Originally hailing from Scotland, George Gracie made is way across the ocean to Brazil 1801 in search of fortune and adventure. Little did he know, he would be the ancestor to one of the most influential families in combat sports. The Gracie family not only revolutionised martial arts but brought in a new age of combat sports which would go on to be one of the biggest promotions in the world.
In this article, we go back in time to look at the family that started it all and dissect the Gracie family tree.
First Generation Gracie
The original founder of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Carlos Gracie was the first of the family to be taught judo by the great Mitsuyo Maeda. Carlos was the first of the Gracie family born to Gastão Gracie, who was a 3rd generation Scotsman.
Carlos would eventually go on to open the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy and was the first Gracie family member to start the “Gracie Challenge” where he would invite other martial artists to compete with him, which would allow him to refine the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Carlos would go on to have 21 children and they would go on to teach the legacy other their father to grow Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu into the martial art it is today.
Oswaldo Gracie was one of the founding members of the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in 1925 with his brother Carlos. Oswaldo was one of the first Gracie brothers to take part in several Brazilian no-holds-barred competitions which would become to be known as Vale Tudo.
Oswaldo’s last Vale Tudo fight was against Simon Munich in 1936, a fight which would end in a draw. He would then become a close combat instructor for the police department, a job he kept until retirement.
Gastão Gracie Jr.
The third son of Gastao Gracie Sr. Gastao Gracie Filho was also an integral part of the development of the Brazilian Martial art. Taught by his older brother Carlos, Gastao would go on to help teach at his brother’s Jiu-Jitsu Academy.
Gastao was a man with strong spiritual beliefs who believed he could read people’s auras and heal people with hypnosis. He was also one of the least competitive amongst the Gracie family, which made him a favourite instructor by many of the students.
As the second youngest son, born in 1911, George Gracie had a reputation for being a hot head and for getting into trouble. He was given the nickname ‘Gato Ruvio’ which meant ‘Red Cat’. A name which was chosen because of tenacity when fighting and because of his hair.
George was the most competitive Gracie family member, regularly competing in Vale Tudo competitions. George Gracie would go on to have the best unbeaten record in the family’s history at the time.
George’s obsession for exercise and dieting would eventually see him work with his older brother Carlos to help develop the Gracie diet.
As the youngest and tallest son of Gastao Gracie, Helio would eventually go on to become one of the greatest in the Gracie family. Helio was the first member of the family to utilise the idea of leverage and body mechanics, which would make the sport what it is today.
Helio Gracie was known for competing in numerous Gracie challenges and Vale Tudo fights and would often come out victorious against his opponents. Helio had adapted the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to help him counter fighters who would be considerably bigger than him
In 1997, Helio was named ‘man of the year’ by American martial arts publication Black Belt magazine, and his son Rorion Gracie says that he was one of the first sports heroes of Brazilian history.
Other Gracie Family Members
Second Generation Gracie
Originally born Eduaro Gracie, Carlson would have his name changed by his father Carlos Gracie during his early years due to Carlos believing that the letter C (and later R) would be a letter of power.
Carlson Gracie would go on to become a legendary Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, he legacy started at just the age of 5, where he would compete at Campeonato Aberto de Jiu-Jitsu e Luta Livre, an open tournament between Jiu-Jitsu and Submission Wrestling.
Carlson then went on to compete at Vale Tudo during the 50s and 60s, where he would reign supreme during his professional fighting career.
However Carlson was one of the first Gracie family members to splinter the family name, after an ongoing feud with his uncle Helio, Carlson would go on to open his own Jiu-Jitsu academies known as Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. These days you can see Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu gyms all around the world, in all the major cities.
Also known as Carlos Robson Gracie, Robson is the second son of Carlos Gracie. Robson is a 9th degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu red belt who was also an instructor at the original Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy during the 1950s.
Like many of his brothers, Robson would go on to compete in Vale Tudo, with numerous wins under his belt. Robson would also go on to become the bodyguard of Leonel Brizola who was the brother in law of João Goulart, president of Brazil at the time.
Robson would go on to father some of the greatest names in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu such as Ralph, Renzo, and Ryan Gracie, and he is the current president of the Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Rio de Janeiro (FJJERJ).
As the third son of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu founder Carlos Gracie, Reyson Gracie became a 9th-degree red belt in the martial art.
Reyson is widely regarded as the originator of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the state of Amazonas, which is also famous for the Ribeiro brothers, Saulo and Xande. The Amazonas state is widely considered as one of the most important cells of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the world.
Reyson also had a huge influence on the growth of Jiu-Jitsu in the state of Bahia.
Reylson Gracie, fourth son of Carlos Gracie, is widely considered to be one of the most respected figures in the martial art. Reylson was at the forefront of the growth of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the United States, where he spearheaded it’s growth and awareness of the art.
Reylson is also considered to be important in developing the language of the Jiu-Jitsu, he’s known to have created names for several techniques and one of the first in the Gracie family to produce and introduce colours to the BJJ gi. Reylson is also the father to Rodrigo Gracie, a popular MMA and BJJ practitioner.
Widely regarded as one of the most important members of the Gracie family with their influence of the sport, Rolls Gracie was the family’s champion during the 1970s.
Rolls is considered by many to be the father of modern Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, thanks to his ideas and opinions on cross training in different grappling arts.
You can see Rolls’ influences through his other family members such as Rickson Gracie, Royce Gracie and many others. Sadly Rolls’ tragic death happened on 6th June 1983, due to a paragliding accident. “There is an era before and another one after Rolls,” exclaimed his cousin Royler Gracie.
Often referred to as “The Lion of the Gracie Family”, Carley Gracie is the 11th child over Carlos Gracie, and 9th-degree red belt. Carley was the first Gracie family member to bring the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to the United States in 1972. Carley is known to have a serious feud with his uncle Helio Gracie, which actually ended up in a fist fight.
Carley was enlisted in the military, which resulted in him moving to the USA, where he taught Jiu-Jitsu in states such as Maryland, Connecticut, and Flordia, before finally settling in California in 1979.
Carley Gracie is the father of one of the most famous modern Gracie, Glark Gracie and his brother Ralston.
Carlos Gracie Jr.
Born 17th January 1956, Carlos Gracie Junior is an 8th-degree red and white belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Widely regarded as one of the best coaches in BJJ history Carlos Gracie Jr. followed his brother Rolls’ example through cross-training. Carlos taught numerous world champions including Hall-of-fame champions Kyra Gracie and Roleta Gracie.
In 1994 Carlos Gracie Jr would go on to founder the Confederação Brasileira de Jiu-Jitsu (CBJJ), which would evolve into today’s organisation the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF). He would also go on to be instrumental in the founding of the famous Gracie Barra team, one of the most well-known and respected Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu teams in the world.
Revered by many as the successor to Rolls Gracie as the family champion in the 1970s, Crolin is a 7th-degree coral belt and the son of Carlos Gracie.
Although he was considered an incredible Gracie fighter, an underlying health condition would see him never reach the great heights of his brother Rolls. Following that Crolin would help found the original Gracie Barra Academy as well as open up a gym in the Florianópolis region of Brazil.
Crolin would have a heavy influence with competitors such as Carlos Machado, Rilion Gracie, Alexandre de Souza and Pablo Popovitch.
Rilion Gracie is the 20th son of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu founder Carlos Gracie and the subsequently the youngest. Rilion was a huge advocator of the guard in BJJ, and this is where he developed his strongest set of skills. Rickson Gracie would go on to say that he was “the best guard player of the Gracie family”.
Rilion had a huge influence in the south of Brazil, where he would teach at the Gracie Tijuca Academy, a gym which would famously be known for having a large amount of talent coming out of it.
Rilion Gracie is known to help develop numerous world champions. Roger Gracie credits his time with Rilion as one of the main reasons for his success.
Born 10th January 1952, Rorion Gracie is a 9th-degree red belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the eldest son of the late Helio Gracie.
In 1987, Rorion was one of the first Gracie family members to bring Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to the silver screen, where he was the technical advisor in the film franchise Lethal Weapon, where he would choreograph BJJ into several fight scenes.
In 1993, inspired by vale tudo and the original Gracie Challenge matches, Rorion Gracie would team up with promoter and business executive Arte Davie to create the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC as it’s more commonly known as.
Rorion Gracie would also go on to develop and write a book on ‘The Gracie Diet’.
Second eldest one of Grand Master Helio Gracie, Relson Gracie is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu red belt and the pioneer of the sport in Hawaii. Relson would be the first to establish a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu academy on the island.
Relson would be given the nickname “Campeão”, which meant ‘Champion’ in Portuguese. This name was earned through the surfing community in Rio De Janeiro, who respected his activities in Jiu-Jitsu.
Born on 20th November 1958, Rickson Gracie is one of 9 sons of the late Grandmaster Helio Gracie.
Rickson is widely regarded by many in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu hemisphere as the greatest BJJ practitioner of all time. This is been mentioned by numerous athletes including Ricardo Arona, Paulo Filho and UFC legend and BJJ black belt Demian Maia.
Rickson made his name in Japan after competing in several Vale-Tudo competitions during the 1980s and 1990s. Rickson would help make the sport what it is today and would later become an icon in the MMA community through his highly-praised documentary ‘Choke’.
Rolker Gracie is one of the main figureheads within the Gracie Humaitá team and is the 4th son of Helio Gracie.
After his brother Rickson would leave Brazil for America, Rolker and his brother Royler Gracie would take the lead within the Gracie Humaitá team and would shape it to the world championship-winning organisation you see today.
Known as the ‘King of the BJJ Featherweight Division” Royler Gracie was the first featherweight to win 4 world championship titles.
These days Royler is well known for running the BJJ team Gracie Humaitá in Rio de Janeiro with his brother Rolker Gracie. Here he would go on to coach other world champions such as ‘Megaton’ Dias, Xande Ribeiro, Omar Salum, Renato Barreto and numerous others.
In 2010, Royler moved to California, where he would set up the headquarters of the team.
Royce Gracie is the legendary MMA fighter of the family and is most notably the sport’s biggest historical figure. Featuring in the very early days of the UFC, Royce would use his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills to overpower and submit opponents much larger than he was. Making MMA and Jiu-Jitsu the sports they are today.
In 2003, Royce was inducted in the UFC Hall of Fame for his contribution to the growth of the sport.
Other Second Generation Gracie Family Members
Rose Clair Gracie
Sonja Gracie Gronning
Oneica Gracie Rodrigues
Reyla Gracie (Mother of Roger Gracie)
Third Generation Gracie
Carlson Gracie Jr.
A 5th degree black belt in BJJ, Carlson Gracie Jr. is the eldest son of Carlson Gracie. Like many of the Gracie family members, his introduction into the sport started when he was just a toddler. Where the sport was slowly introduced to him through playful games until he was older the grasp the idea of techniques.
He is the head coach and representative of the Carlson Gracie Association, as well as being the Carlson Gracie Academy head coach, situated in Chicago, Illinois.
Born 17th July 1986, in Solano County, California, Clark Gracie spent most of his time growing up between San Fransisco and Rio de Janeiro. Clark is the son of Carley Gracie and the grandson son of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu founder Carlos Gracie Sr.
As well as being a Gracie family member, Clark is also known for being one of the top middleweight competitors in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Clark Gracie’s most famous for his submission hunting style of grappling, favouring the omoplata as his favourite attack. He also became a viral meme as ‘The Ridiculously Photogenic Jiu-Jitsu Guy”.
Daniel Gracie Simões
Daniel Simões, more commonly known as Daniel ‘Gracie’, was born 28th June 1972 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While Daniel is not a Gracie by blood, he is extremely close to his cousins Renzo, Ralph and Ryan Gracie, so Jiu-Jitsu was always a presence in his life growing up.
Daniel received his BJJ black belt after winning the World Championships in 1996 at brown belt, where he would go on to have an extremely successful BJJ career, until turning his sights to MMA. In 2002 Daniel decided to fly the Gracie flag to Japan, where he competed in Pride FC for a number of years.
Kron is one of the most successful names in the Gracie Family, and with a father like Rickson Gracie, he has a very tough lineage to compete with.
Kron was a fierce competitor even in his teenage years, where he made a name for himself at the lower belt divisions. He would go on to have an incredible winning streak, winning 51 of his matches in a row by submission. In 2013 he won grappling’s most prestigious title, the ADCC.
After an incredible grappling career, Kron would then go to OneFC to start his MMA career, where he would then transition over to another MMA organisation, the UFC, which is where he currently fights.
Born on 4th October 1985, Ralek Gracie as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and son of Rorion Gracie. Ralek is the brother to Rener and Ryron Gracie and is mostly known for setting up the grappling invitational Metamoris, which spawned the modern generation of submission-only style competitions we see today.
Ralek is well known for his MMA career, where he has had 4 fights in various organisations. However, he is mostly known for his win over the ‘Gracie Hunter’ Kazushi Sakuraba, at Dream 14.
Born 25th May 1971, Ralph Gracie, also known as ‘pitbull’ is a 5th-degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. As the son of Robson Gracie and brother to Renzo, Ralph is most well known for his MMA career, than his grappling record, where he would go 6-1 before finally retiring.
Known as the hothead of the family Ralph has been known to get into quite of a bit of trouble with various members of the Jiu-Jitsu community, most recently he was involved in an altercation with Gracie Barra member Flavio Almeida at the 2018 World NoGi Championships.
Born 1st December 1971, Ryron Gracie (pictured left) is the grandson of BJJ founder Helio Gracie as well as being the eldest son of Rorion Gracie.
Ryron is mostly known for being the brother of Rener Gracie and being the face of their YouTube channel “The Gracie Breakdown”, where they would break down popular MMA fights and cover various issues such as teaching grappling to law enforcement officers. Ryron is also the founder of Gracie Academy Torrance, along with his brother.
As a member of the Gracie Family Tree, Rener Gracie was born on 10th November 1983 and is the younger brother to Rener and Ralek Gracie. Rener is the son of Rorion Gracie and grandson to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu grandmaster Helio Gracie. Rener is a black belt in BJJ and is the co-creator of the YouTube channel “The Gracie Breakdown” with his brother Ryron.
Rener is also known as the co-creator of Gracie University, an online BJJ learning platform which was frowned down upon by the community as well as various members of the Gracie family. Rener is the husband to former WWE wrestler Eve Torres.
Born 11th March 1967, Renzo Gracie is a true legend of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts. As a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Renzo excelled as a professional grappler, winning numerous competitions including the ADCC. He is also a prolific Mixed Martial Artist and has a record of 14 wins, 7 losses, 1 draw and 1 no contest with wins over names such as Frank Shamrock, Maurice Smith, and Yuki Kondo.
Renzo is the founder of the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York city, which has been given the nickname “the blue basement” due to its location, colour and also the high calibre competitors it creates, including instructor John Danaher and the Danaher Death Squad.
Rodrigo Gracie is a retired MMA fighter and BJJ practitioner, who was born 11th March 1975, Rodrigo is the son of Reylson Gracie and the grandson of Carlos Gracie. Like many of the Gracie family member Rodrigo started training at a young age, through games, and he was eventually awarded his black belt at the age of 18.
Rodrigo has worked at various Gracie gyms including, Royce and Renzo Gracie’s, until he eventually setup his own gym in California. Rodrigo has also competed in various MMA organisations including the famous PRIDE FC, where he was ranked as the top middleweight fighter during 2003 and 2004.
Roger Gracie was born on 26th September 1981. As the son of Maurício Gomes and Reila Gracie, Roger is considered by many to be the sport’s greatest competitor, with 14 world championship titles to his name with 10 achieved at black belt level.
Roger is one of the few names to bring Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu over to the United Kingdom, where he set up his gym in London, England. Roger is the grandson of Carlos Gracie and is also one of the first to be inducted into the IBJJF Hall of Fame.
Rolles Gracie, Jr.
Rolles Gracie Jr. is a former UFC fighter and BJJ black belt under one of the biggest BJJ figures of all time Rolls Gracie Sr. He is a 4th-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Rolles has a mixed career in his MMA life, with 8 wins and 4 losses. His most controversial loos coming from his fight in the UFC, where he lost after 1 minute 31 seconds of the second round, which Renzo Gracie described as “embarrassing”, due to the pressure he put on himself.
After his MMA career, Rolles spent a brief period as a professional wrestler along with Daniel Gracie, where they performed in Japan under New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Brother of Renzo and Ralph Gracie, Ryan was a BJJ black belt under Carlos Gracie Junoir and was one of the main representatives of the family in Mixed Martial Arts during the 1990s and early 2000s. Ryan was an important part of the expansion of the sport to the São Paulo region of Brazil, where he created and developed an incredibly successful team.
Ryan was a polarising figure in the sport, who was known for his fighting inside and outside of the ring. Ryan would have many altercations in the streets and run-ins with law enforcement, which ultimately lead to his death in December 2007.
Born in Rio de Janeiro Crosley Gracie is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, son of Rosley Gracie and grandson of BJJ founder Carlos Gracie Sr.
Crosley began training BJJ in 1988 with Reylson Gracie, his uncle. In 1992 Crosley would go on to train the sport under his other uncle Carlson Gracie, where he would have a successful competitive career.
Other Third Generation Gracie Family Members
Heather Grace Gracie
Kywan Gracie Behring