The oldest martial art, Jiu-Jitsu can be traced back to India where it was created by Buddhist monks. They developed movements based on leverage and balance, in a way that would avoid reliance on strength and weapons. Jiu-Jitsu later found its way to China and to Japan where it gained even more momentum. Adopted by the Samurais, Japanese Royal Guards, as a superior form of self-defence, the martial art emphasised their own code of conduct known as Bushido, the “way of the warrior”. It revolved around these core values, loyalty, justice, manners, purity, modesty, honour, self-confidence and respect. They named the smooth techniques “Jiu-Jitsu”, meaning “the gentle art.” At the end of Japans feudal system, Jiu-Jitsu was split into different styles, including Karate, Aikido, Judo etc.
The development of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu began when Japanese judoka Mitsuyo Maeda first migrated to Brazil in 1914, where he was influential in establishing a Japanese immigrant community. His efforts were aided by Gastão Gracie, a Brazilian politician. Maeda was so grateful for Gracie’s assistance that in return, he taught the Brazilian’s oldest son, Carlos, the secrets of the ancient martial art. Carlos went on to teach those techniques to his brothers, and in 1925, they opened the first Jiu-Jitsu academy in Brazil. For the Gracie brothers, teaching the art was their passion.
One of the brothers, Helio Gracie, paid particular interest to the use of these techniques. Helio was a small framed 16 year old, weighing just 61kg, and was in frail health when he began learning Jiu-Jitsu. He was unable to participate in class, and often sat and watched his older brother teach. Helio was asked to instruct one day samurais on the battlefield or during any confrontation, could end up devoid of swords or spears. At that point he would need a method of defence that did not rely solely on a weapon. The martial art gained new direction when a renowned instructor from the Kodokan Japanese School decided to travel the world. Mitsuyo Maeda; a sumo fighter’s son purpose set out to prove the efficiency of his choke and arm locks against opponents of all styles and sizes.
when Carlos was unable to make it. He did surprisingly well and, due to his size and stature, he began to change the basic rules of Jiu-Jitsu. In order to make it possible for a smaller opponent to defeat a larger one, he introduced the use of leverage. He started experimenting, enhancing and modifying the basic techniques, making them effective for a person regardless of their size or strength. This was the beginning of the development of a new and more effective art – Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. It is a martial art that continuously evolves because the techniques are not based on an ancient rule book set in stone – it’s based on efficiency and practicality.
Jiu-Jitsu has left its imprint on the world. Today, it is the fastest growing martial art. The ability to defeat an opponent without the use of violence has empowered students of Jiu-Jitsu both mentally and physically, on and off the mat.