History of Jiu-Jitsu

Jiu-Jitsu, which means “gentle art”, is the oldest form of martial arts. It originated in India more than 2000 years B.C. and then spread to Japan where it was elaborated. In 1914, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu (Judo) champion and Count, Mitsuyo Maeda migrated to Brazil, where he was instrumental in establishing a Japanese immigrant community. Gastão Gracie, a Brazilian scholar and politician of Scottish descent, aided his efforts. As an expression of his gratitude for Gracie’s assistance, Maeda taught the Brazilian’s oldest son Carlos the essential secrets of the ancient martial arts technique. Carlos taught Maeda’s techniques to his four brothers.

One of the brothers, Helio Gracie, paid special interest to the use of the techniques. Helio being of small frame, light in weight (only 135 pounds), and in frail health, was 16 when he began learning Jiu-Jitsu. Because of his size and stature, he began to work with and adapt the basic rules of Jiu-Jitsu. He introduced the application of leverage to the art, making it possible for a smaller opponent to defeat a larger one. He began experimenting, modifying and enhancing the basic techniques to make them effective for a person regardless of his or her stature. Thus began the development of a new and more effective art – Gracie/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).

In order to prove the effectiveness of his new system, Helio openly challenged all the reputable martial artists in Brazil. He fought 18 times, including matches against onetime world heavyweight wrestling champion, Wladek Zbyszko and the #2-ranked Judoka in the world at the time, Kato, whom Helio choked unconscious in six minutes. His victory against Kato qualified him to enter the ring with the world champion, Masahiko Kimura, the best Jiu-Jitsu fighter Japan has ever produced, and who outweighed Helio by almost 80 pounds. Kimura won the match but was so impressed with Helio’s techniques that he asked Helio to go teach in Japan claiming the techniques Helio presented during their bout did not exist in Japan. It was the recognition by the worlds best to Helio’s dedication to the refinement of the art.

Today, jiu-jitsu has left its mark world over and is the fastest growing martial art. The ability to defeat an opponent without the use of violence and strength has empowered “jiujiteiros” both physically and mentally, in all walks of life.