History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

The Jiu-Jitsu of today is a multi-faceted method of self-defense and dynamic sport whose true origin is not fully known.It is widely accepted that the origin of Jiu-Jitsu techniques are the culmination of many ancient forms of combat.

One of the most accepted theories as to the origins of Jiu-Jitsu is that this form of combat originated with the Ancient Greeks.Six centuries before the earliest Japanese record of unarmed combat, a martial sport similar to Jiu-Jitsu existed in Greece. This grappling and striking martial art was called the Pankrateon, meaning the all powerful art. Introduced into the Olympic games of Greece in 648 B.C., it was practiced until 400 A.D.The Pankrateon art was part of the basic training of the Greek warriors under Alexander the Great, and many of the Pankrateon champions were, in fact, soldiers. It is now believed that when the troops of Alexander invaded India in 326 B.C. that at least part of the unarmed martial form was left behind with local warriors.

It is widely accepted that systemized martial art techniques came from India through Buddhism as Dharma introduced Buddhism and Boxing in the Shaolin temple built in the center of China.It is believed that the early development of Jiu-Jitsu came from the Buddhist Monks of northern India who were constantly assaulted by bandits as they journeyed through India.Because the use of weapons is discouraged by the religious and moral values of Buddhism, the Buddhist Monks had to develop an effective method of hand-to-hand combat.The Buddhist Monks combined their knowledge of the human body to laws of physics such as leverages, momentum, balance, center of gravity, etc. to create a powerfully effective art of self-defense.

There are other theories that also support the idea of Jiu-Jitsu coming from China such as the story of Chin Gen Pinh, a Chinese monk, who went to Japan with knowledge of a grappling art that he taught to three masterless samurai (Ronin)The three Ronin continued studying the art and it became Jiu-Jitsu. Another theory says that there were many forms of wrestling in China and that one of them, Chikura Karube that was developed around 200 B.C., later became Jiu-Jitsu.

There is also the theory that Jiu-Jitsu is Japanese and is essentially another version of the story of Chin Gen Pinh, yet in this version he introduced the Ronin to Kempo, an early form of Jiu-Jitsu that consisted of strikes and very little grappling.In this version it is the Japanese who took this form of Kempo and transformed it into Jiu-Jitsu.What is definitively agreed upon is that the Japanese are responsible for transforming jiu-jitsu into an effective and refined grappling system of combat and defense. The earliest recorded use of the word jiu-jitsu occurred in 1532 by the school Takenouchi Ryu but it was also known as Yawara, Hakuda, Kogusoko and various other names.

The Japanese form of Jiu-Jitsu was originally an art designed for warfare during the feudal system and with the end of the feudal system the need for jiu-jitsu in warfare decreased.It is at this point that Jiu-Jitsu began to take its first steps in transforming from an art of defense in combat to the sport and method of self defense it is today as it began to be modified to be more suitable for practice. At this time there was a practitioner of Jiu-Jitsu named Jigoro Kano (1860-1938) who began to develop a system of jiu-jitsu called judo that allowed for safe and realistic practice of the martial art.This was beneficial because it allowed practitioners of Kano’s judo to practice more frequently and significantly increase their abilities in the art.

Due to Kano’s preference for emphasizing the importance of take downs and throws, the practice of judo did not emphasize the ground work and eventually practitioners of Kano’s Jiu-Jitsu/Judo became weak in the ground work.In actuality, Kano’s Judo was made up of many styles of Jiu-Jitsu as well as styles of judo that Kano had studied such as Jikishinryu and Kito-ryo. Kano incorporated some of the concepts of the judo he studied with the jiu-jitsu he knew and called the art Kodokan Judo.

In 1886 there was a famous tournament at the Tokyo police headquarters between Kano’s Jiu-Jitsu (Judo) and the older Jiu-Jitsu as competition between the two arts had heightened.Interestingly, Kano’s champion was not an original student of Judo but a student of the older Jiu-Jitsu which somewhat defeated the purpose of the tournament.Judo was named the national martial art of Japan after this tournament.

Practitioners of Kodokan Judo continued to challenge the practitioners of the older Jiu-Jitsu, Fusen Ryu Jiu-Jitsu, but as practitioners of the older jiu-jitsu adapted to the techniques of Kodakan Judo they began to face defeat.At this point, Kano realized that if he wanted to continue defeating the older jiu-jitsu he would have to incorporate a full range of ground fighting techniques to Kodakan Judo.Kano, with the help of friends, some of them practitioners of the older jiu-jitsu, formulated the ground techniques of Kodakan Judo named Ne Waza.Ne Waza had three divisions; Katame Waza, the joint locking techniques, Shime Waza, the choking techniques and Osae Waza, the holding techniques.The addition of the Ne Waza techniques to Kodokan Jiu-Jitsu occurred shortly before Judo arrived to Brazil and provides a possible explanation as to why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has a stronger emphasis on ground technique than either Japanese Jujitsu or Judo. By the early 1900’s masters and students of Kodokan Judo/Ju-Jitsu were beginning to take the art outside of Japan to establish it as a superior martial art.

In 1904 Esai Maeda who was one of Jigoro Kano’s top Kodokan Judo students and a childhood pupil of Tenshin Jiu-Jitsu arrived in the United State with one of his teachers, Tsunejiro Tomita. The purpose of their trip was to demonstrate the art of Judo to Theodore Roosevelt at the White House and for the cadets at the West Point Military Academy.

Esai Maeda eventually parted ways with his teacher Tomita and from 1904 to 1915 Maeda primarily stayed in the United States where he was attempting to establish the superiority of Kodakan Judo. During this time Maeda taught at Princeton University, in New York, traveled to England and was participating in many fighting events in Latin America. It is speculated that due to anti-Japanese sentiment Maeda was having difficulty establishing Kodokan Judo in the United States and by 1915 Maeda was on his way to Brazil. As he traveled through Latin America he stopped by many countries fighting in theatres and circuses and connecting with other masters of jiu-jitsu or fighters. These were masters and fighters such as Laku, a jiu-jitsu master who was already teaching the Peruvian police, Okura, a fighter who they found in Peru and Shimitsu who they found in Argentina.It was with this group that Maeda arrived in Brazil in 1915.

Brazil at this time was a country rich and alive with many styles of fighting such as Capoeira, Greco Homan, Wrestling, Boxing and Judo. Judo had been introduced to Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1908 by Miura, a Master of Kodokan Judo. Maeda and his group presented jiu-jitsu to Brazil in 1915 in Porto Alegre. During this year Maeda and the small group of Japanese fighters visited the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Salvador, Recife, Sao Luis, and Manaus. It was in Manaus that this small group of Japanese masters and fighters found more of a permanent opportunity.They were hosting seminars where they taught techniques of torsions, self defense, submission and defense against weapons.Their seminars gained popularity and notable fighters such as the boxer Adolfo Corbiniano de Barbados, the luta livre romana fighter Arabe Nagib Ases and Severino Sales began responding to their invitations to try their art against their Kodokan Judo.At this time the city of Manaus was experiencing a financial boom in their rubber market and wealthy investors began funneling money into the seminars. Soon the seminars hosted by Maeda became fighting events with gambling involved.

In January of 1916 the first jiu-jitsu tournament in the Amazon was organized by Maeda and the resulting champion of the event was Satake. The very next day Maeda with Okura and Shimitsu traveled to Liverpool, England were they continued to host seminars and fight until 1917.During this time Satake and Laku decided to remain in the Amazon and were teaching jiu-jitsu in Atletico Rio Negro and continuing to successfully fight challengers of Kodokan Judo.In November of 1916 they faced their first defeat as Laku, due to Satake being ill, fought Alfredi Leconti.Alfredi Leconti was an Italian fighter who was managed by Gastao Gracie.Satake, upon his recovery wanted to fight Alflredi Leconti but due to the upheaval the first fight had caused, the chief of police had prohibited any fighting events from occurring in the Amazonian capital.

In 1917 Maeda returned to Brazil accompanied by his English wife, May Iris Maeda and settled in Belem, Brazil.He soon began to fight in the American Circus that was co-owned by Gastao Gracie.In November of 1919 Maeda returned to Manaus to challenge his friend Satake and this resulted in Maeda’s only defeat of his fighting career. Satake eventually traveled to Europe and was never heard of again. Maeda returned to Belem but by 1920 he was once again returning to England as a result of the rubber crisis that hit Brazil and left the fighting events with no investors.By 1922 Maeda returned to Brazil as an immigration agent, settled in Belem and once again began teaching jiu-jitsu.

In 1925 Geo Omori a Judo/jiu-jitsu champion who had been practicing and teaching judo in Rio de Janeiro since 1909 opened the first Judo/Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Sao Paulo, Brazil.Geo Omori taught many students to the rank of black belt such as Carlos Pereira and Luiz Franca who had also been students of Maeda.

In 1938 the creator of Kodokan Judo, Jigoro Kano, passed away while traveling at sea.Today Judo is an Olympic sport that is practiced all over the world and continues to emphasize take downs and not ground techniques.

In 1941 Maeda, who had settled in Belem and had created many black belts such as Carlos Gracie, the Ono Brothers and Luis Franca passed away.

Luiz Franca a black belt under Maeda moved to Sao Paolo where he trained for a few years with Geo Omori and then moved to Rio de Janeiro. Franca’s main focus was self defense for the armed forces and he also devoted himself to teaching jiu-jitsu to the population of the north zone of Rio de Janeiro. It is from Master Luiz Franca that one of the legends of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Master Oswaldo Fadda, emerged.

The Great Master Oswaldo Fadda, student of Luiz Franca, former-pupil of the Conde Koma and Geo Omori tried to promote Jiu Jitsu regardless of who a person was.He would do demonstrations of the art in the favelas (slums), schools, circuses, churches, clubs and public parks. He believed that jiu-jitsu was a cure and created jiu-jitsu programs to help people overcome their illnesses.

Fadda opened his own academy in January of 1950 in Bento Ribeiro, a suburb in Rio de Janeiro where he had been born and raised. His academy had many students and many visitors and this worried the local ‘tough guys’ who felt threatened by the idea that the common man would know how to defend himself.As a response Master Fadda began to promote an event where he would close the academy doors and within its walls some very memorable fights occurred.They had "tough" guys vs Jiu Jitsu, Capoeira vs Jiu Jitsu, Boxing vs Jiu Jitsu, Karate vs Jiu Jitsu. The night always ended with jiu-jitsu being proven the supreme art.Because of this the Fadda academy became even more popular with capoeira fighters, boxers and other "tough looking guys" joining the club.

Carlos Gracie was a third generation descendent of an immigrant from Scotland. Carlos Gracie was one of five brothers; Osvaldo, Gastão, Jorge, and Helio being the other four. He became a student of Maeda when he was 19 years old after his father Gastao met Maeda.There are contradicting stories as to how the Gracies met Maeda, the two most sited are that Maeda met Gastao Gracie when Maeda was trying to assist in establishing a Japanese colony in Brazil, the other is that Maeda met Gastao when he was representing an Italian fighter in the circus shows that Maeda also fought in. Regardless of how they met, Carlos Gracie with other police officers and Brazilians began to learn jiu-jitsu from Maeda.

Eventually Carlos Gracie moved away and eventually settled in Rio de Janeiro. When Carlos Gracie opened his academy in Rio De Janeiro he was the teacher and organizer of the academy. Eventually his brothers began to teach and Carlos began to focus his time on further establishing Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and managing the fighting careers of his brothers.Carlos himself was legendary in Brazil having never experienced any defeats even though he was a mere 135 pounds. He would fight anyone willing to fight him regardless of size, weight or fighting style.Carlos was also the creator of the famous Gracie diet, which is based on eating only certain foods together in order to aid digestion, give maximum energy, and keep people in great health.

Oswaldo Gracie was known as the brother with the best physique for the sport and it is said that Carlos Gracie himself thought that Osvaldo was the best fighter of the younger brothers.Osvaldo fought in many challenges, one of the most notable fights is when Osvaldo, who weighed only 140 pounds, fought John Baldy, who tipped the scales at 360 pounds. Osvaldo defeated Baldy with a choke hold in just two minutes. George Gracie parted way with his brothers due to family tension but he is considered the brother who at the time spread jiu-jitsu the most as he traveled through Brazil teaching and creating black belts. It is also believed that he fought the most Vale Tudo fights of the Gracie brothers. Gaston Gracie Jr also did a lot to spread jiu-jitsu at that time, mainly teaching in Sao Paulo although he never participated in any challenges.

Helio Gracie was the youngest Gracie brother but he is known as the master mind of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.Helio was a sickly youth and was very physically weak.As a result of family financial hardship at the age of 14 he started to live with his older brothers in Rio de Janeiro where they were teaching jiu-jitsu. Due to his frailty he was unable to practice jiu-jitsu but he observed his brothers for years, especially Carlos Gracie.When Helio was 16 years old a pupil of Carlos Gracie arrived for a lesson yet Carlos was not yet there. Helio, having memorized all the techniques from Carlos, offered to teach him the lesson. At the end of the lesson, Carlos arrived apologizing for his delay but the student was not bothered and stated that he would like to continue training with Helio.

This marked the beginning of Helio’s career in jiu-jitsu and he is credited for the development of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.Because of his small frame and frail health Helio had to modify many of the techniques taught by Carlos so that the emphasis was on leverage and not strength. Led by Helio, the brothers were driven by a constant determination to find effective ways to deal with the aspects of a real fight. They began to break away from the traditional Japanese style and they began experimenting and modifying techniques so that they would be effective regardless of stature. The jiu-jitsu that resulted from modifying the original jiu-jitsu taught to them is what is now known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

At 17, Helio stepped into the ring for the first of many times to fight against a boxer named Antonio Portugal and won in 30 seconds. In 1932 he fought in his first jiu-jitsu/judo match against Namiki and defeated him.Another famous fight was Valdemar Santana’s victory over Helio.The fight had been going on for three hours and forty-five minutes when the two men separated and were kneeling; both gasping for air. Santana connected a kick to Helio's head and he wend down from the blow and the fight was finally over. This was to be Helio’s last Vale Tudo fight but Helio fought against many opponents with different backgrounds successfully throughout his fighting career and he was able to prove how effective his jiu-jitsu was.

In 1954 Master Fadda, in an effort to prove that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was not dominated by the Gracies sent a letter to the newspaper inviting the Gracie's to a challenge. In the newspaper letter Fadda said: "We want to challenge the Gracie's, we respect them as our opponents but we don't fear them. I have about 20 students for the challenge." Helio, impressed by Fadda's gentlemanly invitation, accepted and opened his academy doors for the challenge. Contrary to most expectations, Fadda Academy overcame the Gracie Academy by showing different levels of techniques, amazing the Jiu Jitsu community. Helio Gracie, impressed with the technique of the suburban fighters acknowledged that Jiu Jitsu was not exclusive to the Gracie Family and to the same paper said "All you need is one Fadda to show that Jiu Jitsu is not the privilege of the Gracie".

Master Fadda died in April of 2005 but there are many schools that descend from his black belts. The Nova Union is partly founded by a Fadda student named Wendell Alexander. There is the Wilson Mattos Association, Deo Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil and Enrique Machado a teacher in Manaus that have produced many world champions. Master Fadda was also a member of the Brazilian Confederation of Jiu-Jitsu and edited the book, "Jiu-Jitsu and the Complex".

In 1967, Helio Gracie created the Federation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that established the belt system that is still recognized today.The basis for creating the federation was to take the first steps to making jiu-jitsu a more organized sport. With the founding of the federation the sport began to have better organization and in 1968 they hosted their first Rio de Janeiro State Tournament. In 1988 Carlos Robson Gracie took over the federation renaming it Rio de Janeiro State Federation.

By the late 1970’s Aloisio Silva who was already a black belt in Judo, a practitioner of Luta Livre Humana, Capoeira, boxing, Karate and wrestling became a pupil of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Due to his already vast knowledge of various martial arts he was a quick learner of jiu-jitsu and very soon was not only a pupil but a teacher having received his black belt from Carlos Robson Gracie.

In 1989 he opened his first academy in Rio de Janeiro, Dojo Jiu-Jitsu. Champions quickly began emerging from Dojo jiu-Jitsu under the teachings of Aloisio Silva.The opponents of his students knew that under Aloisio’s teaching the students had an advantage because Aloisio incorporated the knowledge that he had of the other forms of fighting and it gave his students an extra edge in jiu-jitsu.His students had a solid knowledge of takedowns due to Aloisio’s Judo/Wrestling knowledge and they were quick and mobile due to the influence that Capoeira had in Aloisio’s fighting style.

He later opened Dojo Sport Center in Petropolis, Brazil and it was one of the first jiu-jitsu gyms to be fully equipped to provide mixed martial arts training with weights, equipment, and classes of different martial arts. This center was frequently used by practitioners of jiu-jitsu from all academies as preparation for their fights.

Aloisio is the pioneer in developing a Women’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Competition Team.He had the first academy that trained women to compete and his women’s program was extremely popular. Many of the Gracie women who were unable to train in their own academies due to the belief that jiu-jitsu was only for men trained with Aloisio.He was the first Master to ever award a woman the rank of Black Belt.Leka Vieira, who was the first female Black Belt World Champion was his student.His daughter, Patricia Silva, was the motivating reason why Aloisio felt that it was important to realize the potential that women had in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.Patricia Silva became one of the first women to be awarded the rank of black belt and taught for several years in Rio de Janeiro and in the United States.

By the early 1990’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu began to gain prominence in the American culture due to Royce Gracie winning the first UFC, a fighting event that was gaining widespread popularity in the United States. At the same time Rickson Gracie’s victories in the Japan Open fighting events were also helping Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gain prominence in the Japanese culture.

Due to the rapid growth that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was experiencing, in 1993 Robson Gracie created the Confederacao Brasiliera de Jiu-Jitsu.Due to Robson’s involvement as president with the Rio de Janeiro Federation it was decided that his brother, Carlos Gracie Jr, would be the president of the Confederacao Brasiliera de Jiu-Jitsu.The Confederacao Brasiliera de Jiu-Jitsu developed many tournaments including the World Championships.

By the late 1990’s Aloisio Silva was traveling to Japan and the United States hosting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu seminars.Exposed to the growing excitement that the American culture had for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, in 1999 Aloisio accompanied by his son Joao Silva, daughter Patricia Silva and a small group of students moved to the United States.By 2002 Aloisio’s son, Joao Silva, received his black belt and the Silva family opened their first academy in the United States named Aloisio Silva Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.They quickly grew and within one year of opening they relocated to a larger facility in Lawndale, California and were United States International Tournament champions.The Silva family was quickly proving that just like in Brazil they were continuing to create champions.

Today Master Aloisio Silva continues to teach in his academy in Lomita, California.The academy located in Lawndale, California is now the Aloisio Silva Headquarters where his son, Joao Silva is the primary instructor. The Silva Team has continued to grow with over 10 associations in the United States and thousands of students. The Silva Team were the National Champions in 2003 and 2004.From 2005 to 2010 the Silva Team has been the North American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Champions and the 2010 All Americas Team Champions. Many of their students are recognized in the world of martial arts due to their victories in notable tournaments such as the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion and in Mixed Martial Art events.

Today there are many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu teams worldwide as it is a dynamic and growing sport.Many teams such as the Gracies, Alliance, Nova Uniao, Dojo, Machados, Silvas, Braza and many others represent families who have chosen Jiu-Jitsu as a way of life. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners are some of the world's best known mixed martial arts fighters, such as Jose Aldo, Bibiano Fearnades, Ronaldo Jacare Sousa,Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira, BJ Penn, Ricardo Arona, Murilo Bustamante ,Wallid Ismael, Paulo Filho, Matt Serra, Jose Mario Sperry and many others.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as an art and sport continues to evolve. Because of the rise of sport Jiu-Jitsu, many new techniques and strategies have developed. The beauty of jiu-jitsu is that it is an art of the mind and body and every pupil can be an artist, creating his or her own art of jiu-jitsu.Jiu-Jitsu’s history proves that it is an art that has been transformed time after time by the uniqueness that each pupil has brought to the art.For the Ancient Greek it was an Olympic Sport and method of warfare, for the Buddhist Monk it was the “gentle art” of self-defense and so each person and each culture has touched jiu-jitsu and transformed it. When Jiu-Jitsu reached Brazil it was in a heightened state of transformation due to the changes that were occurring between the old jiu-jitsu and Kodokan Judo in Japan.It was almost an expected and natural process that Brazil, who had a very alive and vibrant culture for fighting would welcome jiu-jitsu and make it its own.The Gracies are a key contributor to the development of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but there also many other Masters such as Master Fadda, Master Franca, the Ono brothers and many more who also gave a ‘little piece of themselves' to the art and allowed it to further become Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.One should now naturally expect that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will be further transformed as its popularity spreads throughout the world and the art is given many other ‘little’ pieces from practitioners of the art.