(BJJ; Portuguese: jiu-jitsu brasileiro) is a martial art, combat sport system that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting. Brazilian jiu-jitsu was formed from Kodokan judo ground fighting (newaza) fundamentals that were taught by a number of individuals including Takeo Yano, Mitsuyo Maeda and Soshihiro Satake. Brazilian jiu-jitsu eventually came to be its own art through the experiments, practices, and adaptation of judo through Carlos and Helio Gracie (who passed their knowledge on to their extended family) as well as other instructors who were students of Maeda, such as Luiz Franca.
BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger, heavier assailant by using proper technique, leverage, and most notably, taking the fight to the ground, and then applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the opponent. BJJ training can be used for sport grappling tournaments. However it can be used in some self-defense situations and does serve its purpose. Sparring (commonly referred to as rolling) and live drilling play a major role in training, and a premium is placed on performance, especially in competition, in relation to progress and ascension through its ranking system.
Since its inception in 1882, its parent art of judo was separated from older systems of Japanese jujutsu by an important difference that was passed on to Brazilian jiu-jitsu: it is not solely a martial art, but it is also a sport; a method for promoting physical fitness and building character in young people; and, ultimately, a way (Do) of life.
Geo Omori opened the first jujutsu / judo school in Brazil in 1909. He would go on to teach a number of individuals including Luiz França. Later, Mitsuyo Maeda was one of five of the Kodokan’s top groundwork (newaza) experts that judo’s founder Kano Jigoro sent overseas to demonstrate and spread his art to the world. Maeda had trained first in sumo as a teenager, and after the interest generated by stories about the success of Kodokan Judo at contests with other jujutsu schools that were occurring at the time, became a student of Jigoro Kano. Maeda left Japan in 1904 and visited a number of countries giving “jiu-do” demonstrations and accepting challenges from wrestlers, boxers, savate fighters and various other martial artists before eventually arriving in Brazil on November 14, 1914.
Gastão Gracie was a business partner of the American Circus in Belém. In 1916, Italian Argentine circus Queirolo Brothers staged shows there and presented Maeda. In 1917 Carlos Gracie, the eldest son of Gastão Gracie, watched a demonstration by Maeda at the Da Paz Theatre and decided to learn judo. Maeda accepted Carlos as a student and Carlos learned for a few years, eventually passing his knowledge on to his brothers. Sibling Hélio Gracie gradually further developed Gracie Jiu Jitsu as a softer, pragmatic adaptation from judo that focused on ground fighting, as he was unable to perform many judo moves that require direct opposition to an opponent’s strength.
Although the Gracie family is typically synonymous with BJJ, another prominent lineage started from Maeda via another Brazilian disciple, Luiz França. This lineage had been represented particularly by Oswaldo Fadda. Fadda and his students were famous for influential use of footlocks and the lineage still survives through Fadda’s links with today’s teams such as Nova União and Grappling Fight Team.
“Jiu-Jitsu” is an older romanization that was the original spelling of the art in the West, and it is still in common use, whereas the modern Hepburn romanization is “jūjutsu”.
When Maeda left Japan, judo was still often referred to as “Kano jiu-jitsu”, or, even more generically, simply as jiu-jitsu. Higashi, the co-author of “Kano Jiu-Jitsu” wrote in the foreword:
Some confusion has arisen over the employment of the term ‘jiudo’. To make the matter clear I will state that jiudo is the term selected by Professor Kano as describing his system more accurately than jiu-jitsu does. Professor Kano is one of the leading educators of Japan, and it is natural that he should cast about for the technical word that would most accurately describe his system. But the Japanese people generally still cling to the more popular nomenclature and call it jiu-jitsu.
Outside Japan, however, this distinction was noted even less. Thus, when Maeda and Satake arrived in Brazil in 1914, every newspaper announced their art as being “jiu-jitsu” despite both men being Kodokan judoka.
It was not until 1925 that the Japanese government itself officially mandated that the correct name for the martial art taught in the Japanese public schools should be “judo” rather than “jujutsu”. In Brazil, the art is still called “jiu-jitsu”. When the Gracies went to the United States to spread their art, they used the terms “Brazilian jiu-jitsu” and “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu” to differentiate from the already present styles using similar-sounding names. In a 1994 interview with Yoshinori Nishi, Hélio Gracie said, that he didn´t even know the word of judo itself, until the sport came in the 1950s to Brazil, because he heard that Mitsuyo Maeda called his style “jiu-jitsu”.
The art is sometimes referred to as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (GJJ), this name was trademarked by Rorion Gracie, but after a legal dispute with his cousin Carley Gracie, his trademark to the name was voided. Other members of the Gracie family often call their style by personalized names, such as Charles Gracie Jiu-Jitsu or Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, and similarly, the Machado family call their style Machado Jiu-Jitsu (MJJ). While each style and its instructors have their own unique aspects, they are all basic variations of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Today there are four major branches of BJJ from Brazil: Gracie Humaita, Gracie Barra, Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Alliance Jiu Jitsu. Each branch can trace its roots back to Mitsuyo Maeda via the Gracie family or Oswaldo Fadda.
Divergence from Kodokan rules
Since judo was introduced to Brazil there have been changes in the rules of sport judo – some to enhance it as a spectator sport, and some for improved safety. Several of these rule changes have greatly de-emphasised the groundwork aspects of judo, and others have reduced the range of joint locks allowed and when they can be applied. Brazilian jiu-jitsu did not follow these changes to judo rules (and there is no evidence that some of the rules were ever used, such as the win by pin/osaekomi or by throw), and this divergence has given it a distinct identity as a grappling art, while still being recognizably related to judo. Other factors that have contributed towards the stylistic divergence of BJJ from sport judo include the Gracies’ desire to create a national martial art, the influence of Brazilian culture, and the Gracies’ emphasis on full-contact fighting. Spinal locks and cervical locks are completely forbidden from Gi Jiu Jitsu, amateur MMA, multiple forms of no Gi Jiu Jitsu, Judo, and other martial arts, due to potential to cause serious bodily injury.
BJJ permits all the techniques that judo allows to take the fight to the ground. These include judo’s scoring throws as well as judo’s non-scoring techniques that it refers to as “skillful takedowns” (such as the flying armbar). BJJ also allows any and all takedowns from wrestling, sambo, or any other grappling arts including direct attempts to take down by touching the legs. BJJ also differs from judo in that it also allows a competitor to drag his opponent to the ground, and even to drop to the ground himself provided he has first taken a grip. Early Kodokan judo was similarly open in its rules (even permitting an athlete to simply sit on the mat at the beginning of a match), but has since become increasingly restrictive in comparison. BJJ has also become more sports oriented and has eliminated techniques such as picking up an opponent from the guard and throwing him.
Jiu-Jitsu came to international prominence in the martial arts community in the early 1990s, when Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Royce Gracie won the first, second and fourth Ultimate Fighting Championships, which at the time were single elimination martial arts tournaments. Royce fought against often much larger opponents who were practicing other styles, including boxing, shoot-fighting, muay thai, karate, wrestling, and taekwondo. It has since become a staple art for many MMA fighters and is largely credited for bringing widespread attention to the importance of ground fighting. Sport BJJ tournaments continue to grow in popularity worldwide and have given rise to no-gi submission grappling tournaments, such as the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship.