With Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu becoming extremely popular not only in martial arts competitions but also in some movies and shows, not too many people are aware of exactly how far back BJJ goes or how it even got started. While the fundamentals and foundation of BJJ have stayed true to their original roots, several developments, innovations, and changes have made BJJ what we have come to know and practice today.
The First Use of the Word "Jiu-Jitsu"
Jiu-jitsu can be traced back to a sole man named Hisamori Tenenouchi, who officially first coined the term "jiu-jitsu" in 1530 and opened the first formal jiu-jitsu school. It started as a way to separate the Japanese way of fighting from the weapon-focused Chinese way of fighting. Instead, jiu-jitsu sought to disarm those with weapons and focus on hand-to-hand combat. This continued to become much more prevalent as Confucianism started to spread across Asia. Rather than using weapons to fight, more and more people were displaying weapons as decorative household pieces. This increased jiu-jitsu's popularity since it was a far less combative sport. It even became a way for warriors to pass the time, often dueling and challenging one another in friendly competitions for entertainment.
As jiu-jitsu gained popularity, several schools and other martial arts were formed that had the same underlying principles of jiu-jitsu. The term "jiu-jitsu" became much too broad, so the other schools that had formed began to identify themselves with different names based on their techniques, such as Aikido and Judo. Similarly, this is how Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu came to be.
A man named Mitsuyo Maeda traveled from Japan to Brazil and taught Japanese jiu-jitsu (today known as Judo) to another man named George Gracie and his son Carlos Gracie. Eventually, Carlos taught his newfound martial skills to his brothers, and they later opened up the first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy in 1925. It's called Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu due to "Judo" not being commonly used yet. However, if this happened just a little bit later in history, we would probably call it Brazilian Judo!
Playing By Their Own Rules
The Gracie brothers created their own rules for BJJ but kept the foundations of jiu-jitsu the same. They adopted "no-rules" to fighting and focused on "grounding" techniques so that anyone, regardless of size, could fight with any opponent. The Gracie's promoted their fights and competitions, developing new skills that they incorporated into their school's teachings with a focus on intense training.
Anxious and excited to expand their BJJ school, the Gracie’s moved from Brazil to Los Angeles and created the first-ever mixed martial arts tournament, which they dubbed the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The smallest and youngest of the Gracie brothers, Royce, took on every opponent in the first-ever UFC in 1993, shocking the spectators who witnessed Royce take down opponents far bigger than him. This ignited a wave of interest in BJJ across the nation.
An Evolving Art
BJJ is one of the most popular of Mixed Martial Arts, gaining traction globally at an accelerated rate. While the foundational teachings of jiu-jitsu remain the root of all martial arts, it continues to evolve, with new moves and tactics being developed as new generations begin to join jiu-jitsu schools. People today not only take part in jiu-jitsu schools for competition but also for physical health, releasing stress, and empowering the mind. Jiu-jitsu has become and still is a revolution.
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