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What is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

I had not heard of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) until I was researching martial arts classes for my son. Because our town, which is not known for cutting-edge fitness, has a BJJ studio, I would guess that this martial art is increasing in popularity across the country.

So, since I knew nothing about this sport, I did lots of research. What I love best about this form of martial arts is that it is adapted for smaller people fighting larger opponents.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Two men practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Thanks to for the image.

Samurais in Japan used Jiu-Jitsu when they were knocked off their horses, with no weapons, in hand-to-hand combat. In the early 1900s, a Japanese Jiu-Jitsu champion was stationed in Brazil. He taught a young boy what he knew. The boy, then, taught his brothers.

When the boys fought each other, the smaller brother had to make changes to be able to win against his larger brothers. These changes that allow a smaller individual to beat a larger individual are what differentiates Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from traditional Jiu-Jitsu from Japan.

The Attire

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you wear loose pants and a jacket tied with a belt. Just like in karate and taekwondo, the belt shows your rank. However, in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you shop for your pants and jacket, which are called your gi.

In one article I read by, they give you pointers on how to find the gi that is best for you. There are many different cuts, colors, and styles to choose from, so it might take some trial and error until you find what suits you best.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Ranking

Like other forms of martial arts, the belt system is an indicator of level and skill. Unlike other martial arts, it can take a very long time to change belt colors. We’re talking years here, folks!

Here is  the belt order from beginner to expert:  white, blue, purple, brown, black, and (very rarely) red. There’s no stripes and no other colors. This is it.

In one article I read, it advised that while some belts may take only one year to complete, other belts (brown belt specifically) may take up to 5 years. So, be aware that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not a martial art that you commit to for a couple of years and finish. This is a life-long study. Here’s a link to an article about what you can expect as you work toward your different belts.

History of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

According to Black Belt Magazine, Esai Maeda, a former Jiu-Jitsu champion, was a chief of a Japanese immigration colony in Brazil. He befriended Gastao Gracie and began teaching Gracie’s son, Carlos.

In 1925, Carlos Gracie and his four brothers opened the first Jiu-Jitsu school in Brazil. Later, Carlos’s brother, Helio, adjusted traditional Jiu-Jitsu moves to better suit his small frame. These adjustments transformed Jiu-Jitsu into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

In the early 1980s, Helio’s son, Rorion, brought Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to the United States. According to, it wasn’t until Royce Gracie won some early Ultimate Fighting Championship matches that people really started to notice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Find Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Near You

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is gaining popularity throughout the United States. Why do I think this? Because my own small town has a BJJ studio. There’s a sort of a saying in my town; it’s something to the tune of If it’s in our town, it’s probably in your town, too. We are not known to be cutting-edge.

Naturally, my first suggestion is that you ask your trusty friend, Google, about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools near you. Probably, Google will give you a list of all the martial arts schools near you, so be aware that all your options might not actually be BJJ. Some may be karate or taekwondo or other forms of martial arts.

Next, I suggest you check with your friends. If your friends are like mine, they have opinions and are more than willing to share them. You want to make sure that your school has a good reputation for safely teaching and appropriately advancing students.

Have you practiced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi! I'm Sarah, and I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. When I'm not working with clients, I'm researching the best ways to get rid of pain. Do you want to learn how to practice yoga and Pilates safely in your own home? Or, do you want to know all my tips and tricks for pain relief? Join my mailing list and receive free goodies to help you.

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