History of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu


One of the most important aspects of learning mixed martial arts is understanding the roots and development of the sport. By knowing the history, we are able to better comprehend the meanings and teaching that the art has to offer. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has an interesting historical background and a unique way of incorporating its past into its present teachings.




To fully comprehend the history of BJJ, one must first know about the roots that it has in the art of Judo. Judo was created by Jigoro Kano in Japan. Kano refined some of the techniques that he had learned from other arts and made them his own. As he began developing Judo he made sure that all the teachings were set in a realistic scenario. Many ancient arts before Judo focused on “pre-arranged sequences of attacks.” Kano realized these unrealistic situations were unlikely to assist in a true battle. He began focusing on free sparring and less on the rehearsed skills. As Kano continued spreading his teachings across Japan, many prodigal students came through his system. One of these students, Mitsuyu Maeda flourished and become one of Judo’s greatest fighters. Having remained undefeated in the sport, Maeda was sent by Kano on a journey around the world to show people the powerful art of Judo.


Gracie Family


Those within the BJJ community undoubtedly know a great deal about the Gracie family. Around 1917, a young man named Carlos Gracie was in attendance at one of Mitsuyo Maeda’s Judo demonstrations in Brazil. In awe of his performance and abilities, Carlos wanted to learn the art, so he enrolled in Maeda’s school. Passing on his knowledge to his brothers, Carlos had no idea that he was in the midst of building a BJJ empire.. In 1925 the Gracie family opened their first Jiu-Jitsu school where they continued teaching Maeda’s lessons of Judo with their own adaptations to the techniques. Carlos’ brother, Helio begun practicing the art and is now credited as the main reason for Jiu-Jitsu’s rapid spread around Brazil. Helio gained his own realm of fame when he began traveling around the country, willing to fight anyone who offered up a challenge. Upon the opening of the school, he also welcomed anyone to come through his doors and face him. At gyms around the world, you can expect many people to reference this gesture the “Gracie Challenge.”


In the 1980s members of the Gracie family began to migrate from Brazil to the United States. Though popular around the world, the art didn’t see its American fame until the 1990s when Royce Gracie, Helio’s son, dominated the first ever UFC match using his BJJ skills. The Gracies began proving to the world that kicking and punching is not always the best fighting tactic.



As Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has continued developing and adapting throughout the years, its history and roots remain the core teachings of the art. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has and always will continue promoting safe fighting techniques, physical well-being, and character building.