Mainly, the fighting style of Brazilian jiu-jitsu is based on grappling or neutralizing attackers without striking them. The techniques used to achieve this include choke holds and joint locks, however, trips, sweeps, and throws are also employed. Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitions have specific rules, but many aspects of jiu-jitsu grappling are evident in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) bouts worldwide.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu rankings share similarities with judo because belts are used, beginning with white, then progressing to blue, then purple, then brown, then black and finally to red belt. Becoming a red belt takes years of discipline and dedication. Typically, this process takes over forty years, during which time the martial artist must be committed to the craft. This system of colored belts is used for adults, however, the belt ranks start with white for children, then progress to gray, then yellow, then orange and finally to green.
Originally, Brazilian jiu-jitsu was developed from Japanese jiu-jitsu and judo, however, certain characteristics differentiate it from other martial arts. In the 1900s, Japanese martial artist Mitsuyo Maeda, who studied sumo and judo, introduced these arts to Belém city in Brazil. At this time, he trained a teenage Carlos Gracie in his fighting style, who traveled with his relatives to Rio de Janeiro several years later. During the 1920s, Carlos started to train his relatives and other students in the skills he had mastered. Soon after, he set up his own dojo where he and his brothers offered jiu-jitsu grappling dummies classes. Carlos’ younger brother, Helio, studied there and became an instructor.
To prove the effectiveness of Gracie style jiu-jitsu, Carlos and his relatives arranged bouts with other fighters. They gained a reputation as a family of fighters, with Helio gaining the most notoriety, thanks to his bouts against opponents who were considerably bigger than him. Under Carlos’ tutelage, Helio developed his martial arts skills over time and combined his expertise in jujitsu and judo to create a system of combat that enabled him to beat far bigger opponents in unsanctioned and sanctioned tournaments. This martial arts method is what is known today as Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and Heilo and Carlos are regarded as its’ joint founders.
Gracie jiu-jitsu is not entirely the same as Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a phrase that refers to every style that was developed from Helio’s and Carlos’ original tuition. The majority of these techniques use grappling for competition purposes and avoid striking. In contrast, Gracie jiu-jitsu encompasses the techniques taught by Helio to his relatives and other assigned instructors. This type of jiu-jitsu uses striking and several other self-defense moves that are banned in competitions, but which are effective in ‘real life’ circumstances.
In North America, Brazilian jiu-jitsu captured people’s attention when the first UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships) were staged during the 1990s. Art Davie was the person who had the idea for this event, and it was implemented with the help of Rorion Gracie (Helio’s son) and Hollywood screenwriter John Milius. The tournament, which featured eight fighters, was watched by North American television viewers (on pay per view) and viewers from other countries. There were few rules because the concept was to pit martial artists from different fighting backgrounds against one another. Three of the initial four UFC tournaments were won by Royce Gracie, who was another son of Helio and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. This gave the art mainstream appeal and boosted its’ credibility even further.
There are a few notable differences between Brazilian jiu-jitsu and both jujitsu and judo. Typically, judo focuses on throwing opponents to the floor, whereas Brazilian jiu-jitsu focuses on fighting while on the floor. Practitioners of judo are known for their range of throwing maneuvers, whereas Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters are renown for their submission techniques primarily. In addition, jujitsu, judo, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu have significantly different competition rules.
One major benefit of jiu-jitsu grappling is what the process of learning it does for students. Attending a class after trying to learn a technique for months, then being submitted is demoralizing. However, what is motivating is attending a class the following day and giving it another go. The mental resolve to keep trying, even when things are going against them, inevitably helps students in other parts of their lives away from the dojo.