BJJ history on sports and self defense Jiu Jitsu


Kroyler’s Pro-Tip on self-defense training only vs “sport” training and how they would perform in “the streets”.

Very much like the topic from last episode this is a gigantic controversial topicin the Jiu-Jitsu community.  I am once again going to keep it short, so this won’t a thorough as I wish I could make it.

So,before we dive into the topic of self-defense vs sport in a realself-defensesituation lets embark on a journey to the roots of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Japanese jujustu was  originally created by blending many different forms of martial arts during the Sengoku period in Japan if memory serves me right around 1460.

The need to for a new Martial Art was simple, how can we most effectively fight in real battles un-armed against armed opponents so that we can win the war. Katanas, axes, spears, bows and arrows were the staple of the weaponry used in battles at the time.  However, the Japanese understood very much that weapons break and get lost in combat.  So, the need for the new Martial Art wasn’t so much on how to more effectively yield weapons, there were already plenty of very efficient martial arts that already covered that need, but rather how can we fight when unarmed against an enemy that is most likely wearing armor.

Striking arts, karate as an example, could not effectively be used against armored opponents.

Therefore, the idea ofJujutsuwas born. The development ofJujutsu was simple, take the very few grappling techniques from other arts that are legitimate and combine them into one art.

Grappling was the preferred method to fighting unarmed armored opponents. This was because while an armor protects you from the force of a strike, it does not protect you from being thrown and from having your joint broken, after all even an armor must have mobile, malleable, joints otherwise the wearer wouldn’t be capable of moving

During the Edo period in Japan, around 17thcentury, the reigning shogunate (ruling body) passed strict laws in regards to carrying weapons and armor in public, where this was common occurrence prior to this point.  Only the privileged could carry weapons, meaning the higher-ranking samurai class.  This lead to armor and weapons to become nothing more than household heirlooms for a large amount of the population.  However, the removal or the attempt to remove the weapons and armor was not successful in the removal of fights, brawls and other crimes. So, Jujutsu remained useful and relevant, therefore focus started to shift from weapons-based combat martial arts to unarmed combat martial arts.

By the 18thcentury focus in unarmed combat martial arts had significantly shifted from striking arts to grappling arts for two main reasons.

1, the idea that if the weapon/armor ban ever got lifted out of the two schools of thought on unarmed combat (striking vs grappling) that the grappling based martial arts would be most relevant.

2, that striking was largely an ineffective approach as the energy requirements did not outweigh the benefits when compared to the low-level energy requirements required to throw and strangle an opponent.  Therefore, as far as grappling based martial arts were concerned, striking was a mere distraction or set up for the more effective and relevant form of unarmed combat.

During the Meiji Revolution mid-1800s, all weapons were banned, meaning not even the privileged class could carry swords, etc. etc.

Jigoro Kano was born in 1860, during the middle of the Meiji Revolution, into the higher caste of Japanese families of the time.

This removal of all swords, even to the privileged higher caste samurai and lords, led Jigoro Kano to seek out Jujutsu training.

It wasn’t until nearly 1877, I think, that Jigoro Kano was able to learn Jujutsu, from a master named Fukuda, Fukuda believed in randori over formal exercise, meaning practical sparring with the emphasis on learning vs simple technical drilling. Fukuda eventually died in early 1880s, I believe Kano only had 3-5 years of training with him. At the time of Fokuda’s death Kano was considered his greatest student.

In 1882 Kano created Kotokan and started taking in students to teach his style ofJujutsu, Judo. Judo was then born.

Judo was essentially broken into 3 sections:

Nage-Waza, throwing

Katame-Waza, grappling; which Ne-Waza (ground submissions) is a part of.

Atemi-Waza, striking

In 1904 Kano send out 5 emissaries to travel the world and demonstrate to the world the effectiveness of his art Judo. One of these 5 emissaries was a man named Mitsuyo Maeda, one of the best Ne-Waza experts in Kano’s school Kodokan.

In 1914 Maeda arrived in Brazil. Through a series of events an influential man at the time Gastao Gracie, asked Maeda to teach his son his fighting art. His son was Carlos Gracie.

Mitsuyo Maeda, also known as Conde Koma (his nickname meaning the Count of Combat), taught Carlos until 1921.

Carlos at the time moved into Rio and began teaching Jiu-Jitsu to the socialites and to his family.

Helio one of the youngest of the 5 Gracie brothers, Carlos being the oldest, was not allowed to train as he was frail, weak, small, and prone to fainting spells. Helio however was very tenacious and often gotten into fights due to wanting to prove he was tough. Through the years he would occasionally train with his brother Carlos, but most of his time spent at Carlos’ school was spent watching his brother teach people that were healthy and athletic enough to partake in class.

When Helio was 16, 1929, he covered a private class in the place of his brother Carlos who was late to class. The client was a very important and influential person, therefore Helio could not disappoint. This is when Helio realized even though he knew all the theory behind the Jiu-Jitsu Carlos taught from watching throughout his life, he was incapable of performing the techniques as they were meant to be performed.  Helio was genius when it came to grappling and was capable of adapting the techniques that his brother taught into something that even he, a frail teenager, could do and still be efficient. The client was very pleased and went on to continue training. Helio was granted instructor status by his brother after that event

At this point Helio started to experiment on all the Jiu-Jitsu techniques his brother new and started to in collaboration with him, to develop Gracie Jiu-Jitsu aka Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Carlos and Helio took the very ground fighting-based system developed by Kano and delivered by Maeda, and simply took it to a new level. By modifying the techniques so that they would work for the frail, weak sick man. For if they worked for Helio, they would work for anyone.

Side Note: Helio went on to be awarded 6th Dan in Judo.

Helio and Carlos set out to prove to the world the effectiveness of their art, fighting in professional matches and anyone willing to step up.

Helio’s and Carlo’s kids went on to take the mantle and continue to prove in countless street fights and professional bouts the efficiency of Gracie/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

The rest is history.

Now we can talk about Self Defense vs Sport jiu-jitsufor the purposes ofself-defense.

So,at its very root and core, Gracie/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is the epitome of self defense minded techniques, with an emphasis on effectivity and energy expenditure.

So, the question these nincompoops want answered is which one is best forself-defense, Self-Defense training only or Sport training only?

Well I personally think that even without self-defense training anyone that has achieved at least a purple belt in jiu-jitsu, even if its solely sport focused, can defend themselves on a random street fight.  Hell, most blue belts can as well.

Vast majorityof techniques in Gracie/Brazilian jiu-jitsu have components of self-defense in them, or at least the principles used to develop them are in line with the core of BJJ.

The question to me isn’t just which is better, or which would be successful, I think both would be successful in being used in a self defense situation because even the clear majority (not all) sport techniques have inherent self defense principles attached to them.  I mean the entire art is very much self-defense centered.

Rather the real question is effectivity, which one would be most effective in their success on overcoming the self defense situation. Having specific knowledge for self-defense would only aid you in those situations, not having that specific knowledge would only mean a slower or slightly lessened effectivity if you are a sport only person.  Not a failure in the situation.

The real issue and the real questionis in a self defense situation, do YOU want sufficient knowledge to overcome or do YOU want complete knowledge to overcome?

Kip Dice