The history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu dates back to the 1800’s. A martial arts prodigy named Mitsuyo Maeda became one of the greatest in all the history of Jiu Jitsu, also known as Judo. Mitsuyo started out practicing the classical form of Jiu Jitsu and then went on to study Judo at the Kodokan school of martial arts. After becoming an undefeated champion in Judo competitions, he was then sent to the United States by Kano, his teacher.
In the early 1900’s he began to spread the practice of Kodokan Jiu Jitsu. Throughout his fighting career, he fought in hundreds of fights with fighters from every genre of fighting, not just martial artists. He was known for his no-hold-barred fights, where this type of fight allows grappling, striking, punching, and kicking. This type of fight has little to known restrictions or rules making popular in underground fights.
Mitsuyo fought all over the world including the United States, Britain, Europe, Cuba, Mexico, and lastly in Brazil. When Mitsuyo finally decided to retire, he had engaged in thousands of fights, including more than 1,000 free fights and he retired as an undefeated champion in the fighting world.
After his retirement, he decided to settle in Brazil and opened a Jiu Jitsu academy teaching traditional Jiu Jitsu mixed with combat style training. One of his best and famous student was a boy named Carlos Gracie. After studying with Mitsuyo for many years in the early 1920’s, Gracie opened his own academy with his brothers. He had a strong reputation that was gained by issuing the ‘Gracie Challenge’, where all fighters were allowed to enter this no-holds-barred fight. Gracie always emerged victorious in the fights, fighting against boxers, wrestlers, grapplers, and martial artists. Throughout their career, the Gracie brothers continued to improve their strategies and continued to learn from Mitsuyo.
In the late 1900’s, several members of the Gracie family moved to the United States. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) became famous in the 1990’s when Royce Gracie, one of Carlos Gracie’s brother, won several fights in the early days of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, now known as the UFC. Just after Royce won his fights, his brother, Rickson Gracie became undefeated in similar fights in Japan. Many of the members of the Gracie family became undefeated in MMA fighting around the United States.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is similar to traditional judo in many ways. Judo was originally meant to be a form of self-defense that also shows sport components. Currently the largest portion of academies teach Jiu Jitsu for sport and competition instead of teaching for real fights and self-defense. Over the past one hundred years, the rules of Jiu Jitsu have changed to increase the chances of achieving a win in competitions. These new rules are mostly limited to groundwork and forbids submission holds that you would have seen in traditional Judo.
Over the past eight years, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu took a different path. The challenges issued by the Gracie’s and the free fights that they competed in led to a larger emphasis on street fighting styles and also a unique set of rules for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitions. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is broken down into three categories: self-defense, free fighting, and sport grappling.
The self-defense category allows striking and unarmed techniques against an armed opponent. In free fighting the rules are basically anything goes and is now known as MMA style fighting. And, in the sport grappling there is a range of submission holds that are allowed but no striking is allowed. The rules of the three categories are actually being combined to perform gracefully in street fighting. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu the student will seek positions to allow then to gain the most points.
The fighting strategy of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is meant to equip a smaller or weaker opponent with an effective way of defending oneself against a much larger and stronger opponent. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, leverage plays a large role in the ability for a smaller and weaker person to win against a much larger opponent. The innovations of the Gracie family have resulted in a very unique style of Jiu Jitsu. Carlos Gracie eventually became a Jiu Jitsu grandmaster along with his brother Helio.