Reylson Gracie is a 9th degree red belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and one of the most well respected representatives of the Gracie self defence style, being the son of Gracie jiu jitsu founder Carlos Gracie (Sr) and one of its pioneers in the United States where he raised awareness to the his family’s trade. Reylson is also an important figure in the development of jiu jitsu’s vocabulary, having created the names for several techniques, as well as a visionary in this martial art’s gi fashion, being the first producer of coloured gis (kimonos). Reylson is also the father of the well known MMA and BJJ fighter Rodrigo Gracie.
Reylson Gracie Jiu Jitsu
Full Name: Reylson Gracie
Main Achievements: n/a
Favorite Position/Technique: Self defence
Weight Division: n/a
Team/Association: Reylson Gracie Academy
Reylson Gracie Biography
Reylson Gracie was born in 1943, in Rio de Janeiro – Brazil, being a son of Carlos Gracie, founder of the Gracie jiu jitsu style.
Like all the Gracie men of his generation, Reylson became a student of jiu jitsu from a very young age (4), with his uncle Helio Gracie leading his grappling tuition. Reylson knew he wanted to pursue a life in jiu jitsu from early on, and by the time he was 14 he started teaching the Gracie jiu jitsu self defence system at the Gracie Academy.
His knowledge of his family’s method earned him the status of “professor” (black belt) in 1962, being one of the youngest in the family to achieve the rank (18). 1 year later, Reylson opened up his own gym, becoming the first of Carlos Gracie’s sons to do so. He would open his most famous academy in 1975 at Shopping da Gávea, a prime location where the Gracie master taught the elite of Rio de Janeiro’s society.
1963 was also the year in which Reylson re-named one of the most utilized techniques in jiu jitsu, the world famous “mata leão“, which was called “estrangulamento técnico” (technical strangle-hold) until then. When asked about this on November 2015, Master Reylson replied:
Yes, I saw some photos of Mas Oyama, founder of kyokushin karate in 1963. I remember saying “This guy is a lion [E.N. common term for big strong man in Portuguese], but I could get a technical strangle-old from the back on him, the ultimate lion killer”.
The name was quickly picked up by his family members and quickly became a widespread term for the rear-naked-choke. Another submission name that is attributed to Reylson Gracie is the Americana, which he is said to have named as a way to differentiate the bent and straight armlock, since the two shared a name until then.
As mentioned above, Reylson was also an innovator in Brazilian jiu jitsu gi fashion, by creating the first coloured kimono’s in the game. The idea came to Master Reylson in the late 1970’s while watching Bruce Lee’s Game of Death. His first creations were in black, yellow and torquoise.
In 1991, after many years teaching in Rio de Janeiro, Reylson moved to the United States in disagreement with the harsh economic measurements undertaken by the new Brazilian president, Fernando Collor de Mello. He first established an academy in California’s Corona del Mar, later moving to Las Vegas and finally settling in Florida’s Delray Beach and Boca Raton. During his time in the US, Reylson promoted one of the very first American black belts in jiu jitsu, Ken Gabrielson (1995).
Reylson Gracie decided to return to Rio de Janeiro in 2012, after many years teaching his family’s self defence style in the USA. In an interview to the newspaper “O Globo” at the time, he mentioned his dislike for the current sporting aspect of jiu jitsu and intended to restore his father’s martial arts tradition in the country, re-opening his former gym at Shopping da Gávea.