by Jeff Meszaros
Everyone who trains in martial arts has heard about the Gracies. They’re probably the most famous family in the history of martial arts and it’s no surprise. They have a huge family tree with many branches of brothers, half-brothers, sisters, uncles and cousins. And, with just a few exceptions, they’ve all played a role in the evolution of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
But did you know they aren’t the only family with roots in jiu-jitsu? Here are a few other famous siblings who have shared a common bond on the mat and have influenced the art we know today.
The Machado Brothers
The Machados are cousins of the Gracies and share many of the same traits. There are five brothers and they are all high-level black belts who have made their mark on the gentle art. Carlos, Roger, Rigan, Jean Jacques and John each have each made an important contribution, whether it’s by winning important events, opening clubs around the world, starting federations, or training celebrities like Chuck Norris or Ashton Kutcher who spread the art through their own fame.
The Behring Brothers
Flávio Behring is an Helio Gracie black belt who is still alive today. He had two sons, Sylvio and Marcelo, and both went on to be major players in jiu-jitsu. Marcelo was, until his unfortunate death, Rickson Gracie’s top student and closest training partner as well as a hugely important fighter both in MMA and sport jiu-jitsu. Sylvio trained world jiu-jitsu champions Mario Reis and Marcio Corleta and taught jiu-jitsu to UFC champions Fabricio Werdum and Anderson Silva.
The Ribeiro Brothers
A black belt in both judo and jiu-jitsu, Saulo Ribeiro has won the world championships five times across five different weight categories. He’s also won at ADCC twice and has a 2-1 record in MMA. His brother, Xande, is also a five-time world champ with two ADCC gold medals and two MMA wins. Together, they have spread jiu-jitsu by, like the Machados, opening clubs around the world and by publishing books and DVDs.
The Estima Brothers
Braulio and Victor Estima are two of the most successful fighters for the Gracie Barra team. Braulio still holds the record for the most wins at the annual IBJJF European Championships and once submitted seven people in just over five minutes at the Pan Ams. Victor has become feared for his patented foot-lock, “The Estima Lock” which he used to win the no-gi world championships in 2011. He won the European Open the following year. If you compete in jiu-jitsu seriously, you know the Estima brothers.
The Miyao Brothers
Paulo and Joao Miyao have revolutionized BJJ with their approach. Specializing in berimbolo, they go straight to their opponent’s backs quickly after pulling guard. Also, they live at their academy, training all day, every day. It is this determination and dedication that has raised the bar for competitors. Now, anyone who wants to beat a Miyao has to train just as much, or more – although more isn’t even possible.
The Mendes Brothers
Guilherme and Rafael have won the World Jiu Jitsu Championships five times. Now, they are the force behind “AOJ” or “Art of Jiu-jitsu”, one of the best new teams on the tournament scene. Like both the Miyao brothers, the Mendes brothers have a find affinity for Berimbolo but are also known for their innovative guard passing and for bringing BJJ into a new era.
The Viera Brothers
Leo, Ricardo and Leandro Viera are the brothers behind Checkmat, the team responsible for Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida, Michele Nicolini, Joao Assis and Lucas Leite, among others. Leo teaches in Sao Paulo and Ricardo runs the academy in Rio, where they have taken steps to combat gang lifestyles among youth by opening clubs in the favelas. Leandro, meanwhile, is the BJJ coach at the American Kickboxing Academy, where he teaches jiu jitsu to UFC champions Luke Rockhold, Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier.
The Bastos Brothers
There’s no guessing about what the Bastos family talks about around the dinner table as there are six members who are all black belts in BJJ. While world champion Bruno Bastos is the most famous of them, there’s also Fernanda, André, Ricardo and Bianca. Thiago and Felipe Bastos also train and, though they aren’t black belts yet, they likely will be one day. It’s a family tradition. Here’s an interesting fact: Bruno Bastos’ lineage does not involve a Gracie.
The Serra Brothers
Matt and Nick Serra are both black belts under Renzo Gracie and both fought in the UFC, although Matt had a much more memorable career in the octagon, and was briefly the welterweight champion. Now he’s the jiu-jitsu coach for former UFC champion Chris Weidman. From the looks of internet news gossip, the brothers split up in 2013, with Matt changing the locks to keep Nick out.
The Penn Brothers
Everyone knows B.J. Penn; the first American to win the world jiu jitsu championships as a black belt. He also was the UFC champion in two different categories. But did you know he has brothers? It’s true. B.J. penn is “Baby Jay” but there are also JD Penn, Jay Penn and Reagan Penn, and each of them train in jiu-jitsu.
The Martinez Brothers
Geo and Richie Martinez are both black belts under their teacher Eddie Bravo in 10th planet jiu-jitsu. Coming from breakdancing, they took to no gi grappling naturally and got their black belts in just a few years. Now, as regular competitors in the EBI, they push the popularity of no gi, no points tournaments.
The Diaz Brothers
Any list of brothers who have had an influence on jiu-jitsu has to end with Nick and Nate Diaz. While we all know about jiu-jitsu thanks to the Gracies and the first days of the UFC, it’s the Diaz brothers who have been keeping jiu-jitsu in the public eye by using it inside the octagon. Trained by Cesar Gracie, they are now close friends with Kron Gracie and have the same “anytime, anywhere” attitude that jiu-jitsu has come to embody.
BJJ Positions and Strategies: Check out this page if you want to learn what the best positions and main strategies of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are.