What is BJJ
A Japanese judoka, prizefighter, and member of the Kodokan named Mitsuo Maeda emigrated to Brazil in the 1910s and was helped greatly by a Brazilian politician named Gastão Gracie. In return for his aid, Maeda taught Judo to Gastão’s son Carlos, who then taught the art to his brothers, including Hélio Gracie. Through their own study and development, Carlos and Hélio are regarded as the originators of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a style of distinct from Kodokan Judo.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu became internationally prominent in the martial arts community in the 1990s, when Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert Royce Gracie won several Ultimate Fighting Championships against experienced and much larger opponents using the style.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu conceptually inherited an emphasis on using off-balancing, leverage, and the opponent’s own power, from Judo. The main difference is that Judo in it’s Olympic Sport form emphasizes throws, while Jiu-Jitsu emphasizes submission. Judo does not allow leg-locks and also has a much higher amount of referee intervention during matches (the competitors are often returned to the standing position, while Jiu-Jitsu generally allows its participants to patiently work towards a submission).
Factors which contributed to the divergence include the Gracies’ desire to create a national martial art, the influence of Brazilian culture, the non-participation of the Gracie schools in sport judo, the postwar closing of the Kodokan (which was only allowed to reopen on the condition that emphasis be shifted towards sport), as well as the Gracies’ own additions to the body of technique and opinions regarding self-defense, martial arts and training methods, and, more recently, the influence of mixed-martial-art competitions such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu emphasizes ground fighting techniques and submission holds involving joint locks and choke holds. The premise is that most of the advantage of a larger, stronger opponent comes from superior reach and more powerful strikes, both of which are largely negated if wrestling on the ground; and if either fighter wants the fight to go to the ground, it will. Once the opponent is on the ground, a number of maneuvers (and counter-maneuvers) are available to manipulate the opponent into suitable position for the application of a submission hold. This system of maneuvering and manipulation can be likened to a form of physical chess when contested between two experienced practitioners. A submission hold is the equivalent of checkmate.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s emphasis on submissions and maneuvering rather than strikes means that one’s technique can be practiced at full speed and full power, identical to the effort and technique used in a real fight. Training partners can resist and counter just as they would in an actual fight, providing valuable real-world experience should the techniques ever need to be applied in an actual fight. This practice of ALIVENESS training, commonly known as “rolling” in BJJ circles, is considered by many BJJ practitioners to be the major factor differentiating combat sports (ex. BJJ, Judo, Boxing, Wrestling) from traditional martial arts (ex. Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido).
The main emphasis in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is to dominate the opponent through skillful application of technique and force them to quit (submit). By using the techniques of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a smaller practitioner, male or female, can control much larger and stronger opponents and actually force that larger opponent to submit.