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What is Gracie Jiu Jitsu?

Gracie Jiu Jitsu is a street applicable self defense system. A fundamental principal of Gracie Jiu Jitsu is energy efficiency. Gracie Jiu Jitsu uses natural body movements in combination with leverage to defend, control, escape, and submit an opponent. Read on below for a history of Gracie Jiu Jitsu and for further detail on what makes Gracie Jiu Jitsu different from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.


Prof. Tony Debelak demonstrates an arm bar from the mount.

Gracie Jiu Jitsu Founding Principles


Grand Master Helio Gracie was introduced to the Japanese art of jiu jitsu by his brother, Carlos, at such a young age that, as time passed, he no longer remembered many of the techniques in their original form. However, he vividly recalls experiencing great difficulty when he attempted to use the techniques on a larger opponent and, as a result, had to modify nearly everything he had learned to accommodate his frail physique. He points out that, despite the overall effectiveness and value of the Japanese techniques, nearly all of them had one or more limitations that prevented them from being fully useful to him.

In most cases, he attributed the limitations to:

  1. inapplicability against a striking opponent in a real fight

  2. over-reliance on strength or speed

  3. dependence on body movements that were awkward or uncomfortable for him

Accordingly, he began modifying the art to ensure that every technique was fully street applicable, energy efficient, and based on natural body movements. Using these principles as a guide, he spent several years developing a complete system of self-defense consisting only of techniques that he could successfully apply against larger opponents. Confident in his adaptations, he spent the next thirty years of his life proving his system’s effectiveness by using it to defeat numerous challengers, including several opponents who outweighed him by as much as 100 pounds.


Knowing the Guidelines

After nearly a century of testing in a wide variety of settings, Grand Master Helio Gracie’s system of self-defense remains fundamentally sound and intact. To be sure, three generations of Gracie family members and other equally committed practitioners of the art have evolved the original techniques and added to the Gracie Jiu Jitsu arsenal. All of these changes, however, strictly adhere to the Grand Master’s requirements for street applicability, energy efficiency, and natural body movement. Today, we call these requirements the “Gracie Guidelines.”

On your path towards Gracie Jiu Jitsu mastery, your knowledge of the Gracie Guidelines will serve you in two important ways. First, it will enable you to solve problems on your own by modifying techniques in accordance with the guidelines, and second, it will enable you to recognize the multitude of impure techniques that are being developed by instructors who do not know, or choose not to adhere to the founding principles of the art.

The Gracie Family History

Although the complete Gracie Family history far exceeds what is included herein, the timeline below briefly describes 12 of the most significant occurrences that took place over the three generations the Gracies have been teaching jiu jitsu. If you have any questions regarding Gracie Family history, beyond what is covered in the content below, please submit your question to the Forum section so we can help you find the answer.

The Gracie Timeline

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