The history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) can trace its roots back to Japanese JuJitsu. In 1914, a Japanese ambassador, who happened to be a master in the art of Japanese JuJitsu, came to Brazil to establish Japanese immigration colonies in Brazil. This Japanese ambassador’s name was Easai Maeda, also known as “Count Koma”. Maeda was the original practitioner of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu who initially introduced it to the Gracie Family who developed the art into Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, or also known a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu today.
When Maeda came to Brazil, he met Gastao Gracie in the state of Para. Gastao and Maeda became friends; Gastao helped Maeda settle in Brazil, Gastao being a business man in his native country of Brazil. In return, Maeda offered to teach his art of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu to Gastao’s oldest son, showing his gratitude to Gastao for helping him settle and become establish in his new Land of Brazil. Carlos Gracie, Gastao’ son, studied Japanese Jiu-Jitsu under Maeda for several years. And eventually began to pass the knowledge of this martial art to his brothers.
Now Carlos had four other brothers, three of whom he taught Jiu-Jitsu to, his fourth and youngest brother, Helio Gracie, was a sickly boy when he was young, very frail and unable to perform any strenuous physical activities. Helio, under doctor’s orders, was limited to only watching his brother teach and train Jiu-Jitsu as a child and young teenager. And the story goes, one day there was a class scheduled for Carlos to teach at his academy, and Carlos happened to be running late that day, and Helio was the only one in the Academy. Helio, having watched his brother teach for a few years now, had memorized all the techniques by heart, and offered to teach the class. The students who were there that day were very pleased with Helio’s instruction, and when Carlos eventually showed up, they asked if they could continue their instruction with Carlos’s little brother Helio. Carlos allowed it, and that is when Helio starting instructing Jiu-Jitsu at the Gracie academy.
When Helio Gracie started instructing and practicing the art of Jiu-Jitsu his brother taught, this is when the art of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as we know it today, was born. Due to Helio’s small stature and frail body, he could not execute the moves his brother taught at a hundred percent effectiveness, because they were highly based on speed and strength. This is when Helio, through trial and error, developed techniques based on leverage, timing and positing, and further developed the art from off one’s back, the self defense aspect of the art, the ability to defend one’s self against a larger stronger opponent. This is the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu we practice today, an art based on proper application of technique rooted in leverage, void of any real emphasis based on size, speed or strength.
Helio, once he developed his art, wanted to spread it throughout his home country, so he started issuing challenge matches locally and nationally to other martial arts disciplines to show the effectiveness of BJJ to his country. He even put ads in the newspaper stating things like, “if you want your nose bloodied, arms broken, come here”, and he would list the address to his academy. Challengers would come, and Helio would show them the art of Jiu-Jitsu first hand, and that is how he started gaining notoriety and students initially in Brazil. He became a huge celebrity for taking on much larger and stronger opponents in public arenas, and winning, showing that the little man can win with proper training and technique, essentially showing that the little man can win with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Later Helio’s sons, like Rorion, Rickson, Royler, and Royce came to America to spread the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, to America and eventually the world. And Helio’s sons went about doing it the same way their father did back in Brazil. They started issuing challenge matches to local martial arts academies, challenging traditional martial arts instructors to what is now known as “The Gracie Challenge.” The Gracie Challenge was essentially a fight between a Gracie and a challenger, but all the Gracies wanted to do was to subdue their opponent in the most non violent manner possible, showing the effectiveness of BJJ. The Gracies did this in the early 80’s into the early 90’s in the U.S., and offered classes out of their garage for the students they garnered over the years.
Eventually, Rorion, Helio’s eldest son wanted to show case Jiu-Jitsu on a bigger stage, and eventually, in 1993, helped create the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). In the first UFC, Rorion chose his youngest brother Royce to compete in the competition which put varying martial arts masters against one another to find out which art was most dominant. Royce was an average looking man, about 6’1”, about 175 lbs., Rorion chose Royce on purpose to show that a person does not have to be a big strong, super athlete to properly defend one’s self using BJJ. Rorion wanted to show that anyone could do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Royce went on to win the first UFC, and many others, showing the effectiveness of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to the U.S. and the world, defeating much larger and stronger opponents using Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, establishing it as the most dominant martial art ever developed. This is how the art became so popular in the U.S. today, and eventually the world, and it all started back in Brazil with a kid stepping in for his late brother to teach a martial arts class.
Why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is proven as the single most effective martial art
As Helio showed through his many public challenge matches in the early 1900’s in Brazil, and the same with Royce in the early 90’s in his defeat of many larger opponents, they proved the smaller man can win. This makes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu the perfect self-defense for anyone of any size, men, women and children. Jiu-Jitsu is based on technique and leverage ,using your opponents body weight against them, attacking a single joint with your entire body, and choke holds that non violently subdue your opponent without striking (punching or kicking). And this lack of striking is what allows students of BJJ in the academy to practice self defense in a very realistic setting, because the idea of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is to make you opponent surrender by tapping out (physically tapping your opponent signaling surrender, this can also be done verbally by saying “tap” if a student is physically unable to tap”). The idea is not to punch someone until they are knocked, just make them give up, then you restart and try again, this is allows for very little damage during training, and it also allows the students to apply techniques at a hundred percent, while their opponent is defending at one hundred percent, this is why the art is so effective.
The benefits gained from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training
This application of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in a realistic setting day in and day out also helps the student develop confidence on and off the mat. This is because they endure physical and mental adversity in a controlled setting regularly. And this confidence that a student develops on the mat will soon translate off the mats, and the student will attack everyday life problems the same way they would on the mats, in the most efficient manner possible, using the path of least resistance to overcome whatever obstacles may stand in their way.
Another significant benefit of being able to train at relatively hard pace without risk of injury is the health benefits. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will engage every muscle group in your body, and from the warm ups, to conditioning, to the drills, and the live sparring at the end of class, BJJ is a guaranteed fun and safe way to stay in shape that never gets boring or stale, Jiu-Jitsu is always evolving and changing, so there will always be something new to learn and keep you and your body guessing.
- Build confidence
- Improve mental focus
- Relieve stress
- Fun, safe way to improve fitness and shred fat