Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a hybrid fighting art that combines traditional systems of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Judo; however, although it stems and shares many similarities with these other types of fighting techniques, it also bears many essential differences.
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu has emerged from a synthesis of many traditions with its own unique rules and forms. It is both a collective art form and one that was highly developed by Helio Gracie, the youngest brother of the Gracie family.
Around 1914, Japanese Jiu Jitsu was introduced in Brazil by Esai Maeda (also referred to commonly as Conde Koma). He was a Jiu-jitsu champion, and came to Brazil and met the Gracie family.
Maeda and Gastae Gracie quickly formed a mutually beneficial relationship. Gracie was a businessman who helped Maeda establish himself, and in return, Maeda taught Gastao’s Oldest Son, Carlos, the art of traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. Carlos learned and practiced this for years, and then went on to teach his brothers.
The youngest brother in the family was named Helio. According to the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy, he “was always a very physically frail child. He would run up a flight of stairs and have fainting spells, and no one could figure out why.”(http://www.gracieacademy.com/history.asp) This made him struggle to successfully and effectively execute traditional techniques, as he was not as strong as his brothers. Helio realized, after time watching his brothers train and knowing the methods, that he could modify the moves to make them focus on timing and leverage, opposed to strength and speed.
This new, modified Jiu-Jitsu quickly built a reputation. Helio challenged every reputable martial artist in Brazil and competed in a total of 18 fights. Helio successfully overtook many world-ranked competitors and qualified to fight the world champion, Masahiko Kimura. Although Helio did not win, he fought an impressive match and greatly impressed Kimura. Because of this encounter, Kimura invited Helio to teach his techniques in Japan.
This invitation was ultimately a showing of recognition of Helio’s commitment, dedication, and refinement to the art of Jiu-jitsu. It essentially solidified Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a valid and respectable form, and simultaneously encouraged it to continue to spread and develop by having Helio teach his techniques in Japan. Thus, this solidified Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a valid and established strain of Jiu-Jitsu, one that would be continued to be taught developed throughout the world.