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Jiu Jitsu Origin – A Brief History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Jiu jitsu Origin

Brazilian jiu jitsu originated when Japanese jiujitsu and Judo was brought to Brazil by Mitsuyo Maeda in the early 1900s where it was taught to Luiz França, Jacintho Ferro and Carlos Gracie who are credited as the founders of Brazilian jiu jitsu.

However, determining modern jiu jitsu’s exact origins and founders are difficult since jiu jitsu is constantly evolving and has taken influence from a variety of different figures and martial arts.

So where does jiu jitsu come from, and what is it like present day?

History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Here are some key points on the history of Brazilian jiu jitsu:

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 Gracie 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 2000 BC 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? 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 Present Day Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Like?

A pic after a recent training session at 10th Planet San Diego

Present day Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) today is a globally popular martial art, renowned for its extremely effective grappling and submission based techniques focus.

Like other martial arts it uses a belt ranking system going from white to black used to denote skill and experience.

BJJ is also accessible to people of all ages, sizes, and strengths regardless of background or athletic ability. The sport includes a tough competitive scene with tournaments at local, national, and international levels, catering to various weight classes and skill levels.

To this day, it still plays a critical role in the world of the UFC and MMA, if you want to be a complete martial artists having in depth experience and knowledge of BJJ is a requirement.

Finally, for me personally training Brazilian jiu jitsu has changed my entire life – it has made me more confident, more disciplined, and has helped me break out of my shell in terms of pushing my comfort level. I recommend BJJ to anyone looking to get into martial arts.

I hope this post has been information on the history of jiu jitsu, its orgin, and what it’s like today – thanks for reading, Zack