One of the most prominent families in the jiu-jitsu world is the Gracie family of Brazil. When people here in American think of Brazilians, they usually think of people of Portuguese descent. While it is true that Brazil is within the Lusophonic world, there are many ethnicities within the country; which includes the Celtic diaspora.
The Gracie family is one that is large, practically an army unit on its own, so I want to focus on the most important Gracie family members who would become prominent in the martial arts world.
One of the most important progenitors of the Gracie family was Carlos Gracie, who along with his five brothers, were the great-grandchildren of one George Gracie, who was a Scottish immigrant who arrived in Brazil in 1801. He would have a total of 21 children and would continue doing martial arts even in his 90’s. His brother, Helio, revolutionized using his small stature to his advantage during any fight.
As for how the Gracie family started with jiujitsu, it started with George Gracie’s grandson Gastao Gracie meeting a jiu-jitsu master named Esai Maeda Koma, who immigrated to Brazil in 1915. He was among many jiujitsu masters who spreaded this martial art outside of Japan, which was itself imported to Japan and China alongside Buddhism. Gastao agreed to let his fifteen-year-old son Carlos train under him. This was done in hopes that the physically frail boy would develop self-defense skills.
So, while training under Koma, Carlos would excel in his studies and training. Four years later, Carlos would travel to Rio de Janeiro to teach this martial art. With his brothers, he would open up a jiujitsu academy, where he would teach the benefits of a natural diet and a style of jiujitsu that was distinct from the one he was taught. Japanese jiu-jitsu, as Koma taught, was more concerned with takedowns and throws, whereas this new Brazilian brand of jiujitsu was more focused on submission and ground-fighting.
While the Scottish component of the Gracie family is not present in terms of culture and language, the surname Gracie itself has entered into the consciousness of Brazilians and the MMA world. While George Gracie hoped to find fortune, he would eventually found it via his own family.