The oldest son of
Helio Gracie, Rorion put
on a gi before he could walk. At 2 years old, he was already doing
public demonstrations with his father. At an early age, he grasped the
concepts and learned to teach under the tutelage of his father. He has
embraced the principles and techniques established by Helio and is
responsible for the tremendous explosion of Jiu-Jitsu around the world.
Around Christmas 1969, Rorion came to the United States for a 3 month
vacation. After visiting relatives in New York and Washington, DC, he
moved on to California and stayed at the Hollywood YMCA.
He had kept his return airline tickets, along with his cash, in a safety
box at the Y. A few weeks later when the time came for his return to
Brazil, he found out that a receptionist had stolen his money and his
ticket. Not wanting to alarm his parents, he told them he had decided to
stay longer in California. Through a friend, he got a job at a hamburger
stand in the San Fernando Valley, just northwest of Los Angeles. Within
a few days, he moved in with the family of a coworker.
Remember, the setting is 1970, the days of peace, flower-power and rock
and roll. Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin are atop the charts. After 6
months, Rorion started to get bored and eager to return home to Brazil.
Because he was so close, though, he thought he'd stick around long
enough to see Hawaii.
Hawaii was wonderful � until the money ran out. Then, the tropical
paradise changed dramatically. While looking for a job, he was so broke
that he actually had to panhandle and sleep on newspapers on the
streets. Eventually, by late 1970, he made his way back to Brazil.
In 1972, he returned to America for the summer, then went back to Brazil
where he attended the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro for 5 years
and graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Law. At that point, following a
brief marriage and two children, Rorion made the most important decision
of his life: In 1978, he landed in New York with a little over $2,000 in
his pocket and a dream: to make his family's jiu-jitsu popular
Rorion moved to Southern California and, through friends he met on his
first trip, got jobs working as an extra in movies and television. At
the same time, he put some mats down in his garage and every person he
met was invited for a free introductory class. If they brought a friend
along, they got another free class. Ten friends, ten free classes, and
so on. Boy, did he take a beating! It was working, though; the word was
By 1989, Rorion had remarried and had five more children, and 120
students coming to take classes in his garage, with an additional 80
people on a growing waiting list. By then,
Royce had come to the U.S. and was living with and teaching
along side Rorion to help strengthen the establishment of Gracie
Through his contacts in Hollywood, Rorion started choreographing fight
scenes for movies including those in "Lethal Weapon" and "Lethal Weapon
3" where he worked with Mel Gibson and Rene Russo. Playboy Magazine and
leading martial arts publications all over the world were helping to
spread the word through articles profiling Rorion and his Brazilian
The video, "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu In Action" had been released in 1988 and
quickly gained international popularity. Some of the most prominent
martial artists in the country were coming to Torrance to take classes
as they began to recognize the importance of incorporating the benefits
of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu into their own styles. By 1989, having long outgrown
the boundaries of Rorion's garage, the Gracie Academy opened its doors.
After opening the Academy, releasing the first instructional video
series, "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Basics", was a natural consequence. Other
videos followed, and by 1993, Rorion developed the concept of the
Ultimate Fighting Championship. Royce stepped into the octagon and
showed everyone, once and for all, what Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was all about.
The world of martial arts would never be the same.
Rorion, the visionary, has produced several videotapes, both
instructional and documentary, as well as the first interactive
instructional CD-ROM, "Gracie Total Defense". He also developed the
concept of combining jiu-jitsu instruction with fun in the sun on
official Gracie Cruises. His G.R.A.P.L.E.� program (Gracie Resisting
Attack Procedures for Law Enforcement) has reached every major federal
law enforcement agency and military organization, as well as most state
and local police departments. The demand is overwhelming. His RAPESAFE�
instructional course and video are the most realistic and complete form
of self-defense for women available today. G.A.R.D. (Gracie Air Rage
Defense) is the latest in Rorion's line of specialized self-defense
programs, empowering flight attendants with the ability to subdue and
control unruly passengers. This renaissance man never runs out of ideas
that eventually become realities.
Rorion, who lives in Southern California with his wife, Silvia, is
assuring the world that the legacy does not stop with him. On any given
day, some of his nine children can be found at the Gracie Academy
teaching, training and learning what it takes to carry on the Gracie
"It's like my family's art," smiles Rorion. "Timing is everything. We
win by staying two moves ahead of the other guy."