The Evolution of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu


Yellow Belt
Nov 21, 2007
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By Damian Ross and William Pehush of The Self Defense Company

Over a half a century ago Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) came into being. It appeared on the grand stage in the early 1990s hen the Gracie family introduced it to the world. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu changed the face of martial arts forever, and brought the idea of mixed martial arts (MMA) to the mainstream. It is a sport of brutal grappling and ground fighting that is even used today by the United States Army for combat conditioning.

In 1917, Carlos and H矇lio Gracie watched a series Vale Tudo matches that pitted wrestlers, boxers, and other martial artists compete against each other. Early mixed martial arts competitions were common in Brazil and there were no holds barred. The boys were always excited to see the local fighters. One day, the boys saw a visiting martial artist from Japan, Judo Master Mitsuyo Maeda defeat opponent after opponent in the ring. They were in awe, even though the local competition was tough, it wasnt any match for the Japanese man who was using the relatively new martial art known as Judo or Kano Jiu-Jitsu. Repeatedly fighters were taken to the ground hard and submitted or simply knocked out cold. One fighter even pulled a weapon on Maeda. Without skipping a beat, took him on and didnt even break a sweat. After seeing this demonstration the boys had to learn this new style, so their father made the arrangements and the birth of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu began

Mitsuyo Maeda was trained by Judos founder Kano Jigoro himself. Maeda had been sent aboard to promote Japanese culture and martial arts. Kano hoped through training in Judo a student would become a better person. Kano felt that the more people knew Judo, the better place the world would be. Maeda was a skilled instructor, but he only had so much time to teach the Gracie boys so he emphasized ground fighting in his lessons which was easier and faster to learn than the standing aspect of Judo. He also taught them how to strike which was part of Jujutsu and pre world war II Judo. The boys would combine what they new with local wrestling and gradually Brazilian Jiu Jitsu began to take shape.

If youre to understand Brazilian Jiu Jitsu you must first understand where it came from. Japanese Jujutsu was originally develop by the samurai and traditionally included weapons training along with strikes, throws, joint locks, choking, and other submission moves. Unlike Jujutsu which is a hard style that lets you achieve victory by beating down your opponent with brute force Judo is a soft style which has you use your attackers energy against them. Judo, which was created in Japan in 1892, is a form of Japanese wrestling that is similar to other styles of wrestling, but you wear a gi similar to a karate uniform and it includes many of the submissions, strangles and armlocks you see today.

In time H矇lio began teaching his many brothers and friends what he had learned about martial arts. His teacher Maeda told him that a fighter should go with their strength whether it is striking, grappling, or standing, so naturally Gracies gravitated toward ground fighting because that is what he and his brothers new best. The Gracies may have intended for their new martial art to be for self defense, but over time it has developed into an incredible combat sport.

To look at a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu match where blood is spilled, strikes are allowed, and where submissions are common it is hard to believe that it is sport and not a combat martial art. Despite a reputation for being ultra violent, a competent Judo player can still hold their own against a BJJ practitioner and so can someone with a solid wrestling and boxing background. On the street grappling is that last thing you want to do in a real fight, but with BJJ that is what you're conditioned to do.

There is no denying the Gracie family has contributed a lot to martial arts. They gave Brazil a new national sport and literally launched mixed martial arts competitions like the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Like many combat sports Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is and excellent foundation and just the beginning of your self defense education.

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