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About BJJ


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), also called Gracies Jiu-Jitsu, is a martial art and a combat sport that focuses on grappling and ground fighting with the goal of gaining a dominant position and using joint-locks and chokeholds to force an opponent to submit. It promotes the principle that a smaller, weaker person using leverage and proper technique can successfully defend themselves against a bigger, stronger assailant. BJJ can be trained for self defense, sport grappling tournaments (gi and no-gi), and mixed martial arts (MMA) competition.

Ground Grappling (Ne-waza) refers to all the grappling techniques that are applied while the grapplers are no longer in a standing position and was greatly popularized by the success of Royce Gracie in the early days of the UFC. A top position generally puts the grappler in an advantageous position, he or she can use the position to escape by standing up, pinning and exhausting the opponent, executing a submission hold, or striking the opponent. The revolution of BJJ in ground grappling showed the world that top position was no longer the dominant position. Effective use of the BJJ guard made the bottom grappler extremely dangerous from the bottom position. Brazilian jiu-jitsu allowed fighters to fight effectively from all positions and to dictate the flow of the fight.
In the early 1990s, three styles stood out for their effectiveness in MMA competition: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Amateur wrestling and Shoot wrestling. This may be attributable in part to the grappling emphasis of the aforementioned styles, which, perhaps due to the scarcity of mixed martial arts competitions prior to the early 90s, had been neglected by most practitioners of striking-based arts. Even though fighters that combined amateur wrestling and striking techniques dominated the stranding portion of an MMA fight, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stylists had a distinct advantage on the ground. Those unfamiliar with submission grappling proved to be unprepared to deal with its submission techniques.

With the explosive success of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the majority of fighters recognized the effectiveness of BJJ and incorporated it into their training regiment. Rarely will you find successful fighters that have not cross trained or studied BJJ to some degree.


Like many other subjects of history, it would be impossible to accurately describe the origin of Jiu-Jitsu. However there is no lack of hypotheses. Every culture has shown to have some form of hand-to-hand combat in its history. Weaponless combat usually appears in the form of wrestling and sometimes boxing. Looking at a fighting time line, it is possible that the wrestling techniques of Jiu-Jitsu could have been influenced by Ancient Greece. The Olympic Games were one of the Greek's traditions. In fact one of its most popular sports, Pankration was a sport that involved both boxing and wrestling techniques and became more popular to the Greeks than each one of them individually. During Alexander the Great's conquests (356 - 323 B.C.), he brought the Greek culture to the areas he conquered. His conquests stretched all the way to India, where he introduced the customs and ideals of Greek culture to the people of that area where Jiu-Jitsu's foundation was likely to have been born.

The general idea embraced by most historians is that systematized martial arts techniques came from India along with Buddhism (Dharma). The concept here is that the Shaolin temple was built in the center of China and this is where Dharma introduced Buddhism and Boxing. Buddhist Monks in northern India are said to have greatly contributed to the early development of Jiu-Jitsu. Bandits constantly assaulted the monks during their long journeys through the interior of India. Buddhist religious and moral values did not encourage the use of weapons so they were forced to develop an empty hand system of self-defense.

These Monks were men of great wisdom who possessed a perfect knowledge of the human body. Consequently, they applied laws of physics such as leverage, momentum, balance, center of gravity, friction, weight transmission and manipulation of the human anatomy’s vital points in order to create a scientific art of self-defense.

Another version supports the idea of Jiu-Jitsu coming from China around the time of the fall of the Ming Dynasty. When a Chinese monk named Chin Gen Pinh came to Japan, accompanied with his knowledge and experience of Kempo, known as the “China Hand.” Another theory says that there were practitioners of Chikura Karube, a wrestling sport developed around 200 B.C. It is said that Chikura Karube later became Jiu-jitsu in Japan. 

One thing is certain about these stories, and that is that the Japanese were responsible for refining a grappling art into a very sophisticated grappling system called Jiu-Jitsu which was developed in Japan during the Feudal period.


The period of Japanese history between the 8th and 16th centuries was covered with constant civil war and many systems of Jiu-Jitsu were utilized, practiced and perfected on the battlefield. This training was used to conquer armored and armed opponents.

It was originally an art designed for warfare, but after the abolition of the Feudal system in Japan, certain modifications needed to be made to the art in order to make it suitable for practice. During Feudal times, Jiu-Jitsu was also known as Yawara, Hakuda, Kogusoko, and an assortment of other names. 

The earliest recorded use of the word "Jiu-Jitsu" happens in 1532 and is coined by Hisamori Tenenuchi when he officially established the first school of Jiu-Jitsu in Japan. The history of the art during this time is uncertain because teachers kept everything secret to give their art a feeling of importance and then would change the stories of their art to suit their own needs. 

In approximately 1603, Japan came to a fairly peaceful period following the formation of the Tokugawa military government by Tokugawa Ieyasu. During this time (1603-1868), the feudal civil wars that had plagued Japan for centuries started to disappear. However, following the adage "living in peace, but remembering war," the traditions of classical budo (martial arts) required that everyone should learn a method of self-defense for those situations where weapons could not be used and the practice of Jiu-Jitsu continued to spread. Forms and techniques displaying weapons skills of fighting began to yield to weaponless styles which incorporated many of the grappling ground fighting techniques of the older styles.

After the Feudal period in Japan ended (Jiu-Jitsu was no longer needed on the battlefield), a way to practice the art realistically was needed, which is why Jigoro Kano (1860-1938), an educated man and member of the Cultural department and a practitioner of Jiu-Jitsu, developed his own version of Jiu-Jitsu in the late 1800s, called Judo. Judo was helpful because it allowed practitioners the ability to try the art safely and realistically at the same time. 

After a match-up between older styles of Jiu-Jitsu and Judo at the Tokyo police headquarters, Judo was named the national martial art in Japan. It was the official art used by law enforcement in the late 1800s, and continues to be popular to this day. 

Because of the sportive outlet (rules that made practice safe), students of Jiu-Jitsu from Kano's school were able to practice more frequently due to the fact that they were not always recovering from injuries. This multiplies the amount of training time for students of Kano's school and drastically increased their abilities. Judo (Kano's version of Jiu-Jitsu) was watered down from the complete form of Jiu-Jitsu, but still contained enough techniques to preserve its realistic effectiveness. He named it Kodokan Judo. The one problem that occurred was, in Kano's opinion, ground work was not as important as achieving the throw or take down, therefore ground fighting was not emphasized in Judo. 

There is a theory that claims that Judo was developed with the purpose of hiding the realistic effectiveness of Jiu-Jitsu from the western world. During World War II, many U.S. soldiers were exposed to the art of Judo and brought it back to America with them.


The Gracie family refers to the lineage of Brazilian businessman and politician Gastão Gracie. They are known as the founders of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and for their success in mixed martial arts, vale tudo, and submission wrestling competitions. As a family, they uphold the Gracie challenge.

Hélio Gracie (born in 1913-2009):

When Hélio was 16 years old, he found the opportunity to teach a Jiu-Jitsu class, and this experience led him to develop Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The Director of the Bank of Brazil, Dr. Mario arrived for class as scheduled. The instructor Carlos was running late and was not present. Hélio offered to begin the class with the man. When the tardy Carlos arrived offering his apologies, the student assured him it was no problem, and actually requested that he be allowed to continue learning with Hélio instead. Carlos agreed to this and Hélio began as an instructor. Hélio realized however, even though he knew the techniques theoretically, in actuality, the moves were much harder to execute. Due to his smaller size, he realized many of the jiu-jitsu moves required brute strength that his physical nature did not allow. He began adapting the moves for his particular physical attributes, and through trial and error learned to maximize leverage, thus minimizing the force that needed to be exerted to execute the move. From these experiments, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, formally Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, was created. Using these new techniques, smaller and weaker opponents gained the capability to defend themselves and even defeat much larger opponents.

Rorion Gracie ( born 1952) is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, a mixed martial artist, founder of the UFC, and a prominent member of the Gracie family. He is the oldest son of Hélio Gracie and now that his father has died, he is the Gracie family patriarch.[1] and one of the few people in the world to hold a 9th degree red belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,[2] receiving that promotion on October 27, 2003 from his father.

Ryron Gracie (born December 1, 1981) is an American jiu-jitsu fighter and teacher specializing in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. He is the eldest son of Rorion Gracie and lives and teaches at the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California. He is a member of the legendary Gracie family.

Ryron received his black belt from the hands of his grandfather, Grand Master Helio Gracie after winning the first Annual International Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Federation Open Championship in 2003. Later that year, he competed in the Southern California Pro-Am Invitational super-fight against Todd Margolis and submitted him with an arm-bar from the back. Ryron then competed in the 2005 Pan American Submission Grappling Tournament and submitted all his opponents earning him the Gold. He holds a Professor Certificate, an honor only given by the Grand Master himself, for jiu-jitsu teaching. He travels worldwide to teach seminars to Gracie Jiu-Jitsu practitioners.
He is currently a 5th degree black belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu under his father. Along with his brothers, he recently started an interactive website called "Gracie University" where members can learn Gracie Jiu-Jitsu online and earn rank from the brothers.

Belt Advancement:

The standards for grading and belt promotions vary between schools, but the widely accepted measures of a person's skill and rank in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are first the amount of technical knowledge they can demonstrate, and then  their performance in sparring and competition. 

Technical knowledge is judged by the number of techniques a person can perform, and the level of skill with which he performs them in sparring and competition. This allows for smaller and older people to be recognized for their knowledge though they may not be the biggest and strongest fighters in the school. It is a distinctly individual sport, and practitioners are encouraged to adapt the techniques to make them work for their body type, strategy, and level of athleticism. The ultimate criterion is the ability to execute the technique successfully, and not stylistic compliance.
Competitions play an important role in the grading of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as they allow an instructor to compare the level of his students against those of the same rank in other schools. A belt promotion may be given after success in a competition, particularly at the lower belts. A promotion might also be awarded when a person can submit most people in his school of the same rank, e.g. a white belt who consistently submits most other white belts in sparring and is starting to catch blue belts.

The high level of competition between schools and its importance to belt promotion is also considered to be one of the key factors preventing instructors from lowering standards or allowing people to buy their way up the belts.
Many instructors also take the personality of the person and their behavior outside of class into account, and may refuse to promote someone if they exhibit antisocial or destructive tendencies.

It is by these and other criteria that most instructors promote their students. A few schools may also have formal testing and include oral or written exams.

Also, some schools may use a stripe system for each level belt, meaning that they must progress through a certain rank for each belt. Some schools use slightly different belt systems, such as having more colored belts before blue belt, but the above are the only widely accepted ranks as they are the standards for tournaments.

There are minimum age requirements for belt promotions. Blue belts are never awarded to anyone under the age of 16. For promotion to black belt the minimum age is 18 years old or older according to the main regulating body of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the International Federation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (IFBBJ).

Stripes may be awarded to any rank below black belt, but like the belts themselves, tend to be given at the instructor's discretion, and may be in recognition of accomplishments like noticeably improving or victories in a tournament. However, not all schools award stripes, or award them consistently, so the number of stripes a person has is not necessarily a good measure of their accomplishments or time in training. When they are used, it is standard for a student to receive 3 stripes before being promoted to the next rank.
Black belts can receive degrees for as long as they train or teach the art. At 8th , the black belt is replaced by an alternately red and black belt. At 9th & 10th degree the belt becomes solid red. Only the founding Gracie Brothers Hélio,Carlos & his brothers will ever have the 10th degree red belt. The Gracie family members who are 9th degrees belt holders are Carlson Gracie, Reylson Gracie and Rorion Gracie who was promoted on October 27, 2003 by his father Hélio Gracie.

BJJ differs in some aspects from other martial arts in the criteria for grade promotion, which is almost exclusively based on practical expertise in randori (free sparring, or rolling) and championship results. Its expected, although not always the case, that any BJJ black belt is extremely proficient in every applied aspect of BJJ and also fare well in competition. Less emphasis is given to theoretical and background knowledge. Rarely any formal test is performed for the grading, which is based mainly in observation at every-day practice sessions. For contrast, as an example, in Judo practical knowledge and expertise in shiai (competition) and/or randori alone will hardly give an athlete the black-belt grade, as knowledge of technique names and Kata demonstration are necessary to a black belt holder. Its not always the case though since some schools, mainly traditional Japanese schools, has the prerequisite that a judoka defeats a set number of opponents from higher grades before advancing.

Source: article on BJJ Wikipedia
  1. World Jiu-Jitsu Championship (August 23, 24, 25, 26, 2007)
  2. Pan American Championship (March 30, 31 and April 1, 2007)
  3. European Championship (January 27, 26, 2007)
  4. International Master and Senior Championship (July 7,8, 2007)
  5. Asian Open Jiu-Jitsu Championship
  6. Pan Pacific Jiu-Jitsu Championship