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Craig Kukuk

Craig Kukuk BJJ Heroes PageCraig Kukuk was the first US native to achieve the rank of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt (1992) by the hands of Royler Gracie. Kukuk is also the co-author of one of the very first Jiu Jitsu instructionals sold to the American audience, the “Renzo Gracie – Craig Kukuk Brazilian Jiu Jitsu” a historical piece of footage that helped advertise jiu jitsu in the USA in a time when the sport was not yet spread countrywide.

Craig Kukuk Jiu Jitsu

Full Name: Craig Kukuk

Nickname: n/a

Lineage: Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos Gracie > Helio Gracie > Royler Gracie > Craig Kukuk

Main Achievements:

  • n/a

Weight Division: Super Heavyweight (100kg/221lbs)

Team/Association: no affiliation.

Craig Kukuk Biography

Craig Kukuk was raised in California, United States, becoming a high school wrestler before joining the Gracie Academy in the 1980’s. Craig got very involved with Gracie Jiu Jitsu, learning from Rorion Gracie for many years, earning all his belts up to brown belt from Helio Gracie’s son.

By the time Kukuk was ready for his black belt, Rorion advised Craig to visit Brazil and train there to gain more experience. It was in Brazil, training at the original Gracie Academy in Rio de Janeiro, a place where great champions such as Rickson & Royler Gracie learned much of their fighting knowledge, that Craig received his black belt from the hands of Royler Gracie becoming the very first American black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Upon his return to the US, and after a short spell being an assistant instructor of Rorion Gracie,  Craig decided to move to the East Coast, opening a few gyms in the area. Shortly after Craig brought Renzo Gracie to partner up with him at the New York gym, the two formed a strong partnership and both launched one of the most successful jiu jitsu instructional at the time, the aforementioned “Renzo Gracie – Craig Kukuk Brazilian Jiu Jitsu”. It is rumoured on the internet that this instructional and the fees involving this video effort were the root of the break-up between the two instructors at the time, though the actual reasons behind this bitter separation are still somewhat of a taboo subject within the BJJ community.

Craig Kukuk continued teaching in his gyms while also starting his own on-line coaching program.

This post is also available in: Portuguese (Brazil)

Comments (10)

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  1. Ash Sinclair says:

    Why is everything in past tense? Did he die?

  2. Matt says:

    Craig lives in eagle Idaho. He has a small gym that some of my friends train at. The interesting thing is Kukuk doesn’t train in the gi. He is all no gi.

  3. paul turner says:

    theres a gap of about 17 yrs in that bio,from the time he left renzo till starting the online coaching.Also,when in the 80s did he start at gracie garage(no academy till 1989).I may be wrong but theres never been an interview with craig online .Id love to know who were the other students at the time,are they training still etc

  4. Biff says:

    Craig is a great guy and terrific instructor. Any “controversy” involves his investing heavily in the gyms and videos with his own money and expecting an even split of profits, even though his last name wasn’t Gracie. Money is a stupid reason to lose a friend…

  5. Joe says:

    Craig started his training in Rorion's garage, so he was training with him before there was an academy in Torrence. As Biff said, Craig is a great guy and I'm fortunate to be training with him. I won't directly comment on the reasons for the separation from the Gracie family, but Biff is on the mark with his comments. Craig prefers to stay out of the spotlight and just wants to do his thing, so that's why there are no interviews with him.

  6. Nick says:

    Craig is still around – he actually just launched CraigKukuk.com check it out http://craigkukuk.com/

  7. Tracy says:

    Craig is an awesome instructor and like everyone has said, he is not about being in the spotlight or making money. I have had the pleasure of training with some of the best martial arts instructors in the world and he is among the top two.

  8. kim says:

    He is great with my son. And the best part about it is, my son respects Mr. Kukuk and looks up to him! Thank you Craig. Daves mom…

  9. Josh Kukuk says:

    My name is Josh Kukuk and i live in TN. I am a brown belt in BJJ. As soon as i heard of Craig Kukuk. I have always wanted to meet him. Being that we have the same last name he is one of the hand full of people why i got into BJJ.

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