The History of Jiu-Jitsu
Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art focused on grappling or ground fighting. Although it can be traced back as far as the conquests of Alexander the Great in the form of wrestling, it’s more recent origins are rooted in Japan in the form of Kodokan judo (or Japanese jiu jitsu) made up of ground fighting fundamentals founded by Kano Jigoro. Kano, wanting to spread his form of judo around the world, sent one of his students, Mitsuyo Maeda, abroad.
Maeda, after visiting several other countries, arrived in Brazil in 1914 where he started making presentations to share his techniques. One of the demonstrations was in the North of Brazil in the city of Belém, where Maeda ended up settling. Carlos Gracie, a young boy at the time, was fascinated by the techniques he saw and asked his father, Gastão Gracie, to arrange lessons for him. Since Maeda’s arrival, he had became friends with Gastão Gracie, a well-known local business man. Gracie obliged his son’s request and it was then that Carols began what would become several years of training judo with Maeda. Throughout his time training, Carols made a habit of sharing the strategies and moves he learned with his brothers.
The Gracie brothers eventually moved to Rio de Janeiro to teach the martial art, and youngest son, Hélio, followed shortly after. Hélio frequented his brother’s gym despite the fact that he was in frail condition and was unable to engage in trainings. When Hélio was 16 years-old, one of his brother’s students came for class and brother Carlos was not there. Hélio, having learned all of the techniques from watching the trainings for years, decided to start the class on his own. When the class was finishing, Carlos ran in, apologizing for his tardiness. The student didn’t make a fuss about it and began praising Hélio for his excellent class. The student asked if he could continue training with Hélio and bother, Carlos agreed, which marked the beginning of Hélio’s teaching career.
Hélio found most of the judo moves to be difficult due to his small, frail build. He began modifying the techniques that he had learned from Carlos to adapt to his physical capabilities, focusing on leverage and patience instead of pure strength. Through his experimenting, he began to develop a smoother, more efficient style of ground fighting that strategically allowed his smaller build and stature to submit opponents without requiring direct opposition to their strength. It was then that technical innovations of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) were born.
Hélio was eager to prove his new system’s effectiveness and began to challenge other well-known martial artists throughout Brazil. He took on a number of opponents among whom was the world number two ranked Judoka fighter, Kato. Hélio managed to choke him unconscious in six minutes, which earned him entry to fight the most acclaimed world champion ever produced in Japan, Masahiko Kimura. Although Hélio lost the fight, Kimora was so impressed with Hélio’s performance, he invited him to teach these never-before-seen techniques in Japan, recognizing his superior refinement of the martial art.
Throughout his life, Hélio Gracie continued to defend the efficiency of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu against various other forms of martial arts. He gained international acclaim for his determination to spread his “gentle art”, or “arte suave” as it is known in Portuguese, and is considered to be a modern-day legend for his dedication to the sport and the healthy lifestyle he maintained along with it.
The Gracie family has continued to carry on the teachings of Grand Master Hélio Gracie by dedicating their lives to sharing the practice of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Carlos and Hélio’s sons are responsible for the explosion of jiu-jitsu in the United States. They traveled to Southern California several times, before settling there in the 70’s and 80’s. They came with the mission to spread the techniques of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and began teaching students. Their classes became so popular they started opening up official jiu-jitsu academies. Although they gained much local popularity though their classes, Hélio’s eldest son, Rorion, realized that the best way to bring the art to the masses was though television. In 1993, Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC) was created as a means to show the world how BJJ techniques could defeat larger, stronger opponents with their specialized self-defense system. Subsequently, Royce, along with cousins Rickson, Renzo, Ralph, Royler, Ryan and more further refined jiu-jitsu as a superior method of combat.
Nowadays, the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are wildly popular in households across the United States as well as worldwide known as an effective form of self-defense used in modern-day combat.
Wikipedia, Brazilian jiu-jitsu