Updated: Feb 25, 2021
The first time you enter Stockman Jiu-Jitsu you will notice 4 frames on the wall with faces that look familiar and you might even know them, but not sure about their history and importance for Jiu-Jitsu.
For those who have already asked “who are they?” and/or like to know more about Jiu-Jitsu history, here it goes a little bit about these important characters of the gentle art history.
Mitsuyo Maeda (aka Conde Koma, or Count Coma in English)
Maeda was one of five of Judo’s top groundwork experts that Judo’s founder Kano Jigoro sent overseas to demonstrate and spread his art to the world. Maeda left Japan in 1904 and visited a number of countries giving “jiu-do” demonstrations and accepting challenges from wrestlers and fighters from a variety of martial arts. Then on November 14, 1914, he arrived in Brazil in the northern state of Para as part of a large Japanese immigration colony. There he befriended Gastão Gracie, an influential businessman, who helped Maeda get established. To show his gratitude, Maeda offered to teach Judo to Gastão’s oldest son, Carlos Gracie.
Carlos was a small and fragile kid and in 1916, when he was 14 years old, he watched a demonstration by Maeda at the Teatro da Paz, in Belém, state of Para, and decided to learn the art. Maeda accepted Carlos as a student, and Carlos learned for a few years and later on, he passed his knowledge to his brothers, when they moved to Rio de Janeiro, becoming a great exponent of the art and ultimately, with his younger brother Hélio Gracie became the founder of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, modern Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Carlson Gracie Senior
Born August 13th in the 1930s, Carlson Gracie was the first-born son of Carlos Gracie and his first wife, Carmen. Carlson was immersed and excelled at the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from his infancy. Learning from his father and his uncle Helio, Carlson participated in his first Martial Arts competition at the age of five!
Carlson became an avid competitor as he grew older, being part of important events during the ’50s in Brazil, one of them sold out all 25,000 seats in the arena of Maracanazino in Rio, where he fought against Waldemar “The Black Panther” Santana. With his victory he got a lot of attention and students to the Gracie’s style of Jiu-Jitsu. Carlson had been instructing at the Academy with Helio under the supervision of Carlos. Eventually, Carlson got married and wanted to start a family. He asked his father and Helio for a better salary from his teaching and Vale Tudo/MMA fights. Carlos told him his best opportunity for more money would be to start his own school so that is what Carlson did. He moved to Copacabana, Rio and started what would become one of the most famous schools in BJJ/MMA: Clube Carlson Gracie de Jiu-Jitsu on Rua Figueiredo de Magalhaes.
One of the many things that were interesting about Carlson was his way of teaching Jiu-Jitsu. He began focusing more on instruction and leading his Jiu-Jitsu competition team and often disagreed with his father and uncle’s method of teaching Jiu-Jitsu. He felt that nothing should be held back from the student and they should be encouraged to train their body’s strengths as well as their Jiu-Jitsu. Carlson’s students were encouraged to lift weights, they could cross-train in other arts (like boxing and Judo) and were encouraged to compete in tournaments. Whenever a student had a question about a particular movement, counter, throw, etc… they could count on Carlson Senior giving them the full range of his knowledge and experience. Carlson Senior also charged the smallest fee of any Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school in Rio and that attracted many students who could not afford BJJ before.
Carlson’s school would end up dominating the Jiu-Jitsu tournament scene for years. Senior produced champions in sports Jiu-Jitsu and in Vale Tudo/MMA. Carlson’s MMA pupils were the tent-pole of the young MMA scene in the 1990s. Carlson’s fighters like Vitor Belfort, Bustamante, Conan Silvera, Amaury Bitetti, Renato Tavares, Paulo Filho,etc… fought in organizations like PRIDE, UFC, WEC and smaller organizations like the Iron Crown Challenge. If there was an event in MMA at the time, a fighter with a connection to Carlson was probably involved. The sport grew and the successes with it became too heavy. Carlson’s team fractured under the strain. Reasons and excuses were thrown around but the famous Carlson Gracie Team took a huge blow as fighters left to join other teams or form their own. Carlson Senior forgave some of the students who left but was always hurt by the collapse of the team.
During this time, Carlson Gracie Junior invited his father to come and help teach at his academy in Chicago, Illinois. Carlson Senior looked past the cold and moved north. He taught at the Chicago Academy while also traveling around the US to give seminars. He’d instruct his students, both new and old, at tournaments to promote the art in the United States. His goal was to create a new factory of Champions with his son and return the team to dominance. Carlson Senior and Junior would also teach the “dirty Jiu-Jitsu” for the street they knew to Police Officers and Military personnel. Senior would again lead MMA fighters like Stephen Bonnar to the UFC and Miguel Torres to the WEC. He’d corner his students at smaller MMA promotions with the same fervor.
Carlson Gracie Senior died on the first day of February in 2006 from kidney problems. He left a giant mark on the MMA and Jiu-Jitsu worlds. His students would form some of the most successful teams in Jiu-Jitsu and MMA. For years, he defended the family name and is considered with Carlos, Helio, Rolls and Rickson to be one of the 5 Family Champions of the Gracie Clan.
Carlson Gracie Junior
Carlson Gracie Jr. was born in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 27, 1969. He is the third child and only son of Carlson Gracie, Sr. and the grandson of Carlos Gracie. He started BJJ at the age of three under the direction of his father. Junior, as he is affectionately known to his family and friends, attended the Rio de Janeiro State University, where he obtained a Physical Education degree in 1993. Junior was nicknamed “El Principe de Jiu-Jitsu” or “The Prince of Jiu-Jitsu” and is a practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a member of the Gracie family.
Carlson Junior holds a 5th Degree Black Belt in BJJ and a Black Belt in Judo under the famous Brazilian Judo Master, Georges Mehdi. In addition, Junior was also ranked in Greco-Roman Wrestling and earned a spot on a Brazilian Greco-Roman team that competed throughout South America. Junior won 6 titles as a Greco-Roman wrestler.
Carlson taught at his father’s school in Rio de Janeiro before moving to the United States. The original Carlson Gracie School produced many students whom excelled in BJJ and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) or Vale Tudo. The school was known as “The Den of Champions” due to the numerous amount of champions that the school produced. Not only did Junior teach at the school but he was also one of the champions. He won 10 titles in BJJ and helped train multiple champions that made up the Carlson Gracie Arrebentação Competition Team that dominated the BBJ scene in the 80′s and 90′s.
Junior spends most of his time at his newly opened school (November 2012) in Chicago. In addition, due to overwhelming demand, Junior travels around the world, hosting seminars that support the growth of BJJ and provides BJJ practitioners the opportunity to learn from one of the most knowledgeable instructors in the history of BJJ. The Carlson Gracie Academy was the first BJJ school in the Chicago-area and has produced more black belt students in the Chicago-area than any other school, ensuring continued success for the Carlson Gracie Team. Carlson’s students include law enforcement officers, military personnel, professional and amateur MMA fighters, working professionals, students, women, and children.