Jiu-jitsu, in its modern form, originated in Japan. It was the battlefield art of the Samurai.
The samurai warriors were armored well and rode on horseback. Jiu-jitsu was created to allow the warriors to effectively fight in the event they were disarmed and on foot.
Due to the restriction on mobility and agility from the armor, Jiu-jitsu evolved. With the evolution came throwing, strangles, and joint-locks. Striking moves were also added from other forms of martial arts.
Jiu-jitsu fractured into several different styles, or ryu, by the mid-1800s. The techniques varied between styles, however, they all incorporated the hand-to-hand elements of combat. This included grappling, strikes, and weapon-based attacks.
Jigoro Kano developed his own ryu in the 1800s. It was based on randori – full power practice against resisting and skilled opponents. This was a total deviation from the practice that was prevalent at the time. The style developed by Kano became known as Judo, which was one of the most widely practice martial art in the world.
Mitsuo Maeda, or Count Koma, was a student of Kano. He emigrated to Brazil, from Japan, in 1914.
George Cracie, a politician, helped Maeda’s dad immigrate from Scotland. Maeda was so grateful that he taught Gracie’s son Carlos Jiu-jitsu.
Later, Carlos shared the martial art wcith his brothers and together they opened the first Jiu-jitsu academy in Brazil. The Gracie Academy opened in 1925.
The martial art was refined through brutal fights with no rules, in public matches and in the street. They focused on submission ground fighting. This allowed smaller men to defend themselves and even defeat larger attackers.
In the ‘70s, Rolls Gracie further refined the martial art, adding wrestling moves. He also created the first point and rule system for Jiu-jitsu competitions.
Rorion Gracie moved to Los Angeles in the ‘90s bringing his family’s fighting system to the United States. No-rules mixed martial arts contests called vale tudo, were widely unknown outside of Brazil.
Therefore, Gracie and Art Davies founded The Ultimate Fighting Championship, which pits a variety of martial arts styles against each other in mixed martial arts battles. Fighters tested the credibility of their sport and illustrated the best martial arts.
The first UFC challenge was in 1993. It was completely dominated by Royce Gracie. He was not a large man and was largely outweighed by the other competitors. He was able to exploit their naivety and emerge victorious. He defeated four opponents in one night.
His wins created a huge interest in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, especially in the U.S. and Japan.