Rolls Gracie is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Legend. This is an undeniable fact. You’ll hear him referred to as the father of modern BJJ. But who was he and why is he so important? Let’s take a look at the History of Modern BJJ, as it pertains to Rolls. We will see how far his influence has carried through the art and what makes him a legend to so many.
Full Disclosure, I have a special place in my heart for this topic. My Professor, Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti, is one of the “Famous Five”. The Famous Five were the first five Black Belts awarded by Rolls Gracie. There was later a sixth shortly before Rolls untimely death. I do not want to touch on that Sad subject, so you can read more about Rolls Here. But I digress. My Professor is my direct lineage to Rolls. I consider myself very lucky. Our Team, The Alliance BJJ Team, Is the top team in the world for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. We have won more World Championships (12) than any other team in the history of Jiu Jitsu.
So what made Rolls so special? Rolls was known as an innovator in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He understood that grappling cam in many forms. Rolls understood that Jiu Jitsu practitioners need to learn Wrestling, Judo, and Sambo as well. Gracie knew that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu must incorporate these styles into BJJ to be efficient. He also knew that people would come from those backgrounds to compete in BJJ. So learning their respective arts, made his BJJ more complete.
Until Rolls began this transformation of BJJ, it was mostly a self defense art. We still practice self defense to this day. It is an important part of the BJJ Curriculum. Sport Jiu Jitsu alone, will not prepare you for a conflict on the street. Yet we have seen a huge rise in competitive BJJ as well. Rolls more aggressive style was passed on to his black belts, who eventually formed some of the best teams in the world. Alliance is the top of that heap!
Through recent years, as the sport of competitive BJJ has grown, Rolls has gained more notoriety. Most of the top level teams in the world, Alliance, Atos, and CheckMat, all have a direct lineage to Rolls. This proves the dominance of his thoughts and ideas. Gracie was able to look beyond the idea that BJJ had to stay the same. He knew evolution was the key to staying current. Those ideas remain with us today. Master Jacare, Fabio Gurgel, and Alexandre “Gigi” Paiva and the rest of the Alliance Team continue to push the evolution of the sport.
There is no doubt that Rolls Gracie left a lasting impression on the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. His legacy carries on in every aspect of the art. Once in a while, a person comes along who changes history forever. In the case of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Rolls Gracie was that person. There is no doubt he is one of the reasons that BJJ is so popular today and why it continues to be the fastest growing Martial art in the World!