Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is known as “the gentle art,” because of its reliance on leverage and technique, rather than size and strength. The origins of BJJ can be traced back to India where it was practiced by Buddhist Monks who were concerned with self-defense. They created techniques based upon principles of balance, leverage, and a system of manipulating the body in a manner where one could avoid relying upon strength or weapons. These monks created a culturally unique art form that would become known as Jiu-Jitsu. The expansion of Buddhism resulted in Jiu-Jitsu spreading from Southeast Asia to China, finally arriving in Japan where it developed and gained great popularity.
In the late 19th century Japanese Jiu-Jitsu masters traveled to other continents to teach the art form in addition to taking part in fights and competitions. The legendary Esai Maeda Koma, also known as “Conde Koma,” was one such master. After competing in the Americas and various European countries, Koma settled in Brazil in 1915. He became acquainted with a man named Gastao Gracie, who was a Jiu-Jitsu enthusiast, and the father of eight children (5 boys and 3 girls). Gastao and his oldest son Carlos spent countless hours learning Jiu-Jitsu from the Japanese master. Additionally, Carlos moved to Rio de Janeiro with his family at the age of nineteen where he began teaching Jiu-Jitsu in addition to competing. Carlos did a great amount of travelling with the purpose of spreading the teachings of Master Koma, and to also prove the efficiency of the art by defeating opponents who were much physically stronger than him.
When Carlos returned to Rio de Janeiro in 1925 he opened the first school in Brazil known as the “Academia Gracie de Jiu-Jitsu.” After the opening of his Jiu-Jitsu academy, Carlos began sharing with his brothers the teachings of Master Koma, in addition to adapting and refining the techniques to the naturally weaker characteristics of his family. Carlos dedicated himself to proving Jiu-Jitsu’s superiority over other martial arts by challenging the greatest fighters of his time. Since Carlos and his brothers were defeating opponents fifty or sixty pounds heavier, the Gracie family quickly gained international recognition and prestige. Their dominance was caused by the Japanese stylists being more focused on takedowns and throws, whereas Gracie Jiu-Jitsu had more sophisticated ground fighting and submission techniques. Carlos 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 it is now commonly known as “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,” practiced by martial artists all over the world, including Japan.
BJJ received international prominence in the martial arts community when Royce Gracie, the nephew of Carlos Gracie, won the first, second, and fourth UFC competitions, which at the time were single elimination martial arts tournaments. Since there were no weight classes at the time, Royce fought against much-larger opponents who were practicing styles such as boxing, shoot-fighting, karate, judo, taekwondo, and wrestling. Royce shocked the world when he simply morphed the competition with his culturally unique fighting style. As a result, there has become a great demand for BJJ training in the US, and throughout the entire world. Lastly, as BJJ continues to grow in worldwide popularity, it has given rise to submission grappling tournaments (gi and no-gi), such as the Abu Dabi Combat Club (ADCC) Submission Wrestling World Championship, which is regarded as the most prestigious grappling competition in the world