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Relson Gracie

Relson Gracie

Brazilian martial artist
Relson Gracie
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Brazilian martial artist
Is Athlete Mixed martial artist
From Brazil
Type Sports
Gender male
Birth 28 March 1953, Rio de Janeiro
Age 67 years
Star sign AriesAries
Residence Aiea
Father: Hélio Gracie
The details


Relson "Campeão" Gracie is a retired professional Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter and martial arts personality. He is a member of the Gracie family. Relson currently lives in Hawaii where he still teaches Gracie Jiu-Jitsu at his academy in Honolulu. There are many Relson Gracie affiliated academies and associations throughout the U.S. which keep him traveling regularly.
Relson is the second oldest son of Helio Gracie, who along with Carlos Gracie, is credited for innovating the Kodokan Judo taught by Mitsuyo “Count Koma” Maeda into what is now known as Gracie or "Brazilian" Jiu Jitsu. Relson began learning the art of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu at the age of two, began competing at the age of ten, and earned his black belt when he was 18. He went 22 years undefeated as the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu National Champion.
Although Relson's techniques are deeply rooted in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Relson also emphasizes "street effective" techniques. Relson's Jiu-Jitsu has evolved to help defend yourself in a survival situations where there are no rules.
On April 6, 2013 Relson was promoted to rank of grandmaster (red belt) the highest possible belt awarded to living individuals in Gracie/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Relson has also taught self-defense to the U.S. Military, Secret Service, D.E.A., F.B.I., and local law enforcement agencies across the United States.



Relson was born in 1953, a year after the Gracies opened Academia Gracie in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 1962, Helio Gracie (Relson's father) held the world’s first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu tournament in Rio de Janeiro, where Relson competed at the age of 10. Relson was Brazilian National Champion in both his own weight class and the open division for an unprecedented 22 years. His record and success in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu earned him the name "Campeao," Portuguese for Champion.

In 1975, at the age of 22, Relson was approached by Rio's Secretary of Sport Jose Morais and Manaus Senator Artur Vigilio, a Reyson Gracie Black Belt, who proposed Relson open his own academy. Because of this encouragement, Relson opened his first Jiu Jitsu academy, Ilha Clube Jardim Guanabara (ICJG). During this time Relson taught at both ICJG and Academia Gracie Humaita.

Growth Of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

In the middle to late 1970s Gracie Jiu-Jitsu continued to grow in popularity, and in 1978, Academia Gracie relocated to Flamengo, an area in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 1982 Relson and his younger brother Rickson began competing and winning black belt divisions of Jiu Jitsu tournaments in their respective weight classes (83 kg and 77 kg, respectively) and "open weight" divisions as well, often sharing 1st and 2nd place. "Open weight" are divisions in tournaments where any weight can compete.

During this time Relson and other family members defended the Gracie name and reputation "in the streets" of Brazil. Even in true "no holds barred" matches, where it was often a matter of survival, Relson and the Gracie family maintained its dominance and proved that Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is an effective martial art.

The Gracie family also experienced success in Vale Tudo fights and competitions. On April 25, 1980, "the torch" was officially passed to Rickson Gracie when he defeated Casemiro "Rei Zulu" Nascimento Martins by rear naked choke. Rei Zulu suffered a similar fate at the hands of Rickson again in January 1984 during their second encounter. Relson trained Rickson for both events in anticipation of fighting Zulu himself, but Relson later acquiesced to Helio's wishes for Rickson to make his debut as the Gracie family champion.

Move to the United States

In 1985, Relson moved from Rio de Janeiro to Monterey, California at the request of Pedro Sauer’s older brother, Carlos. In Monterey Relson taught at the Eseline Therapy Institute for a year and a half. In June 1988 he moved to Honolulu and continued to teach.

In the pre-UFC years, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was relatively unknown outside of Brazil. Relson taught out of his garage in the evenings after a hard day's work in the construction industry. However, the effectiveness and benefits of Jiu-Jitsu soon spread throughout the island of Oahu, and in the same year he expanded his classes to athletic facilities at the University of Hawaii at Manoa because of growing demand until 1996, while continuing to teach out of his garage.

Relson organized the first tournament outside of Brazil in Honolulu in 1992.

Involvement with MMA

In 1993, The Ultimate Fighting Championship held its first event, UFC 1, which would launch the career of Royce Gracie.

Prior to UFC 1, Royce was just "Rorion and Relson's little brother." Relson helped Royce train for the event. Relson's style was—and still is—ideally suited to a "limited rules" type of fighting. Royce won three of the first four UFC events.

However, with the advent of the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, and the new emphasis on grappling training for other competitors (and UFC's rule change for UFC 5), many of Relson's techniques are no longer as effective.

Tournament competition in the 1990s and beyond

In 1997 Relson Gracie brought a team from Hawaii to the second World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships and became the first team outside of Brazil to "close out" (or win) a division. Two of Relson’s students, Kendall Goo and Kelly Matsukawa, took first and second place in the Adult Blue Belt Pessidissimo division.

In 2000 the Relson Gracie Team joined forces with Gracie Humaita and placed in every division at the Pan American Jiu-Jitsu Championships in Florida: 1st in the Female and Master/Seniors divisions, 2nd in the Juvenile, and 3rd in the Adult.

After the changes to rules common to most Jiu Jitsu tournaments, Relson felt tournaments started to steer Gracie Jiu-Jitsu away from the principles that his father had created it for. Relson decided to place less emphasis on pushing his team to compete and refocused on the true essence of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

Relson is also affiliated with some tournaments: the Relson Gracie National Jiu-Jitsu Tournament has been held annually in Columbus, Ohio since 1997. Due to the success of his inaugural National tournament, Arnold Schwarzenegger approached Relson to start the Arnold-Gracie World Submission Championships in 2000, also held to be held in Columbus. Between 2005 and 2008, participation has increased from 1200 to 1800 competitors.

Black Belts under Relson

There have been very few black belts ever given by Relson across his career. His reputation is for being very hard on promotions, often taking 10-15+ years to attain black belt level. Here are all of the known black belts and their promotion dates, where known:
Name - School/Affiliation - City, State - Date of promotion to Black Belt

  • Steve Maxwell - MaxwellSC - Philadelphia, PA - 2001?
  • Scott DeVine - Coastal Combatives - Brunswick, GA - 3/2003
  • Andre Derizans - Relson Gracie Academy - Honolulu, HI, 3rd, 15/6/2002
  • Jeff Hudson - Relson Gracie Academy, North Columbus Chapter - Columbus, OH - 3/2003
  • Phil Migliarese (6th Degree) - Balance Studios - Philadelphia, PA - 3rd, 3/2003
  • Sam Mahi - O2 Martial Arts Academy - Aiea, HI - 2nd, 4/14/04
  • Robin Gieseler - Relson Gracie Academy, North Columbus Chapter - Columbus, OH - 2006 (started 94)
  • Kofi Debrah - 02 Martial Arts Academy - Aiea, HI - 9/28/05
  • Rick Migliarese (5th Degree) - Balance Studios - Philadelphia, PA - 1st, 2005
  • Ronn Shiraki - Relson Gracie Academy - Honolulu, HI - 4nd degree, 6/5/06
  • Kimo Kreis - Relson Gracie Academy - Kaneohe, HI - 4th degree 6/5/06
  • Phil Cardella - Relson Gracie Academy Austin - Austin, TX - 6/5/06
  • Mike Onzuka - 02 Martial Arts Academy - Aiea, HI - 4/4/07
  • John-Michael Kaleikini - (2nd degree) Gracie Florida Jiu-Jitsu, Ormond Beach, FL - 03/26/12
  • Garth Spendiff - Coastal Combatives Inc - Savannah, Georgia - 8/25/07
  • Nathan Zigler - Gracie Arizona - Phoenix, AZ - ?
  • Vince Panzano - Relson Gracie Academy, North Columbus Chapter - Columbus, OH - ?
  • Lionel Perez - North Florida Brazilian Jiu Jitsu - Jacksonville, FL - ?
  • Toney Waldecker - Calvert MMA Academy - Sunderland, MD - 4/18/08
  • Richard Giberson - Relson Gracie Academy Austin - Austin, TX - 10/8/07
  • Shawn Chitwood - Team Chitwood - Columbus, OH - 11/14/08
  • David Wilson - Relson Gracie Academy, North Columbus Chapter - Columbus, OH - 7/24/08
  • Steve Hordinski - Relson Gracie JIu Jitsu Academy - Littleton, CO - 1/17/09
  • Michael Casey - Gracie Jiu Jitsu New York - Bronx, NY - 1/24/09
  • Chris Onzuka - 02 Martial Arts Academy - Aiea, HI - 2/11/09
  • Shane Agena - 02 Martial Arts Academy - Aiea, HI - 2/11/09
  • Reyn Morimoto - O2 Martial Arts Academy - Aiea, HI - 2/18/09
  • Todd Tanaka - Relson Gracie/Team HK Jiu Jitsu - Honolulu, HI - 7/22/09
  • Heath Wigginton - Gracie Arizona - Phoenix, Az - 12/16/10
  • Tony Zara - Relson Gracie Academy, North Columbus Chapter - Columbus, OH - 2/19/11
  • Matt Rigney - Relson Gracie Academy, North Columbus Chapter - Columbus, OH - 2/19/11
  • Mark Kurano - Relson Gracie/Gracie Waikiki - Honolulu, HI - 6/22/11
  • Jeff Furuta - Relson Gracie/Gracie Uptown - Honolulu, HI - 6/22/11
  • Kaleo Auwae - Relson Gracie/Gracie Papakolea - Honolulu, HI - 6/22/11
  • Josh Lauber - Relson Gracie - Honolulu, HI - 6/22/11
  • Rhalan Gracie - Relson Gracie - Honolulu, HI - 6/22/11
  • Kaleo Hosaka - Relson Gracie - Honolulu, HI - 6/22/11
  • Gye Nitta - Relson Gracie - Honolulu, HI - 6/22/11
  • Jim Hannan - Relson Gracie - Relson Gracie DC - Fairfax county, Va -7/13/11
  • Tom Feister - Relson Gracie Academy, North Columbus Chapter - Columbus, OH - 7/29/11
  • Stuart Ramos - Team Maryland BJJ, Towson MD, - 12/2/11
  • Paul Kimo Kalaiwaa - Relson Gracie - Honolulu, HI 2011
  • Craig Chitwood- Team Chitwood - Mansfield, OH - 1/20/12
  • Doug Moore-Relson Gracie-Gracie Arizona-Phoenix, AZ 1/28/2012
  • Dave Patton - Relson Gracie - Fightworks - Sterling, Va - 03/12
  • Makena White - Relson Gracie Association Honolulu, HI - 6/6/12
  • Christopher R. Laird - Relson Gracie - RSA - Honolulu, HI - 6/11/2012
  • Christina (Thomas) Del Guidice - Empire Jiu Jitsu - Austin, TX - 6/19/2012
  • Mark Stefanac - Relson Gracie Cleveland - Cleveland, Ohio 2/2/13
  • Neil Chitwood - Team Chitwood - Lexington, OH 4/6/2013
  • David Tabron - Relson Gracie Academy, North Columbus Chapter - Columbus, OH - 5/6/13
  • Tracy Hopkins - Bushido Martial Arts - Columbus, OH - 5/7/13
  • Kyle Spendiff - Gracie Jiu Jitsu Maryland - Clarksville, MD - 11/1/13
  • Robert Moss - Relson Gracie - Honolulu, HI - 4/2/2014
  • Chris Spicer - Relson Gracie Waco - Waco, TX - May 2014
  • Greg Bartman - Bartman MMA and Self-Defense - Silver Spring, MD - 5/13/2014
  • Jim Thrift - Calvert MMA Academy / Lineage BJJ - Sunderland, MD - 6/18/14
  • Scott Phillips - Danger Academy / Wylie, Tx. 1/15/15
  • Michael Cassesa - Relson Gracie Cleveland - Cleveland, Ohio 3/28/15
  • Marco Moreno - The Basics Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu - Leesburg, Virginia 03/27/15
  • Nick Goldizen - Relson Gracie Cleveland - Cleveland, Ohio 3/28/15
  • Dan Wallen - Relson Gracie - Fightworks- Greenville, SC-8/18/2015
  • Gabriel Obiedo - Relson Gracie Austin - Austin,Texas 9/2/15
  • George Mathai - Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu San Antonio - San Antonio,Texas 9/2/15
  • Jason Dodd - Global Mixed Martial Arts Academy - Gainesville, Fl - 2015
  • Eric Smith- Relson Gracie- Gracie Arizona-Phoenix, AZ 2/2/2016
  • Ron Aderhold - Relson Gracie Cleveland - Cleveland, OH - 2/13/16
  • Doug Kalin - Relson Gracie Cleveland - Cleveland, OH - 2/13/16
  • Mike Tran - Calvert MMA Academy / Lineage BJJ - Sunderland, MD - 6/14/16
  • Drew Arthur - Relson Gracie Tyler / Lone Star MMA Academy, Tyler TX - 12/30/16


Relson has five children: Karina, Rishna, Rhalan,Kailani and Ka'ena. He also has 3 grandkids. He lives in Hawaii and travels the world teaching seminars. Relson received his 9th degree red belt from his eldest brother Rorion Gracie on April 6, 2013.

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