Our History

Our History

How Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) Began

For centuries, samurai warriors practiced the art of jiu-jitsu in Japan. By the late 1800’s, a man named Jigoro Kano began to modify the more antiquated jiu-jitsu used by the samurai and created the art of Judo. He focused on takedowns and live training (randori). Because Kano had evolved Judo into an effective and accessible martial art, it became internationally recognized and eventually became an Olympic sport.

In 1914 one of Jigoro Kano’s students Mitsuyo Maeda (also known as Count Koma – ‘Count of Combat’) emigrated from Japan to Brazil, in order to spread the art of judo and eventually open his own judo academy. At the age of 14, Carlos Gracie (son of Gastao Gracie) began studying Judo with Maeda. Over time, Carlos became more and more passionate about the art, teaching it to his younger brothers, most notably, Helio Gracie. Carlos and Helio refined the art, and became famous for their “vale tudo” (anything goes) fights, and even more so for the effectiveness of the art they had created.  

Because the Gracie family created this new art, it was often referred to as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in the early days, but now that there are many different branches of the art, it is more commonly referred to as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Click here to read more about the difference between Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

The first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Brazil

In 1925, Carlos Gracie opened the Gracie family’s first academy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The academy quickly grew in popularity, fueled in part by the Gracie family’s willingness to compete in early MMA fights which they called “Vale Tudo”. This was the time when Helio Gracie made a name for himself and fought challengers from many different martial arts styles. With his success in the ring, the new Gracie Jiu-Jitsu school flourished. The next generation of Gracies included Royce Gracie, Renzo Gracie and more, now all legends in the art.

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Comes to America

In the 1970s, the Gracie family started bringing the art of jiu-jitsu to the US. Some of them moved to California, which now has become a mecca of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Some also moved to the east coast, in particular, Master Renzo Gracie, who established the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York City. Renzo Gracie has become a world-renowned practitioner and professor of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA.   He has trained many of the best fighters in North America, including UFC Champions George St. Pierre, Chris Weidman, and Matt Serra, and is one of the most accomplished jiu-jitsu competitors in his own right. 

In the 1990s, Professor Amal Easton traveled to Brazil and discovered Gracie Jiu-Jitsu for himself. It was almost completely unknown in the US, and Professor Easton was one of the first Americans to learn the art and bring it back to the states. At purple belt, Professor Easton moved to Boulder, CO and opened his own academy. Since that time, Professor Easton continued his own training and received his black belt from Master Renzo Gracie, and has since been instrumental in spreading Gracie Jiu-Jitsu across Colorado.

McMahon Training Center’s Lineage

In 2001, Professors Finnie and Tessa began their jiu-jitsu journey at Professor Easton’s academy in Boulder. By 2006, they moved to Fort Collins to start McMahon Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, now McMahon Training Center, and in 2009 they received their black belts from Professor Easton. 

We are very proud to be a part of the Amal Easton/Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Team. When you become part of our family at McMahon Training Center, know that you will become part of the next chapter in the history of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

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