The Gracie Family Tree

May 6, 2024
The Gracie jiu-jitsu family tree extends back several generations, outlining an entire army of martial artists. Can you trace your BJJ lineage back to one of the founding fathers of the Gracie clan?
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You can't get Brazilian jiu-jitsu without Gracie jiu-jitsu. In fact, without the Gracie family, jiu-jitsu wouldn't be what it is today. Tracing the Gracie family tree back to its origins shows just how much influence this phenomenal family has had on the development of the art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

This article outlines the many key members of the Gracie family and their contributions to the development of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

The Beginnings of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The history and origins of Brazilian jiu-jitsu begin in Japan.

Mitsuyo Maeda was a student of Jigoro Kano – the founder of what we know today as Judo – in Japan in the late 1890s.

In 1904, Maeda travelled around the world to spread the art of Kano Jiu-Jitsu/Judo. In 1914, he travelled to Brazil and befriended Gastâo Gracie, who helped Maeda put on Judo demonstrations throughout the country.

Carlos Gracie, Gastão’s eldest son, began learning the art of Kano jiu-jitsu/Judo from Maeda. Carlos then taught what he learned to his four brothers: Oswaldo, George, Gastão Jr., and Hélio.

Carlos and Hélio took the techniques they learned from Maeda and transformed them into what we now know as Gracie jiu-jitsu or Brazilian jiu-jitsu .

It’s from here that the Gracie jiu-jitsu family tree begins.

The Gracie Family Tree

Below is a non-exhaustive list of the many members of the Gracie jiu-jitsu family, divided into four generations.

Included are the main practitioners who have moved through the BJJ ranks to make it all the way to jiu-jitsu black belt (or higher). It's important to note that due to the sheer size of the family, there are many, many other members of the Gracies not included here.

First Generation of Gracies

Carlos Gracie Sr.

Arguably the most important Gracie, Carlos learned Judo from Mitsuyo Maeda, in turn teaching his four brothers what would later develop into Gracie jiu-jitsu or Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

The benefits of BJJ were clear to Carlos Gracie Sr., and he opened the first Gracie Academy in 1925 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In his later years, he was responsible for helping to spread Gracie jiu-jitsu internationally. This came after a successful career of challenge matches, in which he fought anyone willing to test their skills against his formidable Gracie jiu-jitsu.

Carlos Gracie Sr. fathered 21 children in total, with 13 of them obtaining their black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Carlos is also known for developing the Gracie Diet.

Hélio Gracie

Hélio Gracie grew up as a physically frail child prone to fainting spells. Learning Judo techniques from his older brother Carlos, Hélio was forced to make modifications to the techniques to accommodate his lack of size and strength. From this, Gracie jiu-jitsu was born.

Hélio was also famously known for his many challenge matches, in which he proved the effectiveness of his family's martial art against fighters from all backgrounds.

Amazingly, Hélio continued to train and teach jiu-jitsu into his 90s! Hélio fathered 9 children in total, with 7 of them obtaining their black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Between Hélio and Carlos' children, an army of Gracie fighters was born, ready to spread jiu-jitsu throughout the world. And that's exactly what they did.

George Gracie

George Gracie helped his brother Carlos to open the first Gracie Academy in 1925, becoming a star pupil and an emerging competitor. George competed in many matches, from boxing to Vale Tudo to no-holds-barred fights.

George had enduring success as a fighter, continuing to compete long after his brothers Hélio, Carlos, and Oswaldo had retired from fighting. He was known as the most active Gracie fighter of his generation.  

George eventually moved to Sao Paulo to have a family and work as a businessman. Then, in the 1950s, he would return to Rio to open his own academy, which caused tensions between him and his brothers Carlos and Hélio.

Oswaldo Gracie

Oswaldo Gracie started learning Judo techniques from his older brother Carlos but stopped training to work during the early 1920s. In 1925, when Carlos opened the first Gracie Academy, Oswaldo resumed training.

Oswaldo would go on to fight Vale Tudo, notably defeating a wrestler who weighed nearly 300lbs while Oswaldo was only 135lbs.

Until 1934, Oswaldo was one of the main instructors at the Gracie Academy in Rio. Then, he moved to Belo Horizonte, where he opened a Gracie Academy of his own.

Gastão Gracie Jr.

Gastão Gracie Jr., studied Judo with his brother Carlos, helping him open the first Gracie Academy in Rio in 1925. In 1930, Gastão moved to Sao Paulo, then moved back to Rio in 1934 to continue teaching jiu-jitsu with his brothers.

Shortly after that, Gastão moved back to Sao Paulo, where he would finally settle as a personal martial arts trainer.

Second Generation of Gracies

Carlson Gracie Sr.

The eldest son of Carlos Gracie Sr., Carlson Gracie would go on to start one of the most popular affiliations in the jiu-jitsu world: Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

Before that, he was one of the fiercest competitors, starting in jiu-jitsu competitions at a young age, fighting professionally as young as 18 years old. He was considered one of the men to beat for nearly 30 years, leaving a tremendous legacy as a jiu-jitsu practitioner and fighter.

Carlson Gracie also trained many BJJ and mixed martial arts world champions. Of his students, André Pederneras would go on to start Nova União, Ricardo Liborio would go on to start American Top Team, and Murilo Bustamante and Mário Sperry would go on to start Brazilian Top Team.

Robson Gracie

The second son of Carlos Gracie Sr., Robson Gracie competed in Vale Tudo competitions and mixed martial arts fights throughout the 1950s.

He currently lives and teaches in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He serves as the president of the Rio de Janeiro Jiu-Jitsu Federation.

Reyson Gracie

Carlos’ third son, Reyson has been teaching jiu-jitsu since the 1960s. He is credited for introducing jiu-jitsu to the Amazonas in the late 1970s, helping to spread his family’s art throughout Brazil.

Reyson’s teaching style focuses on BJJ techniques and the philosophy that underlies Gracie jiu-jitsu.

Reylson Gracie

The fourth son of Carlos Gracie Sr., Reylson is one of the most well-known self-defence specialists within the Gracie family.

With his brothers, he is responsible for helping to spread Gracie jiu-jitsu into the United States. He's also known for bringing coloured kimonos (gis) into jiu-jitsu.

More than that, Reylson Gracie played an enormous role in developing much of the jiu-jitsu vocabulary we know today, including the mata leão (rear naked choke).

Carley Gracie

Carley Gracie, son of Carlos, was a jiu-jitsu and Vale Tudo champion. He was technically the first Gracie to teach jiu-jitsu in the United States, as he was part of the US military.

Carley was the last member of the Gracie family to be trained by Carlos Gracie. Carley Gracie is known as one of the most technical jiu-jitsu practitioners in the entire family. He now owns and operates Carley Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in San Francisco, California.

Rolls Gracie

Son of Carlos, Rolls Gracie was one of the most important members of the Gracie family, dominating not only jiu-jitsu competitions/superfights, but also cross-training and competing in wrestling and sambo. He was a Brazilian national (1975) and Pan American (1979) wrestling champion, as well as an American Sambo champion (1979).

Rolls had a global vision for Gracie jiu-jitsu and was one of the first to emphasize the importance of cross-training in other combat sports and martial arts. Rolls was considered to be one of the most skilled fighters and most important leaders of his era. He is credited with bridging the gap between the old school of jiu-jitsu and the new school of jiu-jitsu.

Rolls tragically died in 1983 in a paragliding accident at only 31 years old, leaving an incredible legacy behind.

Carlos Gracie Jr.

Born to Carlos Gracie Sr., Carlinhos was raised in part by his uncle Hélio. This was the case for several of Carlos’ children.

Carlos Jr. spent time teaching at the Gracie Academy in Rio with his brother cousin Rickson before attending Rio de Janeiro University to study nutrition. Carlos Jr. began to assist his brother Rolls at his new Copacabana academy, which shared mat space with Carlson Gracie's academy.

When Rolls passed away in 1982, Carlos Jr. was asked to take over as the main instructor of the academy. In 1986, he moved to Barra da Tijuca, a small suburb of Rio, to open a new academy. This academy would end up being one of the most popular affiliations in the entire jiu-jitsu world: Gracie Barra.

In 1994, Carlos Gracie Jr. founded the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF), the largest governing body for sport jiu-jitsu. In the same year, Carlinhos started GracieMag, a popular jiu-jitsu magazine.

Crolin Gracie

Crolin Gracie, son of Carlos, was revered as the next best competitor after Rolls. However, health issues prevented Crolin from continuing his competitive career.

Along with brothers Carlos Gracie Jr. and Rilion, Crolin would play a major role in the foundation of the first Gracie Barra jiu-jitsu academy. Crolin also helped many other members of the Gracie family in opening jiu-jitsu academies throughout Brazil and the US.

Rilion Gracie

The youngest son of Carlos Gracie Sr., Rilion Gracie had a major influence on the development of jiu-jitsu in southern Brazil. Rickson Gracie claimed that Rilion has the best guard in the entire Gracie family.

With his brothers Carlos Gracie Jr. and Crolin, Rilion Gracie also helped to create the first Gracie Barra academy.

Rorion Gracie

The eldest son of Hélio, Rorion is known in part for founding the famous Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Torrance, California. Rorion is also known for introducing the Gracie Challenge, in which martial artists and fighters would take on Gracie fighters to test the family’s art.

More than that, Rorion Gracie is known for co-creating the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and is therefore responsible for helping to create modern-day mixed martial arts. In 1993, Rorion put on the first UFC show, in which his brother Royce defeated larger, stronger opponents to claim the title and solidify the Gracie family as pioneers of mixed martial arts and jiu-jitsu.

Relson Gracie

Hélio’s second-oldest son, Relson (nicknamed Campeão) was an incredibly talented youth. He would eventually open his own academy in Hawaii and now has Relson Gracie affiliate gyms all around the world.  

Relson is also known for having taught self-defence to many major US law enforcement agencies/organizations, including the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, as well as many local law enforcement agencies.

Rickson Gracie

Rickson is the third oldest son of Hélio and is widely considered to be the greatest fighter in the family. It is said that Rickson has never once lost in competition, amassing an undefeated record across more than 400 fights of various styles.

Rickson fought many famous challenge matches, and also fought professionally for years in Japan, including in PRIDE FC. The documentary film, Choke, follows Rickson as he competes in (and wins) an 8-man, 1-night Vale Tudo tournament in Japan in 1995.

He is the founder of Rickson Gracie Academy and the Jiu-Jitsu Global Federation (JJGF).

Rolker Gracie

Rolker Gracie is the fourth son of Hélio Gracie. While he is not as well-known as a competitor compared to many of his brothers, Rolker has been a leader in the Gracie Humaitá organization for years. With his brother Royler, Rolker developed Gracie Humaitá into one of the most popular jiu-jitsu associations in the world.

Royler Gracie

The fifth son of Hélio, Royler Gracie, is considered one of the family's most accomplished jiu-jitsu competitors. He is a 4-time IBJJF world champion in the featherweight division and a 3-time ADCC champion at 65kg. Royler amazingly competed at black belt for more than 20 years. He is an IBJJF Hall of Famer and part of the inaugural ADCC Hall of Fame class.  

With his brother Rolker, Royler helped to develop the Gracie Humaitá organization, which stands as one of the largest jiu-jitsu associations in the world today.

Royce Gracie

Hélio’s sixth son, Royce Gracie is known by most as the face of the first UFC shows in the early-mid 1990s. Royce fought in UFCs 1-5, proving to the world the effectiveness of Gracie jiu-jitsu. Royce also competed in PRIDE FC and Bellator throughout his lengthy career.

Royce Gracie is known for popularizing Gracie jiu-jitsu throughout the 1990s, revolutionizing the emerging mixed martial arts scene in the process. Royce is a UFC Hall of Famer and one of the most influential members of the Gracie family.

Robin Gracie

Helio’s youngest son, Robin Gracie was an active jiu-jitsu competitor and Vale Tudo fighter.

Today, Robin runs the official Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy of Spain in Barcelona.

Third Generation of Gracies

Carlson Gracie Jr.

The eldest son of Carlson Gracie Sr., Carlson Gracie Jr. is the head of Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Association. He was part of the famous Carlson Gracie fight team in the 1980s-90s, before moving to Chicago to open another school with his father.

Igor Gracie

Son of Rolls Gracie, Igor is an active competitor who also teaches jiu-jitsu at Renzo Gracie Academy in New York City.

Gregor Gracie

Half-brother of Rolles Jr. and Igor Gracie, Gregor Gracie was a jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts competitor. He is now an instructor at Renzo Gracie Academy in New York City and has also worked as a model.

Renzo Gracie

Son of Robson, Renzo Gracie is one of the most popular Gracies of his generation. With an extensive career in mixed martial arts, Renzo is also known for winning ADCC.

Renzo is a charismatic character who is often seen smiling and joking, making him one of the most loved members of the jiu-jitsu community. He owns Renzo Gracie Academy in New York City and has trained many successful MMA fighters, including Georges St. Pierre, Matt Serra, and Chris Weidman.

Ryan Gracie

Son of Robson, Ryan Gracie was a talented young fighter with a promising MMA career. Unfortunately, issues with drugs and the law led to his tragic death in 2007 while in jail in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Ralph Gracie

Son of Robson, Ralph Gracie is considered one of the fiercest fighters in the entire Gracie family. He had a short but successful MMA career, ending with a record of 6-1.

He now owns Ralph Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in San Francisco, California.

Rolles Gracie Jr.

Son of Rolls, Rolles Gracie Jr. enjoyed a career in competition jiu-jitsu before transitioning to MMA, where he would hold a record of 8-4. He now operates a Renzo Gracie Academy affiliate in New Jersey.

Roger Gracie

Son of Reila Gracie (and grandson of Carlos Gracie Sr.), Roger Gracie is the most decorated BJJ competitor of the modern era.

He is a 10-time IBJJF world champion and a 2-time ADCC world champion. He is also the former ONE light heavyweight MMA world champion.

He currently owns and operates Roger Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in London, England.

Ralek Gracie

Son of Rorion, Ralek Gracie is best known for running the professional jiu-jitsu promotion Metamoris.

Ralek also competed in jiu-jitsu and had a relatively short MMA career.

Clark Gracie

Son of Carley, Clark Gracie is one of the most active jiu-jitsu competitors from the Gracie family in the modern era, known for his use of the omoplata technique.

He owns Clark Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in San Diego, California.

Cesar Gracie

Son of Sonja (and grandson of Carlos Gracie Sr.), Cesar Gracie served in the US marines before opening Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy.

He would go on to train many notable MMA fighters, including Nick and Nate Diaz, Gilbert Melendez, and Jake Shields, among others.

Rodrigo Gracie

Son of Reylson, Rodrigo Gracie was a jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts competitor. He won gold at the first ADCC world championships and finished his MMA career with a record of 6-2.

He taught at various Gracie academies before opening his own academy, Rodrigo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, in California.

Ryron Gracie

The eldest son of Rorion, Ryron Gracie runs the Gracie University HQ in Torrance, California with his brother, Rener.

The two brothers also run the Gracie Breakdown YouTube channel and the Gracie University online platform.

Rener Gracie

Son of Rorion, Rener Gracie works with his brother to run the Gracie University HQ in Torrance, California, as well as the Gracie Breakdown YouTube channel and the Gracie University online BJJ platform.

Rener also founded Quickflip Apparel, a clothing company making garments (e.g., hooded sweatshirts) that turn into backpacks.

Crosley Gracie

Son of Rosley (and grandson of Carlos Gracie Sr.), Crosley had a successful MMA career before opening Crosley Gracie Jiu-Jitsu academy in Brentwood, California

Rose Gracie

Daughter of Rorion, Rose Gracie is the creator of the Gracie Tournament series, which includes Gracie Worlds, Gracie Nationals, and Gracie Regionals competitions.

She has openly criticized competition jiu-jitsu’s popular points format, advocating for a submission-only ruleset.

She is also an advocate for concussion and CTE-related research/awareness.

Kron Gracie

Son of Rickson, Kron Gracie is a decorated jiu-jitsu competitor, holding an ADCC world championship.

Kron is currently a professional MMA fighter in the UFC. At the time of this writing, he has an MMA record of 5-1.

Roggan Gracie

Son of Rilion, Roggan Gracie had a brief professional MMA career before turning his focus to teaching jiu-jitsu at the Rilion Gracie HQ in Miami, Florida.

Fourth Generation of Gracies

Kyra Gracie

Granddaughter of Robson, Kyra Gracie is one of only two Gracie women to hold a black belt so far.

She had a phenomenal competitive career, retiring as a four-time IBJJF world champion and 3-time ADCC champion.

Neiman Gracie

Son of Renzo, Neiman Gracie is currently a professional MMA fighter in Bellator. At the time of this writing, he holds a record of 11-3.

Khonry Gracie

Son of Royce, Khonry Gracie is currently a professional MMA fighter in Bellator. At the time of this writing, he holds a record of 2-2.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the best fighter in the Gracie family?

Rickson was said to be the best fighter in the Gracie family, with an alleged record of more than 400 wins and zero defeats. However, there were many other Gracies who were said to be close behind Rickson.

Did the Gracie family create/invent BJJ?

Carlos Gracie learned Judo from Mitsuyo Maeda, passing on this knowledge to his younger brothers. Carlos and Hélio refined the techniques and created Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, known today as Brazilian jiu-jitsu.  

When was the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy opened?

Carlos Gracie and his brothers opened the first Gracie Academy in Rio de Janeiro in 1925.

Did the Gracie family start the UFC?

Rorion Gracie and business partner Art Davis created and hosted the first UFC event in 1993. Royce Gracie represented the Gracie family, defeating all of his opponents using Gracie jiu-jitsu to win the championship.

When was Gracie Barra started?

Gracie Barra was started by Carlos Gracie Jr., Crolin Gracie, and Rilion Gracie in 1986. Today, Gracie Barra is one of the largest academies in the entire world, with more than 800 schools worldwide.

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What is FAQ?

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