What is Brazilian jiu-jitsu?
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art, combat sport, and a self defense system that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting. Brazilian jiu-jitsu was formed from Kodokan Judo ground fighting (newaza) fundamentals that were taught to Carlos Gracie and Luiz França by Mitsuyo Maeda and Soshihiro Satake. Carlos Gracie is known as the Founder and Creator of Modern Jiu Jitsu (Gracie Jiu Jitsu/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu). Brazilian jiu-jitsu eventually came to be its own art through the experimentations, practices, and adaptation from theJudo knowledge of Carlos and Hélio Gracie, who then passed their knowledge on to their extended family.
What BJJ promotes…
BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using proper technique, leverage, and most notably, taking the fight to the ground, and then applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the opponent. BJJ training can be used for sport grappling tournaments (gi and no-gi) and mixed martial arts (MMA) competition or self-defense. Sparring (commonly referred to as “rolling”) and live drilling play a major role in training, and a premium is placed on performance, especially in competition, in relation to progress and ascension through its ranking system.
Since its inception in 1882, its parent art of Judo was separated from older systems of Japanese ju-jitsu by an important difference that was passed on to Brazilian jiu-jitsu: it is not solely a martial art, it is also a sport; a method for promoting physical fitness and building character in young people; and, ultimately, a way (Do) of life.
Origins of Brazilian jiu-jitsu
Geo Omori opened the first Jujitsu / Judo school in Brazil in 1909. He would go on to teach a number of individuals including Luiz França. Later, Mitsuyo Maeda was one of five of the Kodokan’s top groundwork (newaza) experts that judo’s founder Kano Jigoro sent overseas to demonstrate and spread his art to the world. Maeda had trained first in sumo as a teenager, and after the interest generated by stories about the success of Kodokan Judo at contests with other jujutsu schools that were occurring at the time, became a student of Jigoro Kano. Maeda left Japan in 1904 and visited a number of countries giving “jiu-do” demonstrations and accepting challenges from wrestlers, boxers, savate fighters and various other martial artists before eventually arriving in Brazil on November 14, 1914.
Gastão Gracie was a business partner of the American Circus in Belém. In 1916, Italian Argentine circus Queirolo Brothers staged shows there and presented Maeda. In 1917, Carlos Gracie, the eldest son of Gastão Gracie, watched a demonstration by Maeda at the Da Paz Theatre and decided to learn judo. Maeda accepted Carlos as a student and Carlos learned for a few years, eventually passing his knowledge on to his brothers. Sibling Hélio Gracie gradually further developed Gracie Jiu Jitsu as a softer, pragmatic adaptation from judo that focused on ground fighting, as he was unable to perform many judo moves that require direct opposition to an opponent’s strength.
Although the Gracie family is typically synonymous with BJJ, another prominent lineage started from Maeda via another Brazilian disciple, Luiz França. This lineage had been represented particularly by Oswaldo Fadda. Fadda and his students were famous for influential use of footlocks and the lineage still survives through Fadda’s links with today’s teams such as Nova União and Grappling Fight Team.
Style of fighting!
Upholding the premise that most of the advantage of a larger, stronger opponent comes from superior reach and more powerful strikes, both of which are mitigated when grappling on the ground, Brazilian jiu-jitsu emphasizes getting an opponent to the ground in order to use ground fighting techniques and submission holds involving joint-locks and chokeholds. A more precise way of describing this would be to say that on the ground, physical strength can be offset or enhanced by an experienced grappler who knows how to maximize force using mechanical advantage instead of pure physical strength.
BJJ permits a wide variety of techniques to take the fight to the ground after taking a grip. While other combat sports, such as Judo and Wrestling almost always use a takedown to bring an opponent to the ground, in BJJ one option is to “pull guard.” This entails obtaining some grip on the opponent and then bringing the fight or match onto the mat by sitting straight down or by jumping and wrapping the legs around the opponent.
Once the opponent is on the ground, a number of maneuvers (and counter-maneuvers) are available to manipulate the opponent into a suitable position for the application of a submission technique. Achieving a dominant position on the ground is one of the hallmarks of the BJJ style, and includes effective use of the guard (a signature position of BJJ) position to defend oneself from bottom (using both submissions and sweeps, with sweeps leading to the possibility of dominant position or an opportunity to pass the guard), and passing the guard to dominate from top position with side control, mount, and back mount positions. This system of maneuvering and manipulation can be likened to a form of kinetic chess when used by two experienced practitioners. A submission hold is the equivalent of checkmate in the sport, reflecting a disadvantage which would be extremely difficult to overcome in a fight (such as a dislocated joint or unconsciousness).
BJJ is most strongly differentiated from other martial arts by its greater emphasis on ground fighting. Commonly, striking-based styles spend almost no time on groundwork. Even other grappling martial arts tend to spend much more time on the standing phase. It is helpful to contrast its rules with kodokan judo’s greater emphasis on throws, due to both its radically different point-scoring system, and the absence of most of the judo rules that cause the competitors to have to recommence in a standing position. This has led to greater time dedicated to training on the ground similar to that of Kosen Judo, resulting in enhancement and new research of groundwork techniques by BJJ practitioners.
Along with BJJ’s great strengths on the ground comes its relative underemphasis of standing techniques, such as striking. To remedy this comparative lack, there is an increasing amount of emphasizing takedowns and cross-training between the sports of BJJ and wrestling, Judo, or Sambo, as well as striking based arts such as boxing, Karate, TaeKwonDo, Muay Thai, and kickboxing.
Sport Brazilian jiu-jitsu’s focus on submissions without the use of strikes while training allows practitioners to practice at full speed and with full power, resembling the effort used in a real competition. Training methods include technique drills in which techniques are practiced against a non-resisting partner; isolation sparring, commonly referred to as positional drilling, where only a certain technique or sets of techniques are used, and full sparring in which each opponent tries to submit their opponent using any legal technique. Physical conditioning is also an important part of training at many clubs.