Being born with the last name Gracie essentially implies you are destined to strap on a Gi at some point in your future to hone about the craft the family is synonymous with – Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The same is true regardless of gender, a point driven home by Rose Gracie in a recent interview where she discussed her formative years and how her love of BJJ has translated into one of the fastest-growing submission-grappling tournaments in the sport.
“I always knew of jiu-jitsu being part of our lives (but) I don’t think I realized until I was much older the impact and the greatness behind it,” she began in a conversation with Jiujitsu Mania. “My dad (Rorion Gracie) moved to the US when I was very young with the goal of bringing Jiu-Jitsu to America. Because my dad was always gone I was able to spend a great deal of time with my grandpa Helio (Gracie).”
“I remember he would tell me bedtime stories where he would always somehow be the superhero with jiu-jitsu powers,” Gracie fondly recalled. “There was one particular story that was my favorite and it was about how he had jumped off a boat into the ocean to save a man and several sharks came to attack him and one by one he would armlock choke or triangle them and one by one he would defeat those sharks by using his jiu-jitsu ‘powers’. He would give me very specific details of the moves. That was my first jiu-jitsu ‘lesson’.”
More specific lessons soon followed and Gracie gradually began following in her family’s footsteps. The respect she soon gained for the art-form is one she still carries with her today.
“I am not sure what is going on today with jiu-jitsu but this is not what my Grandfather envisioned,” stated the mother of three. “My grandfather had expressed his dissatisfaction while he was alive by changing his belt from red to blue. Some people have somehow transformed the art and philosophies of jiujitsu into a commercialized product that is so far beyond its original application and intent that jiu-jitsu today is unrecognizable in comparison to its predecessor.”
To help get back to the BJJ roots established by her beloved grandfather, and the grandmaster of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (Helio), Gracie formed the Gracie Nationals a few years ago with rules including random drug testing and the ability to win by submission only.
“I wanted to put on an event that has meaning, an event that keeps the art true to its roots,” Gracie explained. “One day I was talking to one of my Grandpa’s black belts and my personal confidant Pedro Valente from Gracie Miami where he follows my Grandfather’s philosophies like no one else, and somehow he told me what I needed to do. It was like someone had opened a window of possibilities for me. It was surreal. The fact that I could potentially bring my Grandfather’s jiu-jitsu back to life was very inspiring and I never looked back.”
With her attitude and family connections it appears Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, and the sport of BJJ in general, are in capable hands.