What is the true history of Jiu-Jitsu? Where did BJJ martial art come from? These are the kinds of questions posed by most beginner practitioners. Moreover, knowing the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu history and origin could be an awesome boost for any BJJ white belt.
Although like other subjects of history, it might be impossible to define precisely the origin of Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).
We can bring to light some historical events that had conducted to the origin of BJJ martial art.
Where did Ju-Jitsu originate?
The Jiu-Jitsu wrestling techniques have existed since Ancient Greece, where there were the Olympic Games that conduct people to fight one another.
Surely, you heard the myth of Heracles a powerful man who uses wrestling and boxing techniques (pankration) to beat their opponents.
Otherwise, During the Greek Olympic Games, the fighters employed a spread of techniques to strike their opponents also to take them from the standing position to the bottom, therefore, submit him.
This evidence proves the origin of Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling from Greek society around the 7th century BC.
Many years after -between the 8th and 16th centuries- Japan was in a war where the samurai protect themselves by implementing many sorts of Japanese Ju-Jitsu.
At that time, the art of Jiu-Jitsu was used on the battlefield to conquer armored and armed opponents.
This evidence proves the BJJ origin from the traditional Ju-Jitsu martial arts.
The Modern Jiu-Jitsu
In the 20th and 21st centuries, many martial artists had conducted the evolution of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu such as Jigoro Kano and Mitsuyo Maeda, to the Gracie family.
This period of BJJ history had known the great works of Jigoro Kano on developing Ju-Jitsu and the creation of Judo Kodokan.
Then, the famous Mitsuyo Maeda’s travels spread the Japanese around the world. Indeed, the great contribution of the Gracie family in the history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Nowadays, the art of BJJ has become the foremost effective martial arts after undergoing several changes from the utilization of it by the Samurai to the Gracie BJJ.
The increase of recent sports grappling participated positively to spread Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu martial arts.
Let’s dive in-depth into the history of jiujitsu; where was Jiu-Jitsu created? Did the Gracies invent BJJ?
Japanese Samurai Jiu-Jitsu History
Jujutsu is one of the oldest martial arts styles first seen in Japan as a combination of Sumo and other old Japanese martial arts such as Shinden Fudo-ryū, Tenshin Shōden, Katori Shintō-ryū, and Takenouchi-ryū.
At that time, jujutsu martial arts helped warriors perform close and ground combat for the purpose to defend themselves if necessary.
Thus, several Japanese Samurai had used many sorts of Ju-Jitsu (Jiu-Jitsu).
Ju-Jitsu is a sort of self-defense martial art for the Japanese Samurai.
As you may know, the Samurai mastered the art of sword combat to defeat their strongest enemies.
However, on the battlefield, they could lose wind up bereft of his swords of spears.
Moreover, in these circumstances comes the need to develop solid Jiu-Jitsu self-defense techniques other than the use of the sword.
As a result, a new self-defense art was born called Kenjutsu which means “methods, techniques, and the art of the Japanese sword”.
The Kenjutsu may be a combination of the art of sword fighting art and some jujitsu techniques extracted around the 20th century from the ko-budō Japanese swords martial art.
Therefore, the Japanese Samurai could also perform well the takedowns and other jujitsu ground fighting techniques.
However, the heavy samurai’s armor restricts their mobility; therefore, they prioritize chokes submissions, joint locks, and throws over the striking techniques.
Briefly, in Japanese jujitsu history, many schools were over time as a niche of several combat styles. Therefore, they focused on throws, chokes, and joint locks with maximum efficiency and minimal effort. Then, the notion of self-defense art starts to grow up.
Jigoro Kano is one of the great instructors in Jiu-Jitsu history.
Kanō Jigorō (嘉納 治五郎, 10 December 1860 – 4 May 1938) was born in in Mikage, Japan. He was a highly educated person, a Japanese martial artist, and the founding father of Judo.
Jigoro Kano discovered Ju-Jitsu earlier in his life, and he soon became a Ju-Jitsu teacher. Besides, he learned Jiu-Jitsu through many teachers who adopted smart philosophies of martial arts coaching.
In fact, most of his Traditional martial arts and Ju-Jitsu teachers tend to start the class by demonstrating techniques to students and then give them the chance to demonstrate these techniques in free sparring that they called Randori.
Randori effect and the history of BJJ
source: Judo Life
The Randori training philosophy is an important phase in the history of Jiu-Jitsu. It has changed the way to train the combat of Ju-Jitsu grappling and tough other martial arts.
Moreover, Jigoro Kano goes on to explain deeply the mechanics of the techniques only with advanced students.
Although, sometimes Kano had trouble defeating some opponents, and this fact leads him to think more about the efficiency of his JuJitsu techniques.
Thus, he went to different schools of Ju-Jitsu grappling to find solutions and gather more knowledge about the Jiu-Jitsu grappling techniques and concepts.
Jigoro Kano founded the Kodokan Judo martial arts
In 1882, Jigoro Kano decided to found the Kodokan style (Kodokan Judo).
Where he put his several years of Ju-Jitsu teaching and his large experience in the Japanese martial arts field. The Jigoro’s Kodokan may be referred to as Judo.
Otherwise, it gathers the foremost effective Japanese Ju Jutsu techniques including throws (nage waza), groundwork (katame waza), joint locks (kansetsu waza), and chokes (shime waza) against tough and powerful opponents.
This was an enormous step within the history of Jiu-Jitsu and grappling art.
Mitsuyo Maeda and the history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
The jujitsu martial art gained new perspectives when a brave Kodokan Japanese instructor named Mitsuyo Maeda decided to challenge every martial artist around the globe.
He tried to prove the efficiency of Judo Ju Jutsu techniques such as chokes and armlocks against tough opponents.
But, who is Mitsuyo Maeda?
Just to get to know better this awesome Japanese martial artist; Mitsuyo Maeda (前田 光世) is a son of a sumo fighter.
He was born In Japan on November 18, 1878, and passed away in Brazil on November 28, 1941.
As a teenager, Maeda practiced Sumo, but he quickly shifted his attention and concentration to Judo and Ju-Jitsu martial arts that were occurring in his interest at the time.
In 1894, Mitsuyo Maeda (seventeen years old) went to study at Waseda Tokyo University, where he started to learn Kodokan judo martial art.
He began training the Judo Kodokan at Jigoro Kano’s academy and quickly became one of the best students.
Otherwise, Mitsuyo had a deep belief that the best way to promote Judo martial arts was through challenging other martial artists in fight combat.
Mitsuyo Maeda spread Judo Ju-Jitsu around the globe.
In 1904, Maeda traveled to the U.S. for the purpose to demonstrate the efficiency of Judo Kodokan techniques.
This martial art mission was 100% successful because Maeda and his fellow Judokas left good appearances in the United States.
Then after that, Mitsuyo Maeda traveled to Europe, where he achieved enormous Judo success, where he won several fights in England, Belgium, and Spain.
Otherwise, Maeda visited more places such as Cuba where he found interest to grow the Judo JuJitsu martial arts.
During these travels, Maeda learned some Wrestling techniques that had added more value to his strong Judo and Jiu-Jitsu martial arts knowledge.
Mitsuyo Maeda and the Gracie Jiu Jitsu family.
In 1914, Mitsuyo Maeda moved to Brazil taking with him a large experience in the field of Judo and Jiu-Jitsu ground fighting.
After a while in Brazil, he met Gastão Gracie that maybe happened at one of Maeda’s judo demonstrations. Thus, 1914 may be a reference year in the history of BJJ martial arts
First Maeda’s Jiu-Jitsu School in Brazil.
In 1921, Maeda opened his own Judo Ju-Jitsu academy in Brazil where he taught Carlos Gracie (Gastao’s son).
Because Gastao thought that training in Judo martial art would make Carlos a more disciplined person.
Carlos took his first lessons in Kano Ju-Jitsu under Coach Mitsuyo Maeda. Also, he spent the next eight years training studying Jiu-Jitsu martial art.
Moreover, when he was 22 years old, he decided to form his proper Jiu-Jitsu direction.
BJJ founder: The first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu School.
In 1925, Carlos got a black belt, and he decided to open the first Gracie Ju-Jitsu martial art academy in Rio.
Right away, he started giving lessons to his younger brothers (Oswaldo, Gastao, George, and Helio).
Hélio Gracie had difficulty executing Kano Judo JuJutsu’s techniques because of his small size and lack of strength.
Therefore, he began to adjust the techniques he had learned, refining them until he could use them to submit to anyone, no matter the opponent’s size or strength.
Thus, the BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) saw life from these facts.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu History: The Gracie family vs the world.
Over the next few years in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu History, the Gracie family tested the efficiency and refined the art of BJJ by challenging other martial arts in many fights.
For example, the famous fight that was between Helio Gracie and Masahiko Kimura (Judo martial artist champion) in 1950.
The art of Jiu-Jitsu continued to grow over the years, eventually incorporating aspects of wrestling and other grappling arts into the curriculum.
History of BJJ: the Move of Rorion Gracie to the U.S
In the late 1970s, BJJ gained a new appearance when Rorion Gracie (Hélio’s son) immigrated to the U.S. to spread Brazilian JiuJitsu art.
Besides, this move changed the way people viewed the art of combat fighting forever.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu History: How does the UFC tournament change BJJ martial arts?
When Rorion Gracie moved to the United States, it was difficult to demonstrate the effectiveness of BJJ art without challenging matches against other famous martial artists such as wrestlers.
Therefore, Rorion and his colleagues began to look for the proper martial arts tournament for the purpose of showing the effectiveness of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to the world.
The Gracies vs other martial arts match “the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)”.
BJJ History: UFC 1 and the efficiency of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
The first UFC fight (UFC 1) happened in 1993 where Royce Gracie was the representative of BJJ within the tournament.
Moreover, Royce met the expectation of his family by showing great effectiveness in the art of Jiu-Jitsu.
Royce Gracie who was the smallest fighter at the tournament shocked the spectators by dominating opponent after opponent.
As a result, Royce’s UFC victories were a world recognition that BJJ could defeat bigger, stronger opponents using the right technique and mindset.
Winning subsequent several UFC fights by Royce Gracie was an important event in the BJJ history that led many martial artists to rethink martial art efficiency.
Therefore, many of them around the planet had begun learning the art of BJJ.
Nowadays, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) could be the largest growing ground combat martial art.
Thus, many martial arts disciplines are using Jiu-Jitsu techniques including self-defense, mixed martial arts (MMA), UFC.
The growing popularity of BJJ and MMA has led thousands of people worldwide to train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Indeed, many practitioners believe in Jiu-Jitsu as a powerful martial art and a lifestyle.
The BJJ martial art continues to be highly effective as a sort of self-defense and in Mixed Martial Arts competitions.
Otherwise, it is necessary for anyone who hopes to become a successful martial arts fighter.
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