There are several hypotheses regarding the origins of jiu-jitsu, the “gentle art” of grappling and leverage. Some historians credit the influence of ancient Greece for jiu-jitsu’s beginnings while others believe it was developed by Buddhist monks in India. What is known for certain is that jiu-jitsu evolved into an official discipline during Japan’s Feudal period, and that the origins of Brazilian jiu-jitsu are traceable to Japanese martial arts prodigy Mitsuyo Maeda, who brought the tenets of jiu-jitsu to Brazil in the early part of the 20th century.
Regardless of whether jiu-jitsu’s earliest predecessor came from Greece, India, China, or elsewhere, historians agree that it was during Feudal Japan that ju-jutsu was developed into a catalogue of grappling techniques. During the 8th to 16th centuries, Japan was rife with civil war and ju-jutsu techniques were used and developed on the battlefield. Ju-jutsu was practiced during this time by several different schools or “ryu”, including yawara, hakuda, kogusoko. The earliest recorded use of the word, “jiu-jitsu” occured in 1532 with the establishment, by Hisamori Tenenuchi, of the first official jiu-jitsu school in Japan.
The Birth of Judo
Following the abolition of Japan’s feudal system, ju-jutsu was no longer needed for warfare purposes. However, practitioners of the sport continued to teach the classical self-defense techniques of ju-jutsu to keep the ancient traditions alive. In the late 1800s, a practitioner named Jigoro Kano created his own version of jiu-jitsu called judo. While not as dangerous in combat as the traditional jiu-jitsu practiced on the battlefield, judo was a form of ju-jutsu that could be practiced with full force safely in a sportive environment without injuring your opponent. Judo was eventually named the national sport of Japan and remains popular to this day.
Origins of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
In 1914, a highly acclaimed judo champion and direct student of Kano’s, Mitsuyo Maeda, brought the arts of judo / jiu-jitsu to Brazil where he opened his own school. Here he taught judo / jiu jitsu to many Brazilians including Carlos Gracie, Luis Franca and many other Brazilian students. Carlos Gracie opened his own jiu-jitsu academy in Rio de Janeiro in 1925, where he and his brothers Gastao Jnr, Jorge, Oswaldo and Helio Gracie taught. Today, this sport is known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or BJJ. Since Royce Gracie won a string of victories in the Ultimate Fighting Championship during the 1990s, BJJ has grown in popularity around the world, both as a sport and as means of self-defense.
Jiu Jitsu in Australia
Before anybody had even heard of the UFC an overseas fighter for a no rules contest issued a challenge in Australian Fighting Arts Magazine. This “overseas fighter” was putting up a substantial amount of money – $50,000. A condition of the fight was that the Australian who took the challenge would in turn have to put up the same amount of money – winner to take all. After much hype in successive publications no one took the challenge. This was probably a good thing because many years later it was revealed this “overseas fighter” was Marcelo Behring – Rickson Gracie black belt.
John Will was the first Australian to be graded to Black Belt in 1998. He was graded by Rigan & Jean Jacques Machado. Then in 2000 Paulo Guimaraes was the first Brazilian to start teaching Jiu Jitsu in Australia, after that many other Brazilians started to come to Australia as well as many Australians reached their black belt in Jiu Jitsu and have since spread the art across the nation.