Budo Jake recently had the pleasure to sit down with Reila Gracie the daughter of Carlos Gracie Sr and author of "Carlos Grace: Creator of A Fighting Dynasty" and ask a few questions regarding the book.
Budo Jake: Why did you feel the need to write this book?
Relia Gracie: The Gracie family has an immeasurable importance in Brazilian sports culture. I am not aware of any other family in the world that has been able to maintain a professional tradition in sports or martial arts for nearly a century, reaching 4 generations. And the creator of this dynasty of fighters is Carlos Gracie, my father.
When the UFC revealed to the world the technical efficiency of jiu-jitsu developed by the Gracies, Carlos was said to to be the guru and nutritionist of the family, thus eliminating his importance in the history of jiu-jitsu. Like him, other champions of my family were also virtually excluded: my brothers Rolls and Carlson, for example.
I could not bear this historical manipulation and saw that the only way to fix it would be doing thorough research and writing a book about the life of my father, revealing how it actually happened and the importance that each had in building this dynasty of Gracie fighters.
Budo Jake: How long did the research take?
Relia Gracie: Interweaving the research and text work, it took 10 years to write this book. All research however has no end and I believe that all biographers have this same opinion. You can always find more information, but there comes a time when the opposite happens, we actually have to remove passages and statements to avoid losing the purpose of the book and the narrative quality.
Budo Jake: What was the hardest part of the research?
Relia: As I am a person who keeps an affective channel, the initial phase of interviews with family was the hardest. Getting to know more deeply the facts and the relationship that my brothers, uncles, cousins and nephews had with my father made me review the relationship I had with each of them in childhood, and I was very touched by the trust placed in me.
Carlos Gracie had died, but his clan is still alive and is continuing its history. Another difficulty was when my son Roger decided to take jiu-jitsu as a profession. Because of him, I returned to attend the championships and interact with the environment more acutely. While I recorded the past, this interfered in my thinking about the future.
Throughout the writing process I still had to deal with a succession of deaths: three uncles, my mother, and my siblings Rose, Carlson and
Geisa. It was a very painful process, but... I survived.
Budo Jake: Of all of the information you found out what surprised you the most?
Relia: As I had the story mapped out in my mind, the information found in the research were filling in gaps like a puzzle, but still there were some surprises. The volume of publications found in the papers of the 1930s, about my father and his brothers, was one of them. Mainly they detailed the role he, Carlos Gracie, played in the careers of his brothers and the Brazilianization process of jiu-jitsu.
And also they revealed the role of Uncle George as a fighter. All newspaper clippings, filed for 40 years at the academy of my father, the academy Gracie, stayed with uncle Helio, who then donated them to Rorion, my cousin. Before my book only Uncle Helio appeared.
Another surprise was to have found correspondence of my mother when she was in Peru. She had already given me the correspondence between my father, his partner Oscar, uncle Helio and aunt Margarida, but I could only get the information after her death. These documents helped me better understand the role of my father in the formation of the clan and how it related to life.
Budo Jake: Did your opinion of your father change after completing your research? If so, how?
Relia: I came to admire him more, because I understood better the way the family members think and act and the greatness of their purposes and accomplishments. I never viewed my father as a myth or guru but as a man capable of trial and error.
His greatness is exactly the census of humanity, revealed by a prospective ability to think and act for the collective so comprehensive that only exceptional people possess.
Budo Jake: Are there any questions about your father are left unanswered?
Relia: I am sure that readers will find in my book a narrative on the life of Carlos Gracie much more complete than expected. All the facts reported in the book are supported by oral and written documents. But you can find some inaccurate dates, as in any reconstruction process of the past, that can occur and are perfectly acceptable.
The purpose of the book is to give the dimension of the importance of Carlos Gracie in the improvement process and Brazilianization of Japanese jiu-jitsu and the creation and development of the Gracie fighters Dynasty. This book perfectly fulfills its role and goes far beyond because the story begins with the arrival of the first Gracie to Brazil in 1826. It also reconstructs the history of Carlos Gracie and redeem many people who, like him, had their importance minimized in the international promotion of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Budo Jake: What impression of your father do hope you the readers are left with?
Relia: Surely the same as he left me. He's an example of a human being who, driven by his ideals and admirable willpower, was able to leverage the effects of his actions on behalf of the collective almost imperceptibly. And that to positively transform the lives of countless people has its own much more rich and full meaning.
I only warn the English-speaking readers to consider cultural differences when they read my book, as I narrate the story of a Brazilian, born in the Amazon in 1902, heavily influenced by the cultural diversity arising from the mixing that took place in his country, Brazil.
For the full story, grab your copy of "Carlos Gracie: Creator Of A Fighting Dynasty"