This history was contributed by Andre Borges from the BJJ Heroes website. BJJ Heroes is a fast growing database of fighter biographies. It's a great resource to learn about the history of the sport and the personalities behind it.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s history, though short, has been incredibly rich and has supplied tremendous material for researchers. From the early feuds with “Luta Livre Esportiva”, through the problems amongst the Gracie family, the break ups in the biggest teams (Carlson Gracie Team, Alliance, BTT, Gracie Barra, etc) and the tragic deaths and stories of such fighters as Ryan Gracie, Marcelo Behring, Rufino Gomes and others, not mentioning the heated rivalries between teams and competitors (“Pé de Pano” vs. “Terere”, “Macaco” vs. Ryan Gracie, Wallid Ismail vs. Edson Carvalho), the list is absolutely endless. 

But from all this, the figure that stands out more then even Great Masters Carlos Gracie Senior and Helio Gracie, or even Rolls Gracie, is the unequalled Carlson Gracie (Senior).

(partial Carlson Gracie Senior lineage)

Carlson Gracie Senior was one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) fighter that ever lived according to those who were alive when he competed. He also brought to light one of the most dominant teams to have ever competed in BJJ. His Jiu Jitsu legacy is still unfolding today.

When talking about Carlson Gracie, there is more than enough material to fill up a 4 hour long Oliver Stone film epic. In this article, we’ll look at Master Carlson Gracie’s life as he was reaching the end of his competitive career, and focusing his efforts on opening his own academy.

In 1964, a year had passed since Carlson had fought the Brazilian powerhouse Ivan Gomes, a famous no holds barred fighter from Paraíba that was a student of Carlson’s uncle George Gracie. After the fight (that ended in a draw), the pair became good friends, and when Ivan moved to Rio de Janeiro, he came to Carlson with a proposal for a partnership to open a Jiu Jitsu academy. Carlson would supply his knowledge and the Gracie name, while Ivan would bring financial support. At the time, Carlson was having some financial difficulties and the idea fit very well in his plans for the future, so the reply was an obvious yes.

The pair launched the project, but unfortunately the academy and the partnership didn’t last very long, and they closed the doors only a year after they opened them. According to BJJ historian Tony Ferraz, Carlson Gracie wasn’t very organized with the book keeping, and spent too much time at cock-fighting events, which led Ivan Gomes to lose patience and eventually pull the plug on the partnership. Ivan eventually went on to form a more long lasting alliance with Helio Vígio, another historical figure in Rio de Janeiro’s Jiu Jitsu.

After the failed partnership, Master Carlson Gracie opened his own academy in Copacabana. There were plenty of doubters due to the failure of the initial school, but this time the academy became an immediate success, filling up the student quota very quickly after opening.

Carlson Gracie was a colorful character, and his charisma made him an incredibly popular figure. He also took a completely different approach to teaching from most of the Gracie family at the time, opening Jiu Jitsu to the lower classes. Traditional instruction was mostly private lessons, which was difficult for a lot of people to afford. To make training affordable to more students, Carlson began teaching group classes. Even then, many of his students couldn’t afford the fees, so he would allow them to train for free, or give them discounts on the payments. But in exchange he demanded full dedication and expected his students to compete.

These group classes were part of the reason for the success of the Carlson Gracie team in competition. The highly competitive nature of class naturally led to more seasoned, conditioned fighters entering the tournaments.

The history of Carlson Gracie Team is full of dramatic ups and downs, including the split off of Brazilian Top Team in the early 2000s, but the impact Carlos had on the sport is undeniable. This small enterprise began in the late 1960’s developed many fighters who went on to make history from a technical stand point, revolutionizing the game forever. They included Otavio “Peixotinho”, Ricardo De La Riva, Ricardo Liborio, Clovis de Souza and Sergio “Bolao”.

Other fighters would make their master proud with their bravery, dedication and friendship, like Fernando “Pinduka”, Wallid Ismail and “Manimal”.

Still others made headlines all over the world by their sporting achievements: Amauri Bitetti, Ze Mario Sperry, Murilo Bustamante, Cassio Cardoso, and Vitor Belfort to name a few.

A interesting side note about the Carlson Gracie academy iss that it was the first Jiu Jitsu gym to adopt an animal (the Bull Dog) as a symbol for it’s logo. It started a trend that would become incredibly popular in the years that followed.