Where It All Began...

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is one of the most popular martial arts in the world. It has a long history, and it's been around since before many other martial arts. But did you know that BJJ was born out of circumstance? Keep reading to learn about some of the key figures who helped shape Brazilian Jiu Jitsu into what it is today.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) found was derived from the Japanese martial art, jujutsu. The first jujutsu school in the world was founded in 1882 by Jigoro Kano, a Japanese martial artist and founder of Judo. Like BJJ, jujutsu involves grappling, joint locks, and chokeholds.

A traveling Japanese Judo master, arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1914.

Mitsuyo Maeda, a traveling Japanese Judo master, arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1914. With him came the knowledge of Judo and he taught Jiu Jitsu to many students including Carlos Gracie.

Maeda was a student of Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo and was sent by him to spread Judo across the world. Maeda was also an accomplished fighter who would often test his skills by challenging local fighters wherever he went.

The Student Becomes The Teacher

Maeda arrived in Brazil with several other Japanese martial artists and they traveled throughout northern Brazil teaching what they knew about judo and Jiu Jitsu to anyone who would listen or take up their challenge.

When it came time for Maeda to part ways from his fellow travelers he decided to stay behind in Belém do Pará where he opened up his own academy training many students over the next sixteen years until his death at age 63 in 1941.

Instructor Lineage

Jigoro Kano passed his knowledge along to Tomita Tsunejiro, who taught Mitsuyo Maeda. Carlos Gracie learned the techniques of the art from Mitsuyo Maeda who then taught Hélio Gracie. Royce Gracie learned and sharpened his jiu jistu under the tutelage of Hélio.

Helio Gracie - Winner of Brazil's First Jiu Jitsu Tournament

Hélio Gracie was the third son of Gastao Gracie and the youngest child in his family. In the world of jiu jitsu, he is considered to be the "Godfather of BJJ".

Hélio would eventually become the first Gracie to learn Jiu Jitsu from Mitsuyo Maeda. He would also his first ever Jiu Jitsu tournament in 1932 by defeating his first opponent via armbar submission.

The First Gracie Family Jiu-Jitsu Academy (Outside of Brazil)

The Gracie family opened the first jiu-jitsu academy outside of Brazil in Los Angeles, California. There, Royce Gracie became synonymous with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and was the first family member to win an MMA tournament. He earned three victories at UFCs 1, 2 and 4, becoming the face of BJJ for years to come.

Rorion registered "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu" as a trademark and in 1994 they opened up an academy called “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu” where they taught classes six days per week. Today, there are many Gracie Jiu Jitsu gyms in the Los Angeles area and across the United States.

Royce Gracie Became The Face of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

To this day, Royce Gracie is still one of the most famous Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners in the world. He won three of four UFC tournaments he competed in. In 1993, Royce won his first UFC tournament at UFC 1 by defeating Gerard Gordeau with a rear-naked choke submission. During his first fight at this event he beat Art Jimmerson by submission after only 2 minutes and 18 seconds into their fight. Watch the video below to see his win against Ken Shamrock at UFC 1.

In addition to winning those tournaments, he was the face of Jiu Jitsu during its heyday in the 1990s. Royce’s success at these competitions helped establish Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as a legitimate fighting style and spawned its popularity across America.

Other Martial Arts Began To Take Notes

As BJJ became popular, its techniques began to evolve. Mixed martial arts was essentially born out of BJJ. Techniques like using sweeps from the guard position, hip throws, and submissions from the mount position, plus leg locks began to change fighting sports forever. The threat of a broken limb or loss of consciousness via choke quickly forced fighters from other disciplines to adapt, or tap.

Jiu Jitsu Is One of The Most Practical Martial Arts

Jiu Jitsu is a martial art that focuses on grappling and ground fighting. It can be used for self-defense, but it’s also highly effective in real-life situations. Jiu Jitsu is a great workout, too. You learn to use your body weight as leverage against your opponent's. You'll also get stronger and more flexible without even realizing it!

Two men in white gis practice the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

It's no wonder Jiu Jitsu practitioners will tell you it's one of the best martial arts to practice; it's effective in real-life situations and provides an excellent workout!

The Rest Is History

That’s the history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu! It’s amazing that this martial art was invented centuries ago, but wasn’t as popular until fairly recently. Today BJJ is one of the most recognized styles of martial arts in the world and continues to grow in popularity, year after year.