What’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling martial art that uses joint locks and choke holds to control opponents. It originated from Japanese Judo and Jujitsu, but was transformed into its own art by the Gracie family in Brazil. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gained popularity through the UFC and differs from Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, and Jujitsu in its focus on ground fighting and submission holds.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that focuses primarily on grappling, controlling an opponent without the use of striking. This is accomplished through the use of joint locks and choke holds, although throws, trips and sweeps are also common. While Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has its own rules for competition, many elements of the art can also be found in mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions around the world.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has its origins in Japanese Judo and Jujitsu, but unique aspects and changes in focus have transformed it into its own martial art. Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese martial artist who studied both Judo and Sumo, brought the arts with him to the Brazilian city of Belém in the early 20th century. There, he taught his techniques to a teenager Carlos Gracie, who ended up moving with his family to Rio de Janeiro after a few years. In the 1920s, Carlos began teaching his family and others what he had learned, and eventually opened his own martial arts school where he taught with his brothers. Helio, Carlos’ younger brother, became a student and then an instructor there.

Carlos and his brothers sought bouts against other fighters to establish the credibility of Gracie’s style. They became a famous family of fighters, with the smaller sized Helio becoming one of the better known due to his matches against much larger opponents. Helio, with guidance from Carlos, was able to hone his fighting skills over the years of competition and developed his knowledge of Judo and Jujitsu into a fighting system that allowed him to defeat much larger opponents in both sanctioned and no-holds-barred competitions. The fighting system became known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, with Carlos and Helio considered its co-founders.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu rose to prominence in North America through the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) in the 1990s. The event was the brainchild of Art Davie and was developed by Hollywood insider John Milius and Helio’s son Rorion Gracie. The eight-man tournament was broadcast throughout North America and other regions of the world on pay-per-view television and had almost no rules. The event pitted fighters from different fighting arts against each other. Royce Gracie, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and another of Helio’s sons, won three of the first four UFCs, popularizing his art and giving him even more credibility.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu differs slightly from Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has become a term that encompasses all the styles born from the original teachings of Carlos and Helio. Most of these styles focus on fighting for sporting competitions and do not contain any strikes. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, however, is the art passed down from Helio to his family and other named instructors. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu contains strikes and numerous self-defense techniques which are not applicable in sporting competitions, but which can be extremely useful in “real” situations.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu also differs from both Judo and Jujitsu. The focus of Judo tends to be to bring an opponent to the ground, whereas the focus of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is mostly on ground fighting. Judo practitioners are renowned for their throwing ability, while Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stylists are primarily known for their submission holds. Judo, Jujitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu also have very different rules for competitions.

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