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The Pioneer: 9th degree red belt Carley Gracie

Last month I had the rare opportunity to go to a seminar with a red belt. Red belts are "living treasures" of BJJ and they have a wealth of knowledge to share. The red belt I am talking about today is Carley Gracie, #11 of Carlos Gracie Sr's 21 children. 

Carley was the first Gracie to move to the US and he shares some details about what the martial arts industry in the US was like at that time. He also talks about his two sons, Clark and Ralston. He speaks his mind on competition jiu-jitsu, self defense, and more.

Carley was in town along with his nephew Carlson Gracie Jr. They taught a fantastic seminar at Carlson Gracie Murrieta.

Carlson Gracie Murrieta school owner and active competitor Tom Cronin received his black belt, along with the coolest BJJ themed cake I've ever seen. I overhead kids commenting "I wanna taste the belt!"

I also took the opportunity to get a photo with Clark - Clarking of course.

The transcription of the interview with Carley is here but if you'd rather watch the video version, just scroll to the bottom of the page.

Budo Jake (BJ): What year did you move to America and what was martial arts like here at that time?

Carley Gracie (CG): I moved here in 1972 and the impression that I had when I came was that America was living in a world of fantasy as far as martial arts is concerned. That's why I thought it be a good opportunity for the Gracie family to come here and show what was considered to be the most effective art of attack and defense - Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

BJ: How did students respond to your Jiu-Jitsu?

CG: They were very surprised. Some people asked "Where did you learn this, in a temple in Japan? Where did this come from?" No, Rio de Janiero, Brazil. That's where my family was established and it's where I learned the art.

BJ: You have a lot of brothers and sisters and I'm sure you have a lot of interesting stories. Can you share one with us?

CG: Well I was born in a family of 21 children. I have 10 older siblings and 10 younger. I'm #11, right in the middle of the Gracie family.

BJ: And who did you get along the best with?

CG: I got along best with my oldest brother, Carlson, and my brother that was one year younger than me, Rolls. Unfortunately he passed away while I was in America.

BJ: Many of the old school instructors are very self-defense oriented. You taught sold self-defense techniques here at the seminar tonight. Your son Clark on the other hand is more sport jiu-jitsu oriented. What's your perspective, do you like more self-defense or sport jiu-jitsu?

CG: I like both. Jiu-jitsu is very well-rounded. I like to teach the complete repetoir of the art. The new generation likes to focus on the ground, which is the end of the fight. Which is effective also because of the variety and choices of technique to back the art.

BJ: Does that mean you are against pulling guard?

CG: I don't like pulling guard. I like to see the fight with a throw first. Then if you go to the guard, you go to the guard. But I don't like when people just pull to the guard. The guard starts when you're standing up. As a matter of fact, I was thinking about the federation could change the rules. If someone pulls to the guard they could lose 2 points.

BJ: Similar to ADCC.

CG: Yeah!

BJ: I'm sure your son Clark is one of your favorite competitors to watch, but who else do you like to watch?

CG: I like many members of my family. Especially my son (Clark) and also Ralston (his other son) is doing really well now. He's probably going to start to compete soon. He's almost as good as Clark Gracie, but not as well known as Clark is. (laughs)

BJ: Here we are at a Carlson Gracie school can you say a thing or two about Carlson Gracie Sr?

CG: Carlson Gracie Sr was a wonderful person, a wonderful brother to me. Before he left Brazil we had a school together, him and I, we were partners. So I left for America and 10 years later I went back and invited everyone to come to America. I suggested he come here and come to a new world of jiu-jitsu. This is what's happening now, the jiu-jitsu, the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, the Gracie Jiu-jitsu is revolutionizing the world.

BJ: What do you want people to know about you?

CG: I don't know... I'm happy with the way life is right now. But I want people to know that I was the pioneer of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, of Gracie Jiu-jitsu in this country.

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