What Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

If you’ve ever wondered about the fascinating world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, look no further. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, also known as BJJ, is a martial art and combat sport that focuses on ground fighting and grappling techniques. It originates from traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu but was developed and popularized in Brazil by the Gracie family. With its emphasis on leverage, technique, and strategy, BJJ offers a unique approach to self-defense and has become increasingly popular worldwide. In this article, we’ll explore the essence of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and uncover what makes it such a captivating and effective martial art.

Origins and History of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, also known as BJJ, has a rich history that can be traced back to Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese judoka who immigrated to Brazil in the early 20th century. Maeda was a student of Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, and he began teaching his martial arts techniques to a group of Brazilian brothers, known as the Gracie family. The Gracie family then further developed and popularized BJJ, adapting it to focus on ground fighting and leveraging technique over strength.

Mitsuyo Maeda’s impact

Mitsuyo Maeda, also known as Count Koma, played a crucial role in the development of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He traveled to Brazil in 1914, where he started teaching his Judo techniques to various students. One of his most notable students was Carlos Gracie, who later introduced BJJ to his brothers and extended family. Maeda’s teachings heavily influenced the Gracie family’s approach to martial arts, and his techniques formed the foundation of what would later become Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Gracie family influence

The Gracie family is synonymous with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Led by Carlos and his brothers, the Gracies refined and evolved the martial art, emphasizing leverage, technique, and the importance of ground fighting. Helio Gracie, one of Carlos’ younger brothers, played a particularly significant role in shaping BJJ. Helio was a smaller, frail individual who used his knowledge of leverage and technique to defeat much larger opponents. This focus on technique over brute strength became a major distinguishing feature of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Global popularization of BJJ

In the 1980s, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gained international recognition when the Gracie family established the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to showcase the effectiveness of their martial art. The smaller, technical fighters from the Gracie family consistently defeated larger opponents, proving the effectiveness of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in real-life combat situations. The exposure from the UFC propelled the global popularity of BJJ, attracting practitioners from various backgrounds and martial arts disciplines.

Fundamentals of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Basic principles

The fundamental principles of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu revolve around leverage, technique, and positional control. Unlike other martial arts that rely on striking or stand-up techniques, BJJ focuses largely on ground fighting and submissions. The core principle of BJJ is to enable a smaller, weaker individual to defeat a larger, stronger opponent through the effective use of leverage and technique. This emphasis on technique makes BJJ an ideal martial art for self-defense purposes.

Important techniques

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu encompasses a wide range of techniques, including throws, joint locks, chokes, and positional control. Some of the essential techniques in BJJ include the guard, the mount, the side control, and various submissions such as the armbar, triangle choke, and rear-naked choke. These techniques allow practitioners to neutralize and control an opponent on the ground and ultimately submit them.

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Concept of leverage and control

Leverage and control are core concepts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. By using proper leverage, a smaller individual can generate significant force and control a larger opponent. BJJ practitioners aim to secure dominant positions such as the mount or back control, which provide superior control over an opponent’s movements. By maintaining control and applying effective techniques, BJJ practitioners can neutralize and submit their opponents.

The Grading System in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

White belt

The white belt is the starting point for all newcomers to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It signifies a beginner with little to no experience in the martial art. White belts focus on learning the fundamentals and basic techniques of BJJ, as well as understanding the principles and concepts behind the art.

Blue belt

The blue belt represents a significant milestone in a BJJ practitioner’s journey. It signifies a level of competence and understanding of the fundamental techniques and principles of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Blue belts are considered intermediates and can often start assisting in teaching newer students.

Purple belt

The purple belt is an advanced level in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It represents a higher level of technical knowledge, proficiency, and understanding of the art. Purple belts are known for their ability to apply techniques effectively and adapt to various situations on the mats.

Brown belt

Brown belts are highly skilled practitioners who have refined their technique and developed a deep understanding of the art. They possess a high level of competency in all aspects of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and are often capable of instructing and mentoring lower-ranked students.

Black belt

The black belt is the pinnacle of achievement in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It represents mastery and a comprehensive understanding of the art. Black belts are highly skilled and experienced practitioners who have dedicated years to honing their technique, knowledge, and teaching abilities. They are often regarded as experts and leaders in the BJJ community.

Red belt

The red belt is reserved for individuals who have made significant contributions to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and have reached a level of mastery that is extremely rare. Red belts symbolize the pinnacle of expertise and knowledge in the art.

The stripe system

In addition to the belt system, BJJ also employs a stripe system to recognize progress within each belt rank. Stripes are typically awarded to practitioners as they accumulate experience, demonstrate technical proficiency, and show a deeper understanding of the art. Stripes can be seen as stepping stones towards the next belt rank.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Gear

Gi vs. No-Gi

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, practitioners have the option of training in either a gi (kimono) or no-gi attire. The gi is a traditional uniform that consists of a jacket, pants, and a belt. Training in the gi allows for greater emphasis on grips, technique, and control. No-gi training, on the other hand, involves training without the gi, typically wearing rash guards and shorts. No-gi training focuses more on speed, agility, and a different style of grappling.

Belt significance

The belt is a significant symbol in BJJ, representing a practitioner’s skill level and progress. It serves as a visual indication of experience, knowledge, and dedication to the art. Belts in BJJ are not easily obtained and require years of consistent training, skill development, and demonstration of proficiency in techniques and concepts.

Protective gear

In addition to the gi or no-gi attire, certain protective gear can be used during Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training and competition. This includes mouthguards, ear guards (to protect against cauliflower ear), knee pads, and elbow pads. While the use of protective gear is not mandatory, it can provide added safety and reduce the risk of injuries.

How to choose gear

Choosing the right gear for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a personal preference. For training in the gi, practitioners typically look for durable and comfortable uniforms that allow for ease of movement and withstand the rigors of training. When it comes to no-gi gear, breathable and moisture-wicking materials are preferred, as they provide comfort and help regulate body temperature during intense sessions. It is also important to consider proper sizing and fit to ensure mobility and functionality during training.

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The Role of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in MMA

Contribution to mixed martial arts

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has made a significant impact on the world of mixed martial arts (MMA). Its emphasis on ground fighting, submissions, and positional control has proven to be highly effective in the context of MMA. BJJ techniques such as sweeps, submissions, and ground transitions have become fundamental aspects of MMA training, enabling fighters to dominate opponents and secure victories on the ground.

Famous MMA fighters with BJJ background

Many of the most successful and well-known MMA fighters have a background in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Some of these fighters include Royce Gracie, who played a crucial role in the early UFC events, using BJJ to defeat larger opponents. Other notable fighters with BJJ backgrounds include Anderson Silva, Demian Maia, and current UFC champions such as Kamaru Usman and Israel Adesanya. BJJ has become a staple in MMA training and is considered essential for any aspiring mixed martial artist.

Advantages in MMA

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu provides several advantages to fighters in the realm of mixed martial arts. Firstly, it enables fighters to effectively neutralize opponents and control them on the ground, where striking power may be minimized. BJJ techniques such as submissions and ground transitions allow for potential fight-ending moments. Additionally, the ability to defend against submissions and escape from disadvantageous positions can be crucial in MMA, where fighters may find themselves in compromised situations. Overall, BJJ serves as a key component of a well-rounded skill set for MMA fighters.

Health and Fitness Benefits

Physical benefits

Practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu offers numerous physical benefits. The art is physically demanding, providing an excellent cardiovascular workout that improves endurance and stamina. The constant grappling, pushing, and pulling engage various muscle groups, leading to increased strength and muscle tone. BJJ also improves flexibility and agility, as practitioners need to execute techniques while maneuvering their bodies in tight spaces.

Mental benefits

In addition to the physical benefits, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has numerous positive effects on mental well-being. The art requires concentration, focus, and problem-solving skills, which improve mental acuity and cognitive function. The fast-paced, dynamic nature of BJJ helps develop mental agility and decision-making abilities. The art also instills discipline, perseverance, and a sense of mindfulness, as practitioners learn to control their ego and emotions.

Character development

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fosters character development through its values and principles. Practitioners learn humility, respect, and sportsmanship, as they interact with training partners and opponents. BJJ also teaches resilience, as practitioners learn to deal with challenges, setbacks, and failures. The art promotes perseverance and a growth mindset, encouraging individuals to embrace continuous learning and improvement. These character-building aspects of BJJ often transcend the mats and positively influence practitioners’ lives outside of training.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for Kids

Attractive elements for children

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu offers several attractive elements for children. BJJ provides an exciting and dynamic form of physical activity that keeps children engaged and entertained. The focus on grappling and technique allows children to develop confidence in their abilities and provides a sense of accomplishment as they progress. BJJ also promotes discipline, respect, and teamwork, fostering positive values that translate into various aspects of a child’s life.

Benefits for children’s upbringing

The practice of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has numerous benefits for the upbringing of children. The art teaches children essential life skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and self-discipline. BJJ helps improve children’s physical fitness, coordination, and body awareness. It also instills a sense of self-defense and personal safety. The structure and discipline within BJJ classes provide a positive and nurturing environment that can contribute to a child’s overall development.

Safety considerations

Safety considerations are paramount when introducing children to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Qualified instructors ensure that classes prioritize safety, teaching children how to train and practice in a controlled environment. Techniques are gradually introduced, and practitioners are encouraged to approach training with care and respect for their training partners. The use of proper protective gear, such as mouthguards and knee pads, can provide additional safety measures for children.

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Well-known Figures in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The Gracie family

The Gracie family is synonymous with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and their contributions to the art cannot be overstated. Carlos Gracie, along with his brothers, played a pivotal role in the development and popularization of BJJ. The family’s impact has been felt worldwide, as their teachings continue to influence countless practitioners and shape the direction of the art.

Modern age exemplars

In the modern age of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, there are numerous influential figures who have made significant contributions to the art. Renzo Gracie, a member of the Gracie family, has played a crucial role in spreading BJJ internationally and has been instrumental in the growth of the sport. Marcelo Garcia, a multiple-time world champion, is widely regarded as one of the greatest BJJ practitioners of all time. Other notable figures include Roger Gracie, Demian Maia, and many more who continue to inspire and innovate within the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community.

BJJ champions

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu boasts a rich history of champions who have achieved greatness on the competition circuit. These champions have demonstrated exceptional technical prowess, determination, and a deep understanding of the art. Some renowned BJJ champions include Marcus Almeida “Buchecha,” Rodolfo Vieira, Gabi Garcia, and Michelle Nicolini. Their achievements and dedication to the art serve as inspirations for aspiring BJJ practitioners worldwide.

Major Competitions and Events

IBJJF tournaments

The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) organizes some of the most prestigious and highly regarded BJJ tournaments in the world. These tournaments attract top-level competitors from across the globe who compete for titles and recognition. The IBJJF World Championships, Pan Championships, and European Championships are just a few examples of the marquee events organized by the federation.


The Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) Submission Wrestling World Championship is an invitation-only event that showcases the world’s best grapplers from various martial arts disciplines, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The tournament features a highly competitive format and has become a premier platform for submission grappling and No-Gi BJJ competition.

Eddie Bravo Invitational

The Eddie Bravo Invitational (EBI) is a submission-only grappling tournament founded by Eddie Bravo, a prominent figure in the BJJ and submission wrestling community. The EBI has gained popularity for its innovative ruleset, exciting format, and the opportunity for lesser-known athletes to showcase their skills on a global stage.

Other major contests

In addition to the aforementioned tournaments, there are numerous other major BJJ contests that attract competitors of all levels. These include the World Series of Grappling, the Grappling Industries tournaments, and various local and regional competitions that cater to practitioners of all skill levels. These events provide valuable opportunities for individuals to test their skills, gain experience, and measure their progress against fellow practitioners.

Future of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Expected developments

The future of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is expected to involve further innovation and evolution of the sport. As practitioners continue to train and compete, new techniques and strategies will emerge, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in BJJ. The integration of technology, such as advanced training equipment and data analysis tools, may also play a role in enhancing training methods and performance.

Increasing popularity

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s popularity shows no signs of slowing down. The art has attracted a diverse range of practitioners, including athletes, recreational practitioners, and those seeking self-defense or fitness benefits. As more people discover the inherent value of BJJ, its popularity is likely to continue to grow, leading to larger communities, more competitions, and increased accessibility worldwide.

Role in sports

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is likely to continue its role in shaping the landscape of combat sports. Its effectiveness in MMA is well-established, and the art will likely remain a fundamental component of MMA training. Additionally, BJJ has the potential to expand further into other combat sports such as submission grappling, professional wrestling, and self-defense training programs.

Influence in popular culture

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has already made its mark in popular culture, with its inclusion in movies, television shows, and mainstream media. As its popularity grows, BJJ’s influence in popular culture is likely to continue, spreading its principles, philosophies, and techniques to a wider audience. The art’s positive impact on physical fitness, mental well-being, and character development makes it an attractive choice for individuals from all walks of life.

In conclusion, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has a fascinating history rooted in the teachings of Mitsuyo Maeda and the evolution of the Gracie family. BJJ’s fundamental principles, important techniques, and emphasis on leverage and control make it a formidable martial art with applications in self-defense, MMA, and beyond. The grading system recognizes practitioners’ progress and achievements, while the choice of gear, such as gi or no-gi attire, allows for different training experiences. BJJ’s contributions to MMA, health and fitness benefits, and its appeal to children further solidify its significance. Well-known figures and major competitions continue to shape the BJJ community, and its future holds promise for continued growth, increasing popularity, and influence across various domains. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu truly exemplifies the power of technique, discipline, and dedication in martial arts.

Hi there! My name is Jesse Hull and I am the author behind the Jiu-Jitsu FC website. With a passion for Jiu-Jitsu, I've created this platform to share my love for the sport, along with valuable insights and techniques. At Jiu-Jitsu FC, we believe in the power of this martial art to transform lives and foster resilience. Through our blog, we aim to inspire and motivate others to discover their true potential. So join me on this journey of self-discovery and let's unlock the incredible power of Jiu-Jitsu together. Remember, Discover power. Discover resilience. Discover yourself.