Relson Gracie's Comments on Our Last Show

Relson Gracie jiu-jitsu
Relson Gracie at the 2009 BJJ World Championship.

On our most recent episode of The FightWorks Podcast, we had the rare opportunity to sit down with Relson Gracie, the second son of Helio Gracie. I always get a kick out of the conversations we have on our show about the old days of jiu-jitsu in Rio and the early days of the Gracie family, so I spent some time transcribing Relson’s comments below.

If you know Relson, you know that he speaks his own special variant of English and that transcribing this was not easy! So suffice to say, what is below is not word-for-word. But I believe I’ve maintained the meaning of Relson’s words. If you’d like to hear the original interview, I invite you to head over to episode #189 of our humble BJJ internet radio show and download the mp3 file there.

Caleb: Relson, a lot has happened this year in jiu-jitsu. I think the biggest event in the very long history of Brazilian jiu-jitsu was that your father passed away in January. You want to talk about that?

Relson: Yes, firstly I am always going to be honored and blessed to be Helio Gracie’s son. Secondly, Helio Gracie changed the world. He was physically small. Carlos Gracie was his mentor in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Carlos taught class until he was 25, 27 or 29 years old. He was the instructor in the academy. But at 30 years old, this changed. Helio Gracie took over. Helio Gracie was the one who most developed and changed Gracie jiu-jitsu and made it effective the way it is. Then Carlos stepped to the side to be the mentor of the family, because Helio Gracie couldn’t get to the point that he was technically speaking without a mentor like Carlos. Both brothers worked together. That’s the way the Gracie clan, the Gracie family was: with the diet from Carlos, and the jiu-jitsu from Helio. Helio’s the one who made all the champions. Carlson, Robson, Reyson… all these guys compete in the family. Rolls, myself, Rorion, all these people grew up under Helio Gracie on the mats. Carlos Gracie Junior moved to my house to learn jiu-jitsu with Helio Gracie. Carlos never gave any classes to Carlos Gracie Junior. I don’t remember Carlos in a gi teaching us. Carlos was the mentor, the doctor. He was the one who told us the day we should fight. He was like a guru of the family. I totally respect him and I think both worked together but in different jobs. Carlos was the mentor and the doctor, and Helio was the instructor and the master in jiu-jitsu. Helio’s the one who built the Gracie clan: Rolls, me, all the tough guys in the family, Rickson… All these guys were undefeated and it was beautiful the way we were raised under Helio. Helio Gracie was the most technical in jiu-jitsu. He’s dead, but everything I do, everything I learned I owe to one instructor: Helio Gracie. Rolls followed Helio’s system and helped me train. Rolls made me train a lot of judo competition and was a good example for me. But Rolls came from Helio Gracie too. Pure Helio Gracie jiu-jitsu. Rolls didn’t take one class with Carlos Gracie. Carlos Gracie never taught jiu-jitsu to us. That is true. Carlos Gracie was the mentor like I said. He always helped in the process of the diet and made Helio Gracie who Helio Gracie was. But jiu-jitsu was built and developed 100% by Helio Gracie. Today it’s still the best jiu-jitsu in the world. I think there is nothing better than growing up with having Helio Gracie as your instructor and master. I never change anything that he taught me. I only try to develop something around what he did. He’s the one who created it. I don’t have to change his jiu-jitsu. I only try to adjust the positions he told us. But I repeat a lot the science that Helio Gracie taught us. I see results of that today. My son is brought up in the same way. He’s still young in competition but he’s going to prove Helio Gracie has the best jiu-jitsu. Nothing’s going to change. Everybody thinks that Helio Gracie passed away, but Helio Gracie is the one who 100% built us and it was Helio Gracie who made my jiu-jitsu strong. There is nothing to change about that. Nobody can disagree with this. Carlos Gracie was the mentor, and Helio Gracie was the instructor of the Gracie family. I hold him in the highest standing. Helio Gracie is never going to die for us. His jiu-jitsu is never going to die. His jiu-jitsu is here, simple and effective.

Caleb: We were talking last night about Roger Gracie. Can you tell the family out there what you said?

Relson: Helio Gracie was Rolls Gracie’s instructor, directly. Rolls was Carlos’ son but was adopted by my daddy. Helio adopted Rolls like when he was one month old. When I was born, Rolls was already in our home. He was my older brother. He was always my older brother. Rolls taught me a lot. During this process when my daddy taught us, we were concerned with his methods. Rolls was an incredible competitor. He was an example as a person and motivated fighters, pushing us to compete – the whole clan: the older brothers like us in the third generation, those in the second generation like Carlson. Rolls was part of the third generation. Rolls always motivated us to compete, and made us follow that path.

Caleb: …and so, Roger?

Relson: Like you guys know Roger is Mauricio [Motta Gomes’] son. Maurcio was Rolls’ best instructor. When Rolls died, Mauricio, as Rolls’ disciple, kept the same ideas that Rolls passed to him. Mauricio passed those to his son. Roger I think is the only one in Gracie Barra that uses Mauricio’s jiu-jitsu. Because I think Mauricio has been Roger’s instructor. That’s what I can see and I can feel. I think I am 100% right about that. Roger grew up with Mauricio’s ways, and that is Rolls’ way. Rolls’ way was closed guard, and that’s what Roger is doing. In all those tournaments he closes the guard. And I don’t see many guys in Gracie Barra doing this style. Roger’s the only one. Roger is the only one that keeps the Gracie style. He closes the guard, attacks the neck, sweeps, gets a good mount, and he submits everybody from the mounted position. You don’t see many Gracie Barra guys doing that. Only Roger. Because he comes from the old generation of Rolls’ students. The closed guard – that’s what Mauricao, his daddy, passed to his son. The guys interviewed me before the Worlds and asked me who was going to win, and who was going to be the open champion. I responded right away that Roger was going to be the champion because he’s the only one who plays closed guard and uses the pure Gracie jiu-jitsu. Helio Gracie never taught us butterfly guard, spider guard, x-guard, any guard that had a name. He never used them.

Caleb: There was just one guard!

Relson: He never opened his guard! Helio Gracie never uncrossed the legs. He told everybody to keep the legs crossed. He trained a lot of chokes from the guard. Armlocks, guillotines, omoplatas, anything that could be done in the guard. The guard is the position where you have the most options for submissions. In the guard, I have 25 or 30 ways to submit people. That’s the position that gives the most chances for submission. People don’t know this. I love playing the guard because I can see how much defense the opponent has. And I have a lot of ways to submit. If he’s not sharp in defense, he’s going to get caught. That’s what Roger is doing. Roger’s the only one I see in Gracie Barra that is following Rolls’ style. I don’t approve of butterfly guard, x guard, all these kinds of guard – I don’t use them. I have ways to neutralize this. So Helio Gracie taught us the way to neutralize these open guards, these butterfly guards. Helio said, “I’m never going to use butterfly guard, spider guard, I don’t hold the sleeves”. That’s not Helio Gracie’s style. That’s not Roger’s style. And so the example is there. Roger is the one that most practices Gracie jiu-jitsu in competition today.

Dan: I think it’s interesting saying that Roger’s original jiu-jitsu came from Mauricio, his dad, and not from Carlos Gracie Junior.

Caleb: It makes sense!

Dan: That’s an interesting point, because style wise, when you compare Roger’s style with a lot of the other famous Gracie Barra competitors like Romulo Barral, Victor and Braulio Estima, they have radically different games and styles versus Roger even though Braulio has the similar physique – long and tall.

Caleb: One of the comparisons that is often made with Roger: many people say, “You know who has a similar, very simplistic game like Roger’s? Kron Gracie.”

Relson: Yes, that’s the same style. You’re seeing the original jiu-jitsu from Helio Gracie. It’s from Rolls. I keep the same style. All my students are doing the same. And the result is incredible.

Dan: You mean you’re not going to help me with upside down guard?

Relson: [laughs] You have ways to neutralize that. I am not impressed with these things. The flying to pass the guard, jumping stuff. That’s not my game. That’s not Helio Gracie jiu-jitsu. I have ways to neutralize this fancy, flying jiu-jitsu. It’s not Helio Gracie jiu-jitsu for sure.

Caleb: One of the things you mentioned Relson is something that I don’t think many people know: you and Rolls have the same birthday.

Relson: Yes, Rolls and I were born on the same day on the 28th of March. I learned a lot with Rolls. Rolls was my brother. Anything I liked (the same color, the same food, the same toy), we fought over it. Rolls and I had the same tastes. Because we were born on the same day, our characteristics were pretty much the same. The same blood. Rolls was a tough man. He’s the one who taught me a lot, helped me a lot. I had a disagreement with Rolls when I was eleven and Rolls gave me a beating. He was thirteen. That’s the only time I remember taking a beating. It was really serious. He punched me because we had a disagrement. I went five years without talking to Rolls. I was so upset about that beating. He thought it was right, but I didn’t think it was right. But anyway I got a beating and I learned from that.

Caleb: How old were you then?

Relson: I was eleven. No I think like twelve, and he was fourteen. He locked me in the bathroom and then I got a good beating. The family broke the bathroom door. I was upset and ran out. Then I did a bad thing. I tried to pull a knife on him. Then I was locked in my room for a month because I pulled a knife on my brother. But I remember this beating and I learned from that. Because I didn’t talk to Rolls for like 5 years of my life. From thirteen to eighteen he was the guy I hated most after this beating because I still had a young mentality. It was hard to swallow. I really got a beating. Then after that I didn’t talk to Rolls for five years. But after 18 years old I forgot about it. I totally forgave him. And then Rolls was my best friend. The most incredible brother. I wish you guys could’ve seen Rolls compete because he was incredible. He was a motivator, and incredible instructor, an incredible fighter. He was strict about his diet. He never took any kind of steroids. He always fought open division like me. If Rolls were alive today, his life would be totally devoted to jiu-jitsu. I miss him a lot. But God knows what to do, and life changes. Rolls was a good man, a good fighter, and a great brother. I had the opportunity to live all my life with Rolls. He was a great man. I recommend anything that comes from him. Look at all the champions Rolls made! All the good instructors he made. Good students, good black belts like Fabio Santos, Roger’s daddy Mauricao, Alvaro Romano from Ginastica Natural, Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti. You guys know all this jiu-jitsu comes from the Gracie family. So everybody has a link with the Gracie family. Alliance, all these guys fight the Gracie family on the mats but all those guys come from us.

Dan: Relson, Rolls was a big motivator for you and your game wasn’t he? Didn’t he have a lot of influence on your game?

Relson: One hundred percent. Rolls was my older brother. He was two years older than me. Rolls was the one who introduced me to judo and started making me throw people on the ground. Rolls called me and asked if I wanted to train together. I would come from my school on Isla do Governador but on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I would go to Rolls’ school in the morning. The results were incredible. Rolls always pushed us to the edge. He made us train and compete hard. I miss him a lot. I had a lot in common with him. We had the same birthday. When you have the same birthday, we liked the same thing. Our tempers were the same. We are very similar. I miss him a lot. His cake was always next to mine when we had birthdays. I miss his cake being there. But I continue, and Rolls watches us from there, like my daddy. I am very happy and proud to have this family and of how much they taught me. So I conserve the pure Gracie jiu-jitsu. Helio Gracie jiu-jitsu. That’s how I am, how Rorion is, and Rickson. We’re the older brothers. The ones who keep the Gracie name at top of the line for years and years and years.

Fabio Santos Rolls Gracie
Rolls Gracie disciple Fabio Santos hangs up photos of Rolls at his San Diego academy.

17 Replies to “Relson Gracie's Comments on Our Last Show”

  1. wow this was a great interview.i see that simplicity wins all the time.master santos is our master and it feels good to be in great hands….osssss

  2. What a great interview! I have heard these stories before. It is nice to know that the world hears them now 🙂

  3. Thank you for that transcription. I will definitely listen to the full interview soon. I loved this because it shed light on what functions both Carlos and Helio served in the early birth of BJJ. I also like the light he sheds on exactly what is meant when I often hear “pure Gracie Jiu Jitsu” as opposed to further evoutions of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Thank you much!!!

  4. Thanks for the transcribe! I downloaded the show and did a reading of the transcript while listening to the show! It was great to hear Relson’s voice again!

  5. i have great respect for relson but im a black belt under carlos gracie and i beleave relson make some mistakes on this intreview because i never see one guy from his school or any of the schools he mentions ( still have the real gracie jiujitsu) made one world champion on black belt division so i think the results answer any questions.

  6. Ulpiano- Daniel Moraes is a Relson/Royler gracie black belt that has won in gi and no-gi at the black belt level in Pan Ams, Worlds, Arnolds’s.

  7. Interesting comments from Relson. In my opinion, I think that Relson’s comments regarding Roger aren’t accurate. First and foremost, if you learn BJJ from Carlos Gracie Jr., one of the first things you’ll notice is the primacy that he places on having a competent mount and this is especially apparent when you roll with him. The ” pass-mount-choke” strategy that Roger employs is very similar to the kind of game Carlos plays and teaches; almost identical.

    Second, I don’t know if Roger’s game is the Helio Gracie style; I think it’s the Roger style. He has found a game that suits his abilities and strengths and he excels at it. And I think that’s what this conversation should be about. Open guard variations (x-guard, spider, butterfly) suit people differently and they are tools to accomplish the same ends as a closed guard. To dismiss them all as being useless techniques because Helio Gracie never used them doesn’t do Relson any credit. BJJ like everything evolves and doesn’t end with Helio Gracie.

    Thanks for the great shows Caleb and Dan.

  8. Relson is an old guy with old habits, BJJ is a science that continue to progress day by day, one the reason is the competion, by rolling and sharing people can discover new ways to do things, to hold on in tradition, is just plain stupid.

    Look at the traditional martial arts; they still doing katas and doing things that they will never use in a real situation just because is 1000 years old you not suppose to change? Or just because Helio gracie said this or that. you have to follow, You see like many human invention, BJJ will change everyday and get better 10 years from now, you will look back and say; wow they did what back them??? This is just the beginning, science is taking over, new ways to work the human body, and for the old teacher stuck in time, this will be painfull to see.
    Myamoto Musashi in his book of five rings he wroute: ” it’s impossivel to understand the universse by studying just one planet” and so it is with martial arts.


  9. Thank you very much for this issue! Relson is right according to some articles and a book made by someone from the family, but also this book has another direction, giving more credits to Carlos, Rolls, etc . I respect all of them but I don´t like when someone “says Helio created everything”, Royce (a great guy!) once said to a TV program in Brazil on a possibility of Olympic games in RJ in 2002- “My father (Helio) created this…) . It´s wrong!!!! He was 100% against the competions of BJJ because he said that his ” JJ wasn´t sport but self-defense, and the JJ sport was made for strong guys without skills to beat the weak ones with skills” . It seems that after Carlos Graice death both family got somehow separed. Let´s way for the opinios from Renzo, the greates Graice!!! at 42 still wants to prove his JJ and diferently from others who says- “i finish him in seconds, i beat that one in minutes…” but never goes to the Octagonon!! rsrs Renzo is the man because he does what he says!!!!!

  10. again with corretions !! rsThank you very much for this issue! Relson is right according to some articles and a book made by someone from the family, but this book also has another direction, giving more credits to Carlos, Rolls, etc .
    I respect all of them but I don´t like when someone says “Helio created everything”, Royce (a great guy!) once said to a TV program in Brazil ( on a possibility of Olympic games in RJ in 2002) – “My father (Helio) created this…) . It´s wrong!!!! Helio Gracie was 100% against the competions of BJJ because he said that his JJ “wasn´t sport but self-defense, and the JJ sport was made for strong guys without skills to beat the weak ones with skills”. It seems that after Carlos Graice´s death both family got somehow sepated. Let´s wait for the opinions from Renzo on this interview. Renzo is the greatest Graice!!! at 42 still wants to prove his JJ at UFC, and diferently from others who says- “i finish Fedor in seconds, i beat that one, Lesnar in minutes…” kkkkk but never goes to the Octagonon!! rsrs Renzo is the man because he does what he says!!!!!

  11. Relson, Rorion (the sell out), and the Gracie Academy are hanging on to false history and won’t evolve. They are turning Gracie Jiu Jitsu into Kung Fu. I am losing respect for the “real jiu jitsu” crap as jiu jitsu evolves.

    I guess Marcelo Garcia and the x guard does not work, nor does Eddie Bravo (JJ Machado / Gracie Barra) tapping Royler, etc.

    Only Rickson has his kid step it up, and he is learning the hard way that jiu jitsu has evolved.

  12. Relson, like Helio, has put much less emphasis on jiu-jitsu competition, thus you don’t see his students around competing as much–. The problem with some of the nay-sayers above (particularly Joe) is that they seem to be having alternate conversations from the conversation Relson is having.
    Relson does not refer to whether a technique works in JIU JITSU COMPETITION, he is referring to whether it would work in a real life (in his opinion), in a do or die scenario in the street. Relson proved the effectiveness of his jiu-jitsu in the streets, not in the ring, where there are rules, time limits, weight classes, etc. Just because Eddie Bravo taps Royler ONE time in competition, that means nothing.
    If I drop you in the desert and tell you I’m coming back tomorrow, you will wait for me patiently. If I drop you there and tell you so long, fend for yourself, you will move and actively try to get out of the situation you’re in. the same applies for a fight where there are rules and time limits– it does not accurately portray how a street scenario plays out, and you had better be sure the fancy competition techniques you use will work when some 290 pound guy is trying to stop your head off at the beach or in some club, because there is no ref there to save you.

    Many a jiu-jitsu competitor has tried to pull guard in the streets only to get his head smashed on the concrete. That is only one example of the concept at work.
    I don’t think Relson is trying to take anything away from other academies, but he is simply making the point that real life is real life, and sports are sports, and he wants to preserve the REAL LIFE APPLICABLE techniques his father worked so hard to create–never has anything on earth empowered small men so boldly against the big and the strong.

  13. I´d like to see the description from the master Renzo´s interview / answer to this false and folklorical story from master Relson. It´s kind of family trouble but Renzo shows lies they have told since teacher Carlos Gracie has gone. Sensei Rickson is also a good athlete, competitor but this story he was invencible is simple folklore in RJ and no one serious never believe on this. Ossssssssss!!!

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