Rorion, the oldest son of Helio Gracie, 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 of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and learned to teach under the tutelage of his father. Rorion is responsible for the tremendous explosion of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu around the world.
In December 1969, Rorion traveled to the United States for a three month vacation. After visiting relatives in New York and Washington, DC, he moved to California and stayed at the Hollywood YMCA. He had kept his return airline tickets, along with his cash, in a safety deposit box at the YMCA. A few weeks later when the time came for his return to Brazil, he discovered that a receptionist had stolen his money and his ticket. Not wanting to alarm his parents, he told them he had decided to extend his stay in California. After six months, he decided to visit Hawaii. Rorion had a great time in Hawaii – until his money ran out. At one time, he was so broke that he actually had to panhandle and sleep on newspapers in the streets. Eventually, he found a job and, by the end of 1970, he made his way 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, Rorion made the most important decision of his life: to move to America – for good.
In 1978, with only $2,000 in his pocket and a dream to make Gracie Jiu-Jitsu known worldwide, Rorion moved to Southern California. He worked as an extra in movies and television. At the same time, he put some mats down in his garage and invited every person he met for a free introductory jiu-jitsu lesson. The word spread quickly and in 1985 Rorion invited his 18-year-old brother, Royce, to move to America.
One day on a movie set, Rorion met director Richard Donner and, after a demonstration, he was invited to choreograph the fight scenes for Mel Gibson and Rene Russo in Lethal Weapon 1 and 3. Playboy Magazine and leading martial arts publications all over the world helped spread the word with articles profiling Rorion and his unique Brazilian system of self-defense.
In 1988, Rorion produced the documentary film Gracie Jiu-Jitsu In Action™. This highly controversial video shocked all those who viewed it and quickly gained international popularity. By 1989, Rorion and Royce had 120 students coming to the garage each week, and another 80 people on a waiting list. Having clearly outgrown the garage, they decided to open what would become the world headquarters for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
In 1993, four years after establishing the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in the United States, Rorion realized that the best way to popularize Gracie Jiu-Jitsu would be through television. This inspired him to create the Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC). Through this pay-per-view television spectacle, he hoped to show that, in a “no time limit – no rules” setting, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was the only system of self-defense that would give someone a realistic chance of defeating a larger, more athletic adversary. He recruited seven of the world’s most reputable martial artists to participate in a single-elimination tournament along with his brother Royce. Using only the basic techniques of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Royce became the first ever UFC champion. The world of martial arts would never be the same.
In 1994, a small group of high-ranking military officials from the most elite unit in the U.S. Armed Forces, contacted Rorion and asked him to develop an objective hand-to-hand combat course based on the most effective techniques of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. The result was Gracie Combatives® which has been taught to every major federal law enforcement agency and military organization in the US.
Rorion, who lives in Southern California with his wife, Silvia, is assuring the family tradition will continue for generations to come. On any given day, he and a handful of his 10 children can be found at the Gracie Academy teaching, training and carrying on the family legacy.