Many students ask me about the origins of Gracie Barra and how it is different than the other schools that bear the Gracie family name. Let us begin with the birth of Master Carlos Gracie Jr. on January 17, 1956.
Carlos Jr. grew up in the large family and spent many hours learning jiu-jitsu with uncles and cousins on the outdoor mats in the family compound. In he legendary Teresópolis House, located in the mountains close Rio de Janeiro the family would spend time together and of course jiu-jitsu was a main activity for all of the young children running around.
Master Carlos Gracie Jr. credits the late Rolls Gracie – who is considered one of the main minds behind the innovation and development of Gracie Jiu-jitsu – with being his main influence. Tragically Rolls Gracie died a premature death in a hang gliding accident.
That left the young Carlos Gracie Jr. to take over Rolls part of the academy. At the time the academy was located in busy downtown Copacabana and shared with some other members of the Gracie family. Looking for a location outside of the crowded Copacabana, in 1986 Carlos Gracie Jr. founded the first Gracie Barra school.
The new academy was located in Barra da Tijuca a suburb just a few kilometres down the coast from Rio de Janeiro. Carlos explains that instead of putting his own name on the academy, he decided to name the new school Gracie Barra after his family’s name and the area of Brazil that the school was located.
The early days of Gracie Barra would find several of the Gracie family members Renzo, Ryan and Ralph, several of the Machado brothers and many other famous instructors. Many who have since moved to many corners of the world to open up their own academies and spread the jiu-jitsu that they learned at the original Gracie Barra academy.
Look at the faces in this old photo framed in the original Gracie Barra who have since established successful academies and teams all over the world.
Currently, the original Gracie Barra is located in a fitness gym but a few blocks from the beach in Barra de Tijuca. The school is run by Prof. Jefferson Moura and continues to draw students internationally in search of some of the highest level of technical training to be found anywhere.
In 2005, Carlos Gracie Jr. with the assistance of Prof. Marcio Feitosa opened a GB school outside Brazil, located at first in Lake Forest, California and now the city of Irvine, California. Master Carlos Gracie Jr. has stated his goal to bring Jiu-Jitsu to everyone by establishing a school in every city in the world.
The Gracie Barra team continues its global expansion now with over 600 schools (and growing!) world wide. Gracie Barra has regional divisions representing North America, Central America, South America, Oceania and Europe.
The opening of each new school and each new student who ties up his belt and steps on the mat at a Gracie Barra school is one step closer to achieving the grand vision of the founder of Gracie Barra Master Carlos Gracie Jr.
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam