Jiu-Jitsu has almost a hundred years of history behind it, all of which cannot be precisely traced. However, it is said by some historians that this “gentle art” originates somewhere back to India, where the Buddhist Monks used to practice it. Worried about their safety and their self-defense, techniques focusing on the principles of leverage and balance were created by these monks. This is how this martial art came into existence, as a system in which the body in manipulated in a way where relying on weapons or strength can be avoided. As Buddhism expanded, from Southeast Asia it began spreading to China, until it finally arrived in Japan, developing and gaining further popularity there.
Several Japanese Jiu-Jitsu masters immigrated to other continents by the end of the 19th century, where they took part in competitions and fights, while teaching this martial art as well. One such master was Esai Maeda Koma, who was known as “Conde Koma.” Koma traveled with a troupe that fought in a variety of countries in America and Europe, until in 1915, he arrived in Brazil. The very next year he settled in Belem do Para, and there he met a man by the name of Gastao Gracie. Gastao, who had eight children, three girls and five boys, quickly became enthusiastic about it and brought, Carlos, his eldest son to learn it from master Koma.
Carlos Gracie was a frail 15-year old and apart from learning how to fight, Jiu-Jitsu also became a method for personal improvement for him. Carlos moved with his family to Rio de Janeiro when he was 19, and there he began fighting and teaching. Not only did Carlos teach the martial art during his travels, but he also fought and defeated physically stronger opponents just to show how efficient it was. He opened his own school after returning to Rio in 1925 and named it “Academia Gracie de Jiu-Jitsu.”
Carlos began teaching his brothers ever since then as well, while in the meantime he adapted and refined the techniques of Jiu-Jitsu. Carlos even taught them his concepts of natural nutrition and his philosophies of life. Carlos eventually became famous for the creation of “the Gracie diet,” a special diet for athletes. This resulted in the transformation of the very meaning of the martial art, and it became synonymous with health.
After the creation of this efficient self-defense system, Carlos gained the traits of respectfulness, self-confidence and tolerance. Aiming to prove how superior Jiu-Jitsu was over other different martial arts, Carlos started challenging well-known fighters of that time. He also became the manager of his brothers through their fighting careers. The Gracies gained quick prestige and recognition because of having fought and defeated opponents, who were 50 to 60 pounds heavier than they were.
As this martial art became more and more popular, it attracted many practitioners in Japan, who migrated to Rio and established their own schools, but not achieve similar success as the Gracies. The reason behind this is that the styles that the Japanese practitioners used mostly revolved around throws and takedowns. On the other hand, the Jiu-Jitsu that was practiced by the Gracies included more sophisticated submission techniques and ground fighting.
The techniques that were changed and adapted by Carlos, and his brothers resulted in the complete alteration of the complexion of the principles of international Jiu-Jitsu. Eventually, the sports gained a national identity because of the distinct techniques used by the Gracies. Ever since, then this martial art became popular as “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu” and martial artists all across the globe, including Japan, began practicing it.
The era of Jiu-Jitsu competitions began when an official governing body was created so that the administration of the martial art, along with its grading system and rules could be overseen. Master Carlos Gracie Jr. founded both a Brazilian National Confederation and an International Federation, which is how it became the sport it is today. Carlos Gracie Jr. held some of the very first organized Jiu-Jitsu competitions in order to contribute to its growth, while working with the Confederation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Currently, competitions in Asia, Brazil, Europe and the United States are held by the CBJJ and the IBJJF, and this is how Carlos’ initial dream to spread Jiu-Jitsu across the globe finally came true. This was the traceable history behind Jiu-Jitsu and how it became a worldwide sport.