Skip to Content

Jiu Jitsu Origin – A Brief History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Jiu jitsu Origin

The jiu jitsu origin involves Buddhist monks in India, a Japanese judo master, scrappy Brazilians, and a dream in America. 

The history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be traced back nearly 4000 years ago to northern India where monks would practice the form of grappling for self defense. 

Later, it became popular as one of the many martial arts used by samurai in Japan. 

Bjj then was introduced to Brazil via Mitsuyo Maeda who was a judo master in his home country of Japan.

This makes deciding on a single founder of jiu jitsu a bit difficult.

If you’re wondering “where does jiu jitsu come from?”, in reality it came from all of these places. 

So what is jiu jitsu in the present day?

Present day jiu jitsu kept some of the more traditional aspects like utilizing jiu jitsu belts to denote rank level and experience.

However, it is an ever evolving martial art – taking with it effective techniques and leaving behind the ineffective ones.

History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

If you’re wondering about the history of Brazilian jiu jitsu it is quite an interesting one (see above info graphic)

While the start of it can be arguably connected to monks in Northern India ~4000 years ago, it was developed in its more “modern” state in Japan as a form of martial arts for use on the battlefield.

In the 1800s, when all else failed, Japanese soldiers would use Jiu Jitsu in life-threatening altercations during combat.


The start of jiu jitsu in Japan is linked to Jigoroa Kan.

Mitsuyo Maeda was taught Japan’s style of jiu jitsu under Jigoro Kano.

It placed a strong emphasis on safe, effective techniques that can be practiced on a fully resisting opponent.

Maeda become was of Kano’s most prominent students since he was well versed in other popular martial arts at the time such as Judo.

In the early 1900s, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which is made up from the Japanese word, jiu jitsu, and heavily influenced by judo, was imported into South America by Maeda, and later developed as a new martial arts style by a group of Brazilian pioneers. 

The martial art known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was later, further developed by Carlos, Oswaldo, Gaston Jr., George, and Helio Gracie in the 1920s.

They were taught it by the world famous Judo practitioner, Mitsuo Maeda, while he was teaching Japan’s version of jiu jitsu in Brazil. 

After it grew in popularity in Brazil, it was practiced by many people of many different walks of life.

It was not until the 1970s that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu arrived in the United States.

As a result of an initial introduction to jiu-jitsu at the US consulate in Rio, Carley Gracie was invited to teach the trade of his family at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, VA. After his first Quantico experience, Carley taught throughout the country before moving to California in 1979.

Rorion Gracie decided to move to California and soon after, he was followed by his younger brother, Royce Gracie, who heard stories about America from cousins Rolls and Carley Graci and later created the first Gracie owned gym ~1980 in southern California

The first UFC event in 1993 showcased Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s effectiveness. It was created by Rorion Gracie and Art Davie which pitted martial arts styles against each other.

So naturally, there were a few martial arts that would rise to the top as being more effective than others – (spoiler alert) brazilian jiu jitsu was one of them.

Royce, Rorion’s brother, was selected to compete in this tournament and demonstrate Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s effectiveness even when used by a smaller practitioner such as himself.

Since Royce’s massive success in the early UFC days, thousands of athletes have been interested in learning jiu jitsu. 

It is doubtful that BJJ would exist today without Royce competing so successfully in the UFC.

After the UFC brought mixed martial arts to the mainstream in the 1990s, Carlos Gracie, Jr. founded the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) in 2002 to organize Jiu Jitsu competitions worldwide.

The reason why jiu jitsu has been around so long is because it is constantly evolving through trends and by adapting techniques that prove effective while leaving ineffective ones by the waste side.

Founder of Jiu Jitsu

In terms of the founder of jiu jitsu, there are many that can be up for consideration:

  • Monks in 2000BC Northern India who have the first document form of grappling martial arts
  • Jigoro Kano who taught many the early form of jiu jitsu in Japan in 1800s
  • Mitsuyo Maeda who was taught Japanese jiu jitsu by Kano in 1900
  • Carlos Gracie who was first taught jiu jitsu by Maeda in 1920s
  • Helio Gracie who was able to further develop the martial art and spread it to the world in mid 1900s
  • Rorion Gracie who brought it to new heights with the creation of the UFC in late 90’s
  • Royce Gracie who showcased its effectiveness in the UFC

In reality, the founder of jiu jitsu lies in all of their contributions to the sport.

Helio, along with his brothers Oswaldo, Gastao Jr, George, and Carlos Gracie, all had a vey significant impact on the modern martial art. 

In spite of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s roots in the Gracie family, it was still Mitsuyo Maeda who taught the Gracie family.

How were the Gracie’s first exposed to jiu jitsu?

Mitsuo Maeda  emigrated from Japan to Brazil in 1914 with the aid of a wealthy politician, George Gracie.

As a show of appreciation, Maedo taught Jiu Jitsu to George’s son Carlos Gracie, who later shared his knowledge with some of his brothers, opening Brazil’s first Jiu Jitsu academy.

Carlos and Helio Gracie (and their students) refined their art through brutal no-rules fights, both in public gym challenge matches and on the streets.

By focusing on submission ground fighting, they were able to defend against and defeat larger attackers.

This gave Brazilian Jiu Jitsu a massive amount of attention.

Where Does Jiu Jitsu Come From

Where does jiu jitsu come from?

Quite simply, its a bit hard to provide a definitive answer. 

Not only since the martial art has many influences from different martial arts as well as regions, but it is ever evolving.

One can only hope to point out influences on modern day Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. 

Despite Brazilian jiu-jitsu’s roots in traditional Japanese jujitsu, both styles differ significantly today. 

While some of Jiu Jitsu’s origins can be traced to Buddhist monks in India, Jiu Jitsu (sometimes called “Ju Jitsu”) in its modern form remains primarily Japanese in origin.

“Traditional jujitsu is frequently regarded as one of the oldest martial arts ever taught.”

What Is Jiu Jitsu

Before your first bjj class, you may be curious as to “what is jiu jitsu” and how has it come to be in its present form?

Essentially, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a ground-based martial art that uses leverage, angles, pressure, and timing.

What makes Brazilian Jiu Jitsu so great:

  • frequent live sparring
  • problem solving
  • strategic movements
  • ability for a smaller person to control a larger one
  • comradery
  • good workout
  • merit-based (ie belts, stripes, ranks)
  • works very well for self defense
  • very complex
  • allows endless learning

“The ground is my ocean, I am the shark, and most people don’t even know how to swim.”

Jean Jacques Machado

It takes from a variety of other martial arts such as judo, sambo, and wrestling, and it emphasizes frequent live sparring where techniques and put to the test again fully resisting opponents.

This is one of the keys as to what makes Brazilian Jiu Jitsu so great.

While other forms of martial arts such as aikido, kung fu, and some forms of karate do not include sparring, bjj includes real life training scenarios where you are trying to control and submit your opponent while they are trying to do the same to you. 

Using takedowns, control, and submissions, Jiu-Jitsu is a really a form of grappling derived from Judo.

In jiu-jitsu, survival is the goal, and a smaller person can learn to control, survive, and even submit a larger opponent as shown by Royce Gracie in the UFC.

Jiu-jitsu is more than simply beating your opponent or learning proper technique; it teaches practitioners how to survive a fight, whether it’s in an MMA match or on the street.

Due to the fact that most of the techniques you’ll learn are used on the ground, BJJ is often referred to as ground fighting. 

So some emphasis is placed on takedowns such as those found in judo or wrestling, majority of the original techniques are used when both you and your opponent are on the ground.

The main difference between Jiu-Jitsu, Karate, Taekwondo, Kung-Fu, etc is that Jiu-Jitsu is grappling, whereas the other arts are striking.

The reason why people become addicted to BJJ is because it provides endless learning, puzzle-like problem solving, clear goals, and very visible signs of improvement.

There is always something to learn and something to improve on. 

Additionally, the fact that these techniques are frequently tested in live sparring scenarios can wholly attest to their effectiveness. 

You rarely get these battle tested techniques in other martial arts (especially striking based ones because of the high chance of injury). 

In bjj, you can effectively practice these techniques on a fully resisting person, and both leave the mat after with no injuries.

Thanks for reading and hopefully this shed some light on what is jiu jitsu and the jiu jitsu origin.

Related Posts:

    As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases made on our website. If you make a purchase through links from this website, we may get a small share of the sale from Amazon and other similar affiliate programs. You can read our complete legal information for more details.