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How Gracie Botany connects to BJJ’s roots

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has well and truly gone global. Look around Sydney and you’ll find dozens of academies that teach BJJ: it’s a beautiful thing. But if you want to develop a game connected to Jiu-Jitsu’s roots, Gracie Botany in Sydney’s eastern suburbs is as authentic as it gets.

As the name indicates, our lineage can be traced back to the Gracie family that founded this great self-defence system. Sav, Gracie Botany’s head coach, trained in Brazil under Jiu-Jitsu’s masters. His Professor is Bruno Panno — a student of Master Royler Gracie, the son of Grand Master Helio Gracie.

If you’re new to martial arts, those names may not mean a lot to you. As you’ll see though, Gracie Botany’s roots go back to the very source of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. 

helio gracie and family

What is BJJ?

To understand Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you first need to understand its origins. You’ve probably already guessed that the martial art originated in Brazil – congratulations on your powers of deduction!

What you may not have guessed is that BJJ is actually a modified form of Judo. At least, that’s how it started out. A famous judoka named Mitsuyo Maeda taught judo to the Gracie family in the early 1900s. Judo, for those who don’t know, is a grappling martial art that focuses on taking a standing opponent and slamming or tripping them to the ground. 

The youngest of the Gracies, Helio Gracie was smaller and weaker than his older brothers. To stay competitive with his brawnier siblings, he modified Judo techniques to accommodate for his weaker stature. Those modifications slowly transformed into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The martial art was developed in large part by Helio Gracie and his brother, Carlos.

Jiu-Jitsu, unlike Judo, focuses on ground-based grappling. The idea is that strength and power mean less on the ground than they do while standing up, since legs are required to generate maximum force. On the ground, timing, precision and leverage can be used to overcome power and strength.

Or, as put much more eloquently by Master Helio himself:

“Always assume that your opponent is going to be bigger, stronger and faster than you, so that you learn to rely on technique, timing and leverage rather than brute strength.” 

How did it get popular?

The martial art exploded in popularity 70 years later, in the 90s, thanks to Royce Gracie. Royce is one of Helio Gracie’s sons, and became famous for winning three of the first four Ultimate Fighting Championship tournaments. 

UFC was different then to how it is now. Today the UFC is a mixed-martial arts promotion wherein fighters can utilize skills from all martial art disciplines. In the early 90s, it was a competition between different martial arts to see which one was king.

Jiu-Jitsu proved to be the winner, with Royce defeating all challengers – including opponents much larger than himself. Since then, BJJ has become the bedrock of modern MMA, and a hugely popular sport in its own right. 

Royce isn’t Helio Gracie’s only son. Among his other children is Rickson, considered among the greatest BJJ competitor ever, and Royler Gracie. Royler Gracie is a four-time world champion, a two-time BJJ hall of famer, and the founder of the Gracie Humaitá family of schools – of which Gracie Botany is a part. 

Fun fact: Gracie Humaitá gets its name from the suburb in which the first gym was located, Humaitá in Rio de Janeiro. 

Gracie Botany’s BJJ roots

Craig Roberts is the head coach at Gracie Botany – but you can just call him Sav. Sav began training Jiu-Jitsu in 2003 under Bruno Panno, who opened an academy in Sydney after getting his black belt from Royler Gracie a few years earlier. 

Once hooked into the martial art, Sav traveled to Brazil to learn from the roots. Sav trained under Rickson, Royler and Helio Gracie before returning to Sydney. Using the skills imparted from these Jiu-Jitsu masters, Sav went on to successfully compete in BJJ competitions around the world. 

That includes 8 Gold Medals at the Pan Pacific Championships, and a Silver Medal at the World Championships held in Los Angeles. Sav has been a black belt for four years, and running Gracie Botany for just over a year. 

There are very few Jiu-Jitsu coaches in Sydney who’ve trained as close to BJJ’s source as Sav.

If you’re interested in learning BJJ, come into Gracie Botany for a free trial class.