Grappling arts, standing up or on the ground, have been around for more than a millennium. BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU is a modality of grappling (mainly the ground fighting aspect) and has been around since the early 1900s. Many theories exist with respect to BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU’s origins. One of the most widely held views regarding BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU’s evolution claims that a man named Mitsuyo Maeda came from Japan to Brazil to demonstrate and teach his style of Judo. Gastao Gracie, a Brazilian, had a son named Carlos who enjoyed a demonstration by Maeda and sought to learn it. Maeda taught Carlos and Carlos passed this knowledge to his brothers.
Carlos taught his brother Helio, who was frail in stature and could not perform many of the techniques. Helio adapted the movements for his frame and eventually began teaching. The name of what Carlos and Helio were teaching became known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Helio’s style of Jiu-Jitsu catered more toward ground movements and self-defense than modern day Judo, which seems to focus more on stand up. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Judo are very similar in nature, but can differ in objective.
As the story goes, Helio competed against other martial artists of different styles and defeated many until he met a heavier Judo practitioner named Masahiko Kimura. Kimura won their match, but Helio’s courage gained him Kimura’s utmost respect. Helio continued to develop his style of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, and eventually it branched off into another form of Jiu-Jitsu simply called Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Some today use the terms interchangeably.
One key difference between GJJ and BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU today is that Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is primarily taught for self-defense, not just sport. Helio Gracie stated “The Jiu-Jitsu that I created was designed to give the weak ones a chance to face the heavy and strong.” However, regardless of this philosophy, many students do use Gracie Jiu-Jitsu for recreation and sport and, when used this way, it is hard to differentiate from BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU because the movements overlap.
So, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu focuses on more self-defense applications with very deep fundamentals and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu seems more focused on sport applications with evolving principles. A new practitioner should choose a school or program based on their individual needs. Many schools will intertwine both forms of Jiu-Jitsu without even knowing it, but it is best to talk with a school’s program director or head instructor to see what programs are available.
Respect the Gracies, promoters, and all developers of this art. If not for their hard work and promotion, you would not be practicing.
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