The Gracie-Barra academy is one of the most widely recognized teams in jiu jitsu, who has by far the most affiliated academies throughout the world and over 500 registered black belts, having set the standards for organization in the BJJ fight game. The team’s creator, Carlos Gracie Junior built the team in the 1980’s making the most of a fantastic generation of students which he transformed into talented competitors who went on to dominate many of the world’s most important tournaments, rivalling big teams such as Alliance, Nova União and Carlson Gracie in the 1990’s. Since turning its focus to the widespread of its franchises around the world (with more incidence in the United States), Gracie Barra lost much of the competitive edge it had in the 90s and early 2000s in the main competitions such as the Pan Ams, Mundial and World Professional Cup, though it is still regarded as one of the top teams in the world.
The History of Gracie Barra
Though Gracie Barra was officially inaugurated in 1986, its story actually started a few years prior, on 1983, when Carlos Gracie Jr (Gracie Barra’s founder) took control of the team left by Rolls Gracie, after his brother’s tragic death. “Carlinhos” had been the head coach of the main Gracie academy for a few years, coaching alongside Rickson Gracie before heading to Rolls Gracie’s school to be an assistant instructor there. Rolls was a great influence to Carlos who stayed at the helm of his brother’s group for 3 years before deciding to open his own place at the Barra da Tijuca burg in Rio de Janeiro.
Barra da Tijuca was a neighborhood popular among surfers who visited Barra and neighboring Recreio for its waves. Many didn’t think Carlos Gracie Junior’s experiment would be successful as the area was not as heavily populated as downtown Rio and too far away from the buzz of “Zona Sul”, but Carlinhos did not pay much attention to the disbelievers, and in one year turned his 20 students into a group of 200 strong. The team started being called Gracie Barra because people would refer to the academy as “os Gracie da Barra” (the Gracies of Barra). The terminology ended up being shortened to Gracie-Barra and used as a way to differentiate the two schools (Gracie Academy and Barra Gracie).
|Team Lineage:||Academia Gracie > Gracie Barra|
|Founders:||Carlos Gracie Junior, Crolin & Rilion Gracie, Machado brothers & Ze Beleza|
|Current Main Instructor:||Marcio Feitosa & Carlos Gracie Jr.|
|Board:||Marcio Feitosa/Carlos Gracie|
|First Black Belt:||Rigan Machado|
|HQ Address:||14988 Sand Canyon Ave. Studio 1, Irvine CA 92618|
|Prominent Competitors:||Roger Gracie, Marcio Feitosa, Romulo Barral, Marcio Cruz, Roleta, Nino Schembri, Roberto Gordo, Jefferson Moura, Escorrega, Braulio Estima, Samuel Braga, Kyra Gracie|
|Main Team Achievements:||World Champion Team|
|List of Gracie Barra BB’s:||List of Gracie Barra Black Belts on BJJ Heroes|
Gracie Barra’s Glorious Start
When Carlos Gracie Junior settled in Barra da Tijuca, many of the students he had coached at Rolls Gracie’s academy in Copacabana followed him; practitioners such as Jean Jacques Machado (who helped in the coaching at Gracie Barra in the early days), Renzo & Ryan Gracie and many others. Soon the word spread amongst the surfing community and local tough guys that a Gracie was coaching in Barra da Tijuca and the gym quickly filled up. The amount of talent built in the early days of Gracie Barra was nothing short of a tremendous achievement with an endless list of amazing fighters being poured into tournaments regularly, many of which totally revolutionized the sport though their technical innovation, fighters like Nino Schembri through his flexible and offensive open guard, Roberto Magalhães with his inverted guard, Roberto Correa with his half guard, Tinguinha with the spider guard and many others.
The Gracie Barra team became one of the most feared teams of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s winning the Mundial (World Championships) on several occasions, being 2002 the most dominant year for Gracie Barra’s history with 8 gold medals in the men’s black belt division, solidifying its name as one of the top academies in the world.
Though the team was highly successful, many of its prodigal sons started to clash with Carlinhos Gracie’s views and drifted away from the team going on to create their own. People such as Mauricio “Tinguinha”, Helio “Soneca”, Alexandre “Soca” and many others who did not approve of the direction the team was heading, including Roberto Correa (in 2007) who was one of the main coaches at the Gracie Barra Combat Team – the MMA team of Gracie Barra. Correa (aka “Gordo”) left the team after a well documented feud between Carlos Gracie Junior and Carlo Malta (who was the manager for most of the GBCT fighters). “Gordo” stuck to the fighters and Malta leaving Gracie Barra to form “Gracie Fusion” opening at a later stage his own endeavor, Gordo Jiu Jitsu.
The Controversial Gracie Barra Move to the US
Gracie Barra as a fighting company was always very driven to the globalization of the team, setting up franchising modules from early on. This expansion was taken to another level when in 2005 as the team moved its headquarters away from Rio de Janeiro to Lake Forest, United States, after an invitation by James Lu who partnered with GB to create a mega gym in the area. This move caused some turbulence from the start as Mauricio Tinguinha (a former star for the Gracie Barra team) had settled an academy in that same area for some time and saw the move to his backyard as an affront. He was mostly irate by the fact that he was good friends with one of the head coaches of the team (Marcio Feitosa) and had only heard about the move through the internet, a case highly discussed on internet forums around the world.
The controversy did not end here, and a few months after the move, the owner of the gym where Gracie Barra was held, James Lu, changed the locks on the doors and dismissed both Carlos Gracie Junior and Marcio Feitosa from their positions as head coaches at the gym after personal issues with the Gracie Barra duo. The students (who had signed their contracts with the actual gym and not the Gracie Barra franchise) were left adrift for a while, making the whole situation a poorer period for the academy. After the situation was cleared Carlinhos Gracie and team moved to Irvine California, settling their HQ there.
Gracie Barra – BJJ for All
The Gracie Barra expansion used many of its black belts to open smaller Gracie Barra academies all around the US, using a “BJJ for all” approach and marketing campaign tag line, in an attempt to become a more family orientated sporting academy. This highly successful plan saw the growth of its student portfolio by the 1000’s but took its toll on the competition team, a team that saw its black belts spread out around the world training mostly by themselves or with students, which proved to be of influence in Gracie Barra’s weaker performances on the major tournaments at the black belt level in the mid 2000′s.
Gracie Barra Rio de Janeiro (from the Real Rio Show)
This post is also available in: Portuguese (Brazil)