Brazilian jiu-jitsu has evolved throughout nearly a century to truly become a sport of the world. BJJ is unique in the sense that it doesn’t stem from one single point in history or one single person. It is also continuously growing and developing today, therefore creating one of the richest histories in the sport world.
Before jiu-jitsu even came to Brazil, it all started in Japan. It was used by Japanese soldiers as a last line of defense in battle. From there it shifted from the battlefield to more self-defense-based. In 1882, Jigoro Kano founded his martial arts school, Kodokan, with this jiu-jitsu focus. This school of thought and practice later led to the creation of Judo.
Decades later, a student of Kodokan, Mitsu Maeda, traveled across the world down to Brazil. It was there Maeda met Gastão Gracie and his son, Carlos. Carlos became a student of Maeda, learning all about the practice of judo. He later shared these lessons with his brothers. From there, the Gracie family adjusted aspects of the sport by making it more applicable and useful for everyone. Brazilian jiu-jitsu was born.
(pictured: the original Gracie family)
Moving to the U.S. & the Creation of the UFC
Rorion Gracie, the son of an original Gracie sibling, Héilo, immigrated to the United States in the 1970s. With him, he brought Brazilian Rorion. Just bringing the sport to the country was not enough, though. Rorion met a business partner and together they created the first Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993.
The UFC back then is not the UFC today. The goal with the first UFC was to see which style of fighting was the most superior. Athletes from all weights and martial arts came together in a tournament with practically no rules and regulations among them. Rorion had a point to prove that BJJ was the best, so he had his brother Royce come and represent this style among the competitors. Royce, a slender man who fought someone nearly 70 pounds heavier, won the tournament and proved to everybody BJJ was here to stay.
Jiu-jitsu today spans across the entire sports industry. It is heavily used alongside other martial arts and has remained a founding pillar in the UFC. Academies are spread throughout the world, giving anybody the chance to learn and excel at this sport. As the sport and interest behind it grows, athletes are now able to make a decent living by dedicating their life to BJJ, whether that includes competing or instructing.
What Brazilian Rorion proves is that the bigger and stronger competitor doesn’t always win. The technique and craft of jiu-jitsu created by the Gracie brothers provide the athlete with a multitude of areas they can put to practice. Strength, conditioning, cardio, flexibility, and more are all aspects within this sport. Brazilian jiu-jitsu opened Pandora's box to a whole different type of martial arts that can be used by everybody — big and small.