In the world of martial arts, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has always tried to stand out and away from the crowd of others. Being much younger than Karate, Tae Kwon Do and Kung-fu, BJJ has been a bit of an upstart. Less than a century old, it is still evolving at a rate that leaves practitioners wondering where it will lead.
For decades the Gracie family promoted the gentle art through the one true test to prove its effectiveness, combat. Taking on all challengers with no stipulations, the art of Jiu Jitsu travelled the world around seeking out all, showing that it was something real, a force that could not be stopped.
For those that do not know or understand the origins of BJJ, the cliff-notes version is that it is an off-shoot of Judo and traditional Japanese Jiu Jitsu. It was adapted by the Gracie family to become a more practical and fluid form of self-defense, taking a more realistic approach to a street fight. In Brazil, the art was first greeted as an upper-class art martial art, but over the years it made its way into the mainstream and exploded. Like most combat sports, it was often seen as a tough-guy sport, and soon became synonymous with a brute-like lifestyle. Eventually it began to evolve into what it is today, accessible to all. Outside Brazil, however, the gentle art was almost non-existent. That is when the Gracie family issued the challenge, and from that point on it was Bjj vs the world.
So what is it that separates Brazilian Jiu-jitsu from other martial arts? The main and straight forward answer is training. In order for you to be able to practice, you must face your opponent directly. There is no shadow boxing or mirror punches in Jiu Jitsu, you must use all your skills in every match in order to reach your potential. There are no punches or kicking in sport-oriented Bjj, so as to promote the “gentle art” side. The idea is to control an opponent, use their aggression and strength against them. Submissions are designed to incapacitate and render the aggressor unable to continue.
In the self-defense aspect of Bjj, the idea is basically the same, but with common-sense technique. Unlike arts like Krav Maga, Jiu Jitsu is meant to control and hinder an attacker, not kill. It is a thinking martial art, one that tests its practitioners daily and teaches calmness in situations that are anything but.
Another aspect that separates Jiu Jitsu is that it is 100% adaptable. There are no rigid forms or techniques that cannot be changed or adapted by the individual. Everything about Bjj is open to interpretation and modifications, allowing for the art to continue to grow in ways that are no longer possible for other martial arts. BJJ has embraced the ideal that everyone is different and no one technique is set in stone. In order for it to thrive it must break the convention of set ideas. Jiu Jitsu is fluid in its thought process and therefore no two practitioners share a single style.
Jiu Jitsu has shaped a whole new way of combat through trial by fire. It created the modern phenomenon of MMA by way of the Gracie challenge. The UFC and octagon were the pinnacle of the challenge, a giant, world-spanning stage showing how effective BJJ is by taking all on in a single tournament. MMA evolved from that first UFC, showing that no one style was complete without a ground defense.
In the end, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is something of an anomaly in the martial arts world. It is a formal setting without the formality. It tests it students daily but there is no final test to end the studying. It is constantly evolving in an organic manner from all students at every level. In Jiu Jitsu there are coaches, teachers and professors, but there are no masters. A master promotes the thought that they know all there is to know about the art. In Jiu Jitsu it is impossible to be a true master of the art. There is no end game to the puzzle, every solution is countered by a new problem. Every finish is changed by a new starting point. Every technique it picked apart, rebuilt and changed by someone elses viewpoint. It is an art, an idea, a notion of fluidity and constant flux. Jiu Jitsu is what you make it.
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