The Origins and Evolution of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Written January 25

Jigoro Kano: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s roots trace back to Judo, originally developed by Jigoro Kano in Japan in the late 19th century. Kano, a visionary martial artist, revolutionized traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu by emphasizing the principle of ‘maximum efficiency, minimum effort.’ His style, then known as Kano Jiu-Jitsu, later became Judo, a martial art focusing on throws and ground techniques.

Mitsuyo Maeda: One of Kano’s most proficient students, Mitsuyo Maeda, brought the art to the international stage. In 1914, Maeda travelled to Brazil, where he showcased Judo (Kano Jiu-Jitsu) through demonstrations and matches.

The Gracie Family: In Brazil, Maeda met Gastão Gracie, a local businessman. Gastão’s son, Carlos Gracie, became a student of Maeda. Carlos and his brothers, especially Helio Gracie, adapted and refined the techniques they learned, which led to the development of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The Gracie family’s style emphasized ground fighting and submission holds, adapting the art to be effective for practitioners of all sizes, making it particularly suitable for smaller, less strong individuals.

The Fadda Lineage: Another critical lineage in BJJ history is that of Oswaldo Fadda. Fadda, a student of Luis França, who was also a student of Maeda, opened his academy in Rio de Janeiro. Fadda’s contributions were significant, especially in popularizing BJJ in poorer areas and his emphasis on footlock techniques, an aspect less emphasized and initially shunned by the Gracie’s.

Global Expansion: BJJ gained international prominence in the 1990s, particularly with the founding of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the United States. Royce Gracie, representing BJJ, triumphed over larger and stronger opponents using BJJ techniques, showcasing the effectiveness of the art to a global audience.

Today’s BJJ: Modern Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has evolved into a global phenomenon, with its own competitions, such as the World IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championships (Mundials) and the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship, which is now the most prestigious Jiu Jitsu Competition in the world. BJJ continues to grow, embracing influences from wrestling, sambo, and other grappling arts, while maintaining its core principles of technique, leverage, and efficiency.

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