie Academy in New York City, New York.
Robson’s son and Renzo’s brother. Ralph Gracie has a style that reflects his personality: aggressive and fierce. He is known for his intensity and brutality in fighting and training. He has competed in MMA events such as Pride, UFC, and K-1.
Many students Of Ralph became champions or contenders in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or MMA, such as Kurt Osiander, Dave Camarillo, BJ Penn, and Luke Rockhold.
He runs his own school and team in San Francisco, California.
Another of Robson’s sons. He had a style that was similar to his brother Ralph’s: aggressive and fierce. He was known for his controversial and tragic life and his memorable fights with Kazushi Sakuraba and Tokimitsu Ishizawa.
Ryan died in 2007 at the age of 33 from a drug overdose while in police custody.
Rolles Gracie Jr
He is Rolls’ son. He has a style that follows his father’s innovative and eclectic approach to fighting.
Rolles has competed in top-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA events such as ADCC, IBJJF, UFC, WSOF, and One Championship. He is also a teacher who has taught many students who became successful in BJJ or MMA, such as Igor Gracie, Gregor Gracie, Neiman Gracie, and Khonry Gracie.
Also, he runs his own school and team in Old Bridge, New Jersey.
Carley’s son. He has a style that follows his father’s technical and precise approach to fighting. He is known for his popularity and charisma and his signature Omoplata technique.
Clark Gracie is a world champion in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and one of the most decorated competitors in the sport. He is also a teacher who has taught many students who became proficient in BJJ or MMA, such as Magid Hage, Brian Morizi, and Garry Tonon.
He heads his own school and team in San Diego, California
The son of Mauricio Gomes who took his mother’s surname and one of the best competitors in the history of Jiu-Jitsu. He is known for his dominance in BJJ and his record of 10 world titles. He is widely regarded as the greatest BJJ competitor of all time. He has also competed in MMA events such as Strikeforce, UFC, One Championship, and Bellator.
Roger Gracie is also one of the best Gracie Jiu-Jitsu instructors, having taught many students who became successful in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or MMA, such as Braulio Estima, Nicolas Gregoriades, and Buchecha Almeida. He also runs his own school and team in London, England.
The son of Rolls Gracie. He has an innovative and eclectic approach to fighting.
Rodrigo competed in BJJ and MMA events such as ADCC, IBJJF, Pride, UFC, and K-1. and also produced many famous MMA stars, such as Daniel Gracie, Ricardo Almeida, and Frankie Edgar.
He has a BJJ Academy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Known for his performances in the ADCC, Strikeforce, and Bellator, Rolls’ sone is also a world-famous coach who has trained the likes of Rolles Gracie Jr., Gregor Gracie, Neiman Gracie, and Khonry Gracie.
His school is based out of New Rochelle & Eastchester, New York.
Gregor Gracie is not a member of the Gracie family by blood, but he is the half-brother of Rolles and Igor Gracie, both sons of the legendary Rolls Gracie. He has also competed in MMA with a professional record of 7-4-0.
He is the founder of Gregor Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy, which has branches in Brooklyn and Teaneck.
Rorion’s eldest son. He adheres to the original principles of Gracie Jiu-JItsu and is the co-creator of the Gracie University online learning platform. He has also competed in BJJ and MMA events such as Metamoris, EBI, and Ralek Gracie’s Fight Night.
Ryron runs the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Torrance, California, with his brother Rener.
Rorion’s second son is known for his innovation and creativity in BJJ and his co-creation of the Gracie University online learning platform. Not a competitor but known as a very good teacher of both professional MMA fighters and amateur practitioners alike.
He runs the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Torrance, California, with Ryron.
Rorion’s third son focused on promoting and organizing Metamoris, the first-ever professional submission-only grappling event that featured some of the best grapplers in the world.
He has also competed himself, mostly in IBJJF events and in the Rizin MMA promotion.
Ralek’s Academy is in Los Angeles, California.
A son of Rolls Gracie, Cesar is a figure of leadership and guidance in the Gracie Fighter team, one of the most successful and respected teams in MMA history.
He has trained many champions and contenders in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or MMA, such as Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, Gilbert Melendez, Jake Shields, and Caio Terra.
Like his brothers and cousins, he also runs his own school out of Pleasant Hill, California.
Rickson’s son and one of the third generation’s best competitors. He has a style that follows his father’s holistic and balanced approach to fighting.
He is known for dominant victories over Otavio Sousa, Leandro Lo, Garry Tonon, Ben Henderson, and Alex Caceres.
Currently, Kron is focused on MMA, being part of the UFC roster, with a record of 5-1-0. He will face Charles Jourdain at UFC 288 on May 6, 2023, next.
Carley’s son. Crosley competed in MMA, grappling, and IBJJF events, winning several titles along the way.
He is the owner and head instructor of Crosley Gracie Jiu-Jitsu School in Brentwood, California.
She is Relson’s daughter known for her activism and advocacy for women’s empowerment and safety in BJJ and MMA. She is also a promoter and organizer of the Gracie Worlds and Gracie Nationals tournaments, which feature submission-only rules and no weight classes.
Reylan Gracie is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and a son of Rorion Gracie, one of the founders of the UF¹. He is a third-generation member of the Gracie family and a representative of the Gracie Academy in Torrance.
Roggan Gracie is the son of Rilion Gracie, a renowned instructor, and competitor. He started practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at a very young age and followed in his father’s footsteps to become a professional MMA fighter. His record is 3-0-0 with fights in Italy and Brazil.
He currently lives in Miami and teaches at Rilion Gracie HQ alongside his father.
The Fourth Generation Of The Gracie Family Tree
The fourth generation of the Gracie family tree consists of the great-grandchildren of Carlos Gracie Sr. and Hélio Gracie. They are the youngest members of the family and they are still learning and practicing BJJ or MMA.
Some of the members of this generation who are already practicing or competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Mixed Martial Arts are:
Renzo Gracie’s daughter. Kyra was a highly popular and charismatic commentator for Combate Americas, a Hispanic MMA promotion. She is also a five-time world champion in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (ADCC and IBJJF) and one of the most decorated female competitors in the sport.
Rolls’ grandson, he is mostly known for his success in MMA mostly through his fights in Bellator.
The son of Royce Gracie, Khonry Gracie is an American professional MMA fighter who currently competes at Bellator MMA in the welterweight division. He is set to make his return to MMA at Bellator 293 on March 31st, 2023
The Future Of The Gracie Clan
The fourth generation of the Gracie family tree faces many challenges and opportunities in continuing the legacy of their ancestors. They have to deal with the high expectations and pressure that come with being part of such a famous and influential family. They have to adapt to the changing rules and trends of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA competitions and events, which they are often reluctant to do.
However, they also have many opportunities and advantages that their ancestors did not have. There is now access to more resources and information that can help them adopt and embrace the evolving nature of BJJ so that they can teach their martial art better and improve upon their legacy.
The Gracie family tree is a remarkable and inspiring story of a family that has dedicated their lives to developing and spreading a martial art that has revolutionized the world of combat sports.
From the first generation of Carlos and Hélio Gracie, who learned judo from Mitsuyo Maeda and created BJJ as a martial art that gives smaller people an advantage over larger opponents, to the second generation of Carlson, Robson, Rolls, Carley, Carlos Jr., Rorion, Relson, Rickson, Royler, and Royce Gracie, who challenged and defeated other fighters in Vale Tudo or MMA events and founded their own schools or associations to teach BJJ to their students, to the third generation of Carlson Jr., Renzo, Ralph, Ryan, Rolles Jr., Clark, Roger, Rodrigo, Igor, Gregor, Ryron, Rener, Ralek, Cesar, Kron, Crosley, Rose, Reylan, and Roggan Gracie, who innovated and spread their martial art around Brazil and beyond and created or influenced other organizations or events that promoted BJJ or MMA around the world, to the fourth generation of Neiman, Khonry Gracie and others who are still evolving and practicing BJJ or MMA and have started to compete or teach their martial art to others.