Jiu Jitsu

What is Jiu Jitsu?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art that focuses on grappling and ground fighting. The direct translation of Jiu Jitsu (柔術) means "gentle art" and the goal is to control your opponent without striking them and then to submit them with chokes, arm bars, and other joint locks.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was created in Brazil by Mitsuyo Maeda, who had learned the art of judo from Jigoro Kano. It was first introduced as jujutsu and later became Brazilian Jiu Jitsu because of its evolution and origination in Brazil.

How is Jiu Jitsu different from other martial arts?

There are many different martial arts that can be practiced, but jiu-jitsu is a special martial art that is very effective in actual combat situations but is also a sport. Unlike Karate, Taekwondo, or Krav Maga, BJJ doesn't include striking with punches or kicks. This does not mean that it isn't a very physical sport.

The most similar martial art to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is Judo. There are similar throws, pins, and submissions, but the rule differences are subtle. Here’s a simple breakdown of some key differences:

BJJ's general point/rule system:

  • Throws: 2 points for a takedown in most situations
  • Passing Guard: 3 points for passing your opponent's legs
  • Mount (both front and back): 4 points when you sit on top of your opponent (either on their belly or on their back, with your legs hooking around them)
  • Knee on Belly: 2 points is awarded after passing, then putting your knee on their stomach for 3+ seconds
  • Sweep: 2 points for going from a bottom position to a top position
  • Pins: pinning in specific positions award points but doesn't end the match, like in wrestling or judo
  • Submissions: depending on the belt level, you can do arm bars, shoulder locks, chokes, wrist locks, ankle locks, knee bars, and more
  • Clock/Time Limits: BJJ has very few stoppages, most matches will go the entire length without a referee having to stop and bring competitors to neutral standing position

Judo's general point/rule system:

  • Throws: depending on how you throw, you could win the match immediately
  • Pins: pinning someone on their back for 20 seconds gives you an immediate win
  • Submissions: only chokes and arm bars are allowed - no leg or wrist submissions
  • Clock/Time Limits: Judo has many stoppages - if athletes attempt to throw and aren’t making progress towards a pin or turnover then they’ll be brought back up to the neutral position

When it comes to martial arts culture, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is also unique. Most martial arts are rigid and strict, but BJJ practitioners are encouraged to express themselves uniquely. From the techniques and styles you use on the mat, to the uniform you wear, there are few things off limits. This approachable, informal, and welcoming style is one of many reasons why BJJ participation is growing so quickly around the world.

History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

While it is a modern martial art, the history of Jiu Jitsu is rich since it is a direct relative of Judo. It has recently become one of the world's most popular martial arts. Judo was first developed in Japan in 1882 by Kanō Jigorō, which focused on grappling and ground fighting techniques. Judo and Jiu Jitsu first started being practiced in Brazil during the early 1900s when Mitsuyo Maeda, also known as Count Koma, introduced this form of Japanese Martial Arts to the local athletes.

Maeda had three students: two brothers, Carlos Gracie and Helio Gracie, and Luiz França. They were the founders of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Each of them made a new way to use techniques without hurting themselves so much, and they gave Brazilian Jiu Jitsu a name different from what it was before.

It quickly became recognized as an effective form of self-defense against all opponents, even those who may be much bigger than the practitioner.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was popular in many countries. It came to America in the 1970s, but then it started growing slowly. The UFC brought mixed martial arts and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to the public in the early 1990s, when Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert Royce Gracie and other members of the Gracie family won multiple fights against opponents from different disciplines and from heavier weight classes.

Now there are many leagues, including the IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation), that run BJJ tournaments that can be as large as 10k competitors in a single venue.

What are the benefits of doing BJJ?

More than just a workout, jiu jitsu training is often referred to as “human chess” in that it exercises both the body and the mind. While BJJ practice can be physically demanding, technique and knowledge rule on the mat.

The physical benefits of jiu jitsu are immense and well-documented. Because jiu jitsu presents a combination of dynamic and explosive movements with pressure-based isometric pushing, pulling, and holding, it helps to develop increased strength and cardio, as well as promotes weight loss and improved muscle tone. Because you’re constantly responding to another person’s movements, BJJ also heightens your body awareness and improves your balance and reactive ability.

Jiu Jitsu is also an incredible mental workout. For one, it provides the challenge of learning a new activity, with limitless variations of movements, techniques and submissions. It also develops your reasoning skills, in that you are constantly planning your next step, both when you’re in an advantageous position or a defensive position. As an activity practiced with another person, it increases your ability think quickly and “on your feet” in response to your partner’s movements, as well as to remain calm and controlled when you find yourself in a defensive situation.

For many, it also provides an outlet for the stresses of daily life. When you step on the mat, everything else is put to the side for a moment, while both your mind and body are engaged in learning jiu jitsu.

Most importantly, unlike many other sports and physical activities, BJJ is unique in that it can be done by anyone. Jiu Jitsu was designed and developed so that a smaller, weaker person can defend his or herself against, or even defeat, a larger and stronger opponent. So regardless of age, size, gender or physical limitation, any person can utilize the techniques and principals of jiu jitsu, and reap the benefits of its practice.

Is Jiu Jitsu like Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)?

While Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a martial art and shares some similarities with MMA (mixed martial arts), the two are not one and the same. In fact, BJJ was developed in part as a response to challenges faced by fighters in Vale Tudo matches - early versions of MMA.

BJJ focuses on ground fighting and grappling, while MMA includes striking (i.e., punching and kicking) as well. So if you're interested in learning self-defense techniques or just want to explore a new martial art, BJJ may be a great option for you.

BJJ belt ranks

Below are the ranks by age, typically:

What are the adult ranks for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

  • White (this is where everyone starts)
  • Blue (this can take between 2-4 years)
  • Purple (4-8 years)
  • Brown (6-10 years)
  • Black (8-15 years)

What are the youth belt ranks for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

  • White  (this is where everyone starts)
  • Grey/White
  • Grey
  • Grey/Black
  • Yellow/White
  • Yellow
  • Yellow/Black
  • Orange/White
  • Orange
  • Orange/Black
  • Green/White
  • Green
  • Green/Black
  • then graduates into adult ranks at blue or purple belt at 16 years of age (minimum)

There are many factors taken into consideration when awarding new BJJ ranks including demonstration of technical proficiency, understanding of the principles of jiu-jitsu, ability to teach others, level of physical conditioning and sportsmanship.

Generally speaking, students must be at least 16 years old to receive their black belt from an IBJJF certified instructor. However, there are many BJJ black belts who have either not competed or competed in smaller tournaments to remain active black belts. Many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu students also choose to compete, and some even train for the sole purpose of competition.

Who is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for?

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is for anyone. Seriously.

Because people can customize their game to their strengths/weaknesses, it is very beginner friendly. A brand new white belt can have a constructive practice session with a black belt.  That being said, there are some basic principles that

How to find the right Jiu Jitsu academy?

Jiu Jitsu is a lifelong sport. You will make friends for life and there is always something new to learn. Finding the right Jiu Jitsu academy is essential to getting the most out of this wonderful sport. There are a few things to consider when looking for an academy. You want to find a place where you feel comfortable. The instructors should be friendly and welcoming and the other students should be supportive.

While I'm sure you want to find a place that is convenient for you, finding a place that is the right fit is more important. This includes price. While it is nice to get a deal and find an inexpensive gym, most times you're getting what you paid for. A high quality academy will probably be more expensive since it maintains a higher quality facility with nicer mats and more professional instruction.

Is Jiu-Jitsu good for self defense?

It should also be a very simple question about martial arts. Does this make sense to someone if he wants to protect themselves or their families? That's right. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the most effective martial art for defending one another. This program focuses on managing the attack, preventing it while decreasing it. Controlling submissions is an effective strategy both in MMA and street fighting. I think BJJ is a powerful defense tool.

Is Jiu Jitsu effective?

Jiu Jitsu is effective because it focuses on ground warfare that relies almost exclusively on controls. Often times the person that possesses most effective gripping and position dominance wins the fight. Contrasting art forms, such as boxing or Muay Thai, gain very minimal control over opponents. Reliant most on perfectly timing punches for neutralizing opponents. If you defend against a striker, it's likely your adversary will strike only the less delicate areas within your body. Similar to shin-protecting legs against leg strikes or arm-protecting hooks.

Common questions about BJJ?

Is there hitting in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

No. While there are some versions of "Combat Jiu Jitsu," invented by Eddie Bravo (which using palm strikes / slaps to open up submissions), it is not common to practice BJJ with hitting. Several BJJ schools will teach how to defend against striking, and some don't.

Is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is just for self defense?

No. Lots of people practice BJJ as a sport / fitness / social activity.

Will I get cauliflower ear from doing BJJ?

Maybe, but unlikely. Many people practice BJJ  for years without ever developing cauliflower ear. That said, it's not impossible - so if you're worried about it, you can always wear a headgear.

Will practicing BJJ make my child more aggressive?

No. Kids that grapple understand the consequences of fights and unnecessary aggression, so they're more equipped to diffuse confrontations. However, if someone were to pick a fight with them, they're well prepared to defend themselves appropriately by controlling the situation.

How long does it take to get a BJJ black belt?

With regular attendance (3-4x per week) and active competition, students may get their black belt in between 8-15 years. This number is highly dependent on how consistently you attend, how often you compete, and whether or not you're helping or contributing to your academy's success.

What fighting style is Jiu-Jitsu?

BJJ is a ground fighting martial art primarily. But every match starts from standing, so there are throws or takedowns involved.

What is different between Jiu-Jitsu and BJJ?

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) use grappling, strangling and joints locks to defend an opponent's attacks, while Japanese Jiu Jitsu (also sometimes written as Jujutsu / Ju-Jitsu) practitioners mainly aim at throwing opponents, articulating joints, hitting and blocking.

BJJ also has a point system assigned as it is also a sport. While Japanese Jiu Jitsu focuses on forms and self defense application exclusively.

Another key difference is that BJJ practitioners typically wear a gi (uniform), while Japanese Jiu Jitsu practitioners may not need them. The gi helps to provide a grip for BJJ techniques, but is not necessary for Japanese Jiu Jitsu all of the time.

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