International living legend of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and 7th Degree Red and Black Belt, Master Carlos Gracie Jr, was in town recently to address students at the SW62 Ave Gracie Barra Academy. As President of the International Federation of Brazilian Jiu- Jitsu and progeny of the famous Gracie family that developed BJJ and spread it throughout the world, Gracie’s seminar visit was welcomed with a standing room only audience of attentive students.
“My father Carlos Gracie created Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after studying in Japan,” said Gracie during an interview. “He took Japanese Judo and transformed it into a martial art by utilizing key ground movements. Most martial art forms are standing fights of kicking, bashing and sparring. We are the specialists in ground submission.”
BJJ exploded onto the martial arts scene in the mid 1990’s when Gracie’s cousin, Royce Gracie, won the first, second, and fourth Mixed Martial Arts Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC). “He became a legend in the sport, how this skinny guy could be beating UFC greats” said Gracie. “Everyone became interested in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after that.”
With over 300 known Gracie Barra Academies around the globe today, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has become a life style commitment on and off the matt according to current BJJ Florida State Champion and owner of the local Gracie Barra Academy, Daniel Montanha de Lima. A 3rd degree black belt under Carlos Gracie and main instructor at the academy, Montanha says BJJ is also a vehicle to improve a practitioner’s quality of life.
“We have many unhealthy habits here in this country,” said Montanha. “People come to us for self-defense and exercise and then see positive changes in their lives. At the end of the day it is about being a more balanced individual. Abstaining from alcohol, overeating, and smoking helps you perform better in the sports world.”
Montanha started practicing BJJ under the tutelage of the Gracie family when he was 12 years old and dealing with bullying issues in his native Barra da Tijuca, Brazil, a borough of Rio de Janeiro. “I took a class and fell in love. Jiu-Jitsu is the mother of all martial arts created by Buddhist monks. It traveled from India all over Asia to Japan and then throughout the world. Toward the end of the 19th century the Gracie family learned it from the Japanese and then began teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the 20th century.”
Beyond a way to channel aggression and develop a calmer individual along with the benefits of self-defense and regular exercise, Montanha said that kids often benefit the most from becoming students of the sport.
“Today kids are growing up indoors and sometimes do not even have the right coordination to run properly. We teach them the skills to become good citizens and empower them to deal with bullies. The bullies don’t bother them anymore and they develop an unprecedented level of self-respect and confidence. These are the type of transformations we see every day,” said Montanha.
Based out of Orange County, California, Master Carlos Gracie Jr’s South Miami stop was one in a cross-country tour to visit his network of schools and attend conferences while honing in his overall vision of training for a self-disciplined, healthy, active, and positive lifestyle.
“He is the most powerful man in the world of Jiu-Jitsu. It was a huge privilege for everyone to have him here teaching us. Master Gracie is extremely inspiring to be around and his lessons teach us to be successful, balanced, and happy.”
To find out more about the Gracie Barra Academy visit www.graciebarramiami.com or call 305-397-8049.