Robin Gracie and the Spread of Jiu-Jitsu in Spain

Kron Gracie Robin Gracie
Robin Gracie (right) with his nephew Kron Gracie (left). Image courtesy Robin Gracie.

Robin Gracie is the youngest of Helio Gracie’s sons, and the only one of them to settle in Europe. In this exchange we hear straight from Robin and his academy in Barcelona about the popularity of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Spain.

The FightWorks Podcast: How long have you lived in Spain?

Robin Gracie: I arrived in Spain in December 1997, a little over 12 years ago.

The FightWorks Podcast: When you left Brazil to live in Spain, did you know you would remain there for so long?

Robin Gracie: I did not know exactly what I would find here. The only thing I knew was that BJJ was little-known or unknown in Spain.

The FightWorks Podcast: You were one of the first to offer jiu-jitsu in Spain. What was it like in those early years?

Robin Gracie: There were only a few curious folks who surfed around the web, which was not as used back then as it is today, and there were martial arts magazines but there were no instructors. I was the only one. All of my students were of course white belts and did not have anyone to train hard with.

The FightWorks Podcast: How would you describe the Spanish who train jiu-jitsu? How are they similar to Brazilians and how are they different?

Robin Gracie: The truth is that there is a lot of diversity among them, from humble workers to famous businessmen. I believe something similar happens in the United States. In my gym there are many foreigners. I believe 30% or 40% are. In Europe it is very easy to get around by train, car or plan. You can be anywhere quickly. The Spanish, being Latinos, are as impulsive as the Brazilians but when it comes time to train are somewhat more explosive and they look for a faster pace, maybe because of the cold there is in the winter.

The FightWorks Podcast: How do you see the spread of jiu-jitsu in Spain today?

Robin Gracie: After all these years the BJJ community has grown and now there are gyms everywhere. The number of competitions has increased as well and people are looking for more information about our martial art all the time.

The FightWorks Podcast: Did you attend the 2010 IBJJF European Championship? What did you think?

Robin Gracie: Yes, it is always growing. It seems like every time there are more mats out and more competitors. The only bad thing in my opinion are the details in the rules that change every year and they confuse the coaches, fighters, and referees, who in the end make mistakes. I think they should not change the rules more than every five years to give everyone a chance to understand them before changing them.

The FightWorks Podcast: Your father, Helio Gracie, passed away in January of 2009. Do you have any favorite memories of your time with him?

Robin Gracie: Since I came to Spain I would only see him on my vacations in Brazil when I got the opportunity to visit him in his house in the mountains. I remember that even in his final years he liked to put on the gi and train. He did not speak or think about anything other than jiu-jitsu.

The FightWorks Podcast: What is your favorite thing about Spain?

Robin Gracie: Of all European countries, Spain is the warmest and also the one with the most beaches, where it rains and snows the least, and the people are friendliest. Perhaps it is the Brazil of Europe. That is why I like it.

The FightWorks Podcast: Thanks Robin! Gracias! Obrigado!

Robin Gracie: Thank you Caleb.

Gracie Barcelona

3 thoughts on “Robin Gracie and the Spread of Jiu-Jitsu in Spain”

  1. Nice little interview.
    I would be curious to know if language was an issue when Robin first started?
    I don’t know how close Portuguese is to Spanish.
    Infact does he conduct his sessions in Spanish, Portuguese or English?

    Also, one of the first instructors in the UK, Chen Moraes left ten years ago to open an academy in Spain (I think Barcelona too), I wonder if Robin knows Chen, is there an academy rivalry or do they work together in any way?

  2. Hi, nice interview.

    Meerkatsu; language couldn´t be an issue for a portuguese speaker, even less for a brazilian portuguese speaker because they speak slower than other portuguese speakers. Both languages are the closest to each other you can find, and are mutually intelligible with little efforts.

    Portuguese: “Brazilian jiu-jitsu ou Gracie jiu-jitsu é um estilo de jiu-jitsu desenvolvido no Brasil pela família Gracie e que se tornou a forma desse esporte mais praticada no mundo.”

    Spanish:”Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu o Gracie Jiu-Jitsu es un estilo de jiu-jitsu desarrollado en Brasil por la familia Gracie y que tornó (ancient spanish form)/ se volvió la forma de ese deporte más practicade en el mundo”

    As you can see, cold weather was a far bigger issue than language…for sure!

  3. I disagree. Brazilians tend to speak faster than Portuguese and people from the ex-Portuguese African countries.
    What makes Brazilian similar to Spanish is the fact that it is the least nasal of the variations of Portuguese spoken world-wide. Add the Italian influence to the language, as well as other tongues spoken by people that migrated to the country, and there you have the similarity.
    Ossssssss

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