THE HISTORY OF BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU AS A MARTIAL ART
Many people not familiar with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will confuse it with Japanese JuJitsu. And although Brazilian BJJ does get its origins from Japanese JuJitsu and traditional Judo, it is quite different. However, you can’t talk about the history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a martial art without giving credit to where it came from, which is Japan.
Japanese Jujitsu was a martial art that was created in order to defeat warriors with heavy armor. Warriors in the ancient battlefield using more strike based martial arts were finding that it was very inefficient in taking out opponents. So Japanese Jujitsu was formed in order to take out the enemy using a more scientific approach of leverage, joint locks and chokes.
INTRODUCTION TO JUDO
Jigoro Kano created Judo, which is an off branch of Japanese Jujitsu. He created Judo because he noticed that Japanese Jujitsu was not being practiced correctly in full sparring due to the dangerous striking aspects. So Judo took away the majority of the striking aspects and focused on the throwing and grappling in order to spar.
One of Kano’s star students was Mitsuyo Maeda, nickname was Count Combat or Count Coma. In order to showcase how great this martial art was, Count Combat traveled the world putting on exhibitions and challenging other martial arts to real fights.
THE GRACIES ENCOUNTER JUDO
There was an entrepreneur in Brazil, and one of his businesses was running a circus. This man’s name was Gastao Gracie. It turned out that Maeda was in the circus and his martial art was part of the show.
Gastao asked Maeda to teach his son Carlos his art. Carlos had several brothers, one of them being Helio Gracie.
Carlos fell in love with this martial art and decided to open the first Gracie Academy in 1925. In order to promote the academy, he began by placing ads in the paper challenging other fighters to real fights. Boxers and capoeira martial artists would accept the challenge, and would lose.
The Gracie’s became instant celebrities and students began to flock the academy.
Helio Gracie, born October 1, 1913, was Carlos’ younger brother. Carlos took Helio and his other brother George to go live with them while he launched his academy. Carlos became like their father.
At the time, Helio suffered from a medical weakness that the doctor’s couldn’t identify. He was extremely skinny and felt weak. Because of his condition, he would just watch from the sidelines while his brothers taught Jiu-Jitsu.
One day, Carlos didn’t show up for class and a student is waiting to be taught. Because Helio had absorbed all the Jiu-jitsu knowledge by watching his brother’s, he decided to teach the class.
When Carlos arrived, the student tells Carlos that he wants Helio to be his new teacher. And this is what ignites Helio to begin his Jiu-Jitsu journey.
At the age of 15, Helio gives his life to Jiu-Jitsu. However, due to Helio’s physical impediments, he begins to modify Jiu-Jitsu. He begins using a more scientific approach using leverage and more technique. He modified the art so that it would work for people like him – frail and skinny. He made Jiu-Jitsu extremely detailed, breaking down each move one by one. He wanted to make sure people could follow the moves exactly as he intended.
Helio was so confident in his modifications, that he also began placing ads in the paper challenging anyone. He took public fights against guys much heavier than him. In fact, a lot of people thought the fights were fixed because they couldn’t believe a man as skinny as Helio was beating opponents much larger than him.
In 1947, Carlos and Helio open up a brand new state of the art Gracie Academy. As Helio’s popularity increased, Japanese fighters began going to Brazil and challenging Helio. He would beat them all.
The fight that Helio wanted the most was against the best Judoka at the time – Masahiko Kimura. Kimura was the champion, but refused to fight Helio because he thought he would demolish him. After Helio goes on to defeat many Japanese fighters, including a fighter that Kimura thought would defeat Helio easily, Kimura finally accepts the challenge.
In fact, Kimura was so confident that he said if he wasn’t able to defeat Helio in less than 3 minutes, he would consider Helio the winner.
This was an epic fight and the fight lasted way over 3 minutes. In fact, Kimura got Helio in what is now called the Kimura lock. Carlos had to intervene in the third minute of the 2nd round to prevent Helio’s arm from breaking off. Helio lasted 13 minutes and Kimura said he never expected such an advanced level of Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil.
Once this fight took place, Helio decided that the next step was to begin having kids and creating little Jiu-jitsu soldiers and continue to spread Jiu-Jitsu across the world.
On March 25, 1955 Helio had his final official fight. This would be against his former student, Waldeman Santana, who had basically been taught the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu martial art. Waldemar was 25 compared to the 42 year old Helio. He fought for 3 hours and 43 minutes with no breaks and no rounds and Helio ended up losing.
Below is a great documentary on Helio Gracie. Make sure you click on the subtitles (CC) because the film is in Portuguese.
JIU-JITSU ARRIVES IN THE UNITED STATES
In the late 70’s, Rorion Gracie, Helio’s first born son decides to move to the US. He came with no money and began teaching BJJ in his garage. He made his new home in Torrance, California.
Just like his dad did, he began placing ads in the paper. “If you like to get beat up, come to my garage.” Little by little, he began to get more and more students and would teach them out of his garage.
Then Rorion invented the UFC.
BJJ BECOMES MAINSTREAM THANKS TO THE UFC
The early UFC’s (Ultimate Fighting Championships) were spectacular. It was the type of thing fight enthusiast dreamed of. Who would win between Karate and Boxing? Kung Fu vs. Muay Thai? He would put 7 fighters of different martial arts to compete against each other in a no holds barred competition. An event very similar to what had been going on in Brazil for a while called Luta Livre.
Rorion wanted to prove that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was the dominant martial art. He decided to pick Royce Gracie as the representative of Jiu-Jitsu. Even though there were other Gracies who were much stronger, Rorion didn’t want people to think Jiu-Jitsu worked just because they were stronger and bigger. Royce Gracie was tall and skinny.
Royce wins and BJJ begins to becomes popular in the US. The early UFC’s taught us that BJJ was the dominant martial art.
HAS JIU-JITSU LOST ITS EFFECTIVENESS?
As the UFC began growing and more fighters began to be involved in the sport, Jiu-Jitsu began losing it’s dominance. What was going on?
The answer: everyone began to train in Jiu-Jitsu.
Fighters knew that to compete in MMA, you had to have Jiu-Jitsu in your repertoire. There was no way about it. So every fighter started training in the art. And this placed a somewhat equal playing field. It’s not that Jiu-Jitsu lost it’s effectiveness, but that everyone knew Jiu-jitsu, therefore fighters tried to win the fights using other methods.
But to succeed in MMA, you have to have a strong Jiu-Jitsu base.
Jiu-Jitsu has become extremely popular. It’s not hard finding a Jiu-Jitsu Academy. Within a 10 mile radius in a busy city, you can find several Jiu-Jitsu academies.
With so many academies and instructors, Jiu-Jitsu has evolved. The way Helio adapted his own style of Jiu-Jitsu, there are many instructors who have adapted their own style. Ryan Hall has his 50/50 Guard. Jeff Glover has his deep half and donkey guard. And Eddie Bravo has his 10th Planet System.
10th PLANET JIU-JITSU
There are many evolutions of Jiu-Jitsu, but we believe one of the most notable evolutions is the 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu system created by Eddie Bravo. 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu is a whole system that does not use the gi. It was mainly created for MMA.
People either love him or hate him. It could be his bad boy pot smoking persona. Or his public denial of the traditional gi, which many Jiu-Jitsu practitioners take offense to. But there is no denying that his techniques are effective. Many people love to bash Eddie Bravo and say that he didn’t invent several of the moves he claims to have invented. Or they say that his moves are ineffective. However, how many times have you attempted a regular arm bar and haven’t succeeded? Would you then say that arm bars are ineffective?
People say he didn’t invent the rubber guard or “high guard.” And while he didn’t invent the high guard, he is the one that has invented a precise system using very specific techniques with this type of guard, that takes you into very specific paths to accomplish either a submission or a sweep.
SPORT VS. SELF DEFENSE JIU-JITSU
There is also the controversy of sport Jiu-Jitsu versus self defense Jiu-Jitsu. Jiu-jitsu is a lot of fun. People compare Jiu-Jitsu to human chess. And due to the rise of Jiu-Jitsu sport competitions, many academies focus on bringing more medals to their academies. This makes many academies train for competition and points over street effectiveness.
Big proponents of the self defense method are Rener and Ryron Gracie who run the Gracie Academy. Again, you either love them or hate them, but there is no denying that their Jiu-Jitsu is top notch. And even though many question their online Gracie University, or their combatives course, they really did take the time to bring high level instruction of the most basic street survival Jiu-Jitsu online.
They are also a great example of how using the basic Jiu-Jitsu at a high level can work against opponents. You don’t need all those flashy moves to defeat others.
JIU-JITSU, WHERE TO START OR WHERE TO CONTINUE?
As you can see, Jiu-Jitsu offers many different options. You need to decide what it is you want to focus on. Do you want to learn self-defense? Do you want to compete in tournaments? Do you want to learn without a gi?
There are a lot of great instructors and great academies. Our advice is you try a few and see what it is you respond to. There is no better Jiu-jitsu than others, because each academy has very good students.
Also, even if you have been at your academy for a while, it may be worth exploring other academies and adding on to your Jiu-Jitsu arsenal.
The most important thing is to just get out on the mats and start learning. And if have already been doing Jiu-Jitsu for a while, continue learning. You won’t regret it.
ABOUT JIUJITSU CENTRAL
And this finally brings us to our site, Jiujitsu Central. This is a site featuring free online Jiu-Jitsu videos as well as blog posts. There are so many BJJ videos out there on YouTube that we try to organize and feature the ones we find the best in an easy to navigate fashion. Please visit the BJJ Videos here and also feel free to share our site with your friends.