Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu

Our History

The words Jiu-Jitsu come from the Japanese words "Ju" and "Jitsu" which translate to "gentle" and "art". Unlike a lot of other martial arts that focus heavily on strikes and kicks, Jiu-Jitsu utilises leverage, angles, pressure and timming to overcome and submit opponents.



In 1914 Jiu-Jitsu arrived in Brazil, a champion and student of Jigoro Kano, Mitsuyu Maeda came to Para, Brazil, to help the Japanese colony in the region.

When Carlos Gracie met Count Koma, it was at a demonstration. Carlos was amazed by Koma’s ability to defeat opponents who were bigger and stronger than him.

2 years later, Mitsuyu Maeda introduced Carlos Gracie Snr. to Jiu-Jitsu, at the age of 14. He became an avid student for a few years and his studies under Maeda had a profound impact on his mind. An opportunity finally arose for Carlos to teach outside of Rio de Janeiro, in the state of Minas Gerais and he went on to open the first Gracie School in the region.

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The Helio Gracie era

Carlos was really busy teaching and managing the family business, so Helio’s first lessons in Jiu-Jitsu were delegated to his other brothers, Gastao and Oswaldo. It was not until later that Carlos started to notice Helio’s talent and dedicated more time to teach and train him. Helio took over the family business and became really involved in running the Gracie School.

The adaptations of techniques Helio learned from his brothers were mastered through trial and error with the end result being the further development and refinement Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.


The Carlson Gracie Era. Carlson Gracie emerged as the family’s number one fighter right after Helio’s defeat to Valdemar Santana in 1955.

The reputation of the Gracie family was hurt when Valdemar, a former student, defeated Helio. Carlson was called upon and defeated Valdemar Santana and moved on to become the main fighter of the family for decades to come.

His many battles in the ring made him a famous young man and fueled his desire to start his own Gracie School. He established his branch in Copacapana, Rio de Janeiro and started to build his own group of students and fighters.

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The Rolls Gracie Era. The Helio Gracie era

Rolls – as friends and family called him – was another Jiu-Jitsu genius who added an enormous contribution to the development of the art. According to Master Carlos Gracie Jr., Rolls was the link between the “old Jiu-Jitsu” and the “modern Jiu-Jitsu” practiced today.

Rolls also started his own Gracie School following a pattern created by Carlson that would soon be followed by many members of the second generation of the Gracie Family. Being so close to Carlson, Rolls shared the same facility with him where they would teach on alternate days.

Unfortunately, Rolls had a lot left to do, but was unable to finish it all. His legacy still lives strong among us. At the age of 31, Rolls Gracie passed away in a hang gliding accident on the mountains of Rio de Janeiro.


Gracie Barra is founded. Carlos wanted to pursue the dream of having his own school. In 1986 Gracie Barra was offcially founded – in the same building that it stands today.

He envisioned Jiu-Jitsu as a tool to support any person on the quest to achieve his or her potential. He believed the most talented and dedicated people would naturally develop to become great athletes.

It worked.

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The BJJ revolution

In 1993, Rorion Gracie put together the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) as athletes from different martial art styles fought to see which styles of martial arts were the best. This was later to be called Mixed martial Arts (MMA).

A lighter Royce Gracie defeated all his opponents by fighting mainly on the ground using control and submissions.

Suddenly, martial artists from all different backgrounds realized if they did not know Jiu-Jitsu, all they knew about fighting was worthless against a Jiu-Jitsu fighter. That realization triggered what many call the Jiu-Jitsu revolution in martial arts. A big shift of focus and training towards ground fighting followed.


Globalisation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The UFC caused a high demand for Jiu-Jitsu in all corners of the world and Jiu Jitsu Black Belts were invited to many different countries to teach seminars. Gracie Barra had dozens of Black Belts built through a program that valued all aspects of training: self-defense, takedowns and ground game and started spreading the art worldwide. This lead to to the building of what we understand today as the Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Schools Association. GB Instructors continued to travel to many different places to establish schools and keep the Gracie Barra Legacy alive.

With the help of Black Belt students sent from Brazil, Master Carlos embraced the challenge of creating, what he believed to be, the perfect school: a prototype to serve as a lab experiment for the best training, teaching, and management practices, and as a reference for GB Schools and instructors all over the world. In 2005, Master Carlos Gracie Jr. decided to make an unexpected move. Realizing the great potential Jiu-Jitsu had in the United States, he moved the Gracie Barra Headquarters from Rio de Janeiro to the city of Lake Forest in California, U.S. From here he expanded into the rest of the United States and went on to create the Gracie Barra schools program.

The rest as they say, is history with Gracie Barra studios opening all over the world and building into the most recognisable Brazilian jiu Jitsu school in the world. Now with over 900 schools from Rio to Sandton, spreading the unique culture and history of the gentle art.

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