The History of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

August 3, 2022

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ, is the most popular martial art on the international stage right now.

“Soft art” is the literal translation of jiu-jitsu. An art that bases its main axioms on the lever principle and on taking advantage of the opponent's force and inertia.

It has ceased to be just an essential martial art for MMA (mixed martial arts) athletes to become a popular sport practiced by millions of people. 

BJJ is practiced in any corner of the planet by people of different ages and genders


Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art that has developed, like no other, the technique of subduing the opponent in all kinds of positions on the ground. Based on human biomechanics, it allows smaller and larger opponents to measure themselves equally on the mat.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has its roots in the Gracie family and Japanese Judoka Mitsuyo Maeda, also known as the "Toughest man who ever lived" [1].

In 1895, Mitsuyo Maeda joined the Kodokan Institute, nowadays recognized worldwide as the temple of Judo, and the most importantJudo school in Japan at that time. He was 17.

He studied under the supervision of Tsunejiro Tomita, one of the most prominent students of Jigoro Kano himself, the father of Judo.

After ten years of rigorous preparation, Maeda and his Kodokan colleagues decided to travel the world, presenting his method and accepting challenges from fighters of different disciplines.

For his strength and martial prowess, he was dubbed "The Count of Combat" in Spain. Later in Brazil, this name changed to Count Koma, as he is still remembered to this day.

They toured the USA, United Kingdom, Belgium,France, Spain, Portugal,Mexico, Cuba, and Brazil.

According to the author and historian Bunasawa Nori;“Maeda won more than 2,000 professional fights in his career. His achievements led him to be called"The Toughest Man Who Ever Lived " and referred to as the father of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu”. [1]


Count Koma settled in around the 1910s in the city of Belem, Brazil, where he did Judo demonstrations at the Queirolo Brothers circus.

Gastão Graciewas a business partner of this circus. One day watching one of Mitsuyo Maeda´s exhibitions he was highly surprised by the effectiveness of his movements and techniques and asked him the favor of teaching these to his son.

Thus began the training of Carlos Gracies on of Gastão Gracie.

In his book “Mastering Jujitsu” Renzo Gracie,Carlos's grandson, tells how Maeda taught not only the art of Judo to his grandfather.

"He also taught him a philosophy about the nature of combat, based on his travels competing and training alongside many fighters, boxers, and other practitioners of other martial arts he faced." [2]

According to Renzo, this is how this story happens:

Carlos Gracie founded his own school giving private lessons in self-defense and judo in 1925.

Helio was Carlos Gracie's younger brother and he wanted to learn Jiu-jitsu just like his brother.

But Helio's weak physical build and poor health severely limited him in the training so he decided to just watch and try to understand it.

One day Carlos had a private class scheduled, but Carlos did not arrive so Helio offered to teach.

Hours laterCarlos arrived embarrassed by the delay. The student was so delighted with Hélio's explanations that he asked to continue with him as his personal instructor from that moment on (the student turned out to be Mario Brandt, the president of the Bank of Brazil at that time).

Helio Gracie was motivated to overcome his limitations. He realized that the techniques he had learned did not always work for him asa result of his small physical build and health conditions So he had to correct and adjust many of the positions, with the help and direction of his brother CarlosGracie. Creating what was initially known as Gracie jiu-jitsu, which later became popular and expanded worldwide under the name of Brazilianjiu-jitsu.

There is no age limit to approach this martial art that can serve as a sport to keep fit, self-defense, or discipline to compete.

At present, it is considered one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and in Brazil, it is the second sport, behind soccer, with the largest number of practitioners.

Concerning Mixed Martial Arts, this sport is not understood without the decisive effectiveness that jiu-jitsu generates when the fight ends on the ground.

So when you are watching an MMA match and you see the two fighters grab, squeeze and roll over, remember that all they are doing is putting into practice the noble art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.




1- Bunasawa, Nori; Murray,John (2007). Mitsuyo Maeda:The Toughest Man Who Ever Lived (2nded.). Judo Journal.p. 300.

2-  Gracie, R. and Danaher,J., n.d. Mastering Jujitsu.