History of BJJ

THE ORIGIN OF JIU-JITSU

“As to the origin and native land of Ju Jutsu, there are several opinions, but they are found to be mere assumptions based on narratives relating to the founding of certain schools, or some incidental records or illustrations found in the ancient manuscripts not only in Japan but in China, Persia, Germany, and Egypt. There is no record by which the origins of Ju Jutsu can be definitely established. It would, however, be rational to assume that ever since the creation, with the instinct of self-preservation, man has had to fight for existence, and was inspired to develop an art or skill to implement the body mechanism for this purpose. In such efforts, the development may have taken various courses according to the condition of life or tribal circumstance, but the object and mechanics of the body being common, the results could not have been so very different from each other. No doubt this is the reason for finding records relating to the practice of arts similar to Ju Jutsu in various parts of the world, and also for the lack of records of its origins.”
–Sensei G. Koizumi, Kodokan 7th Dan

HISTORY OF JIU-JITSU AND GRACIE JIU-JITSU

There are several theories regarding the origins of Jiu jitsu, but the most common theory asserted by historians hold that Jiu jitsu, the oldest martial art, can be traced back to India where it was invented by Buddhist monks and further developed in China. The concept here is that the Shaolin temple was built in the center of China and this is where Dharma introduced Buddhism and Boxing. Buddhist Monks in northern India are said to have greatly contributed to the early development of Jiu-Jitsu. Bandits constantly assaulted the monks during their long journeys through the interior of India. Buddhist religious and moral values did not encourage the use of weapons so they were forced to develop an empty hand system of self-defense These monks developed movements based on balance and leverage, in a manner that would avoid reliance on strength and weapons. Jiu jitsu later found its way through China and to Japan where it gained even more popularity.

The period of Japanese history between the 8th and 16th centuries was covered with constant civil war and many systems of Jiu-Jitsu were utilized, practiced and perfected on the battlefield. This training was used to conquer armored and armed opponents.
It was originally an art designed for warfare, but after the abolition of the Feudal system in Japan, certain modifications needed to be made to the art in order to make it suitable for practice. Adopted by the Samurais, the Japanese Royal Guards, as a superior form of self-defense, the martial art highlighted their own code of conduct known as Bushido, the “way of the warrior”. Centered around core values including loyalty, justice, manners, purity, modesty, honor, self-confidence and respect, the Japanese named the smooth techniques “jiu jitsu” meaning “the gentle art.” With the end of the feudal system in Japan, jiu jitsu split into different styles, including Aikido, Karate, Judo etc.
After the Feudal period in Japan ended (Jiu-Jitsu was no longer needed on the battlefield), a way to practice the art realistically was needed, which is why Jigoro Kano (1860-1938), an educated man and member of the Cultural department and a practitioner of Jiu-Jitsu, developed his own version of Jiu-Jitsu in the late 1800s, called Judo. Judo was helpful because it allowed practitioners the ability to try the art safely and realistically at the same time
Because of the sportive outlet (rules that made practice safe), students of Jiu-Jitsu from Kano’s school were able to practice more frequently due to the fact that they were not always recovering from injuries. This multiplies the amount of training time for students of Kano’s school and drastically increased their abilities. Judo (Kano’s version of Jiu-Jitsu) was not the complete form of Jiu-Jitsu, but still contained enough techniques to preserve its realistic effectiveness.
In 1914, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu champion Esai Maeda migrated to Brazil, where he was instrumental in establishing a Japanese immigrant community. His efforts were aided by Gastão Gracie, a Brazilian scholar and politician of Scottish descent. Grateful for Gracie’s assistance, Maeda taught the Brazilian’s oldest son, Carlos, the secrets of the ancient martial art. Carlos then taught Maeda’s techniques to his four brothers, and in 1925, they opened the first Jiu-Jitsu academy in Brazil. For the Gracie brothers, teaching the art was more than an occupation. It was their passion.
One of the brothers, Helio Gracie, paid special interest to the use of the techniques. Helio, small framed, only 135 pounds, and in frail health, was 16 when he began learning jiu jitsu. Unable to participate in class, he often sat and watched his older brother teach. One day when Carlos was unable to make it to class, Helio was asked to instruct. He did remarkably well and, because of his size and stature, he began to adapt the basic rules of jiu jitsu. He introduced the application of leverage to the art, making it possible for a smaller opponent to defeat a larger one. He began experimenting, modifying and enhancing the basic techniques, making them effective for a person regardless of stature. Thus began the development of a new and more effective art – Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. GJJ is a martial art that continuously evolves, as its techniques are based on efficiency and practicality, not on ancient rule book set in stone.

Widely popularized through its effectiveness in the mma arena, jiu jitsu has become regarded as the most effective martial art, tried and tested over generations of realistic fight scenarios. The ability to defeat an opponent without the use of violence has empowered the students of jiu jitsu both physically and mentally, on and off the mat.