Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: The Gentle Art

Jiu-Jitsu The Gentle Art - A Brief History of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: The Gentle Art

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an art form that originated from Japan. Thanks to Gracie Mag Online, we were able to gather all of the facts for you to brush up on your knowledge before diving into your first class. The name Brazilian Jiu Jitsu most literally translates to “gentleness” and “art technique” or more commonly, the gentle art.

The History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

The art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or BJJ, frequently uses techniques such as levers, torsions, and pressures to successfully overcome their opponent. There is not an exact time nor location where BJJ first was discovered, but it is widely recognized as emerging from the Japanese culture of Samurais.

The Samurai fighters needed a means for defense if they were to lose their weapons. Due to the wearing of protective armor, your typical strikes, punches, and blows were not effective enough. Hence came the art of submission through pressure and contorsions.

BJJ started to spread like wildfire across the globe when Mitsuyo Maeda, from the Kodokan Japanese School, set out to prove that his submissions and choke holds could stand against any fighter, know matter their size.

In 1904, Maeda made his way to the United States, since this was a time of great relationship between Japan and the US, President Theodore Roosevelt himself took lessons from one of Maeda’s partners, Yoshiaki Yamashita. Madea and company would eventually make their way across Europe & South America, spreading the word of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

1914 was the year that Maeda made his way to Brazil and that is where he made a big name for himself and the art of BJJ. Maeda was only 5 foot 5 and about 68kg and was looking to face a 6 foot 3 and 100kg opponent. Even with the size difference, he allowed his opponent to wield a knife. To everyone’s surprise, but his own, he was able to disarm his opponent and force him to surrender.

In March 1915, the official 10 rules of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu were created and plainly laid out:

  1. Every fighter must present themselves decently, with fingernails & toenails perfectly trimmed
  2. They must wear the gi, provided by Count Koma (aka Mitsuyo Maeda)
  3. It is forbidden to bite, scratch, head-butt or punch
  4. When the athlete uses their foot, they must never use it’s tip, but instead the curve
  5. The fighter whose back is on the ground is not defeated, even if they were the first one to fall
  6. The fighter who is defeated must signal their forfeit by tapping either the mat or their opponent’s body thrice 
  7. The referee with deem the defeated fighter, who due to some contingency, cannot remember to tap to signal the forfeit
  8. The matches will be divided into rounds of five minutes with two minute resting periods interposed between them. The referee will count the minutes aloud for the benefit of the audience
  9. If the fighters fall off the mat without either one having forewarned of it, the referee must force them to return to the center of the mat, standing and facing one another
  10. The jurors may replace the referee in his duties. Neither the enterprise nor the winning fighter is responsible for whatever harm may befall the loser if, due to tenacity, that fighter refuses to signal forfeit.

In 1917, a young Carlos Gracie, fell in love with the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and refined the art by the addition of randori into his practice. Carlos would go on to open his first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy deeming the slogan “If you want to have your arm broken, look for the Gracie Academy”. Thirteen of his twenty-one children, would go on to be black belts and continue to spread the knowledge and art of BJJ. They would travel the world competing and using their opponents strength to their advantage, taking down some of the largest fighters.

In the 1990s, BJJ was once again refined by both Rorion Gracie in 1993 with the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Carlos Gracie Jr., with the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) in 1994. These are the current day governing bodies of BJJ.

To this day, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be practiced around the globe thanks to the Japanese Culture in which it originated from.

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Basic Jiu Jitsu Moves

There are many fundamental movements in BJJ, but we have consolidated four very important movements. You will definitely want to have a shrimping/bridging, grips, passing the guard, breath, and armbars in your arsenal, just to start.


This movement helps you get out of compromising situations that your opponent has allowed you to get yourself into. The power of this movement is generated from the hips.


This is an important part of BJJ and your strength in this movement will develop over time. It is important to also know where on your opponent’s body the best places to grip are.

Passing the Guard

This term refers to getting from a compromising, most commonly, bottom position, to the top and more dominant position over your opponent.

Arm Bars

This is one of the more complex movements that you will first learn when starting up BJJ. This creates a hold on your opponent and puts them in a very compromising position.

Popular Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Studios

West Coast

California is known for a lot of popular BJJ studios such as:

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Club in Sherman Oaks, California

Subconscious Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Los Angeles, California

Level Up Jiu Jitsu Studio in Studio City in Studio City, California


Iowa is known for a lot of popular BJJ studios such as:

Des Moines Jiu Jitsu Academy in Des Moines, Iowa

Iowa City BJJ in Iowa City, Iowa

Urbandale Jiu Jitsu in Urbandale, Iowa

East Coast

New Jersey is known for a lot of popular BJJ studios such as:

McHugh Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Mount Laurel, New Jersey

Grappling Arts Studios in Shrewsbury, New Jersey

South Jersey Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Berlin, New Jersey

Visiting any of these studios soon? Be sure to post a selfie post-workout and tag us on social!

Ready to put what you’ve learned into practice?
Download a free PDF handbook with many of NCFIT’s gym management procedures and philosophies that you can implement in your gym today.
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