Carlos Gracie Jr. may have the most impressive legacy in Jiu-Jitsu, after those of his father Carlos Sr. and his uncle Helio. On top of creating the IBJJF and the major Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitions (covered in a previous article), Carlos Gracie Jr. has one of the most expansive lineal trees of any instructor.
While Carlos is an avid believer that competition is a crucial part of keeping skills evolving and sharp, in the 1980s high level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions were difficult to find. As a result the most impressive competition gold Carlos ever won was the 1980 Pan American Sambo Championships. While not destine to become a great competitor, his true calling would become clear, instruction.
As a result Carlos Gracie Jr.’s lineage stretches from one end of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to the other and black belts from Jean-Jacques Machado to Matt Serra all trace their path to the origins of Jiu Jitsu through Carlos Gracie Jr.
Carlos got his start in teaching at his brother’s academy, the great Rolls Gracie, during the early 80s. In 1986, Carlos set out to found his own academy and did so in a neighborhood in Rio called Barra da Tijuca, where he founded his own academy. He named the school Gracie Barra and went from just under 20 students to over 200 in one year.
He formed the IBJJF in 1994, just as Carlos Grace was handing out his first few dozen black belts to his students. As the Pan Ams and World Championships became the highlight events in the competitive Jiu-Jitsu world, Gracie Barra excelled and today still has more World Championship golds than any other school. While the competition success of Gracie Barra is impressive, even more impressive is the number of Gracie Barra black belts that have become outstanding instructors.
As the growth of the IBJJF competitions and the UFC spread awareness and demand for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the 1990s, these instructors began to travel aboard an open academies all over the globe.
One of the first was Roberto Maia who traveled to Boston, and others followed. Marcio Simas traveled to Florida, Marcelo Resende to Australia, and Nao Takigawa to Japan. Carlos’s students requested permission to use the Gracie Barra name, and what they got was Carlos’ complete support.
The Gracie Barra Association was born, and it would grow into an organization of satellite academies all centered around the Gracie Barra Head Quarters and Carlos’ central philosophies. Carlos believed that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu benefits extended beyond the mats and preached a lifestyle of clean, healthy living. The Association grew quickly as more and more black belts opened satellite schools.
Marcio Feitosa was one of Carlos Gracie’s first students in Barra. As a boy, Feitosa had such a talent for not just Jiu-Jitsu but helping others understand the art that Carlos took Feitosa on as an assistant coach at his academy at the age of 15. This was the start of a fantastic career for Feitosa, and in 1995, at the age of 19, he became a black belt.
Feitosa’s style has been criticized by some to be too conservative and for stalling at the end of matches, but his technical expertise allowed him to become one of the first great champions of sport jiu-jistu. His trophy cases are stocked with three Mundial gold medals, five silver, six Brazilian championships, one ADCC gold and four Pan Am titles.
While Feitosa stayed involved in competition till 2006, his focus after 2003 shifted to teaching. In 2005 Carlos Gracie Jr. decided to move Gracie Barra HQ from Brazil to California, first to Lake Forest then to their current location, a huge double storied academy in Irvine. During this period of growth Carlos selected Feitosa to become Head Instructor of the Association and set the curriculum for all the academies. A fantastic teacher, Feitosa is a well respected scholar of Jiu Jitsu and has put his GB Curriculum to DVD.
Ricardo "Big Dog" Almeida was a Gracie Barra grappler turned MMA fighter in the early 2000s and while his 7-2 mark from 2000-2003 drew headlines, his younger brother Flavio Almeida was a rising star in competitive grappling. Called "Little Dog", Flavio won the 1999 Brown belt World Championship and then took bronze at the Mundials his first two years as black belt.
Flavio then walked away from Jiu Jitsu and began studying business at a state University in Rio de Janeiro. He graduated in 2005 and began working shortly afterwards, but the pull of Jiu Jitsu proved too strong. Flavio left his job and began training at his brother's academy in New Jersey, but the East Coast climate did not agree with Flavio. He left for the warmer temperatures of California and GB Head Quarters, and there his background in business proved invaluable.
Together with Feitosa and Carlos Jr., Flavio helped create the Premium School System. This program was implemented to help reorganized the now very large Association; sorting schools by size, rank of instructors and compliance with the Academy ethos.
While Carlos Gracie Jr., Marcio Feitosa and Flavio Almeida make up the core leadership, there are hundreds of GB black belts around the world. Some, like Georges St. Pierre and Kenny Florian, are MMA fighters; some are world-class competitors, while others are lawyers, doctors, firefighters or teachers.
In 2001, a Carlos Gracie Jr. student Eddie Redzovic along with his brother Adem Redzovic, were the first Americans to get permission to open a GB school. Together the brothers set up shop in their hometown of Chicago with only handful of students. Today the school is now home to over 200 students, and recently became the 2010 IBJJF Chicago Winter Open Champions.
While GB instructors range all over the world, there is one that simply cannot and will not be ignored, Vinicius Magalhaes. No, not that Vinicius Magalhaes tapping out raging rednecks on TUF 8, Vinicius "Draculino" Magalhaes student of Jean Jacques Machado and Carlos Gracie Jr. from the original Gracie Barra.
Draculino is an absolute shark on the mats and is one of the most respected competitors in the world. He came to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu through Judo and surfing in his teens and he has been hooked ever since.
Draculino has opened several schools, most recently in Texas. He has awarded over 100 black belts, some to the toughest competitors GB has ever produced. To fill the time when not training BJJ; Draculino also is an avid surfer, a lawyer, recently won a MMA match at Strikeforce: Houston at the age of 39 and takes on Internet trolls via YouTube.
Draculio also has launched his own online training website intended to help students who moved to isolated locations (in BJJ terms) continue training. His website, DraculioBJJTraining.com, is one of the best and most comprehensive websites for BJJ training.
These are just a few of the fantastic instructors under the Gracie Barra umbrella and it’s not even mentioning their awesome list of champions.
"Graciemag International | Cachorrinho’s swapping of the suit for the gi." GracieMag.com.
"Marcio Feitosa | BJJ Heroes." BJJ Heroes: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
"Vinicius Magalhaes | BJJ Heroes." BJJ Heroes: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
"GB BJJ History Part 3." Jiu Jitsu - Gracie Barra Official Website - Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
"Flavio Almeida "Cachorrinho" | BJJ Heroes." BJJ Heroes: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Other Articles in History of Jiu-Jitsu Series:
1. Birth on the Battlefield
2. The Meiji Era and the Evolution of Judo
3. Judo Travels the World and Maeda Meets Gracie
4. Baptism By Fire and Luta Livre
5. The Tragedy of Rolls Gracie
6. Coming to America and the Birth of the Ultimate Fighting Championship
7. The Gracies Leave the UFC and Bring Jiu Jitsu Back to Japan
8. Carlson Gracie, The Grandfather of Jiu Jitsu in MMA
9. The Rise of Sport Jiu Jitsu
10. Twist and Shout