What is Gracie Jiu-Jitsu? Fully Explained


Whether you are new to Jiu-Jitsu, or have been training for a while, you have probably heard of the Gracie family. In particular, you may have heard of ‘Gracie Jiu-Jitsu’ (GJJ), and noticed people interchanging this term with ‘Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’ (BJJ). I have written this article because, although the differences between the two are subtle, they are easy to recognize once you know more about GJJ.

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is the trademarked term for BJJ training developed by the Gracie family. GJJ focuses heavily on self-defense, starting with 36 essential combative techniques. Overall, students learn over 600 techniques, using repetition, fight simulation and focussed sparring to master each one.

I will cover the details of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu throughout this article, including how it differs from other BJJ training schools, costs and how long it takes to become a black belt. Interestingly, not all of the Gracie family choose to operate under ‘GJJ’, such as Carlos Gracie Jr’s ‘Gracie Barra’. I will explain more about Carlos’ BJJ school further down as well.

History of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu began in the early 1900’s by the Gracie family in Brazil. It is a form of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which incorporates all Jiu-Jitsu techniques that came from Brazil. Many of these techniques were actually taken from the techniques used by the Gracie family.

Over time, various branches of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu have formed, including Gracie Barra, which I will explain in more detail further down. However, the term ‘Gracie Jiu-Jitsu’ was trademarked by the family to distinguish their unique training from the rest of the BJJ world.

Helio Gracie is known as the founder of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, being the one to adapt the Jiujutsu techniques he learned from his brothers. Although Helio’s brother, Carlos, was the first to train in Jiujutsu under Mitsuyu Maeda, it wasn’t until the techniques were adapted that they were recognized as a unique entity; ‘Gracie Jiu Jitsu’.

Helio Gracie

Helio’s techniques focussed on using leverage and timing instead of strength and speed, to accommodate his weaker physique. These techniques became well-established over time in the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu school, which was founded in 1925. They proved time and time again to be effective, even against bigger and stronger opponents. This is what made Gracie Jiu-Jitsu rise in popularity.

Helio’s grandson’s, Rener and Rorion, run one of many Gracie Jiu-Jitsu organizations. This particular organization is known as ‘Gracie University’, which claims to maintain the true teachings of the Gracie family. These teachings include unique BJJ training methods, as well as healthy habits for the body and mind. 

What Makes Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Different?

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is unique in its teaching style. The GJJ curriculum is incredibly structured and focuses heavily on self-defense in the beginning of a student’s training. The focus for every student before becoming a blue belt is learning to defend against an untrained attacker, regardless of their size and strength.

Students will initially learn 36 core self-defense techniques, known as the Gracie Combatives. Once the student has learned these techniques, they receive a ‘Combatives Belt’. This is a stepping stone to receiving a blue belt, which takes at least another six months of mastering the Gracie Combatives.

Once the student reaches their blue belt, they enter what is known as the ‘Master Cycle’. From this point onwards, the student learns how to defend against trained attackers, as well as learn techniques that can help in a competition setting. The Master Cycle consists of three different classes of training, which are used to master each technique. These are outlined below.

Rapid Mastery

Rapid Mastery can be likened to performing drills in a BJJ class. It is a repetitive process where the student will practice a newly learned technique on a training partner over and over again. Each time the technique is repeated, the training partner applies a little bit more resistance, starting with no resistance at all.

This continues until the student fails to perform the technique. The student and their partner will then continue to practice at this level of resistance until they can perform the technique with more resistance. Once the technique can be performed with 100% resistance, the student can move onto fight simulation.

Fight Simulation

Fight Simulation is the Gracie family’s method of preparing their students for a street fight, regardless of which technique they are learning. This involves the student using their newly learned technique against a training partner in a ‘fight’.

The student’s training partner wears weighted gloves and will aim to strike, while the student’s main goal is to submit their partner using the new technique. This is unique to the Gracie curriculum and something that students find very challenging but incredibly rewarding.

Focussed Sparring

Focussed Sparring can be likened to ‘rolling’ with your training partner. The student will use all the techniques they have learned so far against their partner, who uses 100% resistance. They will incorporate the new technique to try to submit their partner in a series of sparring exercises.

All of these methods allow students to become ‘masters’ of each Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu technique. Students work their way methodically through all of the techniques until they are awarded their black belt. I will discuss more about belt promotions in GJJ further down.

Is Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Good Self-Defense? 

The primary focus of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is to prepare students to defend themselves in a street fight. Until students reach their blue belt, you will not learn anything else except the core techniques required to defend yourself against an untrained attacker. For this reason, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is very good for self-defense.

Even after students reach their blue belt, they then move onto learning more self-defense techniques to defend against a trained attacker. These techniques are all put to the test in a ‘fight simulation’ class, which I will explain further down. This is the closest thing to practicing techniques in a real street-fight situation.

Is Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Good For Law Enforcement? 

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is good for law enforcement because it teaches fundamental techniques for controlling an opponent, regardless of their size and strength. As a law enforcement officer, you are expected to have the ability to apprehend suspects on a regular basis.

While law enforcement officers still carry weapons, the use of a weapon to apprehend a suspect can be dangerous and should be a last resort. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu provides the skills necessary to use minimal force to control the threatening individual. It is worth mentioning that Jiujitsu trained officers are reportedly less likely to engage in violent clashes with suspects as reported by HBO Real Sports. Watch the following video for more detail.

Gracie University offers the Gracie Survival Tactics program for dedicated law enforcement training. The Jiu-Jitsu techniques used in this program have been proven effective for officers wearing utility belts and uniforms. They use leverage-style techniques to control an opponent without injury to the officer or suspect.

Within this program, law enforcement officers are taught how to de-escalate a dangerous situation and assess how to apprehend a suspect with minimal force. Teaching GJJ students to de-escalate the situation using words can allow the suspect to calm down and prevent any form of grappling.

Officers may also find themselves in a situation where they do not have a weapon or arresting aids, and may need to pin and neutralize a suspect while waiting for backup to arrive. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu provides the skills necessary to restrain an individual while expending very little energy.

The US Army has already adopted Gracie Jiu-Jitsu techniques as part of their training program. These include 36 fundamental self-defense techniques, known as the Gracie Combatives. There are several programs within Gracie Jiu-Jitsu that advertise good self-defense training for law enforcement.

Not only does Gracie Jiu-Jitsu help prepare Law Enforcement for combat, it also teaches individuals to live a healthier lifestyle. This lifestyle promotes physical, mental and emotional health, something that can be a problem for some law enforcement officers. Training in Jiu-Jitsu can therefore be a way of relieving stress from the job and maintaining good health.

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How Long Does It Take To Get A Black Belt In Gracie Jiu-Jitsu? 

There are over 600 techniques in the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and a GJJ student must master all of them before being awarded their black belt. This process takes 8-14 years, depending on the dedication of the student, how many classes they attend and how many hours they dedicate to training each week.

GJJ students begin with the 36 core self-defense techniques in the Gracie Combatives program, which takes 8-12 months to complete. They then continue on their self-defense journey towards blue belt, which takes another 6-12 months. This time is spent mastering the 36 combatives techniques, including testing the techniques in fight simulation exercises.

Once a student has received their blue belt, they should be prepared to take on any untrained attacker in the street. This is when they will begin learning more techniques through the Master Cycle. These techniques will help defend against trained attackers or help prepare students for competitive Jiu-Jitsu.

From this point, it takes students approximately 3-4 years to progress through each belt until students have earned their black belt. This includes progressing through blue belt, purple belt and brown belt.

What’s The Difference Between Gracie Jiu-Jitsu And BJJ?

Both BJJ and GJJ draw from the same collection of techniques. As I mentioned earlier, this includes over 600 techniques. However, there are a few key differences between the two, which I will highlight below.

Structure

The main difference between the two types of Jiu-Jitsu is that GJJ offers students a very structured method of learning these techniques, while BJJ teaches these techniques at different stages depending on which gym you attend.

BJJ instructors can be anyone, provided they are a higher belt than their students. Generally, students should only start teaching once they have been awarded their purple belt. Each instructor has their unique style of teaching and can teach techniques to their students in whatever order they like.

GJJ, on the other hand, is only taught through Certified Training Centres or schools run by Gracie family members. These training centers and schools are governed by the Gracie family and remain uniform in their teaching practices. This keeps training consistent for every student so they know what they can expect.

Different Training Focus

Another key difference is the focus of the training. The primary focus of GJJ is to teach students self-defense. This is why students must learn the 36 combative techniques before they can earn their blue belt. As mentioned earlier, a blue belt GJJ student should be able to defend themselves against any untrained attacker.

Although some BJJ schools focus on self-defense, there is generally a heavy focus on competitive sparring. Most gyms will have their own team of students representing them in different competitions, so they choose to prepare all students for this pathway.

Belt Promotions

In GJJ, students are only promoted to the next belt when they have mastered a set number of techniques through the Master Cycle. Once they have proven they can use these techniques in both focussed sparring and fight simulations, they will be promoted.

BJJ students are promoted by their coach when the coach deems them ready. This is a subjective measure of the student’s performance based on how well they roll with other students. Students that can submit or roll with a higher belt will be promoted or given another ‘stripe’ on their belt.

Which is Better?

Both GJJ and BJJ have their benefits. Whichever one is considered ‘better’ depends on the individual student’s goal. For those who want to learn Jiu-Jitsu for self-defense, GJJ is much better.

This is because you will be able to defend yourself against an untrained attacker by the time you receive your blue belt, which can occur within 12 months. Students can then progress onto defending themselves against trained attackers as they receive subsequent belt promotions.

Students also have the ability to practice techniques in the fight simulation classes mentioned earlier, which is the closest ethical way of practicing your street fighting skills. This is something unique to GJJ.

Although BJJ will still help prepare you for a street fight, the focus is more on preparing students to fight other BJJ practitioners. Some of the techniques taught from the very beginning of your training may not be practical or realistic in a street fight. For this reason, if you are interested in fighting in competitions, BJJ is a better training path.

There is much more to learn about the difference between Gracie Jiujitsu and Brazillian Jiujitsu. This article, “What’s the Difference Between Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and BJJ?”, will explore deep into the difference between these two.

What’s The Difference Between Gracie Jiu-Jitsu And Gracie Barra? 

Gracie Barra is an organization founded by Carlos Gracie Jr. The organization got its name because Carlos started his first BJJ school in ‘Barra da Tijuca’ and the school soon became distinguished as ‘Gracie Barra’.

Gracie Barra has a different curriculum to that of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Therefore, although they are both run by members of the Gracie family, they are not the same.

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu has a heavy focus on self-defense and stems from the teachings and philosophies of Helio Gracie. Helio was the grandfather of Gracie University founders Rener and Ryron.

Gracie Barra, on the other hand, has more of a sporting Jiu-Jitsu focus and stems from the teachings of Carlos Gracie, who is the father of Carlos Gracie Jr. Carlos Gracie was the first of the original Gracie brothers to learn Jiu-Jitsu, but Helio was the one to adapt these techniques to make them easier for disadvantaged individuals.

Therefore, the techniques taught in both GJJ and Gracie Barra come from the same origins, but their focus is what differentiates them.

GJJ, through Gracie University, also offers a wide range of online training courses and does not have as many training centers as Gracie Barra. The founders of Gracie Barra believe it is more important to learn BJJ in person, rather than through instructional videos.

How Much Does Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Cost?

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu costs can vary, depending on which training center you choose to train with. Here (link to Gracie University website) is a list of all certified training centers, which each have their own unique pricing. However, each training center offers exactly the same programs, taught by different instructors.

Gracie University offers a 10-day free trial to any newcomer, where all the costs are covered, including the hire of a Gi. However, once this free trial is over, programs are charged per month. This fee usually includes eight classes within a month, which generally ranges between $100 and $220 for the eight classes.

To save on costs, you could buy the online programs, which can be purchased as a subscription or one-off payment. Classes are around $8-$14 as a once-off payment, giving you access to that class indefinitely. The subscription programs start at $20 per month and give you access to a wider range of content for that month.

Another cost-saving strategy is to join a Gracie Garage. These garages can be run by anyone, and are essentially unofficial training centers. Depending on the preferences of the garage owner, you may contribute to the subscription fee or pay a small flat-rate fee to join.

Related Questions 

Is Gracie Combatives Effective? 

The Gracie Combatives program is very effective training for self-defense. This is reflected in the fact that the program was created for the US Army and these techniques are still used in their training program.

However, these techniques may not be useful in a competition setting. They primarily prepare you for an untrained attacker, not grappling with other BJJ practitioners.

What is Gracie Diet?

The Gracie Diet involves mixing foods from six categories in a way that reduces fermentation and maintains a balanced pH. Pork is prohibited, alcohol and tobacco are discouraged and meals are consumed 4.5 hours apart for digestion. Benefits include better short and long-term health and weight loss. The Gracie diet is for all people who want to eat healthy. This diet was not designed only for Jiujitsu practitioners. Read the full report on the Gracie Diet to learn more about this very beneficial diet.

Who is Rickson Gracie?

Most of the fans remember Royce Gracie through his domination inside the UFC octagon. However, it appears that the myth and the legacy of his half-brother Rickson are unknown among modern fans. Rickson is considered the toughest Gracie of all time.

Rorion Gracie deliberately selected the younger Royce to introduce Brazilian Jiu-jitsu to American people instead of Rickon who was the best in the family. The reason may be confused at first, but it speaks a lot about the Gracie family. You can learn more about why Rickson Gracie was not chosen to represent Gracie Jiujitsu at the beginning of UFC in the following article, “Why MMA Fans Should Know About Rickson Gracie!”

What is Japanese Jiu Jitsu?

Japanese Jiu-Jitsu ( or ‘Jujutsu’) is the original martial art that inspired BJJ and GJJ. JJJ techniques were used in ancient times against Samurai, where weapons were ineffective against the heavy armor of the time. These techniques included dangerous throws, joint locks and chokes, and even involved the use of small weapons.

JJJ techniques were adapted to suit smaller and weaker individuals by Jigoro Kano, who subsequently created the martial art of Judo. Techniques from both Judo and JJJ were later brought to Brazil, where the Gracie brothers, particularly Helio Gracie, adapted them further to allow frail students to learn the techniques as well.

As you see above, Japanese Jujutsu is truly the godfather of modern martial arts today. It is worth knowing more about this ancient martial art if you are a true fan of modern martial arts. You should check out our report on “What is Japanse Jujutsu?” which explores deep into how and why Japanese Jujutsu was created.

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Jeff J.

Jeff J is a retired Gunnery Sgt. with the United States Marine Corps and a former Federal Police officer. He was involved with extensive training with weapons systems, and hand to hand combat, mentored and trained hundreds of Marines in high-level fitness programs.

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