Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or BJJ is a grappling based martial art where competitors use techniques to neutralise or control their opponent with the goal of forcing them to submit either verbally or by tapping out. BJJ differs from a lot of martial arts because of its non-cooperative free sparring which allows practitioners to develop their techniques against fully resisting opponents in a realistic environment.
It was founded by the Gracie family in Brazil in the early 1920s. After watching a demonstration by Mitsuyo Maeda (a Martial Arts prodigy from Japan who studied Fusen Rye and Kodokan Judo and remained undefeated in combat in over 1,000 matches) Carlos Gracie decided to learn Judo. Under the tutelage of Maeda, Carlos learnt new skills which he taught to his brothers and eventually opened his own Jiu Jitsu gym in 1925.
Together with is brother Hélio, they developed Gracie Jiu Jistu, a softer pragmatic adaptation from Judo that focused on the ground game, as this was the best way to combat their opponents strength and size advantages, which neutralised a lot of throws. The Gracie brothers invited other martial artists to compete against them in a no holds barred “Gracie Challenge” and developed a fierce reputation, defeating fighters of various martial arts background using the techniques and abilities taught by Maeda and adapted by Carlos and Hélio. The Gracie family continued it’s learning by passing these techniques onto their children and growing the sport in in Brazil.
Several members of the Gracie family began to emigrate to the United States in the 1980s, setting up their own gyms and spreading the reputation of BJJ. In 1993 Rorion Gracie brought BJJ to the world stage via Pay Per View, in the No Holds Barred UFC1.
Royce Gracie took part in an 8 man tournament against world class athletes from other combat disciplines, eliminating each competitor via submission and proving the effectiveness of BJJ.
Royce’s brother Rickson soon followed suit and went undefeated in similar events in Japan, and other members of the Gracie family, displayed their abilities in MMA tournaments across the world.
The successes of the Gracie family brought martial artists from other disciplines to come and learn their techniques and BJJ became a necessary part of a mixed martial artists skill set. The competitive sparring and practical use of BJJ has helped in it’s growth, and attracted many practitioners from across the world. It is now one of the fastest growing Martial Arts, with new gyms, competitions and competitors, testing themselves against the adapting techniques and challenges.