Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that focuses primarily on grappling, controlling an opponent without the use of striking. This is accomplished through the use of joint locks and choke holds, though throws, trips, and sweeps are also common. While Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has its own set of rules for competition, many elements of the art can also be found in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competitions throughout the world.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has its origins in Japanese Judo and Jujitsu, but unique aspects and changes in focus have turned it into its own martial art. Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese martial artist that studied both Judo and Sumo, brought the arts with him to the Brazilian city of Belém in the early 20th century. There, he taught his techniques to a teen-aged Carlos Gracie, who ended up moving with his family to Rio de Janeiro after a few years. In the 1920s, Carlos began to teach his family members and others what he had learned, and eventually opened up his own martial arts school where he taught with his brothers. Helio, Carlos’ youngest brother, became a student and then instructor there.
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Carlos and his brothers sought matches against other fighters in order to establish the credibility of the Gracie style. They became a famous fighting family, with the smaller-sized Helio becoming one of the most well-known due to his matches against much larger opponents. Helio, with Carlos’ guidance, was able to hone his fighting skills over the years of competition, and developed his Judo and Jujitsu knowledge into a fighting system that allowed him to defeat much larger opponents in both sanctioned and no-holds-barred competitions. The fighting system became known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, with Carlos and Helio considered its co-founders.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu became famous in North America through the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFCs) in the 1990s. The event was the idea of Art Davie, and was developed by Hollywood insider John Milius and Helio’s son Rorion Gracie. The eight man tournament was broadcast throughout North America and other regions of the world on pay-per-view television, and had almost no rules. The event pitted fighters from different combat arts against each-other. Royce Gracie, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and another of Helio’s sons, won three of the first four UFCs, popularizing his art and giving it even more credibility.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu differs slightly from Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has become a term that encompasses all of the styles that grew out of Carlos’ and Helio’s original teachings. Most of these styles focus on grappling for sport competitions, and do not contains any strikes. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, however, is the art as passed down from Helio to his family and other appointed instructors. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu contains strikes and numerous self-defense techniques that are not applicable in sporting competitions, but that can be extremely useful in “real world” situations.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu also differs from both Judo and Jujitsu. Judo’s focus tends to be on taking an opponent to the ground, while Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s focus is primarily on ground fighting. Judo practitioners are renowned for their throwing ability, while Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stylists are known mostly for their submission holds. Judo, Jujitsu, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu also have very different rules for competitions.