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BJJ Fanatics Instructionals
BJJ Fanatics Instructionals

Families in BJJ

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Nicholas Meregali Instructionals

Family Ties in BJJ - BJJ HeroesThis article was originally written by BJJ Heroes to Jiu Jitsu Magazine ( being published under the title “Brothers in Arms” in 2012, it has since had some updates, but the core of the article still stands very much true to the original.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Families

There is a famous quote in jiu jitsu that says: “jiu-jitsu é a única arte marcial que tem família” (jiu-jitsu is the only martial art that has a family), though my knowledge of all martial arts isn’t strong enough for me to attest the truthfulness of this statement, my understanding of the background and the history of the sport can certainly verify that strong family ties are what helped build this sport/martial art. It was the strong bond between the 5 Gracie brothers (Carlos, Oswaldo, Gastão, George and Helio) that kept this martial art style alive and intact for four decades, long enough so that it would be passed on to the following generations and prosper. This strong family presence is now deeply enrooted in BJJ and can be seen, for example, in the World Jiu Jitsu Championships where 14 gold medals in the men’s adult black belt division have been attributed to brothers since the birth of the tournament back in 1996. That is counting only gold medals; the numbers stack up drastically if you go to the silver and bronze medals.


One of the first families to follow the Gracie trend of creating a strong bond through jiu jitsu were the Faddas, in the process, they also became the most famous non Gracie lineage in the sport. The first Fadda to start jiu jitsu was Oswaldo Fadda, he passed his knowledge to his brother Humberto Fadda, who then passed it on to his own descendants. Today, the head of the Fadda jiu jitsu clan is Helio Fadda (son of Humberto), Helio started practising jiu jitsu back in 1955 and is one of the most prestigious coral belt representatives in the sport. Other families maintained their jiu jitsu tradition working with the Gracies, the most famous were probably the Barretos and the Valentes. From all lineages in jiu jitsu, there is one that rarely trends as a BJJ topic, but is certainly worthy of being mentioned, which is the Monteiro lineage. The “Associação Monteiro” run by Fabio, Augusto, Yano and Lucio Monteiro in the state of Amazonas, Brazil, is one of the strongest BJJ academies out there, though they may have stayed away from the limelight over the years. Not a lot is known about this tight family, however BJJ Heroes is working on it, and have recently released Guto Monteiro’s profile page. The Associação Monteiro has been linked with the development of tremendous athletes, such as the first king of the rooster weight division Omar Salum, Cristiano Carioca, the Ribeiro brothers (Saulo and Xande) and many others.

The city of Manaus has been a great hive for jiu jitsu, Ronaldo Souza, also known as “Jacare” and his brother Renato Souza might be amongst the most successful broods in the sport, but since the birth of CBJJ/IBJJF, the Amazonians Saulo and Alexandre (Xande) Ribeiro are by far the most accomplished. Saulo and Xande Ribeiro have been at the top of the heat since the late 1990’s, piling up medals at the world’s top tournaments. The Ribeiro brothers, now living in San Diego, California, started with the aforementioned Monteiro brothers, but perfected their technique in Rio de Janeiro where they moved and trained under Royler Gracie‘s wing on their way to jiu jitsu stardom. Rio has probably seen the biggest share of BJJ talent since the start of the martial art, and as a result, participated in the growth of families in jiu jitsu, so we will go to it next.


Rio de Janeiro and specially the “Zona Sul” area of the city have seen the most of charismatic siblings in the sport. The Vieira Bros, Leonardo, Ricardo and Leandro have plenty of Mundial, World Cup and ADCC medals amongst them. With humble beginnings, the talented Leonardo, Ricardo and Leandro poured their efforts into jiu jitsu, and this devotion paid with dividends. Having started at the Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti academy, fate would have them at the helm of two of the most important teams in our history, Brasa in the early 2000’s, and Checkmat which was created by the older brothers “Leo” and “Rico”. But this wasn’t the only group of kinfolk to have been born and bread at Jacare’s academy, the Gurgel brothers, Fabio and Fernando, have also medalled in some of the most important tournaments training under the Alliance team banner. Another family with strong ties to both Alliance and the Zona Sul of Rio de Janeiro is the da Silva household. The first da Silva to reach the black belt level in jiu jitsu was Fernando Augusto, also known as “Tererê“, who is arguably the most talented fighter to have graced the sport. Terere grew up in one of the poorest slums of Rio (which neighbours one of the cities richest boroughs). As Terere reached a certain celebrity status in the sport, he decided to bring jiu jitsu to his community in an attempt to occupy the children of the slum with something positive, for that purpose, he sold a car he had won as a fight purse and opened a jiu jitsu academy. It was at that same academy that he taught some of his family members, including his cousin Leandro Martins who became a highly accomplished grappler and even Tererê’s younger brother, Patrick Carvalho who became famous in 2012 as one of the dancers in the Brazilian version of “Dancing With The Stars”, a note worth mentioning is that Patrick followed his brothers footsteps and opened a similar style academy in the Favela, giving dancing classes to the local kids. Many others from Rio are worth mentioning,  Leo Santos and Wagnney Fabiano, the Bastos brothers (Bruno, Fernanda, André, Ricardo, Bianca, Thiago and Felipe Bastos), the list goes far and wide in the Rio de Janeiro state.


While writing about the families in jiu jitsu and Rio it is impossible not to mention the Correa brothers (“Gordo” and “Gordinho“) both former world champions in the black belt division who own a thriving BJJ academy in the city. The Behring family, much like the Machados, extrapolated from their surroundings to develop the sport in other areas of the world. The Machados, in the US, founded one of the first strong American teams while the Behrings taught their game in Sao Paulo. Flavio Behring, the patriarch of the family, learned jiu jitsu from Helio Gracie, but being the busy man that he was, he allowed his children to choose who they wanted to train with. Sylvio chose to train with the Barreto family (mentioned above), while Marcelo Behring picked Rickson Gracie to be his mentor. When Flavio Behring moved to Sao Paulo he took Marcelo with him, there the two spread the BJJ Gospel in a state where jiu jitsu was still scarce. Marcelo at the time (late 1980’s) was considered the number two in the sport (behind Rickson) which brought plenty of attention to jiu jitsu in the area, opening doors to sponsors, competitions and the media. Marcelo’s end, however, would be a tragic one, after some time spent on the wrong side of life, battling with drug dependence; Marcelo Behring was found murdered by a gun shot to the head in one of the most drug affected areas of Rio de Janeiro. Marcelo’s contribution to the sport was substantial and his lineage can still be seen in the Cia Paulista gyms around the world. Flavio Behring continued working on the development of the sport, working in different countries and going as far as France, where he has his own lineage.


The Machados who also went beyond their borders were brought from Rio de Janeiro to California by their cousins, the Gracies. The first Machado to land in the country was Rigan who worked with Cesar Gracie before he was called by his other cousin Rorion to work as an assistant coach at the Gracie Academy. Being up and close with the American state of affairs, Rigan saw great potential in the US and brought his brothers along to assist him in building a successful academy of their own. The Machados produced many great grapplers, including the most successful American BJJ black belt competitor to date, Rafael Lovato Jr, who on the other hand has also come from a strong martial arts family, Rafael Senior is a BJJ black belt himself.

As jiu jitsu entered the United States, the American families have also embraced the sport, the Maxwells (dad) Steve, (mom) DC and (son) Zak Maxwell have become a recurring name circulating in the internet forums and tournament podiums, and so have the Beauregards (Ryan, Colin and Ian), the Penns, the Diaz brothers or even the the Ruotolo twins.


The sport is clearly growing, and with this growth, it seems like family ties within the sport have continued to grow with it. You also see cases where the sport has put people together, which is the case of Ary Farias, who met Yuri Simões through BJJ and eventually was adopted by the Simões household. A testament to how family ties walk hand in hand with jiu jitsu has been the fact that the last two absolute world champions, Marcus “Buchecha” and Rodolfo Vieira, both have family members training the noble art, “Buchecha” has his dad (who is a black belt) and Rodolfo his sister (who is also a tough competitor), and even Marcus’ coach, the illustrious Rodrigo Cavaca has a very accomplished grappler for a brother, Rafael Cavaca, never forgetting two of the most impressive family duos in recent history, the Mendes brothers, multiple world champions Guilherme and Rafael who have taken the world by storm in recent times, or the Terra family, the star Caio Terra and the rising star Kim Terra who is a black belt under Ricardo Vieira and has recently been in great form competing in Brazil, even the Terras matriarch, who still trains BJJ (and was a purple belt, last time I heard), and lets not forget the Fernandes, who have 10 world titles between them Luzia and Francisco (2 world titles at black belt) and who’s father trained in the 70’s with the great Rolls Gracie.

Bringing your family to jiu jitsu is a great way to keep your loved ones, close to you at all times. Knowing that jiu jitsu is a healthy and great fun sport, it’s not hard to understand why these two (family and BJJ) mingle so well, so why don’t you follow the example of these many great BJJ’ers here discussed, and build your own lineage?

Craig Jones Brand New Instructional


  • robby says:

    This write up would make for a great documentary vid. Would love to see that happen.

  • marciocruzbjj says:

    We love that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a family sport, tradition and life style. We want to invite all other families and friends to visit our new family website Marcio Cruz Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Tampa, FL.

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