History of BJJ

History of BJJ

 

Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil

Eventually, in Japan many different variations of the art (Jiu-Jitsu) took shape, including Karate, Aikido, and Judo. But these arts were missing essential pieces of what the complete art of Jiu-Jitsu originally held. Soon the day of the Samurai came to an end, the gun replaced the sword, and new sportive ways to practice martial arts were developed. This lack of reality created years of confusion in the martial arts community, a confusion that legendary Bruce Lee would later refer to as the ‘classical mess’. The ‘sport arts’, such as Judo and Kendo were wonderful in the way of offering their practitioners a safe way to realistically train the techniques of their system, but often limited their practitioners with too many rules to maintain effectiveness as a combative style. The more traditional combat schools were simply practicing techniques no longer suitable for modern day combat, and with no way to safely test them, practicing these arts became like swimming without water. It wasn’t until the sport art of Judo and the combat art of Jiu-Jitsu were introduced to the Gracie family in Brazil that the real art of Jiu-Jitsu would be brought to life again. Japanese Jiu-Jitsu (practiced as Judo) was introduced to the Gracie family in Brazil (@ 1915) by Esai Maeda, who is also known as Conde Koma. This name came about when Maeda was in Spain (1908). While in Spain, Maeda, having some financial troubles, used the Japanese verb “komaru”, meaning to be in trouble, to describe himself. Maeda decided this didn’t sound right, so he dropped the last syllable and changed it to “koma.” The word “conde” comes from the Spanish language, meaning “Count.” Later in his life, Maeda would be given the Brazilian title of “Conte Comte,” or Count Combat.


Maeda was a champion of Judo and a direct student of its founder, Jigoro Kano, at the Kodokan in Japan. He was born in 1878, and became a student of Judo in 1897. In 1904 Maeda was given the opportunity to travel to the United States with one of his teachers, Tsunejiro Tomita. While in the U.S. they demonstrated the art of Judo for Theodore Roosevelt at the White House, and for cadets at the West Point Military Academy. This is an exert from Roosevelt’s letters to his children on wrestling and Jiu-jitsu (note the spelling is Jiu-jitsu, not Jujutsu due to the fact that it is before 1950):

No matter where you live or what style of Jiu-Jitsu you practice, we all owe some degree of respect to the Gracie Family for introducing us to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The Gracie family is responsible for a large part of the modern advancement or improvement of Jiu-Jitsu. The term Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is used to describe the difference between the ‘old’ Jiu-Jitsu (jujutsu/jujitsu), and the Gracie family’s advancement of the art through the 1900’s. Now that ‘Gracie Jiu-Jitsu’ has spread all over Brazil and to the United States, many champions of the art are being born that are not Gracie Family members. These champions are contributing to the art’s progression by improving on techniques and developing new ones. The bulk of basic movements may still be Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, but as the art develops, the term ‘Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’ becomes more appropriate. As more and more innovators contribute to the art outside of Brazil, it eventually may be appropriate to simply call the art ‘Jiu-Jitsu’.