September 14, 1902|
Belém do Pará, Brazil
October 7, 1994 (aged 92)|
|Style||Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo|
Donato Pires dos Reis
|Rank||Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu10th degree red belt in|
Carlos Gracie (September 14, 1902 – October 7, 1994) was a Brazilian martial artist who is credited with being one of the primary developers of modern jiu-jitsu in Brazil. Along with his younger brother Hélio Gracie and fellow students Luis Franca and Oswaldo Fadda, Gracie helped develop Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) based on knowledge from Mitsuyo Maeda, and is widely considered to be the martial-arts patriarch of the Gracie family. Carlos Gracie acquired his knowledge of Jiu-Jitsu by studying in Belem under Maeda and his students. As he taught the techniques to his brothers, he created a martial arts family with Hélio and with other members of the Gracie family who provided key contributions to the style.
Carlos was born in Belém in 1902, the first of eight children. He was a mischievous, aggressive child, prone to get involved in brawls and to get expelled from schools. When Carlos was 15 years old, hoping find a way for him to vent out his aggression, his father Gastao took him to a professional wrestling challenge hosted in the circus he owned, where Carlos witnessed how the judoka Mitsuyo Maeda defeated a much bigger man. Impressed by the feat, he started training under Maeda and his assistant Jacyntho Ferro, although for a short time, as his family moved to Rio de Janeiro for economic reasons. There Gracie started working as a bouncer in his father's casino until a falling out among them, and after some other jobs he became a pupil of Donato Pires dos Reis, a police hand-to-hand instructor and apprentice to Maeda. Under him, Carlos had his first formal training, learning especially self-defense-oriented techniques.
He started his career on the rings by challenging judoka Geo Omori in São Paulo in 1929, although he was initially rejected due to Carlos’s lack of training and experience. They eventually faced off in two exhibitions of "jiu-jitsu" (a term used for judo at time in Brazil) staged for the Municipal Guard in January 1930 staged as a favor to Carlos's father. Afterwards, Carlos and his brother George founded a small school in the city's Barrio nas Perdizes, where they brought in Omori to teach them further jiu-jitsu. Gracie claimed to have faced several "no holds barred" challenges in his school by this time. However, after Carlos was arrested and jailed for assault on three men who had supposedly insulted his girlfriend, the two brothers had to move back to Rio de Janeiro. There they joined Donato Pires's school, opened in Marquez de Abrantes in September 1930. The date of their return to Rio is both popularly and officially given as 1925, but sources of the time place it in the mentioned year. During this time, aside from both teaching and learning jiu-jitsu under Pires, Gracie dedicated himself to host unsanctioned fights in small bars, promote rooster fighting, and experiment on nutrition and dietary habits. He would claim in 1981 to have competed in amateur boxing with a 20-0 record during this time, while his relative Reila Gracie cited him as a national middleweight champion, but there’s no record for those claims. In June 1931, Pires moved to Santa Catarina due to his job in the Ministry of the Economy, leaving his academy in Gracie's hands.
Aside from martial arts, Gracie was also interested in alternative medicine and occultism due to the death of illness of his first girlfriend. He started working as a spiritual consultant to Bank of Brazil executive Oscar Santa Maria, a member of the Brazilian Rosacrucian Society, in which Carlos was deemed as having "strong mediumnic powers". In exchange for funding his academy and other ventures, Carlos would put Santa Maria in contact with a supposedly Peruvian spirit named Egidio Lasjovino. Gracie was also a follower of Helena Blavatsky's theosophy.
In July 3, 1931, Gracie and Jayme Ferreira celebrated a challenge event between three jiu-jitsu fighters from his academy and three capoeira fighters trained by Ferreira, echoing a street fight Carlos supposedly had years before with a capoerista named Samuel. The challenge forced the fighters to wear judogis and forbade strikes on the ground, which caused one of the capoeiristas, Coronel, to be disqualified upon hitting George Gracie. In the other two matches, Oswaldo Gracie and Benedicto Peres defeated their opponents. The event was negatively received, however, not only due to a ruleset perceived as too favorable to the jiu-jitsu side, but also to accusations that Ferreira (an Greco-Roman wrestling teacher associated to Gracie) was not a capoeira master and therefore his side could not represent the art. Famous professional wrestler and sportsman Manoel Rufino dos Santos criticized further the Gracie family, so a fight was stipulated for August 22, 1931 between him and Carlos Gracie himself to settle it down. In response to the announcement, Carlos's teacher Donato Pires said through the press that Gracie's claims to be a direct apprentice to Mitsuyo Maeda were false and thus was equally unfit to represent jiu-jitsu. This almost caused the fight to be delayed when Carlos and his brothers assaulted Donato in front of the America Hotel in Catete one day before the event. By this incident, ties to Pires were severed and the Marquez de Abrantes academy became fully a property of Gracie.
The match, which was the first and only professional bout in Carlos's life, finally had place the promised day. During the first two five-minute rounds, Rufino dominated the bout, forcing Carlos to defend from his guard and at one point even hit illegal strikes that were admonished by the referee. At the third, Rufino passed his guard and locked a submission hold, which Gracie avoided by diving out of the ring through the ropes. The referee ordered the match to be restarted on the center of the ring, but Gracie locked a guillotine choke in the process, causing turmoil. Carlos claimed Rufino had tapped out while his opponent denied it, so the judges deliberated for some time and decided to solve the argument by restarting the match. However, Gracie refused to fight, insisting he had already won, and thus Rufino was declared winner. The conflict then moved to the newspapers, with Rufino critizing Carlos's skill and dismissing his jiu-jitsu credentials, leading Carlos, George and Hélio to assault him in front of his teaching place at the Tijuca Tênis Clube and hit him repeatedly with a steel box. This time the brothers were arrested and were convicted to two years and a half in prison for assault, as well as for trying to run away during the arrest, but their connections to President of Brazil Getúlio Vargas granted them a pardon.
The same year, Carlos retired from competition and focused on teaching and managing his brothers. After moving to Fortaleza, he started teaching jiu-jitsu in the national police while he researched in the Gracie Diet. He also became a real estate investor. In 1948, he published his book Introdução ao Jiu-jitsu, mostly a nutrition and philosophy manual.
Judo and Brazilian/Gracie Jiu-Jitsu
Gracie Jiu Jitsu developed in Brazil in the early 1900s using techniques learned from the great Japanese champion, Mitsuyo Maeda (known in Brazil as Conde Koma—the "Count of Combat"). Maeda, who was taught by Jigoro Kano, the creator of Judo, fought hundreds of victorious challenge matches against practitioners of other styles using his Judo techniques to overcome them. Maeda had become a champion Judoka in Japan and was so highly revered by Kano he was sent around the world to spread Judo.
According to reports, the young Carlos Gracie refined his system by fighting in matches that were open to all skill levels and learning from those experiences to make Jiu Jitsu more effective. Some reports claim that he advertised in newspapers and on street corners for new opponents upon whom to practice but no documented records of this exist. Gracie claimed to have fought anyone and everyone who was willing, regardless of size, weight, or fighting style. Though he was 135 pounds, his style proved so effective that Carlos Gracie was never defeated making him a legend in Brazil. Later, his claims were challenged by his brother Jorge Gracie, who stated; "My brother Carlos is nothing when it comes to fighting. Carlos does not have the authority nor the competence to speak about Jiu Jitsu… Who created the sporting tradition of my family if not me, in all honesty, with my career?"
This tradition of open challenge is a part of the heritage of Gracie style of Jiu Jitsu. Carlos Gracie taught his style of Jiu Jitsu to his four younger brothers (Oswaldo, Gastão, Jorge, and Helio) and to his older sons (including Carlson and Carley), and they in turn taught their brothers, sons, nephews, and cousins. After Carlos retired from the ring, he managed the fight careers of his brothers and sons, continuing to challenge fighters of all styles throughout the world. This tradition of open challenge is continued by his sons, grandsons, brothers, nephews, and students.
Carlos Gracie copied and adapted a nutritional regimen, from the Argentinean/French naturist Juan Esteve Dulin, and is now marketed as the Gracie Diet. Following the Hippocratean maxim "Let your food be your remedy", Carlos aimed this diet to a system that would primarily prevent illness on days of competition. The basic principle of the Gracie Diet is to keep blood pH level neutral by consuming only compatible nutrients at each meal. The Gracie Diet is flexible but it definitely prohibits consumption of pork and its derivatives and adopts abstinence from alcohol and tobacco.
Gracie fathered 21 children, 13 of whom earned the rank of black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. At the time of his death, Gracie had twenty-one children, one hundred six grandchildren, and one hundred twenty-eight great-grandchildren.
In 2009, Carlos' daughter Reila Gracie (mother of Roger Gracie-Gomes) published a book detailing the life and times of Carlos Gracie. The book is titled "Carlos Gracie – O Criador De Uma Dinastia" (Carlos Gracie – The Creator of a Dynasty) in Portuguese and a translation is available under the title "Carlos Gracie: The Creator of a Fighting Dynasty".
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- Book review: Carlos Gracie: O Criador de uma Dinastia - Chapter 8. Hélio Gracie, O Caçula
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- Gracie, Reila (2008). Carlos Gracie – O Criador De Uma Dinastia" (Carlos Gracie – The Creator of a Dynasty) (1st ed.). Brazil: Record. p. 572. ISBN 85-01-08075-6.