Lovingly referred to as El Arte Suave, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) has quickly established a global community centered around the physical expression of its practitioners.
With Japanese tradition & Brazilian refinement the lifestyle has established a foothold in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. Our school reflects that universal appeal with family members from all over the world.
Japanese Jiu Jitsu
The origins of the art can be traced to the Buddhist monks of India. Some would argue that its history is even older, and that it originated with the pankration events of ancient Greece. But for our purposes, Jiu Jitsu (sometimes referred to as ju-jitsu) in its modern form derives from the battlefield art of the samurai of Japan.
These samurai warriors were well-armored and usually on horseback. The art of Jiu Jitsu was essentially developed to allow them to fight effectively in the event that they found themselves disarmed and on foot.
Because of the restricted mobility and agility associated with fighting in armour, Jiu Jitsu evolved to include throwing, joint-locks and strangles in addition to striking moves found in other martial arts.
By the mid-1800’s Jiu Jitsu had fractured into several styles or ‘ryu’. Although the techniques varied from style to style, generally they all incorporated most aspects of hand to hand combat including strikes, grappling and weapon-based attacks and disarms.
In the 1880’s, a standout young jiu Jitsuka, Jigoro Kano, developed his own ryu which was based around ‘randori’, or full-power practice against resisting and skilled opponents. This was a complete deviation from the partner practice that was prevalent at the time. Kano’s style later evolved into Judo, which has become one of the most widely practiced sports in the world.
Mitsuyo Maeda and the Gracie Family
In 1914 one of Kano’s most famous students, Mitsuyo Maeda, emigrated from Japan to Brazil to help set up a Japanese colony there. Maeda became close friends with a local political figure called Gastao Gracie. Gastao used his political influence to help Maeda and the Japanese colony and in exchange Maeda taught Gastao’s son Carlos the art of Jiu Jitsu.
Carlos Gracie trained with Maeda from the age of 15 until he was 21 when he returned to Japan. Carlos continued to train and develop the art after his departure and later taught the art to his younger brother Helio. Together they opened the first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy in 1925.
Over the years, the Gracies (notably Carlos and Helio) and their students refined their art through brutal no-rules fights, both in public challenge matches and on the street. They focused their attention on submission ground fighting, which allowed a smaller man to defend against and ultimately defeat a larger attacker.
In the 1970’s Rolls Gracie began to further refine the art, incorporating, among other things, moves from wrestling into the curriculum. Alongside this he devised the first point and rule systems for Jiu Jitsu specific competition.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship
In the early 1990’s another Gracie, Rorion, moved from Brazil to Los Angeles, hoping to showcase his family’s fighting system to America.
Although no-rules, mixed martial arts contests (known as “Vale Tudo”) had been popular in Brazil since Carlos Gracie first opened his academy in 1925, they were largely unknown in the rest of the world. Rorion and Art Davie conceived of an event called ‘The Ultimate Fighting Championship’ (UFC), which would pit various martial arts styles against each other. The UFC enabled challengers from various martial disciplines to battle each other in an effort to prove the credibility of their sport and illustrate their martial art as the best.
The first UFC took place in 1993 and was completely dominated by Rorion’s younger brother Royce. Royce was not a big man, and was outweighed by the other competitors. In spite of this, he exploited the other contestants’ naivete of ground fighting and emerged victorious, defeating three opponents in a single night. His wins led to a huge interest in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, particularly in the USA and Japan, consolidating the sport’s status as a truly global martial art.
The Modern Era
Today, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is riding the wave of the ‘Mixed Martial Arts’ (MMA) explosion, and is the fastest growing martial art in the world. There are now thousands of Jiu Jitsu academies spread across every corner of the globe.
Sport Jiu Jitsu has also grown massively in popularity. There is an established governing body, the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF), which runs a yearly, global competition circuit that attracts thousands of entrants.
Staying true to its roots, Jiu Jitsu continues to be effectively utilized in MMA competition - all fighters, regardless of their specialty, require at least a working knowledge of Jiu Jitsu to stand any chance of success.
The art is constantly evolving and being refined by its practitioners. New moves and techniques are being invented every day - a testament to the dynamic and ‘live’ nature of the art.