GrandMaster Carlos Gracie

12 01 2010

Pretty much every person that i know of that is into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has heard of Helio Gracie. I mean he is the father of us all. He is the man that creatively took an already existing style and expanded on it. Helio took Jiu Jitsu and formed the basis for what jiu jitsu is today. Helio gets a lot of well deserved credit for the progress that jiu jitsu has made over the last 100 years but i think that we overlook someone extremely important in the development of jiu jitsu… Helio’s Professor: Carlos Gracie!

I just finished reading this month’s Graciemag and it highlighted grandmaster Carlos Gracie. Carlos Gracie was born september 14th, 1902. He was the first Gracie to be taught judo/ jiu jitsu from Otavio Mitsuyo Maeda a japanese emigrant to brazil who was then a 4th dan kodokan judoka. Carlos then passed the teachings on to his brothers Oswaldo, Gastao jr., Jorge and Helio. In 1925, carlos opened their first academy in brazil, marking the beginning of the art of brazilian jiu jitsu. When thinking of the father of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu the majority of everyone points to Helio and i think this is  deservedly  so but i believe that in studying the principles of Carlos we can gain insight into creating a training environment conducive for generating the creative ingenuity responsible for the jiu jitsu revolution over the last 100 years. Lets take a look at my interpretation of ten principles relating to jiu jitsu that carlos lived by…


1) Thinking Big: “Think big and your achievements will grow. Think small and you’ll fall straight to the ground.” When new students arrive at my school i always try to encourage them to compete in a major tournament like the Pan Ams or the World Championships. Now i am a big believer that there are competitors and then there are leisure jiu jitsu players, but in the beginning i want my beginner students to set a goal, a big goal. In training for a major competition not only do you learn to establish a good fundamental base but you get to see the big time black belts compete like roger gracie and xande riberio, braulio estima, andre galvao, and etc. This gives them something to shoot for. Now when they come back (win or lose) there is a major improvement in their game just because the bar for their achievements has been lifted. They saw what was out there and were excited to get there!

2.) Investing Long Term: This is an important principle to get across to the american jiu jitsu community. We live in a society to where we put to great a value on how fast something can be performed or created. We live in a time scarce society. When you embark on your jiu jitsu journey (a journey of self discovery) to not put an expectation on how long it will take you to accomplish belts or championships. This type of thinking i believe is directly opposed to grandmaster carlos’s principle. Jiu Jitsu is for life and everyone’s journey is different. So with that in mind, invest in the long term. I promise you your investment will not return void. It will pay you back in ways you could have never imagined.

3.) Think Outside the Box: When rolling always explore new possibilities. Don’t get lockdown into just one type of game. Try to look at jiu jitsu from different angles, open yourself to unseen options. It is very common for a jiu jitsu player to build a game and then only operate within that game. You want to be a well rounded jiu jitsu player. Having good skills from your back and your top game, but thinking outside the box i believe is more relevant in the  transitions rather than the  positions.  Always explore new and exciting ways to get into positions whether they be on the top or the bottom. Dont be afraid to allow this type of thinking to bleed over into your everyday life. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with your outlook on life.

4.) The Family as a Reference: Carlos believed that everyone that came and continued their jiu jitsu journey with them became family. i really like this idea because then your training partners become your brothers. Training becomes a way to build relationships that will last forever. it also builds an envirionment where learning can be cultivated and healthy competition or cooperative training brings out the best in all of us.

5.) Their is NO Success Without Health: One of the fundamentals in Stephen Covey’s “the seven habits of highly effective people” is no matter how busy you are, set aside time for exercise and taking care of your health, otherwise you won’t have vigor to fulfill your other priorities in earnest. Jiu Jitsu is a great form of exercise but it is also a great form of emotional release.

6.) Family Run Business: Carlos believed in the traditional way of the samurai which is to pass down the art of jiu jitsu from generation to generation. I think that because of this principle you have a family tree represented in every gym. Everyone that has ever been to a legit jiu jitsu gym can trace the lineage of their jiu jitsu to someone.

7.) University of the MAT: i believe that carlos wanted to set up his jiu jitsu academies like a place for scholars of jiu jitsu to come and discuss or debate techniques and such. i also believe that at the university of the MAT every single person from white belt all the way to black belt is a teacher and a student at the same time. i truly believe that you can learn something from every single person that is in the gym at any given moment. Always stay humble and open to what people have to say. Who knows maybe your next jiu jitsu breakthrough could be in an off handed comment by a white belt. You never know

8.) Speaking in Second Person: This part to me is a little weird but apparently grandmaster Carlos wanted to escape the standard discourse. He always challenged his students to find their own voice and continue to be creative. Now im not saying go and start speaking in second person but i do agree don’t just be like everyone else. Look for ways to be creative and if you want to challenge your mind then do it even in your daily conversations. Totally up to you

9.) Leading Without Oppressing: The capacity to attract dedicated, talented and intelligent people, as well as to make way for them to develop their full potential and gain credit for it. I think as instructors this is one of the hardest things to do. think of Carlos here is younger brother Helio who is smaller and not very strong bending and changing the jiu jitsu that carlos was teaching to better suit his body and needs. Now he could have shot down every idea that his brother ever came up with but instead he nurtured his creativity and imagination hence evolving jiu jitsu into the basis for what it is now. This i believe, is what a true jiu jitsu instructor’s main goal should be. Teach the fundamentals and then allow for self exploration and adaptation of the old, leading to new concepts and new fundamentals.

10.) Consistency: Maybe the most important principle in life. i believe that consistency parallels success. Becoming the best jiu jitsu player that you can does not require genius intellegince (although it might help), Super athleticism, insane strength, or crazy flexibility. No it only requires that you show up and prepare yourself everyday to strive to learn more about yourself everytime your on the mat. do this and you will accomplish your goals i promise.

(all the above principles came from grandmaster carlos gracie. i just gave you my interpretation of what he was trying to say)

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