Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a grappling-based martial art which allows the practitioner to use technique, position, and leverage to overcome larger, stronger opponents. BJJ encompasses all the phases of combat, but it is known for its effectiveness in ground-fighting.
BJJ began as an offshoot of Kodokan Judo. In 1914 Mitsuyo Maeda, a top judoka, travelled to Brazil. While there, he befriended Gustão Gracie and taught Gustão’s young son Carlos for a few years. Carlos later taught what he had learned to his brothers. Over time the Gracie family, particularly Carlos’s brother Helio, refined what they had learned and made it their own. The Gracie family promoted the effectiveness of their art by participating in a series of full-contact challenge matches with exponents of other martial arts. After many years of success in Brazil, some of the family moved to the United States in order to spread their art. In 1993, the first Ultimate Fighting Championship was held. Royce Gracie won the first, second, and fourth UFCs, defeating a series of larger, stronger opponents along the way. As a result, all modern MMA practitioners train BJJ as an important part of their arsenal.
Today, there are three main facets to BJJ practice:
- Self-defense. BJJ teaches essential skills to defend against the typical attacks used by an street assailant who may be bigger and stronger.
- Grappling competition. BJJ has developed a set of rules for sporting competition so that practitioners can test their skills and athleticism against each other.
- Vale Tudo/MMA. The Gracie family originally proved the effectiveness of BJJ in Vale Tudo (“anything goes”) matches with practitioners of other martial arts. This tradition continues in modern MMA, where virtually every top competitor is trained to a high level in BJJ.
Individual students of BJJ may practice any or all of these facets, depending on their particular needs. In addition, long-term practitioners of the art may realize that it also can be a lifestyle and a vehicle for life-long self-improvement.
At Four Seasons Martial Arts, the head instructor for the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu program is Michael ODonnell, 3rd degree black belt under Carlson Gracie Jr. ODonnell was the first BJJ black belt in the state of Kentucky and is president of the Carson Gracie Kentucky team.