What Made Carlson the Most Unique Member of the Gracie Family

What Made Carlson the Most Unique Member of the Gracie Family

Carlson Gracie has long been one of the most beloved, important and unique personalities in the history of jiu-jitsu. The legend has honed his trade on the ability to disentangle the most inventive position and a passion for rooster fighting.

Grandmaster Carlson Gracie, Sr was the eldest son of Carlos Gracie, founder of Gracie Jiu Jitsu with his uncle Hélio Gracie, and learned the art from his uncle and his father.

Back when Carlson Gracie decided to leave the Gracie Academy in Rio de Janiero and to teach Jiu-Jitsu to common people, a rivalry started with his uncle Helio.  He started the famous Carlson Gracie Academy and for the first time in BJJ, he was teaching group classes open to all including lower classes. Helio had previously only taught private classes at a high price and reserved for the higher classes. Carlson also allowed some poor students to train without paying but demanded full commitment in exchange.

Helio Gracie was against Carlson’s decision to teach Jiu-Jitsu to common people. As a reaction, Carlson said that he would train his fighters to defeat Helio’s sons. The famous Wallid Ismail vs Royce Gracie match was the most famous example.

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If it weren’t for Carlson Gracie, Jiu-Jitsu would have never been thought to the masses.

Carlson Gracie was not scared to do things his way:

Vitor Belfort: ‘When Carlson Promoted Me To Black Belt at 17, Everyone Criticized Him’

Always a very colorful, honest and outspoken figure, here is a collection of various quotes from the Grandmaster:


“Jiu-jitsu is all one thing; it is all the same, however I am a very dedicated and studious person. I am always inventing new positions, evolving old ones. I research positions and with repetition and observation I improve on them. Because everything in the world changes and progresses, so I try to do that with jiu-jitsu.”

“If it were not for me, the Gracies would be selling Bananas in Largo do Machado!”

“If your opponent is tapping, your technique is good. If he is not tapping, your technique sucks.”

“Always enter like a kitten and leave like a lion. But NEVER enter like a lion and leave like a kitten. Always be humble.”

“”If you can not win, make the enemy pay a steep price for victory”

“There is no reward without sacrifice.”

“Big Mistakey!”

“My father was teaching on top of my mistakes. From there I developed a lot. When I wanted to learn something, I never forgot. Have a good memory, had the advantage. He was very persistent, as my father. I researched the positions, inventing a way out of them. Invented so many blows. ”

“You know a thousand moves and you suck at every one of them.”

“Punch a black belt in the face, he becomes a brown belt. Punch him again, purple…”

“‘I am your friend, but in the ring we are enemies and I am going to beat you to a pulp!”- Carlson’s statement to Santana after the Helio fight.

“There is no losing in jiu jitsu. You either win or you learn.”

“Life is yours, do not let life’s problems have other influences on what you believe. See for yourself.”

“You should be a missile and go and destroy your opponent.”


“Never quit, you have to resist to the utmost. ‘Til you drop, like a Samurai”

“My Jiu-Jitsu is completely different from theirs (The rest of the Gracie family), my technique has nothing to do with “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.” I AM CARLSON GRACIE and that’s the way it is in the ring. Who ever shows up on the way in, is going to have to fight against my fighters.”

“The best way to get a move to work is to make it so uncomfortable that the opponent gives it to you to stop the pain.”

“If you want to be a lion, you must train with lions”


Carlson Gracie explains how his Jiu-Jitsu was different from his uncle Helio’s:

Carlson Gracie On His Jiu-Jitsu Being Different From Helio’s, His Relationship with Rorion & IBJJF


In this Rickson Gracie interview from Tatame in 2005 (Interviewed by Marcelo Alonso, and translated by Roberto Pedreira), Rickson (Helio’s son) talks about his opinion on the Gracie Academy vs Carlson Gracie rivalrty:


At one point your uncle Carlson after he left the Gracie Academy was bringing up fighters to a high level to compete against the Gracie Academy fighters. Was this important for the evolution ofthe sport?
Rickson: It was a positive rivalry, it was never something negative. There was no dispute. I have always thought of Carlson as someone who is extremely competitive, someone who liked to bet on rooster fights, liked to gamble. So for him a championship was like a rooster fight, he wanted to see his rooster win…………… if it was his cousin, or family, or not, he wanted to see his student win. It wasn’t a question of satisfying his ego. He wasn’t interested in politics, the family was the most important thing, understand? I respect Carlson and have a certain admiration for his manner of living life. He created the evolution of his guys, because they felt they had potential and thought “I am with Carlson here so I can beat a Gracie.. The main strength of the Carlson academy was the guys of the Wallid type [Wallides da vida]. The Copa Company was really great, they were things that we feel nostalgic when we remember them.