A Brief History of Jiu Jitsu

Jiu jitsu gained a meteoric growth in popularity in the last couple decades, due to the commercial success of the Ultimate Fighting Championships. The original UFC was quite different from the modern day set up; it was a single knockout, eight-man tournament with no weight classes or judges. Royce Gracie used Brazilian jiu-jitsu techniques to defeat all of his opponents, to become the first UFC champion in history. Although many practice jiu jitsu, the history of the art isn’t common knowledge. Here’s our brief history of this incredible martial art.

Jiu jitsu – or jujutsu – originates from Japan, as a martial art that is characterized by close-quarters combat in which the jiu jitsu artist is unarmed. While many Asian-based martial arts are focused on striking, jiu jitsu centers itself on submissions that are effective against armored opponents, such as throwing, immobolising, joint locks and choking.


No matter your style, it's important to know the roots and history of jiu jitsu." (Image by Michael Neal)

Jiu jitsu gained popularity in its early days, due to the strict anti-war laws imposed by the Tokugawa shogunate. Rival schools would engage in friendly jiu jitsu bouts, with the martial art evolving from techniques with intent to kill to solely submissions. That being said, jiu jitsu started off as a way for warriors in battle to effectively combat foes with close quarter techniques, as their large, heavy swords would prove ineffective in such a tight space. It’s still taught by many law enforcement agencies and militaries, worldwide.

There are thousands of derivatives and branches of jiu jitsu, with some of the most popular ones being danzan ryu, German ju-jutsu, and, of course, Brazilian jiu-jitsu: the most popular modern day adaptation in North America, at this point in time. Brazilian jiu-jitsu was created when Mitsuyo Maeda and Soshihiro Satake taught Luiz França and Carlos Gracie Kodokan Judo. Through experimentations, practices and adaptation by Carlos and Hélio Gracie, Brazilian jiu-jitsu became what it’s known for today. With emphasis on a small fighter being able to take down a larger opponent utilizing BJJ techniques, this martial art hit prime time, when Royce Gracie won the first UFC: beating opponents noticeably larger than him.

Nowadays, jiu jitsu is not only an art; it’s also a sport and a way of life. It’s taught in traditional schools and modern mixed gyms, around the globe.

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