Carlson Gracie was born on the 13th of October, 1932 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was the son of Gracie Jiu Jitsu Founder Carlos Gracie and he became a top competitor in No Holds Barred matches during the 50’s and 60’s era. He was also one of the finest Jiu Jitsu coaches to have ever lived. His life was filled of turmoil with family feuds as well as scuffles with his own students, though he will always be remembered as a warm hearted person who made history in the sport and as one of the greatest BJJ masters to have ever lived.
Born in 1932, he started competing at the tender age of 5 at the “Campeonato Aberto de Jiu Jitsu e Luta Livre” and open championship between BJJ (plain Jiu Jitsu in those days) and wrestling. At the age of 17 he won the “Campeonato Carioca de Jiu Jitsu” Rio de Janeiro’s first State Jiu Jitsu Championship. He was never a avid student, though most of his academic failure came due to the long trips he and his uncles would make to different parts of the country looking for ways to display their family’s legacy (Gracie Jiu Jitsu). At the age of 15 he left school to dedicate himself fully to fighting.
His first professional fight came when he was 18 against the Judo wiz Sakai who weighed 92kg against Carlson’s 67kg. That fight was in grappling rules where no strikes were allowed and it ended in a draw as none of the two managed to submit each other during the arranged period. After this fight, Carlson Gracie released a press note challenging anyone in the country to come and fight him. This fight’s revenue would go to a charity fund towards the victims of the drought that was devastating the country’s Northwest region (in which his family had strong ties). Cirandinha, a 100kg Capoeira fighter took the challenge and Carlson defeated him after a verbal tapout due to strikes from the mount.
Carlson continued to compete always trying to improve his skillset, at the age of 23 he faced one of Brazil’s most renowned fighters, Waldemar Santana was his name, and he had already on his resume a Knockout win over one of Carlson Gracie’s mentors, his uncle Helio Gracie. Carlson’s father Carlos Gracie went on record stating that he would give 300,000 real (a fortune in those days) if Waldemar managed to survive his son’s superior technique. Unfortunately for Carlos, Waldemar (according to the records) played a defensive fight and managed to keep at bay of Carlson’s attacks, the fight was labelled a draw and the money given to the happy Santana. Another fight was arranged soon after, and this time Carlson managed to get the fight win he so anxiously looked for in order to save his family’s honour. The fight was won at a sold out 40,000 seats at Maracanãzinho in Rio de Janeiro due to strikes from the mount. Both fighters met again a couple of years later, although hype and expectation of the 1st two fights had passed away and the 3rd fight was a lacklustre draw once again.
Carlson was always a creative fighter and teacher, he used to go to the beach in Rio and ask for people to fight him, the challengers could use any methods at their disposal (punches, kicks, head butts, the works) while Carlson would only use his grappling although never submitting. He would wear them out until they gave up.
Carlson reigned supreme during almost 30 years. He broke up with Gracie Academy and Helio Gracie mainly due to the fact that he believed Helio and his teachers were only teaching basic techniques to the outsiders, keeping the fundamentals to themselves. Carlson believed the only way to move forward is to test yourself, and to do so you needed open your knowledge to the public. He opened the famous “Carlson Gracie Arrebentação team” and went on to teach and in the process he assembled one of the greates teams that ever competed, with fighters like André Pederneiras “Dedé” founder of Nova Uniao, Murilo Bustamante a BJJ World Champion and UFC middleweight champion as well as founder of BTT (Brazilian Top Team), Former UFC Lightweight Champion Vitor Belfort “the Phenom”, Walid Ismail (another BJJ legend) amongst many, many others.