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History of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

How it became a widely practiced sport worldwide

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu had its origin from Japan when judoka Mitsuyo Maeda was sent to Brazil to demonstrate his art to the world. He left Japan in 1904 and visited several countries giving demonstrations and accepting challenges from wrestlers, boxers, savate fighters, and various other martial artists. When Maeda left Japan, judo was still often referred to as "Kano jiu jitsu" after the unique style of Japanese jiu jitsu that was developed by Kano Jigoro.


Maeda arrived in Brazil on 14 November 1914 and began teaching the Gracie brothers his martial art in 1917. Later on, the Gracie family developed their own self-defense system, and published Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. There were also other Brazilian proponents of jiu-jitsu that came from another of Mitsuyo's student, Luiz França.

After Carlos Gracie moved to the United States, he began teaching Americans his family's style of jiu jitsu, which became known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) to the Americans. BJJ eventually came to be its own defined combat sport through the innovations, practices, and adaptation of Gracie jiu-jitsu and Judo, and became an essential martial art for modern Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

Today, there are millions of BJJ practitioners who practice it as a sport worldwide. With hundreds of professional athletes and thousands of tournaments, it is considered one of the fastest growing sports.

Click here to read Wikipedia's account of the history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

How does BJJ work as a sport?

BJJ revolves around the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend themselves against a bigger, stronger, heavier opponent by using leverage and weight distribution, taking the fight to the ground and using a number of holds and submissions to defeat them.

When treated as a competitive sport where there divisions separating weight classes, age groups, and skill level, the practice of BJJ becomes more about having the upper hand in knowledge of techniques, strength, flexibility, and stamina. At the lower ranks, matches can be won based on athleticism and instinct to capitalize on the opponent's mistakes. However, the higher the belt level at which you compete, the fewer mistakes and the more physically prepared the opponent is for competition.

Click here to read an overview of objectives in the practice of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a sport.

Historical Timeline for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu & Judo

1883 — Kano Jigoro is certified in teaching traditional jiu jitsu.

1895 — Mitsuyo Maeda begins learning jiujitsu from Tomita Tsunejiro, Kano Jigoro's first student.

1914 — Mitsuyo arrives in Brazil to share his knowledge of Kano jiu jitsu (known as Judo today).

1916 — Mitsuyo demonstrates his art at the American Circus in Belém where Gastão Gracie was a business partner.

1917 — Mitsuyo begins teaching Gastão Gracie's eldest son, Carlos.

1925 — Japanese government officially mandates the name "Judo" to represent the martial art of Kano jiu jitsu. Brazilians continue to use the term "jiu jitsu" to describe the martial art being practiced in Brazil.

1972 — Carlos Gracie moves to the United States and begins teaching his family's style of jiu jitsu to Americans, which became known as "Brazilian Jiu Jitsu."

1978 — Rorion Gracie moves to the United States.

1993 — Rorion Gracie co-founds the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which began the popularity of MMA and BJJ in America.

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