The oldest martial art, Jiu-Jitsu can be traced back to India where it was created by Buddhist monks. They developed movements based on leverage and balance, in a way that would avoid reliance on strength and weapons. Jiu-Jitsu later found its way to China and to Japan where it gained even more momentum. Adopted by the Samurai, as a superior form of self-defense, the martial art emphasized their own code of conduct known as Bushido, the “way of the warrior”. It revolved around the core values of loyalty, justice, manners, purity, modesty, honor, self-confidence and respect. They named the smooth techniques “Jiu-Jitsu”, meaning “the gentle art.” At the end of Japans feudal system, Jiu-Jitsu was split into different styles, including Karate, Aikido, Judo etc.
The development of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu began when Japanese judoka Mitsuyo Maeda first migrated to Brazil in 1914, where he was influential in establishing a Japanese immigrant community. His efforts were aided by Gastão Gracie, a Brazilian politician. Maeda was so grateful for Gracie’s assistance that in return, he taught the Brazilian’s oldest son, Carlos, the secrets of the ancient martial art. Carlos went on to teach those techniques to his brothers, and in 1925, they opened the first Jiu-Jitsu academy in Brazil. For the Gracie brothers, teaching the art was their passion.
One of the brothers, Helio Gracie, paid particular interest to the use of these techniques. Helio was a small framed 16 year old, weighing less than 135 pounds, and was in frail health when he began learning Jiu-Jitsu. He was unable to participate in class, and often sat and watched his older brother teach.
When Carlos was unable to make the class. Helio did surprisingly well instructing in his place. Due to his size and stature, he began to change the basic rules of Jiu-Jitsu. In order to make it possible for a smaller opponent to defeat a larger one, he introduced the use of leverage. He started experimenting, enhancing and modifying the basic techniques, making them effective for a person regardless of their size or strength. This was the beginning of the development of a new and more effective art – Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. It is a martial art that continuously evolves because the techniques are not based on an ancient rule book set in stone – it’s based on efficiency and practicality.
The practice of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu goes beyond the execution of throws, chokes, immobilizations, strikes, and joint locks. A true appreciation and understanding of the Jiu-Jitsu philosophy prepares you for life. It guides you to a healthier lifestyle and the most efficient use of mental, physical, and spiritual strength.
Beyond the mat, Gracie family members live balanced, healthy lives based on the philosophy of their gentle art. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is more than hobby, more than a martial art – It’s a way of life. Looking after your body is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, eating well is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, looking after your community is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Grand Masters Carlos and Helio Gracie believed that the principles of patience, efficiency, and control were vital to succeed in any aspect of life. They lived according to these principles for almost a century.
The philosophy of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu defines the state of mind that a warrior should adopt in combat to enable victory; it is a philosophy of yielding to an opponent’s force, instead of trying to oppose force with force.
Ultimately, the fundamentals for good Jiu-Jitsu are also the fundamentals of good character.