The History

The Samurai

It all started in Japan. Based mostly off of throws, joint locks and chokes, the samurai themselves needed to be able stop their heavily armored opponents, unarmed, then continue in battle. Through this need and style of training, Jujitsu was born. The art itself can be traced back almost entirely to Japan, and is the very first of its kind. Kano Jigoro is probably the most famous of Japanese Jujitsu family, father to what is now considered modern day Judo. Kano sought and trained under as many Jujitsu masters as he could, learning to blend what each school had specialized in. He earned himself a reputation for his unique blend of these techniques, dubbed Kano Jiu Jitsu’ at the time, which in 1925, became officially recognized by Japan as its own art, and was dubbed Judo. His blend became world renowned and as it grew, so did its reaches. His students went on help lay the foundation for such arts as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in South America and the Russian art of Sambo, while having famous students like former US President, Ulysses S. Grant nuder his study.

Count Combat

Enter Mitsuyo “Count Koma” Meada. Meada was a student at the Kodokan, Kano’s school and official home of Judo. After receiving his black belt his travels brought him to the shores of Brazil in 1914. From there, Meada accepted and fought in various challenge matches for most of that year, building a reputation and earning the name Count Combat (Conde Koma in Portuguese). Amongst his time traveling and accepting these challenges, he would also teach Judo to local diplomats and their families, one being the now legendary Gracie family. Carlos, the eldest son of Gustavo Gracie, trained under Meada for three years before Gustavo moved his family to Rio De Janeiro. Carlos would then teach his 4 younger brothers the techniques he had learned from Meada, although the smallest of them, Helio would be unable to fully participate due to health issues.

The Birth Of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

While waiting till his health slowly regained from, Helio Gracie absorbed the moves by watching his brothers train and began to adopt the techniques to his own weak frame. When one day Carlos was late to teach a lesson, Helio happened to be the only brother able to fill in, and when Carlos returned, The diplomat who had taken the lesson was so pleased with Helio, he asked him to be his permanent instructor. Helio’s philosophy was simple in nature but would change the game forever. he revised the moves so the smaller, weaker man could preform them using leverage instead of brute force. It was this idea that became the focal point of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, be able to defend and attack from anywhere with technique. There is some controversy as to who exactly founded Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Helio or Carlos. Carlos was the first and taught Helio, while Helio had revised the techniques for his frame. Either way, it is the authors belief that it would not of been possible without either brother. As the popularity grew, Carlos would either issue or accept challenges in order to promote his art, stating it and he were unbeatable. This of course made some waves in martial arts community.

The Gracie Challenge

Judoka, boxers, wrestlers, and traditional stand up martial artists either accepted or challenged the Gracie brothers in which would eventually be coined as ‘The Gracie Challenge’. Though constantly out weighted by their opponents, Carlos has gone on to be known for never being defeated in a challenge while brother Helio fought more publicly in stadiums and nationwide broadcast, amassing a 17-2 record in Vale Tudo style fighting (no holds barred). Helio retired from professional combat and continued to train and raise his family. He had many sons, but the first to move to The United States was Rorion. Rorion moved to the US and took part in Hollywood fight choreography until opening his garage up with mats on the floor to anyone who wanted to learn Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Moving to his own gym in the late 80’s, it was within these walls that the concept for the first Ultimate Fighting Championships took place. Rorion wanted to get the word of Jiu Jitsu out, so he set forth with the SEG company and put together a show that could showcase his art verses every other art, may the best art form win. Most on the inside figured Rorion would pick one of his more dominant brothers like Rickson, But Rorion wanted to prove that size didn’t matter, and picked this younger and thinly framed brother who would rather surf than fight, Royce Gracie.

Public Exposure

When UFC 1 had run its 8-man tournament, it was Royce Gracie who the victor. After having to endure three fights with no weight limit, he submitted all of his opponents, including Ken Shamrock, exposing the massive whole of ground fighting in their styles. While the early UFC’s were indeed rough, they proved that without Jiu Jitsu and the ability to defend yourself on the ground, a fighter would be incomplete. Royce went on to win 3 more titles before retiring from competition. He had done enough, now known as the most effective form of self defense, every would-be MMA fighter would have to know Jiu Jitsu before trying their hand at combat. Now, since the UFC has become regulated, it’s rise has been nothing short of astonishing and has given Jiu Jitsu a modern and world wide platform to grow.

Not Just the Gracie’s.

Meada had not taught exclusively to the Gracie family, and had also awarded black belts in Judo to other individuals, such as Luis França. França was awarded his black belt by Count Koma himself in 1942. After a time, França awarded his own student Oswaldo Fadda a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, now no longer restricted to the name Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Fadda taught his Jiu Jitsu in the suburbs where the Gracie family was not interested in teaching, and Fadda was shunned by the Gracie family. Fadda challenged Helio’s school to a contest, in which Helio accepted. It was the non-Gracie lineage that won the challenge. They attacked with more foot locks, something the Gracie students hadn’t trained in, and became known as the “Suburban Technique.” After the encounter, word of the results spread, allowing people from all backgrounds to see that Jiu Jitsu was available to them.