Posted By: Rob-Kassy
Posted On: 28 Feb, 2022

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Gracie BJJ

Since the “Kung Fu” craze of the early 1970s, it would be difficult, if not impossible to identify any other martial arts style or system with the current impact and influence of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. While Kung Fu entered the popular culture with the films of Bruce Lee (as well as other low-budget “Chop-Socky” films cranked out by the dozens from studios in Hong Kong), Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can thank the Gracie family for the unprecedented growth and popularity of BJJ in both sport and defense applications. While Kung Fu as it was popularized in the 1970s lacked a grappling component, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu focuses almost exclusively on this aspect.  

While the Gracies haven’t gotten the screen time that Bruce Lee enjoyed, their influence has proven to have significant staying power, and their tradition is generations deep. The popularity of Mixed Martial Arts has seen the Gracie name move into the forefront of the MMA world- specifically in the realm of grappling and ground combatives. In the 1990s fighters with the name Gracie dominated the sport. 

The Gracie Legacy

In 1914 Mitsuyu Maeda, a Japanese businessman and Jiu Jitsu practitioner with a reputation as a strong fighter arrived in Brazil with the intention of developing a Japanese colony in South America and introducing and promoting Japanese culture and influence. As a skilled fighter, Maeda often put on exhibition matches that showcased his prowess and was an advertising strategy for gaining students in his fledgling Jiu Jitsu school. One of the early students was Carlos Gracie, the son of Gastao Gracie, a Brazilian businessman who was assisting Maeda with getting established in Brazil. Carlos took to the training immediately, and with his brothers opened the first Gracie Jiu Jitsu school in Rio de Janeiro.

“Old School” vs. “New School”

As with any martial art, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not a static practice. The dynamic nature of martial arts drives innovation, and practitioners strive to develop their art to meet new challenges and develop additional techniques and philosophies in response to changing conditions. The Gracie system of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was developed as a defensive art even as it was being displayed in demonstration bouts.

In the early days of BJJ, there was no time limit on matches, and some matches have been reported to have lasted for as much as three hours. This is largely attributed to Helio Gracie, the youngest of the Gracie brothers. Physically frail, he would watch his brothers teach at their school until one day, with his brothers’ absence, he began to teach a class based on what he had observed. He quickly became a valued instructor and a respected practitioner. His lack of physical strength meant that he had to focus on technique and patience rather than a display of brute strength. He is also credited for developing the concept of “pulling guard” as a defensive technique, which has since become a mainstay in BJJ. The popularity of Mixed Martial Arts saw BJJ leap into the forefront as a number of fighters with the last name Gracie dominated and transformed the sport. 

With the growth of MMA, there has been a development of “no gi” BJJ. The “gi” is the traditional martial arts garb you often think of when you hear of martial arts, namely a short white robe and matching loose pants, with the robe being gathered with a wide cotton belt, the color of the belt denoting rank. The traditional system incorporates the gi into the system of techniques of throws, holds, and chokes. The uniform for the “no gi” system is usually a tight-fitting, long-sleeved shirt (or “rash guard”) and shorts. This eliminates the use of the traditional gi as a point of leverage and manipulation. 

There are schools who now train in the “no gi” system, and these schools tend to focus on BJJ as a key component of MMA. There are other schools who focus on traditional techniques and practices. Some schools offer both as a part of their training curriculum. 

Begin your journey in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Newport News with Breakaway Jiu-Jitsu.