Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art and combat sport that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting. It is a derivative of early 20th century Kodokan Judo,[2][1] which was itself then a recently-developed system (founded in 1882), based on multiple schools (or Ryu) of Japanese Jujutsu.

It promotes the principle that a smaller, weaker person using leverage and proper technique can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant using joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat an opponent. BJJ can be trained for self defense, sport grappling tournaments (gi and no-gi) and mixed martial arts (MMA) competition.[3] 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.

The art began with Mitsuyo Maeda (aka Conde Koma, or Count Combat in English), an expert Japanese judoka and member of the Kodokan. Maeda was one of five of the Kodokan’s top groundwork experts that Judo’s founder Kano Jigoro sent overseas to spread his art to the world. Maeda left Japan in 1904 and visited a number of countries[2] 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.[4]

Since its inception, judo was separated from jujutsu in its goals, philosophy, and training regime. Although there was great rivalry among jujutsu teachers, this was more than just Kano’s ambition to clearly individualize his art. To Kano, judo wasn’t solely a martial art: it was also a sport, a method for promoting physical fitness and building character in young people, and, ultimately, a way (Do) of life.[5][6] To a very large extent, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has also encompassed these philosophies.

It is often claimed that BJJ is a development of traditional Japanese jujutsu, and that Maeda was a jujutsuka. However, Maeda never trained in jujutsu. He first trained in sumo as a teenager, and after the interest generated by stories about the success of judo at contests between judo and jujutsu that were occurring at the time, he changed from sumo to judo, becoming a student of Kano’s Kodokan judo.[2] He was promoted to 7th dan in Kodokan judo the day before he died in 1941.

Hélio Gracie himself had already risen to the rank of 6th dan in judo by the time of his fight against Kimura in 1951. According to Masahiko Kimura in his book “My Judo” (see extract at [2]). Kodokan records have Hélio Gracie recorded as a 3rd dan in judo, but it is not unusual for a foreign judoka’s grade to be higher than granted and by the Kodokan.

When Maeda left Japan, Judo was still often referred to as “Kano Jiu-Jitsu”,[7] or, even more generically, simply as “Jiu-Jitsu.”[8][9]

Kigashi, the co-author of “Kano Jiu-Jitsu”[7] wrote in the foreword

Outside Japan, however, this distinction was noted even less. The distinction between a jutsu and a do is subtle, and is still used somewhat arbitrarily to this day.

Thus, when Maeda and Satake arrived in Brazil in 1914, every newspaper announced jiu-jitsu despite both men being Kodokan Judoka.[5]

The Japanese government itself did not officially mandate until 1925 that the correct name for the martial art taught in the Japanese public schools should be “judo” rather than “jujutsu”.[10] In Brazil, the art is still called “Jiu-Jitsu”. When the Gracies went to the United States to spread their art, the system became known as “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu” and “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.”

“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 “jujutsu.” Other common spellings are Jujitsu, Ju-Jitsu, and Ju jitsu.

The art is sometimes referred to as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (GJJ), but this name is trademarked by Rorion Gracie and specifically refers to the style taught by him and his selected teachers. 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 brothers 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.