Carlson Gracie

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Carlson Gracie
Carlson Gracie in 1999
BornAugust 13, 1932
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
DiedFebruary 1, 2006(2006-02-01) (aged 73)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Heart Failure
Other namesChampion
Height180 cm (5 ft 11 in)
Weight67–72 kg (148–159 lb; 10 st 8 lb – 11 st 5 lb)
StyleBrazilian jiu-jitsu
Fighting out ofRio de Janeiro Chicago, Illinois
TeamCarlson Gracie Team
Teacher(s)Carlos Gracie, Helio Gracie
Rank9th deg. BJJ red belt
Notable studentsAllan Goes, Murilo Bustamante, Mario Sperry, Marcus Soares, Wallid Ismail, André Pederneiras, Ricardo Liborio, Marcelo Saporito, Julio "Foca" Fernandez, Vitor Belfort, Stephan Bonnar, Javier Vazquez, Carlos "Carlão" Santos, Carlos Barreto, Francisco "Toco" Albuquerque, Crezio de Souza, Joe Rogan

Carlson Gracie (August 13, 1932 – February 1, 2006)[1][2] was a practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. A member of the Gracie family, he was the eldest son of Carlos Gracie, and nephew to Hélio Gracie, founders of Gracie jiu-jitsu.[3]

Carlson Gracie is considered one of the most important and influential Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners. He and his students created various innovative techniques and strategies which revolutionized Jiu-Jitsu.[4][5] He advocated for a "warrior style", which emphasized physical prowess, aggressiveness, heavy top pressure, takedowns and cross-training to disciplines such as Judo and Wrestling to better one's game.[6] Gracie also believed in the a philosophy the only way to move forward was to test yourself and to do so you needed to open your knowledge to the public, rather than keep jiu-jitsu a secret. The difference in styles and coaching methods led to a rivalry with Hélio Gracie's branch of more orthodox jiu-jitsu.[4]

He is also a mixed martial arts pioneer, having participated in multiple vale tudo matches in the 1950s and 1960s.[7] His academy had one of the first programs for specific training for MMA, and many of his students would become world champions and go on to establish their own academies.[4]


Carlson was an early pioneer in mixed martial arts, founding one of the most successful teams of the era, which spawned many champions. In 2000, following a financial dispute, many of Carlson Gracie's students would split from him to form another MMA team, the Brazilian Top Team. These students were called creontes by Carlson Gracie because of perceived lack of loyalty.[citation needed]

Carlson fought a total of eighteen vale tudo fights, with only one loss to Luta Livre fighter Euclides Pereira in a fight that was held in Bahia.[8] His first fight was on March 17, 1953, against capoeira practitioner Luiz "Cirandinha" Aguiar, apprentice of Mestre Sinhozinho. Carlson won by submission due to mounted strikes after a tough fight. His second match was a draw against another capoeirista, Wilson "Passarito" Oliveira, in May 1953. Carlson had a rematch with Passarito in March 1954 in the longest fight of his career, which he won in the fifth 30 minute round. Most notable are his four matches with Valdemar Santana, who had defeated his uncle Hélio Gracie in a fabled match in May 1955. He beat Santana in the first fight avenging his family. In October 1955 Carlson fought Santana to a draw in a jiu-jitsu match. In 1956 and 1957 Carlson won two fights and in 1959 they fought to a draw.

Carlson Gracie trained many top competitors, including, among many others, Ricardo De La Riva, Allan Goes, Murilo Bustamante, Mário Sperry, Wallid Ismail, Pablo Popovitch, Vauvenargues "Marinho" Vicentini, André Pederneiras, and Ricardo Liborio. He was also responsible for introducing Vitor Belfort to Gracie jiu-jitsu.[9]

Carlson Gracie trained Stephan Bonnar, a finalist in the UFC reality show The Ultimate Fighter 1. He was in Bonnar's corner during his fight against eventual The Ultimate Fighter winner Forrest Griffin. He is the author of a book on the subject of Jiu Jitsu titled Brazilian jiu-jitsu: For Experts Only, which includes his student Julio "Foca" Fernandez.[10]

The oldest son of Carlos Gracie, who founded Gracie jiu-jitsu in Rio de Janeiro during the 1920s, Carlson reigned as world champion for thirty years covering the '50s, '60s and '70s.

Carlson Gracie statue in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro.

Carlson catapulted to fame at the age of 23 when he avenged the defeat of his uncle Helio Gracie. A former student of Helio's, Waldemar Santana, had defeated the much older Helio during a match in 1955. That match lasted four hours. Carlson's rematch with Santana in 1956 was a much shorter affair: four rounds of vicious vale-tudo combat came to draw.[11]

Carlson's influence on no-holds-barred fighting and mixed martial arts is extensive as well, for the style of jiu-jitsu he taught at his academy was distinct from that being taught by Helio. While Helio's brand of jiu-jitsu emphasized defensive techniques aiming to allow the smaller and weaker to defeat the stronger opponent,[12] Carlson and his brothers Carley Gracie and Rolls Gracie favored a much more active, 'warrior style' of jiu-jitsu that encouraged physical prowess and barraging your opponent with a series of attacks.[6]

Some of Carlson's lineage can be seen in the creation of some of the greatest MMA gyms in the world: Brazilian Top Team, Nova União, American Top Team and Black House were all founded by Carlson Gracie's black belts.


Carlson Gracie died on February 1, 2006, in Chicago, Illinois, of heart failure, apparently the result of complications of kidney stones (and possibly his pre-existing diabetes), following a hospitalization of several days. At the time of his death he was a ninth degree red belt and was referred to as Grandmaster.

A bronze statue was installed next to his gym in Rio de Janeiro on August 12, 2019.[13]

Instructor lineage[edit]

Kano JigoroTomita TsunejiroMitsuyo "Count Koma" MaedaCarlos Gracie Sr.Helio Gracie→ Carlson Gracie.[14][15]

Personal life[edit]

Carlson had three children and two grandchildren.[16] Gracie was a close friend of Wing Chun Grandmaster Samuel Kwok, and the two often toured and held seminars together.[citation needed]


On July 6, 2023, it was announced that ESPN Films is producing a documentary series on the Gracie family directed by Chris Fuller and produced by Greg O'Connor and Guy Ritchie.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gracie Family Tree. URL accessed on November 1, 2009.
  2. ^ Gracie Seminars >> Carlson Gracie Bio. URL accessed on November 1, 2009.
  3. ^ Ratner, Dave (2005-03-29). "Gracie Family Tree". Archived from the original on 2006-07-15. Retrieved 2006-07-06.
  4. ^ a b c "Carlson Gracie | BJJ Heroes". Retrieved 2022-02-03.
  5. ^ says, Juan. "The Fall of Jiu Jitsu's Kodokan | BJJ Heroes". Retrieved 2022-02-03.
  6. ^ a b "An Interview with Carlson Gracie Jr". Archived from the original on 2014-01-11. Retrieved 2014-10-13.
  7. ^ "Carlson Gracie ("Meninão") | Fighter Page". Tapology. Retrieved 2022-02-03.
  8. ^ Grant, T. P. (January 2, 2012). "MMA Origins: Carlson Gracie Changes Vale Tudo". Bloodyelbow. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  9. ^ Venga, Gleidson; Gross, Josh (2006-02-01). "BJJ Forefather Carlson Gracie Sr. Passes Away". Retrieved 2006-07-06.
  10. ^ Carlson, Gracie; Fernandez, Julio (2004). Brazilian jiu-jitsu: For Experts Only: Classic jiu-jitsu Techniques from the Master. Invisible Cities Press Llc. ISBN 1-931229-34-1.
  11. ^ "Brazil versus Brazil, MMA's most intense rivalry". ESPN. February 4, 2011. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  12. ^ "GRACIE UNIVERSITY: Global Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Instruction – Straight From The Source". Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  13. ^ Guilherme Cruz (April 18, 2019). "Legend Carlson Gracie to be honored with statue in Rio de Janeiro".
  14. ^ Kiai Magazine N. 4 ( 1994) Biopress
  15. ^ "Helio Gracie, Promoter of jiu-jitsu, Dies at 95". The New York Times. 2009-01-30. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
  16. ^ Gracie Family Tree Archived September 17, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. URL accessed on April 1, 2010.
  17. ^ Otterson, Joe (2023-07-06). "ESPN Films Sets Gracie Family Docuseries, Guy Ritchie Among Executive Producers (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2023-05-26.

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