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HISTORY OF Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Carlos Gracie established the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1925. At the time, Carlos and his brothers were teaching Japanese Jiu-Jitsu techniques which were taught to Carlos by Japanese immigrant Esai Maeda. Carlos’ youngest brother Helio, who due to his small size and fragility, was restricted from practicing the techniques and would spend most of his time observing his older brothers teach.

In 1928 the art that we refer to as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) or Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was refined and developed into the art we know today by Carlos’ brother, Helio Gracie. This occurred when Helio, due to his smaller stature and lack of strength, wasn’t able to successfully apply the Japanese Jiu-Jitsu techniques which he had memorized from years of observing his brother’s instruction. At this point Helio sought out ways of making the techniques work by employing leverage, timing, and coordinated body movements instead of relying on athletic ability or strength.

Although Helio proved the art’s effectiveness many times over in several No Holds Barred fights, it wasn’t until the emergence of Royce Gracie in the first UFC that the art was brought into the mainstream. Royce’s ability to subdue and submit all of his opponents was an eye opener for many in the martial arts world. Fast forward to present day and you will find the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is an integral part of any well rounded mixed martial artist’s game.

The Art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

In order to get a better understanding of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu we need to examine what distinguishes BJJ from other martial arts. Often referred to as the “ground game” the main focus of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is what happens after a match or altercation is taken to the ground. The techniques of BJJ focus on the principles of leverage, balance, and timing allowing someone of smaller stature or limited athletic ability to defend them self against a larger and stronger opponent. The art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is comprised of many sweeps, reversals, chokes, arm locks, and leg locks.

Another major benefit of training in BJJ is the live sparring which the student gets to participate in every class. This allows the student to practice the techniques they’ve learned with near 100% resistance without “pulling any punches” so to speak. If a student is caught in a choke, armlock, or leg lock they simply tap out and continue training injury free. This allows the student to practice the techniques in a life like situation so they never have to question whether or not they’d be able to recall a technique in a real self defense situation on the street.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Competition

Although the main focus of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is self defense, the style has also grown into an extremely popular sport. BJJ competitions are held across the world with the major events registering upwards of 4000 competitors. The competitions are often referred to as “Sport BJJ” tournaments and should not be confused with Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) events.

Sport BJJ matches start similar to a Wrestling or Judo match with both competitors standing and working for the takedown or a variety of other ways to get the match to the ground. As with many other sports there is a set of rules in place to keep the athletes safe. There is also a point system, though the ultimate victory is to force your opponent to submit which is often referred to as “tapping out” using a variety of submission holds.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is also an integral part of a modern day MMA competitor’s skill set. BJJ for Mixed Martial Arts differs slightly from Sport BJJ because of the addition of strikes and the lack of a uniform. However, the fundamental escapes, submissions, counters, and reversals comprise a large part of most of the top MMA athlete’s ground game today. It’s important to note that the modern day MMA athlete needs to be well versed in all areas, and there is no single style that is the best for all situations.