Kyra Gracie’s entire family can kick your ass. The 20-year-old female scion of a Rio-based martial-arts clan was already the women’s world champion in Brazilian jujitsu when she won the formidable Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling Championship last week. Megan Miller spoke to Gracie—who lives in Manhattan and teaches at her uncle’s martial-arts academy—after her victory.
When did you start serious training in jujitsu?
When I was 11. I’m the first woman in the family who fights. Everybody wants to beat the Gracies.
You’re only a brown belt. So what strategy did you use to beat black-belt Leka Vieira at Abu Dhabi?
I took her down and I got her back, so then I went to the arm lock, then I did uma plata [a complicated move that involves a forward somersault] and I swept her. Then I was trying to pass her guard, but she went to her knees, so I got her back again and tried to choke her out, but the time was over.
Wow. Do you ever worry about doing serious harm to your opponents?
No. If they don’t tap [hit the mat to signal they’re defeated], I’m gonna break their arm. In a match, it’s me or her.
How do male and female fighters differ?
Women can be more technical because they don’t have as much strength. In that way, women can be better fighters.
When a potential boyfriend finds out what you do, does it scare him or turn him on?
Well, I don’t think they’re afraid, but they have respect, you know?
Have you seen the online message boards where people talk about how sexy you are—posts like “Why would you even try to escape her triangle choke?
” I don’t know what to say about that.
You can see where they’re coming from, right? In a triangle choke, where you’ve got your legs wrapped around the other guy’s neck—
I never think about jujitsu being sexy! To me, it’s a sport.
New York’s far safer than Rio. Do you ever get scared here?
I don’t go by myself at night to places that seem dangerous. If someone has a gun, you could use self-defense to try to control that person. But I think I would just run.