Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art, combat sport, and a self defense system that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting. Brazilian jiu-jitsu was formed from Kodokan Judo ground fighting (Ne-Waza) fundamentals that were taught by master Maeda. BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using leverage and proper technique, taking the fight to the ground – most notably by applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the other person. BJJ training can be used for sport grappling tournaments (gi and no-gi) and mixed martial arts (MMA) competition or self-defense. 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, in relation to progress and ascension through its ranking system.
Some historians of Jiu-Jitsu say that the origins of “the gentle art” can be traced back to India, where it was practiced by Buddhist Monks. Concerned with self-defense, these monks created techniques based upon principles of balance and leverage, and a system of manipulating the body in a manner where one could avoid relying upon strength or weapons. With the expansion of Buddhism, Jiu-Jitsu spread from Southeast Asia to China, finally arriving in Japan where it developed and gained further popularity. In the last days of the 19th century, some Jiu-Jitsu masters emigrated from Japan to other continents, teaching the martial arts as well as taking part in fights and competitions. Esai Maeda Koma, also known as “Conde Koma,” was one such master. After traveling with a troupe which fought in various countries in Europe and the Americas, Koma arrived in Brazil in 1915, and settled in Belem do Para the next year, where he met a man named Gastao Gracie.
Carlos Gracie and his brothers changed and adapted the techniques in such a way that it completely altered the complexion of the international Jiu-Jitsu principles. These techniques were so distinctive to Carlos and his brothers that the sport became attached to a national identity, and is now commonly known as “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,” practiced by martial artists all over the world, including Japan. Although Brazilian jiu-jitsu is largely identified with the Gracie family, there is also another prominent lineage from Maeda via another Brazilian disciple, Luis França. This lineage had been represented particularly by Oswaldo Fadda. Fadda and his students were famous for influential use of footlocks and the lineage still survives through Fadda’s links with today’s teams such as Nova União and Grappling Fight Team.
Since its inception in 1914, its parent art of Judo was separated from older systems of Japanese ju-jitsu by an important difference that was passed on to Brazilian jiu-jitsu: it is not solely a martial art: it is also a sport; a method for promoting physical fitness and building character in young people; and, ultimately, a way of life. With the creation of an official governing body to oversee the administration of the sport, including competition rules and the grading system, the era of sport Jiu-Jitsu competitions was started. Today, Jiu-Jitsu is a highly-organized sport, with an International Federation as well as a Brazilian National Confederation, both founded by Master Carlos Gracie Jr. Through his work with the Confederation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Carlos Gracie Jr. contributed to the growth of the sport by holding some of the first organized competitions. Currently, the IBJJF and CBJJ holds competitions in Brazil, the United States, Europe, and Asia.