(Originally Published at Whitebeltproblems)
The main difference between Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is mostly the name. The other difference, beyond marketing and branding, is that schools advertising Gracie Jiu-Jitsu tend to place a bigger emphasis on self-defense than sport. To understand why, you need to know the history of the Gracie family. (If you stick around to the end, you’ll learn about how the Gracies weren’t the only ones teaching jiu-jitsu in Brazil.)
Many members of the Gracie family taught their family art in Brazil throughout the 20th century. Carlos and Helio had many sons who taught and trained in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
After moving to America, Helio’s son Rorion Gracie obtained the US trademark for the name Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. With control of the trademark, he prevented others from using the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu name and the Gracie triangle logo without his permission. He went as far as blocking other members of the Gracie family. This lead to a lengthy legal battle between Rorion and his cousin Carley Gracie. The courts ultimately ruled in Carley’s favor since he had been using the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu name in the US longer.
To avoid legal threats from Rorion, other members of the Gracie family skirted the issue by using their full names, such as “Ralph Gracie Jiu-Jitsu,” since they couldn’t be stopped from using these. Non-Gracie instructors began calling their art Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which has since become the blanket term.
To this day, BJJ academies that use the “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu” name are usually affiliated with Rorion’s Gracie Academy and follow its traditional approach that emphasizes self-defense over sport, claiming to teach the pure jiu-jitsu developed by Helio. Rorion’s brothers also use the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu name.
The Machado brothers, relatives of the Gracies, sometimes call what they do “Machado Jiu-Jitsu.” They have their own spin on certain technical details or training methods (like any experienced instructors will), but they still fall under the wider umbrella of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
While most Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools trace their lineage back to the Gracies, not all do. Mitsuyo Maeda, the judoka and prize fighter who famously taught Carlos Gracie, also had other pupils, including a man named Luis França. França passed his knowledge on to Oswaldo Fadda, who taught jiu-jitsu in Brazil for many years separately from the Gracies. He is known for challenging the Gracie Academy to an inter-academy tournament in 1951, which his students won. Modern descendant of Fadda’s lineage include Nova Uniao and GFTeam.