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Carlson Gracie Academy

Considered by many as the most successful Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy in the history of the sport, the Carlson Gracie Jiu Jitsu Team was the true juggernaut of competitive BJJ in the 1970’s, 1980’s and early 1990’s. A team remembered for big names such as “Serginho de Niteroi”, Amauri Bitetti, Ricardo De La Riva, Ricardo Liborio, Paulo Filho and many, many others, the Carlson Gracie Academy was also the flagship for innovation in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, having added strong trends such as group classes, a strong focus on sport BJJ and the use of animals in the academy’s logo(s), all ideas coming from the leader of the team, the late Master Carlson Gracie.

The History of Carlson Gracie Academy

The history of the Carlson Gracie Jiu Jitsu Team starts in 1964 through a partnership between Carlson Gracie and a former Vale Tudo fighting legend, Ivan Gomes. Ivan was a good friend of Master Carlson, who around that year proposed a partnership with the Gracie to open an academy together. Carlson did not have any money, but had all the technical expertise and his name, while Gomes had the money to invest. The partnership didn’t last more then a year, and after the split Carlson ended up partnering with Helio Vigio for a while.

Carlson Gracie learned from this venture with Ivan Gomes that an academy was a viable solution for his future, and as his career in Vale Tudo was nearing its terminus he decided to open his own academy in the fashionable burg of Copacabana, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Name: Academia Carlson Gracie
Team Lineage: Academia Gracie > Academia Carlson Gracie
Founded: Mid 1960’s
Founder: Carlson Gracie
Current Instructor: Marcelo Saporito, Alan Moraes, Ari Galo
Board: n/a
First Black Belt: Sergio Iris de Almeida “Serginho de Niteroi”
HQ Address: Rua Figueiredo Magalhães, nº 414 – 3º andar, 22031-010
Prominent Competitors: Ricardo Liborio, Amauri Bitetti, Peixotinho, Paulo Filho, Murilo Bustamante, Ze Mario Sperry, Cassio Cardoso, Pinduka, Walid Ismail, De La Riva, Ricardo Arona, Ari Galo, Clovis de Souza, Sergio Bolão
Main Team Achievements: Copa Company Champion, Copa Niteroi Champion, Copa Lightning Bolt
List of ACG Black Belts: List of Carlson Gracie Academy Black Belts listed on BJJ Heroes

The Early Years of Carlson Gracie Academy

Master Carlson Gracie’s charisma gathered many students quickly. His will to coach Jiu Jitsu to the lower classes was something never tried before by a Gracie family member, and although this willingness to work with the poor didn’t raise him much money, it brought to him people willing to give their heart and soul in practice and in competition as a sign of appreciation for Carlson’s generosity. Carlson Gracie has been mentioned several times as one to pardon the monthly fees in exchange of medals, basically, if his students brought medals from tournaments he would let them train for free (as was the case of Walid Ismail, who trained for many years without paying).

On June, 1973, Jiu Jitsu was finally recognized legally as a sport in Brazil, this allowed the Federação de Jiu Jitsu da Guanabara (the only official JJ federation at the time) to organize official events. The sanction opened the doors to a competitive rivalry that would last for decades between the Gracie Academy (led by Master Helio Gracie) and the Carlson Gracie Academy. With the start of these important tournaments by the federation, Carlson and Helio (Carlson’s uncle) relationship starts to deteriorate, and to make matters worst, on 1976, at an interstate tournament, Carlson Gracie’s star pupil, Sergio Iris, defeated Helio Gracie’s first-born son, Rorion Gracie. Carlson’s enthusiastic celebrations caused a big dent in the uncle and nephew relationship, a damage that would cause uncomfortable moments for years to come.

Another root of the differences between the more traditional Gracie Academy and Carlson Gracie Academy was sport Jiu Jitsu. Helio Gracie saw Jiu Jitsu first and foremost as a self defence weapon, while Carlson believed in a (healthy) competitor’s spirit and competition was his main focus as a coach – which proved to be the key for his team’s success. An example of how serious Carlson was about competition was that recognizing that there weren’t enough tournaments throughout the year in the 1970’s to keep his students sharp, he would often bring students from other academies in to train with his pupils and attest what needed to be worked on next.

The Carlson Gracie Academy style, also became famous as many of his students were renowned for their strong top game, a game based on muscle and perseverance, which had been tried and tested by the team’s master himself on Vale Tudo shows in his youth. Though this perception of a heavy set game in reality did not mirror the technical value of the team and many other fighters at the academy who proved their worth with dangerous guard games that revolutionized the BJJ sport; grapplers such as De La Riva and Cassio Cardoso.

This variety of styles and the willingness of his students to compete, took the team to a level well above anyone else in BJJ at the time, and more then often, in tourneys, the Carlson Gracie Academy would run over their adversaries with over 50% of the teams points in the tournaments, that is more then all the other teams combined.

The Vale-Tudo Days and the Carlson Gracie Academy Break-up

In the early 1990’s, after the big challenge between Jiu Jitsu and Luta Livre (Desafio – Jiu-Jitsu vs. Luta Livre), the Carlson Gracie Team starts to turn their focus more to No Holds Barred. Shortly after, as “Gracie Jiu Jitsu” became a relevant name in the United States, following the first UFC shows, Carlson decides to move to the North American territory, and in 1996 he settles in Los Angeles together with one of his prodigal students, Vitor Belfort.

The move to the US didn’t sit well amongst his students who were left in Brazil, being coached amongst them. The fact that the students left behind still had to pay the academy a percentage of their fight purse when competing was also a major point of contention. As the tensions arose between students and master, the break up became inevitable and in the year of 2000 many of Carlson Gracie’s students were kicked out of the team; a true legion of his top level black belts left, including: Ricardo Liborio, Allan Góes, Ricardo Arona, Murilo Bustamante, Ze Mario Sperry, “Bebeo” Duarte, Carlão Barreto and many others who went on to form other academies, being the most famous Brazilian Top Team.

Modern Carlson Gracie Academy

Since the desolation left by the black belt pilgrimage of 2000, the Carlson Gracie Academy never truly recovered a meaningful competition team strong enough to withhold against the growth of Alliance, Gracie Barra and the more recent arrival of Checkmat and GFTeam, adding to the injury, the death of the team’s leader, Master Carlson Gracie in 2006 (understandably) left the team adrift and without direction for a while. The academy’s guidance in Rio de Janeiro, at the emblematic Rua Figueiredo Magalhães, has since, been picked up by Marcelo Saporito sided by Alan Moraes and Ari Galo, while abroad the team has many strong representatives such as the BJJ Revolution Team, led by Rodrigo Medeiros in the United States as well as Carlson Gracie Junior, also in the United States.

Carlson Gracie Academy World Black Belt Medallists

Year Medallist Medal
1996 Luis Roberto Duarte Silver
Murilo Bustamante Silver
Ricardo Liborio Gold & Silver
Jose Mario Sperry Gold
Amauri Biteti
1997 Marco Aurelio Bronze
Luis Roberto Duarte Silver
Jose Mario Sperry Gold & Bronze
Amauri Bitetti Gold
1998 Rinaldo Santos Bronze
Murilo Bustamante Bronze & Bronze
Renato Ferro Bronze
Jose Mario Sperry Gold
1999 Vinicius Cruz Bronze
Suian Queiroz Bronze
Amauri Bitetti Bronze
Jose Mario Sperry Silver & Bronze
Andre Mendes Bronze
2000 Bruno Ximenes Bronze
2001 Marcos Oliveira Bronze
2002 Marcos Oliveira Silver
2005 Antonio Sergio Bronze

 

This post is also available in: Portuguese (Brazil)

Comments (11)

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  1. I am proud to be a student of the Carlson Gracie line.
    Carlson Gracie forever!

    (Carlson Gracie Revolution Team Hungary)

  2. Pedro Silva says:

    Carlson Gracie Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Puerto Rico
    Email: bjjcrew@yahoo.com
    Hato Rey: Prof. Luis santiago:
    Latittud Fight Fitness Center 2do nivel del Rest. Rebeca, frente a La Placita Roosvelt
    Tel. 787-435-7299

    Caguas: Inst. Pedro Silva:
    Escuela De Artes Marciales Ruby Camacho Headquarter Carretera 183 Urb. Jose Mercado (frente a la panaderia Dulce Landia) Tel. 787.704.3224 or 787.469.6819

  3. This is a very informative and interesting article about the history of BJJ in Brazil. Really enjoyed it!

  4. Sean Smith says:

    here’s a link to a list of some of the Carlson Gracie Jr schools in the US and outside the US. http://carlsongraciechicago.ning.com/page/carlson

  5. Jo Mitchell says:

    I have had the honor of learning from Carlson Gracie and his son Carlson Gracie Jr. the finer points of BJJ. They are down to earth individuals full of experience and humanity. RIP Carlson Gracie and OSSS to Carlson Gracie Jr. I am proud to be a part of the family.

  6. gutenberg Melo says:

    My name is Gutenberg Melo, I start trainig with master Carlson Gracie Sr. in the early 70's. I have a Carlson Gracie academy in Recife,Pernambuco, You have a great job.This is the first time i get in the site. Keep dooing it.

  7. Jon Medina says:

    Why is there no history on BJJ Revolution Team? Rodrigo Medieros (Carlson Gracie Blackbelt)

  8. RatCatcher says:

    Great article as always. Thanks for putting this together. I find much of the content on your site fascinating and informative.

    FYI:

    Carlson Gracie, and Carlson Gracie Junior's Official and updated Black Belt lists are available at
    http://carlsongraciefederation.com/blackbelts.htm

    also Carlson Gracie Team HQ is in Chicago, IL with Carlson Gracie Junior.
    http://carlsongraciefederation.com/associations.h

  9. Aaron Lapointe says:

    Carlson used to tell me that Julio ‘Foca’ Fernandez was one of his best competitors.

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