History of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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More commonly known as BJJ, it is a martial art centred around ground fighting and grappling. With similarities to other combat sports such as judo, BJJ has been heavily integrated into the more modern sport of mixed martial arts. With an emphasis on skill and finesse, its history paints a picture of experimentation and evolution.


The first ever recorded jiu-jitsu school was owned by Geo Omor and was opened at the turn of the 20th century. Also implementing judo into its training, the word was quickly spread of the new sport amongst boxers, wrestlers, and other combat athletes. Carlos Gracie, who coined the fame for the family name, first discovered the sport in 1917 and quickly spread word to his brothers. The Gracie family would go on to have the most decorated ancestry in the sport, opening gyms across the world that bear their name.


Although commonly seen in conjunction with other styles of MMA, BJJ primarily avoids the use of striking and instead focuses on submission holds. There are three main ground positions that are employed: side control, full mount, and guard. Both side control and mount are positions assigned to the grappler with top control, while guard is implemented while the fighter is on his or her back.

Submission holds are the main source of attack in BJJ and are implemented in a variety of forms and methods. Joint locks are holds involving a limb, applying pressure in the opposite natural direction of the joint. Common joint locks include Armbars, Americanas, Omoplatas, and Kimuras, which are all basic holds for every fighter.

Strangles or choke holds are the second form of submission, focusing on the neck of the opponent. The fighter will cut off the breathing by applying pressure to the windpipe, causing his or her opponent to temporarily lose consciousness. If the fighter does lose consciousness for that short period of time, the bout is over and he or she is declared the loser.


The standard uniform used in the sport of BJJ is the judogi, commonly referred to as a “gi”. These may differ from similar combat clothing as they require a tighter fit, especially around the cuffs of the jacket and pants. A large selection of BJJ Gi’s are available, being a critical component to the sport. Depending on the tournament, there may be specific standards for the gis of the fighters.

Belts are also given out as a part of the uniform and act as a system of grading for the fighters. Depending on the colour of the belt, it signifies a level of skill and accomplishment in the sport. Beginning with white for adults, it evolves to the most prestigious colour of red in the black belt category for the most deserving athletes. It is suggested that the average BJJ practitioner may take longer than 12 years to reach the status of black belt, with some students advancing quicker due to skill and demeanour. With BJJ being implemented in a wide variety of MMA programs, mastering the sport can be a long but rewarding process.

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