What is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
Ju-Jitsu means "The Gentle Art" or "The Gentle Way". It was the ancient form of hand-to-hand combat of the Japanese samurai when they lost their swords. It involved strikes like punches, kicks and elbows as well as grappling techniques such as throws, locks, pins and choke holds.
With the change of times, the samurai were no longer needed and left aside and their Ju-Jitsu was on the path to being forgotten. Master Jigoro Kano reshaped the art, emphasizing takedowns and immobilizations and removing the techniques that were too dangerous to practice regularly. He also gave it a new name: Judo, which is now a very popular sport.
In the early 1900s one of Master Jigoro Kano's best students, a formidable fighter by the name of Mitsuyo Maeda, was sent across the world to implement Judo abroad. Throughout his travels, Maeda got involved in prize fighting. Knowing that such activities were not tolerated by the Kodokan masters back in Japan, he created a fictitious name: Count Koma. In order to win the fights, Koma made use of all the arsenal of techniques of the old samurai. He called himself a Ju-Jitsu fighter.
Koma - or Maeda - traveled through Europe, went to the United States and the Caribbean, until he eventually settled in the Northeast region of Brazil, in the city of Belém do Pará. He became sort of a leader to the large Japanese community that had migrated there to farm the land. After being helped by Brazilian diplomat Gastao Gracie, himself also an immigrant but of Scottish decent, Koma decided to show his gratitude by teaching the art of Jiu-Jitsu to his sons. That’s when the legacy of the Gracie Family and the history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu started.
Carlos learned directly from the Japanese master and in 1925 opened the first Gracie Academy in Rio de Janeiro. With the help of his brothers George, Oswaldo, Gastao and Helio, he refined the old Japanese techniques and developed new ones as well. Together they created a highly effective style of fighting based on leverage instead of power.
In order to prove that their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the most effective martial art in the world, over the past 90 years Grand Masters Carlos and Helio Gracie, their brothers, sons, nephews, grandsons and students have challenged and defeated much bigger opponents from all styles of fighting: boxing, karate, kung fu, judo, wrestling, muay-thai…
In the early 1990s the Gracies shocked the world when they used their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques on TV to reign supreme at famous Ultimate Fighting events in America and in Japan. Brothers Royce and Rickson Gracie were the pioneers of a new era: they used chokes and locks to submit all their opponents regardless of size or style. The world of martial arts would never be the same again.
The Jiu-Jitsu developed by the Gracies was for self-defense purposes and real life situations. But it has also become a very popular competition sport. Every year the top BJJ fighters in the world gather at the Mundial - the World Championship - to find out who is the best of the best. The tournament attracts thousands of spectators and is shown on TV. The International Federation, led by Master Carlos Gracie Jr., also promotes other major events like the Pan-American Championship in the United States and the European Championships, besides a number of big tournaments in Brazil and across the globe.
The champions from the sport competitions eventually become big stars in Mixed Martial Arts and Vale-Tudo ("anything goes") shows around the globe. Famous names like Rickson, Renzo and Roger Gracie, Rodrigo Minotauro, Demian Maia, Ronaldo Jacare, Ze Mario Sperry, Ricardo Arona and Murilo Bustamante are all BJJ black belts with many sport titles on their records. Their mastering of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu made them some of the greatest fighters in the world.