What is BJJ?
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art with combat, sport, and self defense applications.
BJJ focuses on grappling or ground fighting. It is based on the principle that a smaller and weaker person will be more likely to survive against a bigger, stronger assailant by “taking the fight” to the ground and using techniques based on leverage and body mechanics (e.g., joint locks and choke holds) to defeat the attacker.
In its self defense application, BJJ emphasizes survival first and defeating the opponent (by submission) second. Because it is based on grappling techniques via leverage, rather than striking and an over reliance on speed and body strength, BJJ is an ideal martial art for both women and men of all ages regardless of their physical size or athletic abilities.
While it is expected that most altercations end up on the ground fairly quickly, a BJJ practitioner’s main focus is to close the distance, take the opponent down and keep him/her there to reduce the attacker’s ability to strike. Once on the ground, a BJJ practitioner will leverage and efficient technique to achieve different ground positions of control. In doing so, the practitioner tires the opponent while looking for openings and mistakes to execute a submission technique.
Training in BJJ includes drilling (i.e., practicing specific techniques on a non-resisting partner) and sparring (commonly referred to as “rolling,” or attempting techniques against a fully resisting partner) as well as general cardio, agility and strength conditioning. Practitioners tend not to strike each other while rolling but rather focus on executing proper technique. This low-impact application can enable more frequent training because it reduces the chance of injury. Practitioners may also work together to demonstrate techniques to each other and try them with different degrees of resistance. This creates a realistic learning environment where the results and feedback are immediate.
BJJ is one of the fastest-growing martial arts in the world today. Practitioners develop highly effective self defense techniques along with personal fitness and a sense of community with other practitioners. BJJ is also used very successfully in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) contests and grappling competitions. We invite you to give it a try and see for yourself!
A Brief History of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
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.
The father of eight children, among them five boys and three girls, Gastao became a Jiu-Jitsu enthusiast and brought his oldest son, Carlos, to learn from the Japanese master. For a naturally frail fifteen-year old Carlos Gracie, Jiu-Jitsu became a method not simply for fighting, but for personal improvement. At nineteen, he moved to Rio de Janeiro with his family and began teaching and fighting. In his travels, Carlos would teach classes, and also proved the efficiency of the art by beating opponents who were physically stronger. In 1925, he returned to Rio and opened the first school, known as the “Academia Gracie de Jiu-Jitsu.”
Since then, Carlos started to share his knowledge with his brothers, adapting and refining the techniques to the naturally weaker characteristics of his family. Carlos also taught them his philosophies of life and his concepts of natural nutrition. Eventually, Carlos became a pioneer in creating a special diet for athletes, “the Gracie diet,” which transformed Jiu-Jitsu into a term synonymous with health.
Having created an efficient self defense system, Carlos Gracie saw in the art a way to become a man who was more tolerant, respectful, and self-confident. With a goal of proving Jiu-Jitsu’s superiority over other martial arts, Carlos challenged the greatest fighters of his time. He also managed the fighting careers of his brothers. Because they were fighting and defeating opponents fifty or sixty pounds heavier, the Gracies quickly gained recognition and prestige.
Attracted to the new market which was opened around Jiu-Jitsu, many Japanese practitioners came to Rio, but none were able to establish schools as successful as the Gracies. This was due to the fact that the Japanese stylists were more focused on takedowns and throws, and the Jiu-Jitsu the Gracies practiced 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 is now commonly known as “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,” practiced by martial artists all over the world, including Japan.
(source: International Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Federation)