A History of BJJ by Ali Naseer

As most of the MMA fans know that BJJ mainly focuses on grappling and ground fighting and it was developed with the concept of overwhelming a larger opponent by a comparatively weaker/smaller one by skilfully utilizing joint manipulation and submission holds. It was mainly developed from the skills and techniques of Kodokan Judo which at that time itself was a derivative of Japanese Jujutsu when Mitsuyo Maeda An expert Kodokan Judo practitioner was sent overseas to spread the art all over the world.

When Maeda visited Brazil in 1914 he met Gastão Gracie who at that time was a business man and helped get Maeda established. During one of Maeda’s demonstrations, Gastao’s son, Carlos Gracie got interested in learning the art and Maeda accepted him as his student. Carlos along with his brother Helio exceptionally mastered the art and later went on to become the founding fathers of BJJ. Later on, Carlos passed on the art to his brothers Osvaldo, Gastão and Jorge, Helio being ill at that time learned the art by watching his brothers and after overcoming the illness started competing in competitions which mostly ended in draws; however he faced one loss against a visiting Japanese Judo practitioner Masahiko Kimura, whose surname was given as the name of the submission hold he used to defeat Helio. The Gracie family continued developing BJJ, often competing in vale tudo matches in which they increased their focus on ground fighting.

Having created an effective self-defence system Carlos Gracie went on to prove the superiority of BJJ over other martial arts by issuing the now famous Gracie Challenge, all challengers were welcome to come and fight with the Gracies in no-holds-barred (NHB) matches. The Gracie fighters emerged victorious against fighters of all different backgrounds, since the Gracie brothers were winning against opponents 50-60 pounds heavier than them, they quickly gained recognition and prestige. Due to this success many Japanese practitioners came to Rio and tried to establish their own schools but were not as successful as the Gracie’s, this was due to the fact that traditional Japanese Jujutsu mainly focused on throws and takedowns while the Gracie Jiu-jitsu comprised of sophisticated ground work and submission techniques. These techniques were so distinctive that it became part of the national identity and since then has been called Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

In the late 1980’s several members of the Gracie family began immigrating to the United States to promote their style and to prove that it was the most superior martial art. Rorion Gracie opened up a BJJ school in Torrance, California where he met Art Davie in 1991 who was currently researching martial arts at that time. The Gracies having a history of vale tudo matches and numerous wins over every martial artist whom they challenged or have been challenged by inspired Davie to create an eight man single elimination tournament, consisting of martial artists from all over the world competing head to head in a no holds barred match to determine which martial art was the best in the world, the tournament was titled War of the Worlds, however latter the name of the tournament was changed to The Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The first UFC consisted of famous fighters, including Ken Shamrock, Gerard Gordeau and Rorion’s younger brother Royce Gracie. As with many of the martial artists at that time, each one was experienced and mastered in only one discipline which proved to be very vulnerable against Gracie’s submission and ground fighting style and thus earning him the first UFC tournament championship. Similar to the first, Royce went on to win the 2nd and 4th UFCs in similar fashion. He remain undefeated and dropped out of UFC-3 after his win against Kimo Leopoldo due to fatigue and went on to a draw against Ken Shamrock at UFC-4.

These fights helped BJJ come into international prominence and from then became a staple art for many MMA fighters. Today BJJ is considered as the core unit of ground fighting and a very effective self defence system and has developed into a worldwide sport which has given rise to no-gi grappling tournaments such as the ADCC, Grapplers Quest and many more.



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