Carlos Gracie Jr. Interview

This interview is a little dated we did it back when we were in Rio this winter. It was an unbelievable experience for me to sit and talk with Carlihnos for about three hours. His stories are great and he has helped develop the soul of the Jiu-Jitsu we all love today.This interview is a little dated we did it back when we were in Rio this winter. It was an unbelievable experience for me to sit and talk with Carlihnos for about three hours. His stories are great and he has helped develop the soul of the Jiu-Jitsu we all love today. If you are ever in Rio stop by to meet him, take him out to lunch or something. Even if you don’t train with a Barra affiliate school. He grew up creating Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu history and he is still going training every day.

Walking on to the canvas-covered mat at Gracie Barra in Barra de Tejuca, Brazil is a little over whelming. The mat feels very hard and is covered by one piece of smooth canvas. The picture on the wall shows all the black belts training here led by Carlinhos Gracie. The picture is a who?s who of modern jiujitsu. Rolleta, Gordo, Nino, Mamazinho, Ryan Gracie, Gordinho, Soca, Feitosa, Tinguinha, Soneca, Nelson Monteiro, Batata, felip~ao, Veio, Ze Beleza, Sergio Inacio, Alvaro, Sandro, Romel, Serrano, Roni Rustico, Paulo Castro, Pity and Bruno Severiano. The academy is a simple place with an over whelming feeling. You just know this place breads champions; it`s in the air.

Barra Gracie is on the top floor of a very exclusive gym with three floors of workout rooms, weights, pool and all the other things you would find at a very nice gym in the States. Training is inexpensive at $R115 (hey-ice) or about $60 a month. Real cheap considering you can find more black and brown belts on the mat than white belts. The amount of raw talent on the mat is fantastic.

There are over 100 Jiu-Jitsu academies in Rio alone Gracie Barra is one of the oldest academies in Brazil Gracie Barra is definitely producing some of the greatest talent in the world.

I asked Carlinho`s about history of Gracie Barra and here is what he said.

CG: The Gracie Barra history is we had the family man?s academy that was in down town. My father was the owner. In the sixties my uncle Hellio started to be the head of the structure of the main Gracie Jiu-Jitsu academy. All of us trained there and many instructors were graduated there. Then one would pass for the other. I started there then I went to Copacabaña with my brother Rolls Gracie and we lived together. We had the same academy as Carlson but different students. One day would be a class for us one day for Carlson. Then when I was 26, I got my own academy at my father?s house. On the third floor we had a meeting room we used for training. We had only private classes and continued training with my brother Rolls in Copacabaña in the mornings. One day I got the news that Rolls had died flying a hang glider. Everbody was very sorry it was a big shock to our family. Everyone loved Rolls, he was number one in the family. His students came together and asked me to give classes there because I used to be the instructor there and I was the second instructor there. Then I started to give classes there in Copacabana. I stayed there three years, maybe more. Then I went to Barra and opened a school there. It was originally called Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Club. I started to give classed with my younger brother, Croylin. Then Croylin left and I was alone. We had many of the young Gracies training here then such as Renzo, Rylion, and Ralph. Then I changed the name to Gracie Barra, in the contests we started to use the name Gracie Barra; because we were the Gracies from Barra. Soon this name became very well known, so now we call the academy Gracie Barra. The company name is Gracie Jui-Jitsu Club. The Gracie Barra became a fantasy name. Then I started to open other schools and now all across the world the Gracie Barra name is getting famous. I am very proud of that. All my students and my young parents are helping to make this name bigger everyday.

OTM: How long has GB been here? CG: About sixteen years.

OTM: How many Black belts have you graduated? CG: I think after Carlson, I have graduated most Black Belts in Brazil. I don?t give the belts easy. When a guy gets his black belt from Barra Gracie, I want him to be proud of that. He has to be able to go everywhere and not beat every one but be proud of what he has accomplished. Some people are born fighters and others are not but they become fighters and not everyone has to be the best. I know that my guys will never embarrass me, they have been taught well and will contiune build good schools and grow the name Gracie Barra.

OTM: Now you have an association of Gracie Barra academies? CG: Yes, now we have different schools taught by black belts under the Gracie Barra name.

OTM: Do you have any schools in the US? CG: Yes I have one academy in the US, near Tampa, St Petersburg. My student gives classes there he used to give class here. His name is Eduardo De Lima, his knick name is Veio. It means literally ‘old people’, but in slag it is like saying ‘hey budy’ like you just saw an old friend.

OTM: Where are some of your other students teaching? CG: Paulo Carson he’s in Florida too, in Fort Lauderdale. Gerison is opening an academy in LA. Machados, used to be my students, I gave them their black belts. They are in LA and Texas. In San Diego we have Fabio Santos got his black belt from me. He was originally with Rolls Gracie, and then when he died he was with me. Now I think maybe he is with Rickson? I also have Carlisio, he is now the Gracie Barra representative in Europe, he is in England.

OTM: I don’t think a lot of people know the Machados were from Gracie Barra. CG: Yes, They used to take care of Machados since they were young. They used to live in my house and teach them everything. Then they left; they could use the Gracie Barra name. They prefer to use their own name, Machado also a strong name in Jiu-Jitsu. It’s ok; it’s good for them.

OTM: In the US we have no official federation or organization. How did you start the Jiu-Jitsu Federation here in Brazil? How has it helped Jiu-Jitsu grow? CG: The point of narrowing Jiu-Jitsu was to bring it together. We took five academies, big clubs, and we choose them to lead. We sat down and had a lot of discussion until we can call come together. I think what needs to happen in the US is a reflection of what happened in Brazil. When in Brazil everything got set up and everyone worked together, so now everyone in US needs to start to work together. The people in the US teaching Jiu-Jitsu now are mostly from an affiliate here in Brazil. They are below a school here. If the guy was fighting here he is fighting for the same club there. Now I make a conversation with everybody and we will make peace so Jiu-Jitsu can carry on for everybody. We will always have some people who will not agree with the majority. Ok, we still need to come together. The next step is to fix this mess of lack of respect and lack of people caring in US. The only way to grow the sport is create a federation. With out it who will represent the US, who will represent California or the East Coast? Who is able to do this? Los Angles has the largest concentration of Jiu-Jitsu in the US. They have a lot of Chiefs there and no one wants to try and work with each other. So I have decided to start with the east coast and create something there. Then the guys on the west coast will have to follow us. I think it is easier to start smaller and then grow it right. I am hoping this Pan American tournament to get together with many teachers and make them realize we need on federation of Jiu-Jitsu in US.

OTM: Why do you think it is so hard to get everyone together in US? CG: People think more well know you are the more money you get. They think that and now everyone wants be better known. They have to think they will all do better if the sport of Jiu-Jitsu grows. You can be a great fighter, but that doesn’t make you a great organizer of the sport or an association. People have to think about the sport not just about them selves. People all want to out do each other whether it is stripes on their belt or how many people they graduate. Step by step, if we don’t give up then it will come together.

OTM: So you have started laying the grown work on the east cost. What are you doing? CG: There are only a few contests on the east cost. So I will do more contests on the east coast. Then we will start to groom the sport. What I always tell the guys on the east coast is that I want to prepare them to beat the guys on the west coast. This gives them a target. Then when they guys on the west coast see how well things are going on the east coast they will come together. I think human beings only feels motivated when they feel danger. If they are uncomfortable they will start to do things.

OTM: Who do you think is capable to pull things together on each coast? CG: Renzo, has a good name and everyone likes but right now he his busy fighting and building his academies. He is a fair guy and a guy people will listen to. He needs someone to help him do this. In California, I think the Machado could do this but I think he is displeased. A big confederation needs to work like a corporation. You need some one there to run it everyday and let people know it exists. We have to find a way to get organized not just for tournaments. Also the belts, other wise in two years we could have 2000 black belts in the US, and who will control this? Who said this guy is good enough to be black belt? Soon every guy that gets a black belt starts giving away black belts. We have to have an organization for this other wise there is no standard. The contests are just one part, they make they sport more popular. Organization of the sports is much more that setting up contests it is a big political situation.

OTM: How can we get things rolling in the US? CG: I’d like to see a big meeting with the black belts in the US. Maybe all the people from each state come sit together. I think in the US, first the guys from each state need to each come together and set things up. Each state comes together and sets up a federation, has a contest and only guys from that state can compete. Then after each state is set up it is time to set up one national US federation. The guys should look at how each state is doing and pick the guys who can run the best. We have to build an international federation to have Olympic consideration. The Olympic comity has asked me to build an international federation. However first we must end the political situation in the US. So then the US can have a national Jiu-Jitsu federation and elect an international Jiu-Jitsu representative. Then we set up the same in other countries to build our International Federation with representation for all countries. Then we can organize an international competition. First we need people in each country we can trust to set up and run national completions. Right now Europe is also in need of organization. People are going to have to be willing to give up some time to do it.

OTM: What happened at the last Pan American tournament? Your tournaments are usually the best organized. Why did you cancel the second day? CG: We had a big problem last year because people think I canceled one day. I did not cancel one day. The owner of the location made a deal with me for two days. When arrive in the US, I arrived on Monday and the contest was to be Saturday. Then the owner asked me to pay four times as much money to rent the place. One month before I was there and everything was ok, we got the place and signed the contact. Now he is telling me we need to pay for the employees of the building and it costs four times as much. We negotiated it a little and brought the price down. I had to agree to pay so the tournament would not be cancelled. I had haft the money to give him that day, and I told him we could pay the rest after the competitors pay the registration fee on Friday. He said no, he needed all the money by Tuesday at five o’clock or it is canceled. Everyone was already there, there was now way to move the tournament. We ended up only being able to rent Saturday. That event would have been best planned event ever it would have been marvelous. Instead we have to make everyone fight in one day. This year everything is taken care of it will be great everything is already set up. We need students to start registering, because you will be required to reregister. Not prepay you pay when you get there to weigh in. There will be a limit to 600 fighters, only two per weight class for each academy. This will keep things very well organized.

OTM: Why the early registration? CG: If you wait till the night before you try to make the schedule for the fighters you can’t tell them when they are going to fight. If the fighter arrives on Friday to weight in we will be able to tell him what time he is going to start to fight. So maybe he does not have to sit around all day waiting to fight. He can relax in the hotel. It is also too much work for us to stay up all night making the schedule then also for the next two days run the contest. It is tuff to do that way and bad for organization. The contest organization in Brazil used to be worst than in the US. We have to use what we have learned here to teach the people in the US how to organize. You can’t complain about the organization of tournaments and not be willing to take the steps and help the organizers.

OTM: Are you limiting the number of students schools can send? CG: Yes, two fighters for every category. If a teacher has 2 academes, he may put four guys if they are different schools like Ralph Gracie East and Ralph Gracie West. But the guys may end up having to fight each other before the finials. It is the only way to keep the lottery fair.

OTM: We see a lot of kids here training with you; you told me before that kids are the reason Brazil will continue to lead Jiu-Jitsu. Why do you think more kids aren’t training in the USA? CG: What I think needs to happen to start Jiu-Jitsu growing with kids is guys will have to make a sacrifice and think about the future and not money. Fathers don’t know Jiu-Jitsu too well in America they see Jiu-Jitsu as vale tudo. They don’t want to put their kids in there because they don’t want to see their kids get hurt. The fathers need to come to the academy and see what Jiu-Jitsu is about then they will want the kids train Jiu-Jitsu. Instructors need to take the time to go to schools show the kids about Jiu-Jitsu and then the kids will want to train. We need to promote Jiu-Jitsu to the kids. Then you have small tournaments for the kids. When the kids start to compete in the tournaments by the time they are sixteen they may have fought ten times already. They have lots of experience. Then this kid goes against an American who may be older but it is his first tournament.

OTM: Your son, Cayron, is an accomplished Jiu-Jitsu fighter already, how old is he and what tournaments has he won? CG: He is eleven years old and is a yellow belt. He has already won four major events, two states, one Brazilian and one local tournament in Barra.

OTM: Will there be a kid’s class at Pan Americans? CG: No, not now it would take to many baby sitters. But some day we will.

OTM: What do you think of the fighters coming from Japan and America compared to Brazil? CG: What I see is the mentality of the Japanese is they want to be the best. The best fighers. When the Japanese do something they are very serious. We see it in No Holds Barred they are growing fast. Two years a go they were shit. Now they are growing fast. We have stated a federation headed by Yuki Nakki. We have opened a Gracie Barra in Japan run by two good guys. In the United States there is a tradition of making good fighters; boxing, wrestling, and kicking boxing. They already have this tradition only Jiu-Jitsu is just a little new for them. Just now guys are starting to show them selves very well. I think this year at the Pan American tournament some guys will really start to show them selves. There will be some good names that appear from this tournament. I think US over 95 Kilos already almost controls blue belts and purple belts, because there are a lot of heavy & strong big guys in the United States. Brazil will control for some years the lighter weights, the brown belts and black belts. It depends on how hard the teachers push their students. You see how people train here they are here everyday twice a day even on their vacation. They train like they eat, everyday. United States instructors run academies more like business. Students in the United States work too much, so the people training Jiu-Jitsu only train for a small part of the day. The boys here train from 9:00 am in the morning to 5:00 in the night.

OTM: How do you see Jiu-Jitsu growing in the United States? CG: In the future I’d like to see the US have a good strong team to be able to beat Brazil. It would be good, because then Brazil will train more to beat US. Then we can have big American sponsors set up maybe 10 Brazilian Black Belts against ten American Black Belts. Do a contest in America that can be a big show. American sponsors will not pay just to see Americans get killed. It is the same in with the Japanese. These events will grow to be big show and guys will be famous here and there. Ten against ten and lots of people will want to see. This is what I think will make the sport explode. Some Brazilian guys are afraid they say “don’t train the American too well because they will beat us”. Fuck them! train your your students hard.

OTM: What are your goals for your academy and students? CG: I am here because I always want to make my school stronger. That is our goal, all my students run strong schools. Look at the strongest schools in United States; Ralph, Renzo, and Machado all my students and they have learned the way to make the guys good. Most of the guys in the United States run school like a business. They want guys to like it a lot stay give money and they don’t care if they make the guys good or not. When a student comes to me I want to change the guy; he comes to me weak or fit I want him to become a superman. I want him to say Gracie Barra changed my self. The change needs to come with time, some people you can’t push too much but in the end they go away strong. I teach all my students to beat me, now all my black belts beat me. Everybody beats me, I’m 44 years old these guys are young, strong and train more they have to beat me.

OTM: Why does Jiu-Jitsu evolve so fast in Brazil? CG: Here we have so many guys here to develop the school. Now Renzo develops his jiu-jistu; Feitosa develops, Nino develops, and Roleta develops and they show to everyone and everyone is always learn. Some times they come to me Carlihnos what do you think? “Oh very good lets train this position” and we learn the positions. We are always learning always thinking.

OTM: You must be very proud; Gracie Barra has more representatives competing at Abu Dhabi then any other school. CG: I hope all my guys win at Abu Dhabi.

OTM: Anything you’d like to add?

CG: No, I think this is good. Thank you.

I wish there was some I could have posted the entire conversation I had that day with Carlinhos. It was truly enlightening. That day he invited us to on a hike with him and some of the guys from Barra. We went out for a little partying that night. We showed up a little late and pretty tired for the ‘hike’. When we got out of the car we saw Feitosa, Nelson, and a few other guys in speedoos with heart rate monitors on. All I could think was oh shit what the hell is going on? Feitosa asked me ‘is this your first time up the rock’? ‘Ya”, I said with a little fear in my heart. ‘It’s going to be a long day then’ he said laughing. Then everybody started laughing at up. I had showed up in flip flops with a back pack on expecting a nice little hike. They were going to race to the top in just speedoos and heart rate monitors. They didn’t even wear shoes! We were running up the side of the mountain through the jungle, with crazy rocks everywhere, huge bugs and rotting fruit everywhere. It was a very tiring trip, but the view alone was well worth every minute. So gringos if you go to and they invite you on the Sunday ‘hike’, you’ve been warned.

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