Craig 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 Northern Hemisphere at a time when this sport/martial art was not yet spread worldwide.
Craig Kukuk Jiu-Jitsu
Full Name: Craig Kukuk
Lineage: Carlos Gracie > Helio Gracie > Royler Gracie > Craig Kukuk
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 pioneering gyms in the area. The success of his academies led Craig to bring Renzo Gracie to the US and partner up with him for a 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 was rumored on internet forums at the time that the instructional and the fees involving this video effort were at the root of the break-up between the two instructors, though this was never clarified publicly and 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.
Why is everything in past tense? Did he die?
Not at all, maybe I am just not a great writer 🙂 Things happened in the past I write them like so.
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.
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
There's a private Facebook page called "The Original Gracie Garage (1979-1989)". Its reserved only for students of Rorion Gracie's original "Gracie Garage", but you can see who the members are. Rorion, Chris Haueter, Chris Saunders, and Richard Bresler are members, don't recognize any of the others.
I trained with Craig in 1985. Im not sure how long before I arrived he had been training. I was very strong and weighed about 225 lb . Craig was a beast and had great technique. I could never make him tap. I always had to do th tapping. I stayed in jiu jitsu and did 3 group classes at age 54 and called it a day. I have not been able to devote my proper time to bjj, and therefore I only attained purple belt. I have passed ny skills to my son
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…
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.
Craig is still around – he actually just launched CraigKukuk.com check it out http://craigkukuk.com/
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.
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…
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.
Matt Serra trained at the Kukuk-Gracie school in NYC. So did Ray Longo.
I trained with Craig Kukuk for a short time in Red Bank NJ. He is a fantastic guy and a great instructor. I also bought his instructional videos with Renzo Gracie.
I took private lessons with him in Red Bank as well. Good instructor and very hands on but the reason it is so taboo he attempted to have Renzo deported!!!!! Yes he did put up his own money and funded almost all of it to get started but it wasnt an even split. He wanted a BIT more then half and when they decided to split the student who started with craig in 94 before Renzo came in 95 decided to go with Renzo and he tried having him deported. Thats just low and spiteful. Yes he put up the money but would anyone have brought an instructional in 95 from Kukuk Jiujitsu???? He needed Renzos name. Drives me crazy when it gets told wrong
This is dramatically incorrect Joe. They split up due to Renzo not wanting to pay taxes. Craig never held any grudge and would never consider doing something like deportation. They just couldn’t do business together after that. Also you weren’t there, so how would you know what he wanted to do? He loves Jiu Jitsu and doesn’t care about the money that was made by teaching it. Get your facts straight.
How come he is not a coral belt now? Im pretty sure if Craig wanted Renzo deported it would have been easy for him to cancel his wok visa.
Does anyone know how I can get in touch with him? email or phone number for the gym or anything…? Doesn’t seem to be much online
I also trained with Kukuk back in the day at Red Bank. I loved the training with everyone although I was the smallest at 145 training with monsters back then it got my ground game on point. I was already a mixed martial artist but I didn’t know anything about ground work. I obtained my blue belt under Craig and continued with David Lentz to receive my purple. Then the academy closed and that was the end but only the beginning in my learning.
Hmmmmm…. so much drama around this topic
He should interview with Joe Rogan!