BJJ - Brazilian Jui Jitsu
The history of martial arts is often richly layered and deep, with many different forms coming from the same original set of teachings. We’ve covered some of these in the past, and even in the modern age, many of these forms come into being as variations of more traditional forms. Today we’re going to be talking about one that is very popular in modern sports: Brazilian jiu-jitsu, also known as Gracie jiu-jitsu.
The Origins of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
This discipline of martial arts is descended from one you’ve probably heard of, judo, which was originally called jujutsu – translated as “the art of softness” or “the yielding way”. This early form was developed in Japan hundreds of years ago, as a way for fighters to overcome the armed and armoured samurai, even if they had small weapons, or none at all. Knowing that striking a samurai’s armour would not work, these combatants began to create ways to redirect offensive strikes and energy into pins, joint locks, throws, and other disarming or immobilizing moves. In essence, the art is about using your opponent’s energy against them, rather than fast offensive moves or strikes.
The Creation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
In the 1920s, the Brazilian Gracie brothers – who all learned judo in turn, after one of them, Carlos, picked it up from a travelling Japanese fighter – started to develop their own self-defence system. Breaking away from the “softness” of the original form, BJJ became more aggressive and energetic, focusing on ways for smaller or weaker fighters to defeat bigger, stronger ones through the use of weight shifting, leverage, submissive holds, and locks.
As time went on, each brother developed different styles within the jiu-jitsu framework, resulting in four major and many minor branches of BJJ: Humaita, Barra, Carlson, and Alliance. Many of the Gracie families’ members still practice as teachers, judges, and fighters, helping the sport to become very prominent around South America and the world.
The Style of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Just like its centuries-old aim of neutralizing heavy opponents, a BJJ match focuses on getting your opponent to the ground and then using holds, locks, and grappling to subdue them. Due to this, there is a major emphasis on takedowns, rather than simple strikes or blocks, and knowing how to properly guard against imbalance is a key point to success. Fighting can continue (and nearly always does) on the ground, using rolls, pins, mounts, and other submission techniques. Once a combatant is immobilized and unable to continue the match, the dominant fighter is declared the winner.
There is much more freedom of technique in BJJ than in most martial arts, with chokeholds, joint locks, and ground fighting all commonly used to win matches. However, this is highly dependent on skill level and specific divisions, with different schools using different scoring systems and rules.
Worldwide Popularity of Jiu-Jitsu
Many notable celebrities practice Brazilian jiu-jitsu, lending to its popularity around the world. Some famous fighters include Joe Rogan (who also commentates many MMA events), Ed O’Neill (aka Al Bundy), Tom Hardy, Keanu Reeves, Scarlett Johansson, and Wesley Snipes, among many, many others. If you count yourself among their ranks, you’ll be sure to agree that Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a great martial art for mind, body, and spirit, no matter what age you are!
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