I have always been a fan of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).

The art of BJJ is known for its efficiency and effectiveness in unarmed combat, and it has become a popular martial art around the world.

However, as I delved deeper into the history of BJJ, I was confronted with a troubling aspect of its past.

The Gracies, the family who founded BJJ, have a problematic history with far-right fascist movements in Brazil.

In this post, I will explore the Gracies' tangled relationship with fascism and its impact on BJJ.

The Gracies and fascism in Brazil

The Gracies have a long and complicated history with far-right ideologies in Brazil.

Helio Gracie, one of the founders of modern BJJ, was a close friend and supporter of the Brazilian dictator Getúlio Vargas, who ruled the country from 1930 to 1945.

Vargas was a authoritarian leader who implemented fascist policies in Brazil, including censorship and persecution of political opponents.

Other members of the Gracie family have also been linked to far-right movements in Brazil.

Carlos Gracie, Helio's older brother and one of the founders of BJJ, was a member of the Integralist Action, a fascist political party in Brazil.

The party was known for its violent and oppressive tactics, including attacks on political opponents and the suppression of civil liberties.

Carlos Gracie was also a close friend of Plínio Salgado, the leader of the Integralist Action, and he publicly supported the party's ideologies.

The Gracies' close ties with the Brazilian right-wing movement and top leaders also helped them avoid troubles and criminal charges.

For example, a lot of Gracies were involved in several violent incidents and was even arrested on multiple occasions.

However, due to their connections with the Brazilian dictatorship, they were able to avoid punishment and continue their activities without consequence.

One notable example of this occurred in the 1930s, when four Gracies - Carlos, Helio, Oswaldo and George - attacked another martial artist, Joao Baldi, outside a cafe in Rio.

According to reports, Carlos was also armed with a steel box and used it to bludgeon Baldi.

The altercation was witnessed by a Brazilian Army lieutenant named Newton Medeiros, who intervened and arrested George Gracie on the spot.

Helio and Carlos fled from the scene and due to their close ties with the regime at that time, none of them and their brothers were criminally charged.

This was not an isolated incident; the Gracies were involved in several other violent altercations and were able to avoid punishment due to connections with the ruling regime.

The impact of the Gracies' fascist ties on BJJ

The Gracies' association with far-right movements in Brazil has had a significant impact on the perception of BJJ as a martial art.

Their involvement with fascist ideologies has led to criticism and controversy within the BJJ community, as many people question the values and beliefs that may have influenced the development of the art.

It can be challenging to separate the art of BJJ from the actions of its founders, especially when those actions are deeply problematic and at odds with the values that many people associate with martial arts.

In addition, the Gracies' history of involvement with far-right movements and problematic beliefs has not always been relegated to the past.

In 2012, Renzo Gracie, a prominent member of the Gracie family and BJJ practitioner, was widely criticized for quoting Heinrich Himmler, a leading member of the Nazi party, in a tweet.

In addition, there have been allegations of a culture of homophobia within the Gracie family, with several members making homophobic remarks or expressing support for homophobic policies.

The contemporary Gracies have also been strong supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right politician in Brazil.

It is not just the Gracies who have faced criticism for their association with far-right ideologies.

A number of top BJJ athletes outside of the Gracie family have also been accused of supporting far-right ideologies or denying the existence of ongoing issues like racism.

For example, Jeff Glover and Gordon Ryan have both faced criticism for their refusal to acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement and their claims that racism is not a significant problem in America.

To wrap it up....

We have explored the Gracies' tangled relationship with fascism and its impact on BJJ.

We have examined the Gracies' involvement in far-right movements in Brazil and how this has affected their legacy and reputation.

We have also considered the challenges of separating the art of BJJ from the actions of its founders and the importance of acknowledging and addressing the Gracies' problematic history.

Understanding the Gracies' history with fascism is crucial for the BJJ community.

It allows us to better understand the origins and evolution of the art, as well as the values and beliefs that may have shaped it.

It also helps us to confront and address the Gracies' problematic past and present, in order to ensure that BJJ is a positive and inclusive force in the martial arts world.

There are several steps that the BJJ community can take to address and confront the Gracies' history with fascism.

One important step is to educate ourselves and others about the Gracies' past and its implications for the art.

We can also support organizations and individuals within the BJJ community who are working to promote inclusivity and challenge harmful ideologies.

By taking these steps and being mindful of the Gracies' history, we can ensure that BJJ is a welcoming and inclusive space for all practitioners.


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