On November 12th 1993, a stoic, thin, Brazilian man dressed in a kimono left an indelible mark on martial arts history. Royce Gracie, a member of the legendary Gracie family, was sent into a steel cage at UFC 1 to defend and prove the effectiveness of his family’s martial art, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is a predominantly ground-based fighting system that involves taking your opponent to the ground, pinning, controlling and submitting with either a strangle-hold or joint lock. Royce Gracie forced all of his opponents to submit on this faithful night in 1993 and inspired many to explore this mysterious grappling art.
Rorion Gracie, Royce’s brother and co-founder of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), trademarked the name “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu” to prevent confusion about Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. Gracie Jiu-Jutsu is commonly referred to as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu nowadays.
“ Jiu-Jitsu” is oriented in Japan from “Newaza”, which is the groundwork in Judo. Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese Jiu-Jitsu champion, travelled the world in the early 1900s to spread Jiu-Jitsu and ended up in the Northern state of para, Brazil. Carlos Gracie, Royce’s uncle, became Maeda’s student and dedicated himself to becoming a teacher. The first Gracie jiu-Jutsu school opened in 1925 in Rua Marquês de Abrantes 106, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, by Carlos Gracie. Helio Gracie, Royce’s father, a physically weak man, struggled with applying the technical moves due to his lack of athleticism. Helio started modifying techniques conducive to limited abilities and refined the art form further. Helio became the defender of the family name and started challenging different martial arts to a no-rules contest. One fight lasted three hours and forty-three minutes against a former student, Valdemar Santana. Together Helio and Carlos had twenty one children.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has four faces, self-defence, GI (with the kimono), No-Gi( without the kimono) and mixed martial arts. The Gracie that excelled in all of these facets of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is Roger Gracie-Gomes. A ten-time Brazilian Jiu-jitsu world champion, known for his perfection of simple technique. “ Jiu-Jitsu is simple. You just Gotta do it right,”— Roger Gracie-Gomes. Roger opened an academy in 2003 in west London and now resides in Hammersmith, London. His Father, Mauricio Gomes, emigrated to England in the late 1990s after a brief spell in Japan, and they established the first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy in the UK.
One of Roger Gracie’s black belt students is Chris Foran, head coach and owner of Premier MMA in Harrow. Mr Foran is a well-versed martial artist with black belts in other disciplines like kickboxing and Taekwondo. He has three gyms in the Harrow area – Harrow Central, South Harrow and Ruislip. Premier MMA has a direct link to the source of the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, and any Harrovian interested in defending themself should check it out.
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