Clark is the eldest son of Carley, the BJJ pioneer in the US, and one of Carlos grandson, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu foundator and Helio’s eldest brother. Among his 150 cousins of this 3e generation, he is one of the most discreet. He is definitely one of the most dedicated to Jiu Jitsu.
Between fighting and teaching, he doesn’t choose. He just loves both. At 33 years old, Clark Gracie became World champion in the Masters last summer. He will be in France this week with his father to give the Adidas seminar in Bayonne, on September 13th.
By Ludovic Mauchien
What do you prefer : fighting or teaching ?
Fighting is a very unique experience. Something that I think everyone should do. Teaching is something that has always been part of my life. The fighting is a short part of, a small purcentage of your experience in the martial art. Teaching is something that I will do forever. It’s really hard to compare. I really enjoy both.
But, honestly, it’s an amazing feeling to win a tournament, to win a match, to see your Jiu Jitsu come together in front of all people that are watching. It’s a great feeling. The teaching also helps that performance.
Is passing on knowledge important for you ?
Yes, of course. It’s important for me to leave a part of the legacy that my family has started. My family has started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and has revolutionized the world of martial arts. For me, to be a part of what my family has started, has done, is also something very special to me. So I feel honoured to be able to dedicate my life to something so beautiful and so special to the world of martial arts.
« It’s never really easy to be a Gracie !… »
It is easy to be a Gracie ?
No, it’s never really easy. It’s always a bit of pressure (he laughs). It’s not easy at all. Definitely, you get a little bit more attention. Even if they don’t know your first name, they know your last name.
Because of that, I think some people don’t handle with pressure so well. Even for me, when I was a lower belt, I felt a lot of pressure to win. The generation above us, my father, his brothers and cousins, they would not lose very much, if at all.
Coming up after the Rickson, Rorion, Royce, Royler… generation, that’s a challenge !…
For us, now, my generation of Gracie’s competitors, over 150 cousins that I have just in the Gracie family, it’s a lot of pressure to know that our generation above us was so successfull. But, at the same time, now, the competition is much more difficult, much higher, I believe.
There is much more people training so it becomes much more difficult (he laughs). People expect a result just from having the last name but, in the reality, everything comes out on a mat.
You are going to show everything on a mat when you are going to compete, when you are going to train or when you are going to fight because you cannot hide behind a name.
« We take from each competitor, each Jiu Jitsu artist »
What was your relationship with your grandfather ?
My grandfather, Carlos Gracie, was the 1st one to learn Jiu Jitsu from the Japanese master, Maeda. He passed away when I was 10 years old. I met him in Brazil a couple times, but, unfortunately, he passed away when I was young and I wasn’t able to get to know him as I would have liked to, but the legacy lives on very strong. He was like the leader of the family and a lot of people came to him for advices and looked up to him, and he played a very important role in the development, in the growth of Jiu Jitsu in our family. I heard a lot of stories about him, how he was as a man… So I still get a lot of understandings of him. But, of course, I wasn’t able to have a strong relationship with him.
Is he your model. Do you have any ?
I looked up to a lot of champions that I see competing, a lot of people in my family as well that show good character, that show they care about the students, they care about the technique. Some people from my family that I think they have done great things for Jiu Jitsu : Renzo, Branco, Rilion, my father Carley Gracie… These are some people that gave me a lot of techniques and influenced my game.
Actually, I have trained with so many people until black belt and even after black belt… We take a little bit from each competitor, from each Jiu Jitsu artist. I have learnt from so many people.
« The most rewarding ? Seeing someone change because of Jiu Jitsu »
What’s my vibe in Jiu Jitsu, your ultimate pleasure ?
Teaching my students and seeing them learning the techniques that I show them and, for them, to also develop their own style, to see them using my style, for me, is a very happy moment. It’s a very special thing to see something that you do works for someone else also.
To see my students winning is one of the most rewarding part, also seeing the kids, children get better and, probably, one of the most special thing about Jiu Jitsu, one of the thing that gives me a lot of pleasure is seeing someone’s life change in a positive way, because of their experience in Jiu Jitsu.
What are your specials, your top positions ?
Probably, what I get the most submissions is Omoplata. Why ? I don’t know. It’s something that people don’t really know how to defend very well. And this is something that I have spent a lot of time practising. It’s something that I feel like I do differently that a lot of people. A lot of people actually ask to learn omoplata from me because I do a little bit different. But Jiu Jitsu is always developping, that why it’s beautiful. This is just a part of evolution of Jiu Jitsu, to grow as an art.
« Your mind is growing and evolving your own style »
Besides Jiu Jitsu, what do you like to do ?
Because of Jiu Jitsu, I get to do a lot of traveling, I really enjoy seeing different cultures, seeing the world. I feel very lucky to be able to share Jiu Jitsu with the world, traveling for tournaments or seminars or for my affiliate schools. We have big teams now, growing around the world.
Actually, this week, I will be in Europe with my father for seminars (in Switzerland France and Norway). It’s an opportunity to see different cultures and different lifestyles, and to see people how do they like to train Jiu Jitsu. It’s a beautiful thing that we have in common with people around the world that training Jiu Jitsu.
What would be your advice to a teenager that would dream to be a BJJ champion ?
Well, I think he just has to come and train. Pick a school where he feels he can be confortable and he can learn with pleasure and have fun. If you are having fun in Jiu Jitsu, you are going to learn. It’s just going to be a great thing in your life. It’s very hard to take Jiu Jitu in a negative way. If you are having fun, if you enjoy it, whatever the sport, then you are going to want to go again and again, and your mind is growing and thinking about the techniques, and evolving your own style. So just go train ! There is no real secrets. Like everybody says : just get on the mat, just train and naturally, you become much better.
His main achievements
World champion in Master (2017)
1st Place World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Cup Trials (2010)
Pan American Champion (2013)
Pan American Silver Medallist (2010 brown)
2 times Pan American Bronze Medallist (2011, 2006 purple)
Samurai Jiu-Jitsu Pro Cup Champion (2011)
New York Open Champion (2010)
3 times American National Champion (2010, 2006, 2005)
San Diego Open Champion (2005)
World Jiu-Jitsu Champion (2009)
World Silver Medallist (2007 brown)
World Bronze Medallist (2011)
US National Champion (2009)
1st Place Grapplers Quest (2009)