Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) exploded on to the world scene during the 1990s when its pioneers—the Gracie family of Brazil—used it to dominate international competitions. Since then, the martial art has spread throughout the world and calls some of the biggest names in professional MMA its students.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu's origins ultimately lie in Judo. Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese national, emigrated to Brazil in 1914. After watching A Judo demonstration in 1917, Carlos Gracie, the son of a Scottish immigrant, was accepted as a student. Carlos became a successful Judoka in his own right, and passed the art on to other members of his family.
One of those to benefit from these teachings was his younger brother, Hélio. Usually described as being weaker and more frail than others in the Gracie family, Hélio began experimenting and modifying techniques so that they would be more effective for him.
Because Carlos was adapting and evolving techniques at the same time, any decision about who the real "father" of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is becomes quite controversial. Instead, we acknowledge the tremendous contributions from both of them.
We should also keep in mind that Jiu-Jitsu wasn't only confined to the Gracie family. There were many other pioneers from those early days, most of whom went on to establish successful Jiu-JItsu organisations of their own. These days we often think of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu as being the version taught by the direct descendents of the Gracie family while other schools use the more generic title of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
While BJJ can now be interpreted many ways, its primary focus was always self-defence. Its simple strategy remains as valid today as it was when it was first developed: take the opponent to the ground; gain a dominant position; and finish as quickly as possible with a choke or joint lock. The techniques used to achieve this have evolved through real street fighting and "no rules" competitions so they are very effective in the real world.
These days, Jiu-Jitsu is truly global. Many of the best instructors of Jiu-Jitsu have gone on to establish their own schools throughout the world. The art has evolved to include many facets: self-defence; competition (in traditional gi uniform and without as no-gi); and as an integral component of Mixed Martial Arts training. Common to all Jiu-Jitsu schools is the dynamic nature of the art; it's in a constant state of evolution as new and existing techniques are developed and enhanced.
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