Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, also known as BJJ, is a martial art that originated in Brazil in the early 20th century. It is a grappling-based martial art that emphasizes techniques that allow a smaller, weaker person to defend themselves against a larger and stronger opponent.
BJJ has become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks in part to its effectiveness in mixed martial arts competitions, such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). In this blog post, we will explore the fascinating history of BJJ and how it has evolved into the martial art that it is today.
Table of Contents
The origins of jiu jitsu in feudal Japan
BJJ has a long and storied history, and it's roots can be traced all the way back to feudal Japan.
In the days of feudal, warriors known as samurai practiced a type of martial art called jujutsu.
This art focused on grappling and throwing techniques, and it was designed to be used by warriors who had been disarmed or otherwise unable to use their weapons.
Over time, jujutsu evolved into a number of different styles, including judo, which was developed by Jigoro Kano in the late 19th century.
Judo, which means "gentle way" in Japanese, was designed to be a safer and more modern version of jujutsu.
It was also meant to be an educational system that could be used to develop character and physical fitness. Kano's judo was very successful and it quickly spread throughout Japan and the rest of the world.
The arrival of judo in Brazil
In the early 20th century, Judo was introduced to Brazil by Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese immigrant and prominent Judo practitioner.
Maeda was a member of the Kodokan, the governing body of Judo, and had traveled extensively as a member of the Kodokan's demonstration team.
In 1914, Maeda arrived in Brazil and settled in the city of Belém. He began teaching Judo to local Brazilian students, including a young Carlos Gracie.
Gracie was the oldest son of Gastão Gracie, a Brazilian scholar and diplomat who had helped Maeda settle in Brazil.
Carlos Gracie was an eager student of Judo and quickly became one of Maeda's top students. He also began teaching Judo to his younger brothers, including Hélio Gracie, who would go on to become a key figure in the development of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Under the guidance of Maeda and the Gracie brothers, Judo evolved into a new martial art known as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
This new art retained many of the techniques and principles of Judo, but placed a greater emphasis on ground fighting and submission techniques.
Later on, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu also incorporated elements from other martial arts, such as wrestling and capoeira, to create a unique style that was well-suited to the needs of Brazilian fighters who competed in vale tudo (no holds barred, anything goes) matches.
Introduction of BJJ in north america and global expansion
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was a relatively unknown martial art outside of Brazil.
However, that all changed thanks to the Gracie family, who introduced the fighting style to the North American public and kickstarted its worldwide popularity.
The Gracie family, led by founders Hélio and Carlos Gracie, had been practicing and promoting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for decades in Brazil.
However, it was not until the creation of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and the family's participation in the early events that the martial art began to gain recognition outside of Brazil.
In the first UFC event in 1993, Royce Gracie, a member of the Gracie family, entered the tournament as a representative of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and shocked the world by defeating much larger opponents with ease.
His impressive performances, which included submitting all of his opponents, helped showcase the effectiveness of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and sparked interest in the martial art.
Following Royce Gracie's success in the early UFC events, the Gracie family established the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy in Torrance, California, where they began teaching the martial art to the general public.
As more and more people became interested in learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the Gracie Academy became a hotbed for the martial art and spawned numerous affiliated schools across the United States.
Thanks to the efforts of the Gracie family, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu quickly gained popularity in the United States and around the world.
The martial art's focus on technique and leverage, rather than size and strength, made it accessible to practitioners of all shapes and sizes. This, combined with its effectiveness in real-world self-defense situations, made it a popular choice for martial arts enthusiasts and practitioners of other styles alike.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu today
Overall, the growth of BJJ has led to the emergence of two distinct types of schools: those that focus on self-defense, and those that focus on the sport aspects of the art.
The original BJJ schools, founded by the Gracie family, were focused on teaching students how to defend themselves in real-world situations.
The techniques taught at these schools were designed to allow a smaller, weaker person to overcome a larger, stronger opponent through the use of leverage and proper technique.
These schools often emphasized the self-defense applications of BJJ, and many of them still do to this day.
In contrast, the newer BJJ schools that have emerged in recent years tend to focus more on the sport aspects of the art.
These schools often have a more competitive focus, and they often train their students to compete in BJJ tournaments.
These schools may still teach self-defense techniques, but they tend to place a greater emphasis on developing the skills and strategies needed to succeed in the competitive arena.
One key difference between these two types of BJJ schools is the emphasis on sparring and live training.
In self-defense focused schools, sparring is often done with more control and at a lower intensity, with the goal of teaching students how to apply techniques in a safe and controlled environment.
In contrast, sport-focused schools tend to place a greater emphasis on sparring and live training at full intensity, in order to prepare students for the rigors of competition.
Another difference is the curriculum and techniques taught at each type of school.
Self-defense focused schools tend to place a greater emphasis on practical, real-world techniques that can be used in a self-defense situation, while sport-focused schools may prioritize techniques that are effective in competition but may not be as applicable in a real-life self-defense scenario.
While both types of schools have their own unique benefits, it is ultimately up to the individual student to choose the type of school that best suits their goals and interests.
To wrap it up....
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a martial art that has a rich history and has evolved over time.
Starting out as a form of Japanese jujutsu, it was brought to Brazil by Mitsuyo Maeda and adapted by the Gracie family.
Through their dedication to the art and their willingness to challenge themselves and others, the Gracies helped popularize Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and establish it as a respected martial art.
Today, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu continues to thrive, with practitioners all over the world training and competing in the sport. Whether you're looking to compete, improve your fitness, or learn self-defense, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has something to offer.