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A Little History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Jiu Jitsu’s Birth in Brazil


The history of Jiu Jitsu in Brazil mainly derives from one man, Mitsuyo Maeda – known in Brazil as Conde Coma (Count Coma). Maeda was a student of Jigoro Kano and his Kodokan School of martial arts. Though Kano is widely recognized as the father of Judo, his style of teaching was regarded in the early days as a branch of Ju Jitsu and not it’s own martial style. In fact, Jigoro’s branch of Ju Jitsu has been diluted from its original format over the years by consistent changes to Judo’s rules and regulations.

Mitsuyo Maeda was one of Jigoto Kano’s star pupils, and as such he was asked to help spread the word of his master’s style. Maeda travelled all over the world displaying the art in arenas and circuses, traveling through the United States, England and many other countries before landing in Brazil. It was in Brazil that he met Carlos Gracie, a troubled teenager that Maeda took under his wing and taught his style, though Carlos wasn’t the only student taught by Count Coma, nor was he the only one to develop his own Jiu Jitsu School, one other student of Maeda also spread his seed into Jiu Jitsu’s landscape, Luis França. There were other Japanese Jiu Jitsu masters teaching Jiu Jitsu in Brazil who were lesser known, though still relevant to BJJ today, people like Takeo Iano in the North of Brazil and Kazuo Yoshida in Bahia.

The Importance of Jiu Jitsu in MMA


While the Brazilian Vale Tudo panorama was roaring, the same was not happening in the United States. It was again through the Gracie family’s efforts that the sport was put in its place. The Gracie’s had seen a market for their Jiu Jitsu style in America, and they established an academy in California. In trying to prove that their style was the best martial art available, the Gracie’s developed a No Holds Barred event, the concept being designed by Rorion Gracie, this event was named Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and it had the same principle as the Vale Tudo events back in Brazil. The first champion to emerge from this event was Royce Gracie, who later became a UFC Hall of Fame. The brand name and the event itself would suffer severe changes to the rule set, such as the inclusion of gloves, the Kimono (Gi) being stripped, the time frame and striking limitations added and so on and so forth. With time the fighters became  well rounded learning all facets of the game. Today, though less relevant than it was in the past, Jiu Jitsu is still one of the most important disciplines in the sport.

If the sport started in the US in the early 1990’s, the same seemed to happen in Japan around the same time. Considered the birth nation of Martial Arts, Japan would seem to have a head start when it came to No Holds Barred; the Japanese were serious about striking martial arts and ground fighting with their Karate and Kosen Judo schools. Still, when MMA (Vale Tudo) emerged in Japan, another Gracie name rose above all others, the name of Rickson Gracie. Considered by many the greatest BJJ competitor of all time, Rickson remained undefeated throughout his career, and once again cemented the Gracie name and the Jiu Jitsu style in that country.

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