A Brief History of BJJ

The origin story of Brazilian jiu jitsu is a fascinating one, tracing the history of this unique martial art from its roots in ancient Japan to its explosion across modern-day South America. 

First developed in feudal Japan, jiu jitsu is a well-established fighting style known for its use of holds, grapples, and strategically-placed pressure, all designed to bring an opponent down to the ground and subdue them. 

The word jiu jitsu, also known as jiu-jitsu or jujutsu, means ‘gentle art’ but don’t be fooled by the slow, controlled movements – this is a high-level martial art that builds strength and stamina while taking down any opponent, no matter their size. 

Juijitsu was groundbreaking in its time, providing samurais with a way to defeat their opponents without using weapons. Instead, fighters would practice choke holds, joint locks, throws, sweeps, and other techniques to disarm and overpower. 

Like its close relative, judo, jiu jitsu focuses on technique, agility, and discipline. Focusing on self-control and subtle power, it’s not surprising it was just as popular in Buddhist temples as on the battlefield. 

From Japan to Brazil – how BJJ got its start

It wasn’t long before the ‘gentle art’ gained international attention, catching the eye of a young Brazilian fighter, Carlos Gracie, in 1917. Training with a Japanese master, Carlos and his brothers would go on to popularize the sport in Brazil, adding their own technical innovations to create what is now known as Brazilian jiu jitsu. The first Gracie BJJ academy opened in 1925 and 7 decades later the sport was officially recognized on the world stage with the creation of the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation in 1994.

It wasn’t until the launch of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) that the art really gained ground in North America however. Popularized by fighter Royce Gracie, the UFC opened in 1993 and BJJ fighters dominated, surprising spectators who saw these seemingly small and unimpressive looking fighters completely wipe the floor with their larger opponents. 

Continuing the BJJ story

The UFC gave BJJ a foothold in North America and the sport’s popularity has been growing ever since. Brazilian jiu jitsu is one of the most fluid martial arts, evolving as practitioners add their own nuance and interpretation. Every time a BJJ fighter steps on the mat, they’re adding to the rich story of this incredible practice. 

And the benefits speak for themselves – teaching kids and adults discipline, improving fitness, building strength, and boosting confidence. You won’t become a samurai after one class, but you’ll have taken the first step towards a fitter, better you. 

BJJ may have started in South America but you don’t have to hop on a plane to train like a master. Get your grapple on right here in Innisfil with our classes for all ages and levels.

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