Origin of Jiu Jitsu - Everything you need to know (2023)

One way or another, you've probably heard of Jiu-Jitsu at least once in your life.

Either that, or you're an avid martial arts fan.

Anyway, you are curious where Jiu-Jitsu originated from.

The short answer was probably Japan, but that's not the end of the story of this art.

That's where this article comes in as we delve into the most prominent details and names in the art.

But first, what is jiu-jitsu?

Origin of Jiu Jitsu - Everything you need to know (1)

jiu jitsu

jiu jitsuis a Japanese martial art that involves levers, spins, and pressure to bring someone down and control them.

It can also be written as Jiu-Jitsu or Jujutsu.

In Japanese, the word "Of"means "sweetness" and the word jutsu means "art" or "technique".

That is why it is also called "gentle art", which comes from the literal translation.

As with almost all ancient martial arts, no one knows exactly where it originated in the secular world.

Between the 3rd and 8th centuries, people from India to China had very similar fighting styles.

What is known is that they grew up and improved in the schools of the samurai, the warrior caste of feudal Japan.

While it may have started with Buddhist monks in India or China, in Japan Jiu Jitsu was used by samurai warriors on the battlefield.

Samurai warriors were usually well armed and mounted on horseback.

The samurai created the art of Jiu-Jitsu so that they could fight well unarmed and on their feet.

(Video) The History of Jiu-Jitsu (Part 1)

This is how jiu-jitsu emerged as an alternative to kenjitsu and other so-called "hard arts" that involved fighting with swords and other weapons.

Jiu-Jitsu included throws, joint locks, and chokes, as well as retaliation, as the armor made it difficult to move quickly.

As the time of the samurai came to an end, weapons replaced the sword and practitioners found new ways to practice martial arts for fun.

Jiu-Jitsu eventually evolved into many different styles such as karate, aikido, and judo in Japan.

But these arts were missing essential parts of what Jiu-Jitsu should have been.

This lack of reality led to years of confusion in the world of martial arts, which the famous Bruce Lee would later describe as "classic confusion."

Bruce Lee became familiar with judo during his life and did a lot of research on wrestling.

He said that traditional forms of martial arts don't work.

Traditional martial arts schools only used techniques that were not useful in modern combat.

Since there was no safe way to test these arts, practicing them was like trying to swim out of water.

The true art of jiu-jitsu was only revived when the Gracie family learned the athletic art of judo and the martial arts of jiu-jitsu in Brazil.

Esai Maeda, also known as Count Koma, taught judo, a form of Japanese jiu-jitsu, to the Gracie family in Brazil.

This was around 1914. Maeda was a champion jiu-jitsu and a student of Kano's in Kodokan, Japan.

He was born in 1878 and started judo (also called Kano Jiu-Jitsu) in 1897.
Related Reading: BJJ vs MMA-Read the full comparison here.

the grace family

In 1914, Maeda had the opportunity to move to Brazil with a large group of Japanese.

In Pará, he became friends with the powerful businessman Gasto Gracie, who helped him start a business.

To show his appreciation, Maeda offered to teach traditional Japanese jiu-jitsu to Gasto's eldest son, Carlos Gracie. Carlos studied a bit before passing on his knowledge to his brothers.

(Video) Brazilian Jiu Jitsu History in 5 Minutes

Karl Gnade

In Belém, Brazil, in 1917 lived a young man named Carlos Gracie (1902–1994).

There he saw a spectacle of a Japanese who for the first time managed to conquer and control the giants of the region.

Gastão Gracie was a friend of Maeda's father, so he agreed to teach the boy to defend himself.

He taught the fundamentals of his art in his classes to Carlos and other Brazilians such as Luiz Franca, who later taught Oswaldo Fadda.

They would use the opponent's own power against them on the ground.

Low kicks and elbow strikes are used to get closer to the opponent before taking them down.

He used randori, a full sparring session with a partner, to further develop his training.

Carlos Gracie was a dedicated student who fell in love with Jiu-Jitsu.

He started teaching the art to his brothers, which saddened his mother because she wanted more diplomats in the family.

Carlos Gracie, one of eight siblings named Oswaldo, Gasto Jr., George, Helena, Helio, Mary and Ilka, opened the first jiu-jitsu school for the Gracie family in 1925.

Origin of Jiu Jitsu - Everything you need to know (2)

helio gracie

Helio Gracie has always been a fragile child.

He was the youngest of Gasto and Cesalina Gracie's eight children, three of whom were girls.

(Video) The History Of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Untold Story)

No one could understand why, but if he went up a flight of stairs, he would pass out.

Hélio's technical improvement as an instructor and his indomitable spirit set him apart from his brothers.

This despite the fact that she takes issue with her slim body.

Following Count Koma's strategies, the Gracies fought capoeiristas, stevedores, and other bravos in Rio.

Though intimidating on foot, these muscular men were easy prey for thrushes and thrushes on the ground.

Helio soon realized that he was too young to take full advantage of the moves he learned from watching Carlos teach.

In order to make the techniques work for him, he began to modify them to work with his weak body.

Modifying almost every technique, Helio came to Gracie/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu through trial and error.

He did this by emphasizing leverage and timing over power and speed.

Helio publicly challenged every known martial artist in Brazil to prove that his new system worked.

He fought 18 times, including Wladek Zbyszko, a former world heavyweight champion, and Kato, who was number 2 in judo at the time.

His victory over Kato earned him the right to fight world champion Masahiko Kimura.

Kimura is the best jiu-jitsu fighter Japan has ever had and he weighed almost 80 kilos more than Helio.

Kimura won, but was so impressed with Helio's skills that he invited him to teach in Japan.

It was a sign that the best artists in the world saw how hard Helio was working to improve his art.

At the age of 43, Helio and his former student Waldemar Santana set the world record for the longest continuous fight without limits at 3 hours and 40 minutes!

(Video) Joe Rogan - The History of Jiu Jitsu

Helio is often considered Brazil's first sports hero.

He also faced boxing legends Primo Carnera, Joe Louis and Ezzard Charles. They all said no.


Today Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the fastest growing martial art in the world.

He rides the wave of mixed martial arts (MMA).

Now there are tens of thousands of Jiu-Jitsu schools in all parts of the world.

Jiu-Jitsu as a sport has also become very popular.

The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Foundation (IBJJF), a government agency, organizes an annual competition circuit that is attended by thousands of people.

Jiu Jitsu stays true to its roots and is used effectively in all MMA competitions.

All fighters, no matter what they major in, need to know at least the basics of Jiu Jitsu if they want to win.

People who practice this art are constantly improving and improving it.

Every day people invent new movements and techniques, which shows how dynamic and "alive" art is.

Related reading: What is the order of the belts in Jiu Jitsu?find here

final thoughts

Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art with a rich history.

Civilians can also benefit from learning the art.

There are many reasons why someone chooses this fighting style, from self defense to competition.


What are the origins of jiu-jitsu? ›

Although its origins can arguably be traced to Buddhist monks of India, Jiu Jitsu (sometimes referred to as "Ju Jitsu") in its modern form comes from Japan. Jiu Jitsu was the battlefield art of the Samurai of Japan.

What do they say at the start of jiu-jitsu? ›

For people who just enrolled in or are thinking of starting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Karate, the term “oss” might sound familiar. One of the first words that you will hear coming into the world of BJJ or Karate will be “oss.” “Oss” has various meanings from showing respect, acknowledging, or greeting.

What is the philosophy behind jiu-jitsu? ›

The philosophy of martial arts—gentleness, mutual welfare and benefit, the best use of physical and mental energy—is indispensable to its training. At Zenyo Jiu Jitsu, we know that martial arts can create a better world. We fight with each other on the mats, so that we can fight for each other off the mats.

Is Helio Gracie still alive? ›

Why is Jiu-Jitsu so powerful? ›

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu deeply emphasizes live sparring compared to other types of martial arts. From the earliest levels, students are encouraged to practice their techniques against resisting opponents in a safe environment. This experience makes it among the most effective of all martial arts in terms of self-defence.

Are there two types of Jiu-Jitsu? ›

There are several different types of Jiu-Jitsu styles out there, and you have probably heard words such Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu, Gi Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Each of them is similar in many ways but each of them does have a few key differences.

How do you say thank you in Jiu-Jitsu? ›

At the end of every Jiujitsu class, the students and instructors bow, and repeat the school motto, “Força e Honra,” or Strength and Honor. We then shake hands, and thank one another with an “Obrigado/a.” Obrigado is short for the more formal Eu sou obrigado, or “I am obliged.”

Why do martial artists say OSS? ›

Oss is Japanese and is derived from the phrase “Oshi Shinobu.” “Oshi” means to “push” and “Shinobu” means to “endure.” Together Oshi Shibonu means “to endure even when being pushed.” Martial artists have to push forward against the resistance of their own physical and mental limitations.

Why is there no GI in BJJ? ›

However, other people prefer to fight without wearing a gi since No-Gi style of grappling is a lot like street fighting. No-Gi BJJ is livelier when compared to fighting while wearing a traditional gi. Additionally, the rules of No-Gi BJJ are more flexible compared to the more traditional Gi BJJ.

What are the core values of Jiu-Jitsu? ›

Discipline, integrity, respect, personal courage, and commitment: these are the core values instilled in the curriculum at Top Level Martial Arts. The knowledge and skills that kids learn in martial arts classes is something that applies directly to their education. BJJ teaches persistence both on and off the mat.

What does Jiu-Jitsu teach mentally? ›

BJJ will challenge your ego and your persistence. This is what ultimately makes Jiu-Jitsu such a worthwhile endeavor. To succeed in BJJ, you'll need to hone physical attributes like timing and coordination. But you'll also need to focus on virtues like patience, dedication, resilience and persistence.

Is Jiu-Jitsu for Christians? ›

Though our classes are definitely open to individuals of all faiths and beliefs, we have a biblical evangelical Christian foundation for what we teach and our students will develop not only the physical skills of jiu jitsu, but also life and social skills from a biblical perspective.

Who was the baddest Gracie? ›

Rickson Gracie is widely regarded as the greatest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) practitioner of all time. The 9th-degree red belt (the highest level attainable) is simply the epitome of the word icon.

Who was the smallest Gracie? ›

As a young man, Helio was the smallest of the Gracie brothers, and also the most sickly. He was prone to fainting spells, and due to these health issues, Helio was not allowed to train jiu-jitsu. Instead, he spent much of his time watching and studying the techniques that his brothers taught in class.

Who holds a red belt in BJJ? ›

According to Renzo & Royler Gracie, in Brazilian jiu-jitsu the red belt is reserved "for those whose influence and fame takes them to the pinnacle of the art". It is awarded in lieu of a ninth and tenth degree black belt.

What is Jiu Jitsu weakness? ›

As mentioned, BJJ does not teach striking. So, as a fighter, if you are trained only in BJJ and go up against a more proficient striker, you may face difficulty striking back as it lacks stand-up training for punches and kicks.

What does Jiu Jitsu do to the brain? ›

As your kids practice Jiu Jitsu, their heart-rate is elevated, pumping more oxygen to the brain. As a result, the brain releases hormones that aid in the production of more brain cells. It also leads an increase in growth factors that make it easy for the brain to gain more neuronal connections.

Who wins Jiu Jitsu or Karate? ›

Karate — Who Would Win In A Street Fight? Athletes trained in BJJ have better chances of beating karateka in a street fight. It is hard to imagine the fight going the other way around as BJJ is superior to Karate in most aspects. Both Karate and BJJ focus too much on competition and fighting under the rules.

What is the most effective Jiu Jitsu? ›

The Most Effective Submissions In Jiu-Jitsu
  • Rear Naked Choke. The mount and the back positions are the two most dominant in jiu-jitsu. ...
  • Armbar. ...
  • Triangle Choke. ...
  • Kimura. ...
  • Footlock. ...
  • Omoplata.

What is the opposite of Jiu Jitsu? ›

One way to simply describe the difference is that Judo is 90% standing and 10% in the ground (called Newaza) while Jiu-jitsu is the opposite with 90% ground technique and 10% standing. The rules of any combat sport dictate the best strategies to achieve victory.

What is better than Jiu Jitsu? ›

Muay Thai is the most effective stand-up striking martial art, while Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the most effective grappling martial art.

What do you call a teacher in Jiu-Jitsu? ›

When referring to the place you train and your instructor most people think “dojo” and “sensei”. However in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu where we train is called an “academy”, and your head instructor or black belt is called “professor”. If a brown belt or below is running class, than the proper term for them is “coach”.

What do you call a Jiu-Jitsu player? ›

A Jiu-Jitsu player is called a Jujitsuka.

The art seeks to use leverage and technique to overcome a bigger, stronger opponent. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The term “jiu-jiteiro” can also be used to refer to someone who does Jiu-Jitsu.

What does OSU mean in BJJ? ›

Contraction of Osu from Ohayo Gozaimasu or Onegai Shimasu

In Japanese, it literally means “Please be kind to me,” but is more commonly used as a polite request, or as part of a phrase that means “Nice to meet you.”

What is yelling in martial arts called? ›

In Japanese martial arts a Kiai (Japanese: 気合, /ˈkiːaɪ/) is a short shout uttered when performing an attacking move. Kiai. Korean name. Hangul. 기합

Why do martial artists scream when fighting? ›

Shouting forces us to exhale. This strong exhale remove air from our diaphragms and brings more power and speed to attacks. Yelling also forces a subsequent inhale, which brings oxygen into our bodies. In tournaments, a powerful yell helps judges recognize when a strike is landed.

What do you say when you bow BJJ? ›

Then you'll hear "Shomen ni rei!" — "Bow to the front." The instructor will turn around and you'll hear "Sensei ni rei!" — "Bow to the sensei," show mutual respect, and when we do that bow, we say "Onegaishimasu!" — which is a request: I request to work with you.

What does Nogi mean? ›

What is NOGI? # No gi simply means training without the kimono or. uniform we usually wear to train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

What is a pink belt in Jiu Jitsu? ›

The Academy also introduced a pink belt for graduates of their Women Empowered self-defense program, a curriculum featuring a limited set of jiu-jitsu techniques specifically curated to defend against common sexual assault scenarios.

Does it matter what color gi you wear in BJJ? ›

The color of your Gi doesn't matter in any way. The only restriction on the colors of the BJJ Gi is that the IBJJF and many other BJJ competition federations only allow white, blue, and black. White, blue, or black color is suitable for competitions and training, but any other colored GI is only used for BJJ training.

What is the Gracie motto? ›

We take the Gracie motto, “keep it playful”, to heart. In Jiu Jitsu, if you need to use muscle or weight to make a move work, you don't understand the move.

What are the three pillars of jiu-jitsu? ›

To foster a community environment where we can all continue to learn and grow.
  • We provide a space which fosters the development of these three pillars: Self-Respect, Self-Discipline, Self-Defense. ...
  • COVID-19 safety.
  • Newcomers always welcome.
  • Experienced Jiu Jitsu practitioners welcome.
  • We love to cross train.

Is jiu-jitsu spiritual? ›

The martial art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) provides the opportunity for the development of an embodied spirituality by seeking divine blessing in three ways. Firstly, BJJ provides an opportunity to learn respect for our God given physicality, and our finitude.

Does BJJ increase intelligence? ›

Problem-solving is a major component in BJJ and training this skill surely improves the mind overall. BJJ is a great workout that exercises both the mind and body simultaneously and in unison. It unlocks many physical capabilities you never thought you had, and also makes you a more intelligent fighter.

Is Jiu Jitsu practical in a fight? ›

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

It teaches you to get the opponent down to the ground and apply chokeholds, joint locks and submission holds. Brazilian jiu-jitsu can be effective when faced with a single assailant in a street battle but it is rarely effective when faced with many attackers.

Is Jiu Jitsu good for depression? ›

Mental Health Benefits of Jiu Jitsu

A popular discipline of Martial Arts is to help combat anxiety, depression and chronic stress. Jiu Jitsu helps to train a person's mind to stay focused in only the present moment, and begin to control their racing thoughts.

How Jiu-Jitsu is brutal? ›

No, BJJ training is not violent. In fact, it's quite the opposite. The training is challenging. It teaches you the discipline necessary to get better at things.

What religion is Jiu-Jitsu? ›

Jiu-Jitsu began more than 2500 years ago. Created by Buddhist monks. Being fragile nomads they were frequently mistreated by other people because of their religion. They couldn't use weapons so they developed a way of self-defense based on the study of animal movements.

How healthy is Jiu-Jitsu? ›

The main benefits of jiu-jitsu:

- Develops strength, endurance, flexibility and coordination. - Helps lose weight and improve physical condition (strengthens muscles, develops cardiovascular and respiratory capabilities). - Develops self-confidence (also teaches self-defence techniques).

Is Jiu Jitsu Brazilian or Japanese? ›

While Brazilian jiu-jitsu has its roots in traditional Japanese jujitsu, there are many notable differences in both of these styles today. Traditional jujitsu is often regarded as one of the earliest types of martial arts to ever be taught.

Who invented Jiu Jitsu? ›

A modern-day legend, Helio Gracie gained international acclaim for his dedication to the dissemination of the art and is recognized as the creator of Gracie/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Is Jiu Jitsu Korean or Japanese? ›

Jiu-jitsu dates back to the 1530s and was coined by Hisamori Tenenouchi when he officially established the first jiu-jitsu school in Japan. This form of martial arts uses few or no weapons at all and includes strikes, throws, holds, and paralyzing attacks against the enemy.

Is Jiu Jitsu the oldest martial art? ›

Jiu jitsu, the oldest martial art, can be traced back to India where it was invented by Buddhist monks. These monks developed movements based on balance and leverage, in a manner that would avoid reliance on strength and weapons.

What country has the best jiu-jitsu? ›

Brazil. It is home to many iconic academies and famous black belts who are still training in BJJ. In relation to BJJ, the Brazilian fighters are very competitive. In the spirit of the martial art competition, no country can be compared to Brazil.

What is better Krav Maga or jiu-jitsu? ›

Krav Maga and BJJ are equally known for self-defense. Both have strong defense strategies that are realistic to be applied in any hostile situation, however, Krav Maga is more effective in combat situations. BJJ training provides you with more control over your opponent regardless of their weight and height.

What's the oldest martial art? ›

In fact, you might be surprised to learn just how old the oldest known art is. Its name is kalaripayattu, literally, “art of the battlefield.” The art originated in southern India thousands of years ago.

What does Jiu-Jitsu mean in Japanese? ›

jujitsu, Japanese jūjitsu (“gentle art”), also spelled jujutsu, also called yawara, form of martial art and method of fighting that makes use of few or no weapons and employs holds, throws, and paralyzing blows to subdue an opponent.

Who is the greatest Jiu-Jitsu fighter of all time? ›

Who is the greatest men's jiu-jitsu fighter of all time? The greatest men's jiu-jitsu fighter of all time is Marcus Almeida, also known by his coach's nickname “Buchecha.” In 2007, he catapulted to national fame in his native Brazil for winning the national championship, a feat he continued for four years.

Who wins jiu-jitsu or karate? ›

Karate — Who Would Win In A Street Fight? Athletes trained in BJJ have better chances of beating karateka in a street fight. It is hard to imagine the fight going the other way around as BJJ is superior to Karate in most aspects. Both Karate and BJJ focus too much on competition and fighting under the rules.

Is American Jiu Jitsu a thing? ›

WHAT IS AMERICAN JIU-JITSU? As aforementioned, there is no clear definition for this expression. Some attribute the American style of jiu-jitsu to a more cross-training minded approach as so many American athletes originally came from a high-school/collegiate wrestling background.

Why is jiu-jitsu not an olympic sport? ›

Jiu-jitsu doesn't have an international federation recognized by the IOC. The ADCC and Abu Dhabi Pro are ruled out because they are run by the government of the United Arab Emirates. The Gracie family still has its hand in the IBJJF and Jiu-Jitsu Federation and doesn't have an elected board of governors.

Which is the mother of all martial arts? ›

Kalaripayattu is the mother of all martial art forms. It's gaining in popularity because it uniquely combines defence techniques, dance, yoga and healing systems. It boosts both physical and mental fitness and body flexibility and functioning.

Which is older judo or jiu jitsu? ›

Judo is a modern martial art that can trace its roots back to Jiu-Jitsu. It emerged as a discipline in the 1880s when the polymath and educator Kano Jigoro founded a dojo in Tokyo. Here, he combined the different philosophies that he had been exposed to as a student of Jiu-Jitsu into a new form of martial arts.

What martial arts can beat Jiu Jitsu? ›

If you want to take your self-defense and street fighting to another level mix your BJJ training with some other martial arts as the only thing that beat Jiu-Jitsu is Jiu-Jitsu mixed with some other functional martial art like Wrestling, Muay Thai, Boxing, etc.


1. Japanese JuJutsu : It's beginning and evolution
2. Intro to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Part 1 -- The History
(Art of Manliness)
3. The REAL Origin of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu!
(Art of One Dojo)
4. Jiu Jitsu For Dummies - An Introduction To Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
(MMA Leech)
5. Starting Jiu Jitsu? What to Know Before Your 1st Class.
(Gracie Ohio Jiu-Jitsu Academy)
6. The Jiu-Jitsu Positions & Terms Every White Belt Should Know
(Jiu-Jitsu Times)
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