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About Us

The history of our Gracie Humaita Jiu Jitsu academy begins a couple hundred years ago.

An Unlikely Meeting

In 1801, a Scottish immigrant by the name of George Gracie moved to the state of Para in Northeastern Brazil, where he and his family lived for many years. In the early 1900s a Japanese man named Mitsuyo Maeda moved to the same area.

The Japanese government was eager to form a colony in Brazil, and Maeda was there to help the colony prosper. In addition to his political skills, Maeda happened to be a former champion in the Japanese Art of Jiu-Jitsu, and so he began teaching lessons in Brazil, hoping to pass on the tradition.

He became close friends with Gastão Gracie, the grandson of George Gracie. Gastao was a political figure in the state and used his influence to help Maeda and the Japanese colony. In return for the help, Maeda offered to teach Gastão’s son Carlos the Art of Jiu-Jitsu.

A Breath of Fresh Air

In 1925, after moving to Rio de Janeiro, Carlos and his brothers opened the first Academy of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, in the Flamengo area of the city. At the time, Rio de Janeiro was the capital of Brazil. The Academy quickly became an enormous success, and soon the brothers were teaching the top politicians and personalities of the country.

The Gracie Academy had many instructors teaching classes all day long. What they taught, at first, was the traditional Japanese style of Jiu-Jitsu Carlos had learned from Maeda. Like Judo, it was a grappling style of combat with many formal rules. Weighted down under centuries of ritualized tradition and technique, there was little room for innovation.

But half a world away from Japan’s influence, the sport found room to breathe in Brazil. Carlos and his brothers knew little of formal martial arts, and were thus free to discover what works best in any given situation without preconceived notions.

Free to emphasize what was effective and leave behind anything that didn’t serve a purpose, the sport quickly evolved from its parent sport into something quite different, and came to be known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

The Unlikely Innovator

Highly influential in the development of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was Helio Gracie, Carlos’s younger brother. All the Gracies were slight of frame, but Helio was particularly small and frail. He even suffered from spells of dizziness that prevented him from attending school.

Young Helio would spend his days watching the others teach all day long. He observed more closely than anyone realized, because one day when Carlos was unable to make it to a private class, Helio offered to teach the student. Helio was sixteen years old and weighed 140 pounds; the student was skeptical but agreed.

At the end of the lesson, the student was so impressed with Helio’s teaching style that he asked Carlos if Helio could be his teacher. From that day on Helio Gracie became a full instructor at the Academy.

Over the next few years, Carlos and Helio developed a new style, called Gracie Jiu-Jitsu or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Because of his small stature and frailty, Helio could not use many of the Japanese moves that were based on power and speed, so he developed new leverages and new ways of doing moves.

As Helio tells it, “My brother Carlos was very athletic, quick and flexible. He could do those moves no problem, but myself, I was a sickly young kid and couldn’t use the same leverage points or the same speed, so I had to adapt.”

Onto the World Stage

With Helio doing more of the instructional work, Carlos was able to dedicate himself to the managerial side of the family business and to developing the famed “Gracie Diet.” The diet is based on food groups and how they combine with each other – it has been developed, perfected and used by the family for the last 75 years.

Gracie became the top sports figure in Brazil in the 1930s. Fighting in public events in front tens of thousands of spectators, his reputation grew immensely. For over two decades, the Gracies accepted many challenges and fought a variety of opponents from different backgrounds and of different sizes. In one extreme example, brother Osvaldo Gracie, who weighed 140 pounds, fought John Baldy, who tipped the scales at 360 pounds. Osvaldo defeated Baldy with a choke hold in just two minutes.

Duel of the Century

Eventually, the Gracies’ fame reached outside the borders of their homeland, back to Japan, home of the most skilled martial artists in the world at that time. The Gracie brothers issued a challenge to the best martial artist Japan had ever produced, Masahiko Kimura. Kimura stipulated that he would not fight Helio until Helio had proved himself against the second-ranked fighter in the world at that time, known as Kato.

Kato was forty pounds heavier than Helio and considered by many to be the best Jiu-Jitsu technician in the world. The two fought a legendary battle to a draw. In the rematch, Helio choked Kato unconscious with his favorite move, the front lapel choke.

Master Kimura then challenged Helio to a fight. Kimura stated at the time that if anyone so slight could survive three minutes in the ring with him, he would consider it a defeat. Helio, despite the huge weight difference and strength difference, battled valiantly for thirteen minutes before he was caught in a brilliant arm lock called “the Kimura”—now a standard move in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Seeing his brother’s arm about to be broken, Carlos threw in the towel. For the next 75 years the Gracie family dedicated itself to the preservation and dissemination of this great fighting style—once called Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, now more widely known now as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In the past few years, the newest generation of Gracies have brought a popularity to the sport beyond the wildest dreams of Carlos and Helio.

Our Coaches

Headed by Pan Am Champion Nick Stefan, our program is a great way to begin your BJJ journey.

Our experienced instructors are experts at teaching adult Jiu Jitsu and Jiu Jitsu classes for kids. Read on to learn more about the teachers at our Jiu Jitsu academy.


An Early Start

Nick’s first experience with martial arts was at the age of 10, when he started taking Tae Kwon Do. Nick then started training in Muay Thai and Kenpo Karate at the age of 15. While studying boxing at El Camino College, Nick was Introduced to Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

Shortly after falling in love with the Art, Nick signed up at Rickson Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy in West Los Angeles off of Pico Blvd. At Rickson’s academy, Nick used to watch Royler Gracie get ready for his Pride FC fights.

Deeper Into the Art

Nick found the Machado brother Jiu Jitsu academy in Redondo beach, and after a few years of getting sick of traveling all the way to Los Angeles, he decided to join and learn under the Machado Brothers, who at the time had the number one competition team in the USA. The Machado brothers studied under the Gracies and came to the US with them.

In 2006 Nick was presented his black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from Rigan Machado in the presence of John, Roger, Jean Jaques, and Carlso Machado. Also in attendance were B.J. Penn, and numerous other blackbelts.

Finding a New Family

Nick later re-met Master Royler Gracie and decided to compete and train directly under him and the Gracie Humaita Flag. Royler promoted Nick to his 1st Degree Black Belt.

Nick takes pride in representing the Gracie Humaita family and strives to be the best instructor to every student who comes to the Academy.


Nick has competed his entire career in Jiu-Jitsu, winning tournaments from white to black belt.

Some competition Milestones:

  • NoGi Mundial Champion 2009
  • Pan American Silver Medalist 2010
  • Multiple X Grapplers Quest Blackbelt Champion
  • Multiple X Grapplers Quest NoGi Champion
  • Pan American Champion 2006
  • Copa Pacifica Champion 2003
  • Arizona State Silver Medalist 2004
  • Multiple X Best of the West Champion
  • Multiple X Grappling Games Pans Champion
  • US Open Champion 2005
  • 2x American National Championship medalist
  • 5x American International Champion
  • Gracie Jiu Jitsu Open silver medalist
  • Gracie Jiu Jitsu Open silver medalist

Awesome Benefits

Martial arts training has long been know as one of the best ways to teach your child the life skills they will need to succeed in life.