The History of BJJ
The story of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a unique story of a martial art that would change the world. While only being around 100 years old, BJJ has a rich history full of interesting characters.
Little did Jiu Jitsu’s creators know that their martial art would become the best in the world. For this article, we’re going to give you the complete history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
We’re going to detail everything from how the pioneers developed BJJ and how they fought to prove its legitimacy. Also the defining moments in the story of Jiu Jitsu that made it the popular martial art it is today.
Before going to Brazil, Maeda traveled throughout Europe teaching Judo. He earned the nickname Conde Komat(Count Combat) for his expertise in fighting.
After a few years of teaching Judo in Europe, Conde made his way to Brazil. He found himself in the city of Belém and befriended a politician and promoter named Gastão Gracie.
With the help of Gastão, Maeda became a naturalized citizen and Brazil. He also helped Maeda put on Judo demonstrations throughout the country.
At one particular demonstration at the Theatro da Paz(Paz Theater), Gracie’s oldest son Carlos was in attendance. Carlos was enthralled with the techniques he saw and wanted to become Maeda’s student.
For 2 years, Carlos learned Judo under the teaching of Master Maeda. Carlos then began showing his younger brother Hélio Gracie the Judo techniques he had learned.
Hélio was a small and frail teenager that didn’t have the strength to do many of the Judo techniques. So, the brothers began altering the Judo techniques and making it more of a ground based martial art.
More focused on using technique and leverage to get an opponent to the ground and submit them. Especially for a smaller person to be able to defend themself against a bigger and stronger opponent.
This would be the beginning of the most popular origin story of Jiu Jitsu.(Or Gracie Jiu Jitsu if you asked a Gracie family member the story of Jiu Jitsu.)
The brothers would go on to develop and teach their style of Jiu Jitsu for the next 7 decades. Helping introduce Jiu Jitsu around the world.
While the most told origin story of Jiu Jitsu revolves around the Gracie’s, they weren’t the only innovators. There were others that helped create BJJ and one of the most important figures is Geo Omori.
Omori was a Judoka that taught Judo in Brazil years before Maeda arrived. He was a famous fighter that won many grappling contests and competed in early Vale Tudo fights.
Master Omori actually opened the very first Jiu Jitsu school in Brazil in 1925. He would teach one of the other founders of Jiu Jitsu Luiz França.
Grandmaster França was one of the founders of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu alongside the Gracie brothers. The Gracie brothers predominantly taught members of their family and upper class citizens in Brazil.
He actually was also a Judo student under Maeda at the same time as Carlos Gracie. This was before França moved to São Paulo and began training Judo under Geo Omori.
França would teach numerous students including Master Oswaldo Fadda. Master Fadda was very influential in the progress of Jiu Jitsu. Most of the lineages of non Gracie Jiu Jitsu affiliations come from Luis França and Oswaldo Fadda.
Behind the Gracie family, without a doubt the second family of Jiu Jitsu is the Machado brothers. They are cousins of the Gracie family from their mother’s side. Their Aunt Layr was married to Carlos Gracie and since they were connected to the Gracie family, they also trained BJJ.
The Machado brothers consist of Carlos, Roger, Rigan, Jean Jaques, and John. The brothers were predominantly taught by Carlos Jr and Rolls Gracie.
The brothers started training Jiu Jitsu as kids and later on moved to America alongside their cousins to spread the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to the western world. Their work is considered to have pioneered Jiu Jitsu specifically in the Hollywood scene having students such as Chuck Norris, Ashton Kutcher, Russel Peters, Keanu Reeves and plenty more.
Left to right – Master Jean Jacques Machado, Xavier Sales, Chris Sales
(Photo taken after black belt ceremony of Prof. Xavier Sales)
The Machado brothers run phenomenal academies and are among the best in the world.
To find out more, see this article we wrote below about Master Jean Jacques Machado.
Jiu Jitsu had to fight for its legitimacy and Jiu Jitsu practitioners did so in Vale Tudo contests. Vale Tudo fights were no holds barred fighting competitions between students of different fighting styles.
Translated from Portuguese, the term Vale Tudo literally means that anything goes. These bloody and violent contests would take place in Brazil from the 1920s to the late 1990s.
Many Jiu Jitsu practitioners fought in these contests including the Gracie brothers themselves. Younger brother Hélio was the more active of the two and became famous in Brazil for fighting.
His most famous bout was a loss to legendary Judo fighter Masahiko Kimura, whom he challenged. Kimura broke Gracie’s arm with a gyaku ude-garami, which BJJ practitioners then referred to as the kimura as an homage.
It was through these bloody, no holds barred contests that Jiu Jitsu would gain its legitimacy within Brazil. Helping spread Jiu Jitsu through the country and gaining numerous students that practiced the art.
After around 50 years of development Jiu Jitsu had established itself within Brazil. Many practitioners weren’t just satisfied with this and wanted to spread BJJ throughout the world.
This included the Gracies, The Machados and their Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Hélio’s oldest son Rorion Gracie is the person most credited with spreading Jiu Jitsu throughout the US.
In the late 70s, Rorion Gracie moved to the US after his cousin Carley Gracie. He worked within film and television as an extra and technical adviser on numerous projects.
At the same time he did this, Rorion Gracie taught Jiu Jitsu out of his garage in Hermosa Beach. His brothers Rickson, Royler, and Royce along with his cousins the Machado brothers would arrive later to help Rorion grow Jiu Jitsu in California.
(Click HERE to watch the Gracie challenge videos!)
For many years, the Gracie family had a standing offer, they called the “Gracie Challenge.” This was an open invitation to anyone that didn’t believe in the legitimacy of Gracie Jiu Jitsu to come fight them.
This was a thing routinely done in Gracie Jiu Jitsu school in Brazil that Rorion brought to the US. After the brothers established the first Gracie school in Torrance, California, they started advertising the Gracie challenge. Putting the invitation out to any martial artist or tough man that didn’t believe in the effectiveness of Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
Rorion had many of these challenges recorded and he put together the Gracie in Action tapes. These were early Jiu Jitsu instructional videos that Rorion mixed with footage of numerous Gracie challenges.
The videos became really popular and they started to gain many Jiu Jitsu students. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UR7l4pfD3Rw&t=53s&ab_channel=MMA4FLORIDA
Rorion wanted to take the Gracie Challenge to another level and show Jiu Jitsu’s effectiveness to the world. That’s how he came up for the idea for what would become the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Along with promoter and businessman Art Davie, they created the Ultimate Fighting Championship. A no holds barred contests between fighters of different backgrounds to fight in a 1 night tournament for $50,000.
They would sell the show on PPV across the US and other parts of the world.
The Gracie’s would choose the youngest of the brothers Royce to represent Gracie Jiu Jitsu in the tournament. Royce was the perfect choice to represent Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, because he was the smallest and most unassuming of the brothers.
At the first UFC event, the other competitors towered over the smaller Gracie. Many that watched assumed Royce would get killed, but they couldn’t have been more wrong.
Spectators saw the young Gracie dismantle his larger opponents with ease using Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Royce would go on to win the first 3 UFC tournaments starting Jiu Jitsu’s first boom in popularity worldwide.
The number of Jiu Jitsu practitioners within the world increased exponentially overnight during the early 90s. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hw6fp6VepsY&ab_channel=KO2C
After the first few UFC events it’s popularity gradually declined along with Jiu Jitsu’s for around a decade. Although in the early 2000s, Jiu Jitsu/MMA would have a resurgence and become more popular than ever.
The fan base grew enormously as tens of millions started tuning in to fights. Anxious to see KOs and high level Jiu Jitsu competitors submit their opponents.
What was once a violent no holds barred contest had become one of the most popular sports in the world. Helping Jiu Jitsu grow along with it.
In a little over a 100 years, Jiu Jitsu has become one of the most popular martial arts in the world. It is more popular than it has ever been and is practiced on just about every continent.
Today, there are numerous major tournaments that take place all around the world with 1000s of competitors participating at each.
By far the biggest ones being governed by the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation(IBJJF). The IBJJF oversees the BJJ and No-Gi World Championships that give around $10,000 to each division winner.
There are also numerous professional Jiu Jitsu promotions that hold shows across the world. Jiu Jitsu is more popular than it has ever been and looks to continue to grow every year from now on.
To read more about the benefits of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu click the link Below!