There has been some confusion about where and who invented Jiu Jitsu. Regardless of when or who established Jiu-Jitsu (also known as Ju-Jitsu), it is known to have originated in Japan. It is said that it originated from Buddhist monks in India. It was developed for Japanese Samurai to defend themselves if they were left unarmed and on foot. Due to their heavy armor, the samurai were limited in their movement, thus preferring chokes, joint locks, and throws over striking.
Jiu-Jitsu had fragmented by the mid-1800s into several styles or “ryu”. Though the styles varied, all the styles included strikes, grappling, and weapon use in hand-to-hand combat.
Jigoro Kano was a highly regarded Jiu-Jitsu practitioner who developed his system based on ‘randori’, or full-power exercises against highly skilled opponents. It was an entirely different concept than that of partners at the time. After Kano’s style developed into Judo, this form of martial arts became widely practiced across the globe.
The end of the Samurai era brought the invention of the gun and the development of new sports that practiced martial arts. Jiu-Jitsu eventually evolved into many variations in Japan, such as Karate, Aikido, and Judo. There were important aspects of Jiu-Jitsu missing from these arts.
Bruce Lee later referred to this conflict as the ‘classical mess’ due to the lack of reality in the martial arts. When Bruce Lee was alive, he studied grappling and Judo extensively. Bruce Lee believed that traditional martial arts were ineffective. In traditional combat schools, the techniques used were no longer suitable for today’s combat scenarios, and without a way to test the techniques, they were like swimming without water.
Once the combat art of Jiu-Jitsu and the art of Judo were introduced to the Gracie family in Brazil, Jiu-Jitsu took on a new meaning again. Esai Maeda, also known as Conde Koma, introduced Japanese Jiu-Jitsu (practiced as Judo) to the Gracie family in Brazil around 1914. The Japanese Jiu-Jitsu champion, Maeda was a direct student of Kano, at the Kodokan. He began learning Judo (Kano’s Jiu-Jitsu) in 1897.
It was during a large Japanese immigration colony that Maeda was allowed to travel to Brazil in 1914. As a businessman, Gastao Gracie helped Maeda establish himself in Brazil’s northern state of Para. He offered to teach Carlos Gracie, Gastao’s oldest son, traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu as a way of showing his gratitude. Eventually, Carlos passed the knowledge on to his brothers.
Helio Gracie, one of Gastao and Cesalina Gracie’s eight children, was always physically frail. Whenever he ran up a flight of stairs, he would faint. Nobody knew why.
A year after moving in with his older brothers in Botafogo, he began studying Jiu-Jitsu. In the next few years, Helio would be forced to watch his brothers only teach after the doctor made this recommendation.
A classmate of Helio’s showed up for class without Carlos one day when he was 16 years old. Helio, who learned all the teaching methods from watching his brothers, is willing to teach. As the class ended, Carlos apologized for his delay and returned to the classroom. “No problem,” he replied. “If you don’t mind, I’d be interested in taking classes with Helio in the future.” As a result, Helio became a teacher.
As Helio learned from Carlos, he found that most of the techniques he had learned were difficult for him to execute due to his frail physique. He modified the techniques to accommodate the weakness of his body to make them work for him. As a result of Helio’s emphasis on leverage and timing over strength and speed, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, or what is popularly known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was created with a great deal of trial and error.
Helio openly challenged all the reputable martial artists in Brazil to demonstrate the effectiveness of his new system. Helio fought 18 times, including matches against Wladek Zbyszko, a former world heavyweight wrestler champion, and #2 ranked Judoka in the world at the time, Kato, whom he choked out in six minutes. After beating Kato, he had the chance to wrestle the world’s best Jiu-Jitsu fighter, Masahiko Kimura, who outweighed Helio by almost 80 pounds. Even though Kimura won, he was so impressed with Helio’s technique that he challenged Helio to teach in Japan on the grounds Helio’s techniques were not used in Japan. Helio’s dedication to the refinement of the art was recognized by the best in the world.
Helio and his former student, Waldemar Santana, fought for an incredible 3 hours and 40 minutes, setting a world record for the longest uninterrupted fight in history!
Helio is widely recognized as the first sports hero in Brazilian history. Helio challenged boxing legends Primo Carnera, Joe Louis, and Ezzard Charles. None of them accepted.
He was a dedicated family man characterized by courage, discipline, and determination, and was a source of inspiration to everyone he encountered. His dedication to the dissemination of the art of Jiu-Jitsu earned Helio Gracie worldwide acclaim and he is widely acknowledged as the creator of Gracie/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
If you’ve seen Jiu-Jitsu academies you have probably noticed their logos feature triangles. Let us first explain what this symbol represents and its origins in Jiu-Jitsu.
The Gracie Triangle is a widely recognized symbol derived from the Gracie Academy, which taught Jiu-Jitsu under both Carlos and Helio Gracie.
It represents the stable foundation possessed by Gracie Jiu-jitsu masters. No matter which side of it lies, the Gracie Triangle has a strong base.
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu mastery comes from the combination of mind, body, and spirit — the three components of each side of the triangle. In the triangle, there’s a small inclination near the top that looks like the letter “G” for Gracie.
On the inside, the two fighters stand for everyone who studies Gracie Jiu-Jitsu as a way to master themselves on and off the mat – in mind, body, and spirit.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to learn more about the history of Jiu-Jitsu, try a free week with us at Granite Bay Jiu-Jitsu.