Rolls Gracie was one of the most important members of the Gracie family, being the family’s champion in the 1970′s and considered to be the father of modern day jiu jitsu through his ideas on cross training in different martial arts. Rolls is also often labelled as the pioneer in the development of the open guard, having influenced most of his and all following generations of BJJ practitioners such as “Carlinhos” Gracie (founder of Gracie-Barra), Rickson Gracie (BJJ legend), Royce Gracie (UFC Hall of Fame), Romero Cavalcanti (Founder of Alliance BJJ team) and many others.
Rolls Gracie Jiu Jitsu
Full Name: Rolls Gracie
- Campeonato de Jiu Jitsu da Guanabara (1973, 1974 weight and absolute)
Weight Division: walked around at 65Kg.
Team/Association: Academia Gracie
Rolls Gracie Biography
Rolls Gracie was born on the 28 of March, 1951. He was the son of Gracie Jiu Jitsu founder Carlos Gracie, although he was raised for the most part by his uncle, Helio Gracie, at Carlos’ request (as did most of Carlos’ children). Rolls started practicing jiu jitsu as a toddler, starting competing as a child, winning every single major trophy there was to earn at the time.
He was the first of the Gracie’s to actively seek competitions in Freestyle, Greco Roman and Sambo wrestling as well as Judo. First cross training was with Osvaldo Alves, training with the Judoka in Brazil, later seeking 5 time US Wrestling champ Bob Anderson to improve his grappling stand up (with who he developed a strong friendship throughout the years), the famous Keylock is named “Americana” in Brazil due to this partnership as Anderson loved this particular move.
Rolls met Anderson by way of a connection in the Colombian wrestling federation, through which he extended an invitation for Bob to come to Rio de Janeiro and teach wrestling for a couple of months. Bob stayed at Rolls Gracie’s house for the duration of that period teaching him many of his favorite wrestling techniques. A funny episode is told of when the American found out that Rolls was the Brazilian open weight Jiu Jitsu champion. He couldn’t believe a person of Rolls’ size could win an open weight match and mocked the deed. After a few days of pestering Rolls, the Gracie invited him for a sparring session where he proceeded to tap the large wrestling heavyweight 10 times in just a few minutes, leaving the Anderson in awe of his technique.
Rolls also trained Olympic Gymnastics and Surfing in order to improve his athleticism, in fact he was the first member of the Gracie family to buy a surf board.
A funny story is told about Rolls’ first contact with the surfing community. When one of Rolls Gracie’s students named Mario Gomes (who became a huge soap opera star in the 1980′s) was surfing on the famous Arpoador beach. Mario got into a scuffle with a famous surfer named Daniel Sabbá and was sent out of the beach. Mario was so angry with the situation that he went to Rolls’ academy, where he also trained, and told the story to his master. Rolls decided to walk to the beach to speak with the local bully, taking a few of his students with him. As he arrived and demanded an explanation, all hell broke loose and a big fight broke out. The fight was short lived and in just a few minutes all the surfers were put to sleep on the beach. The deed was so impressive that several of the surfers became students of Rolls just a few weeks after the event.
In 1979 Rolls competed at a Pan American competition in Sambo, a tournament he won with two gold medals (in his weight and in the absolute division). In that same year he planned to compete at the San Diego Wrestling Pan Ams, with that in mind he asked his cousin Rorion if he could stay at his California house during his trip, but his cousin refused, instead Rolls sought shelter at his friend Bob Anderson’s home. The pair managed to refresh a few of the techniques in time for another gold medal for the Gracie.
After another amazing achievements Rolls invited to stay in America and teach the LAPD his grappling magic. Unfortunately for the LA Police Department he refused what was an excellent wage at the time, mainly due to Helio Gracie’s disapproving of his move to the US.
Rolls also tried to make a Brazilian Wrestling team in order to compete at the Moscow Olympics but was unsuccessful mainly due to the lack of organization and bureaucracy difficulties. He ended up getting a Gracie Team together for the Pan Ams the following year (1980) where he got a Bronze Medal.
It is said that his global vision for BJJ clashed several times with the more traditionalist views of Helio Gracie, the man who raised him, but who he felt sometimes neglected by the favouring his own blood sons. He ended up leaving Helio’s gym to join his older brother Carlson Gracie. Together they made a strong bond. After a few years with Carlson, Rolls felt the need to expand, and with his brother’s consent he left Carlson’s academy at Copacabana and founded his own in Rua Figueiredo Magalhães, were he was assisted by his younger brother “Carlinhos” Gracie.
According to Reila Gracie’s book “Carlos Gracie: O Criador de Uma Dinastia”, Rolls graduated 10 black belts in his life time. They were:
- Fabio Macieira
- Paulo Conde
- Mario Claudio Tallarico
- Nicim Azulay
- Ricardo Azoury
- Marcio Stambowski
- Mauricio Gomes
- Romero Cavalcanti
- Carlos Gracie Junior
- Crolin Gracie
His tragic death came on the 6th of June, 1983 due to a paragliding accident at the tender age of 31 he left two children behind and a loving wife. His cousin Royce Gracie once said: “existe uma era antes e outra depois de Rolls” – There is an era before and another one after Rolls.
This is a small clip of Rolls (age 13) fighting against a Karate Black Belt at an exhibition tournament. He is the first one to enter in the sequence.
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