What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) or Gracie Jiu Jitsu is a Brazilian martial art and combat sport that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting with the goal of gaining a dominant position from which to force an attacker to submit. The system developed from pre-war Kodokan Judo, western wrestling and some techniques from Japanese Jujitsu with a focus on ne-waza (ground technique). Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu prefers bringing an opponent to the ground and then relying on grappling techniques to subdue the opponent utilizing holds, armlocks, chokes, leglocks, and strikes. It promotes the principle that a smaller, weaker person using leverage and proper technique can successfully defend themselves against a bigger, stronger assailant. BJJ can be trained for self defence, sport grappling tournaments (gi and no-gi) and mixed martial arts (MMA) competition. Sparring and live drilling play a major role in training, and a premium is placed on performance, especially in competition.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu differs in some aspects from other martial arts in the criteria for grade promotion, which is almost exclusively based on practical expertise in the form of sparring or rolling and tournament results. Rarely is any formal test undertaken for the grading, which is based mainly in observation at every-day practice sessions.

The type of grading sytem maintains a consistent level of student quality (skill and performance). In other words a student actually represents their rank on the mat. There are no “honorary” or “seniority” belts awarded for the basic belt system. When you progress to the next rank, you know you’ve earned it.

Typical times to achieve rank vary by individual. Each belt generally takes between 2 and 5 years of consistent practice to obtain. The rank of black belt generally takes between 8 and 12 years to achieve.


The art began with Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese judoka who immigrated to Brazil in the 1910s where an influential businessman named Gastão Gracie helped him get established. In return for his aid, Maeda taught the fighting art of Jujitsu to Gastão’s son Carlos, who then taught the art to his brothers, including Hélio Gracie. The brothers trained many of their sons, who carried on the family tradition. Hélio had the opportunity to teach a class one day while Carlos was absent. He soon realized that most of the techniques could be adapted in a way to increase leverage therefore minimizing the force needed to execute the moves. Through Hélio’s experiments early on, and constant technical refinement in training and real fighting, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as we know it today was created. The Gracie family continued to develop the system throughout the 20th century, often fighting vale tudo matches (precursors to modern MMA), during which it gained its focus on ground fighting and refined its techniques.