Reila Gracie’s book, Carlos Gracie, the Creator of a Dynasty.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu fans all over the world like to do one thing when they are not on the mats training jiu-jitsu: they like to talk about and learn more about BJJ. In 2008, jiu-jitsu practitioners received a just what they need to feed that hunger, in the form of Reila Gracie’s book Carlos Gracie, the Creator of a Dynasty. Two years later we bring you this interview with Reila Gracie, with new information about the book’s availability to those outside Brazil.
The FightWorks Podcast: You wrote a book about your father’s life. Tell us about the book.
Reila Gracie: The story is too long and complex to be summed up in a few words. But I can put forth that I did not make a book just for jiu-jitsu practitioners, although this group may identify most with the story. The book could be of interest to any person for the unusual stories and for tackling subjects that go beyond the martial art. There’s an interlacing of various lives that came together in the life of my father, be it from jiu-jitsu or the mystical influence he exerted inside and outside our family. And the book also discusses the diet that he created based on the chemical combination of foods and their use, complemented by medicinal herbs, and the treatment of many illnesses.
The FightWorks Podcast: The Gracie family is not only is the family internationally known for spreading jiu-jitsu around the world, but it is a particularly large family. What was that like for you personally as you were growing up?
Reila Gracie: Growing up among many brothers was not easy at all, mostly because the family’s professional project was directed exclusively for men. On top of being immense, my family also possessed particular characteristics and was structured like a clan. But, despite the difficulties, I feel privileged for having been able to coexist so closely with such people and having a rich diversity of experiences and feelings. Thanks to the support I always received from my father I learned to observe events from a certain distance and this made it possible for me to find my own path and later write this book.
The FightWorks Podcast: Was the book popular in Brazil? Did it sell many copies?
Reila Gracie: The book was very well received in Brazil. The first edition sold out in two months and and the second edition is coming to an end. As it’s a book of historical reference, and deals with basic human questions, I consider it timeless and as such will always attract an interested public.
The FightWorks Podcast: Carlos Gracie, the Creator of a Dynasty was already written for several years before it was published. What caused the delay?
Reila Gracie: There was no delay in getting it published, as the publisher was ready to go. It was I who took ten years to write it, because researching the life of one’s own father and of the whole family was not an easy task. To reach the necessary distance and avoid that my own emotions contaminate the book with my view and understanding of the facts, there were times I needed to stop working and that’s why it took so long.
The FightWorks Podcast: The book was critical of some members of the Gracie family. What type of feedback have you received about the book from family members?
Reila Gracie: The majority praised the book a lot and some did not want to give an opinion. But I know that even those who have benefited from the false of our history that has been spread in the last twenty years, enjoyed the book because I was very careful in telling the facts without resorting to sensationalism. I wrote a serious book, that places Carlos Gracie in the place that he earned, and no one can deny the facts when they are shown with documented proof. And all those who participated in my father’s life, including himself, are exposed as human beings who sometimes make mistakes and sometimes get things right, not like gods or supermen. “I understand that each person has their own time; it’s necessary to respect the moment of each.” I ended the book with that sentence.
Roger Gracie victorious again in jiu-jitsu competition.
The FightWorks Podcast: Your son Roger Gracie is the most dominant Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitor today. When he was growing up, was there any sign he was going to be special? What is it like being the mother of a jiu-jitsu athlete in the Gracie family?
Reila Gracie: Roger always demonstrated a physical ability, but because I found him especially sensitive and devoid of aggression, I feared that the fight world would turn him into a brute. With the death of my brother Rolls, I became cynical about the future of jiu-jitsu and stopped going to tournaments. I felt that I should offer Roger more options so he would have the liberty to chose, and find his own options. I took him to swimming, soccer, visual arts courses, music, and also jiu-jitsu. At 13 he decided to participate in some jiu-jitsu tournaments and he didn’t perform well, lowering the expectations of him. There were others in that generation who showed more ability and possibilities. At 15 years old Roger got tired of losing, lost weight, and began to take training seriously. From 16 years old onward he began to win all the tournaments until he reached becoming the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner in the world.
The FightWorks Podcast: What is it like being the mother of an athlete in the Gracie family?
Reila Gracie: Being Roger’s mother always filled me with pride, and the fact that he allowed me to actively participate in the contruction of his career broke a taboo in the family: that a female Gracie does not have an opinion about fighting and does not participate actively in decisions related to jiu-jitsu. As his professional career took root at the same time as I was writing the book, I was able to feel like my father was sending him important philosophical lessons.
The FightWorks Podcast: Brazilian jiu-jitsu has spread outside Brazil to the rest of the world. What are your thoughts on the direction Brazilian jiu-jitsu has taken? And how do you think your father would view jiu-jitsu as it exists today?
Reila Gracie: I particularly feel like there should be greater investment by the academies in transmitting the philosophical aspects that my father instilled in this martial art. Because for him jiu-jitsu was more than a way to help a student overcome physical and psychological difficulties and to be able to integrate with the world in a way that is more safe and confident. A way of preserving health in all aspects and becoming a better and wiser human being.
The FightWorks Podcast: How do you think your father would view jiu-jitsu as it exists today?
Reila Gracie: My father was an optimist and he was always looked to focus on the positive aspects of life and of people, so, I’m sure that he would adore the amazing diffusion that jiu-jitsu has reached all over the world.
The FightWorks Podcast: Many people outside Brazil are interested in reading the book in English. Are there any plans to translate the book to English, and if so, when will it be available?
Reila Gracie: The book is being translated into English already and I believe that in September the translation work will be done. It will probably be available to Americans in this coming year, that is to say, in 2011.
The FightWorks Podcast: If your book has one message, what is it?
Reila Gracie: The reader will find various positive messages in the book, because above all it’s a book about life lessons. The trajectory of a man with few possibilities, who searched for direction in his life and when he found it, positioned himself ahead of his own destiny and made history. A collective story that transcends the Gracie clan and conquered the world, and that today belongs to everyone who wears a gi and practices Brazilian jiu-jitsu with honor.
Many thanks to Reila for the interview. For more background on the book, check out this FightWorks Podcast video!